Invincible scorpion punishes Serious Sam pirates

Those who pirate Croteam's Serious Sam 3 are in for a surprise. Instead of shutting you down with DRM, the game forces you to do battle with an invincible giant scorpion, dual-wielding assault rifles.


  1. Not to derail a light-hearted post, but how is this *actually* different to DRM?

    One uses software to check to see if the user is legit and refuses to work properly (okay, work *at all*) if they aren’t, the other uses software to see if the user is legit and refuses to work properly (adds a game-breaking enemy) if they aren’t.

    Is this one just acceptable because we find it funny? Could the whole Sony Rootkit controversy have been avoided if it came with a “Knock, Knock” joke?

    1. I don’t think they’re saying it’s different from DRM, but contrasts typical DRM behavior “shutting you out” with this DRM behavior, ie attacking you with a giant invincible scorpion.

      So if the Sony rootkit had come with a Knock, Knock joke they might have mentioned the joke.

    2. Seconded.  Sounds like the various game-breaking checks in games like Mass Effect and Batman: Arkham Asylum.  It’s all fun and games until legit players start getting false positives and we all remember that oh right, the pirates released a patch to get around this within hours of its discovery and are playing the game with no trouble.

      1. Yeah, but Steam is the only DRM for this game. If you find Steam to be some horribly intrusive thing that’s single-handedly leading to the downfall of gaming… at this point, that’s kind of on you.

        So I don’t know where you’d get a false positive here. I can’t remember the last time I installed a game in Steam and it didn’t really believe that it was installed.

        If you have a problem with this, you’re beyond practicality and taking a stand on the principle. There’s nothing wrong with that, but call it what it is. You don’t have to argue if you’re taking a principled stand.

    1. Yes. But unlike things that can damage your computer, or keep you from playing the game because your internet went out, this is the kind of DRM that’s acceptable.

      Hell, the game is on Steam. In 2011, Steam isn’t exactly known for always giving false positives about whether the game is legitimate or not.

      1. You keep saying that but two weeks ago I had to redownload and reinstall a game because of some Steam bug.

        The vast majority of the games I buy come without any kind of DRM. There is no comparison once you get used to it. Every time I use a DRMed game, whether Steam or some other nonsense, I remember a nuisance I thought I had forgotten.

        1. I didn’t say Steam was perfect. The best DRM is absolutely going to be no DRM.

          But consider what Ubisoft does, and then consider what Steam is doing. Then consider that what little DRM there is for it can be (effectively) disabled by going into offline mode. There’s no perfect solution, but Steam is so far ahead of every other implementation that it’s insane. On top of that that, Steam has helped to create a repository for games and whatnot that’s so centralized that Bethesda Softworks is going to use it (not exclusively) to distribute mods for Skyrim.

          Those are the points I’m trying to make. I’d love to go back to the days before DRM, but it’s here to stay until companies realize that the only people being harmed by all this bullshit are legitimate customers.

          1. I guess I just dont care who serves the tastiest shit sandwich in town.

            Also this:

            I’d love to go back to the days before DRM, … the only people being harmed by all this bullshit are legitimate customers.

            is a long way from this:

            If you find Steam to be some horribly intrusive thing that’s single-handedly leading to the downfall of gaming… at this point, that’s kind of on you… If you have a problem with this, you’re beyond practicality and taking a stand on the principle.

          2. @DeargDoom:disqus Hmm, there’s apparently a limit to how nested comments can be.

            What I was trying to express with those comments (something at which I was apparently unsuccessful) is the following:

            The ideal is no DRM at all. In the absence of such an ideal, DRM should be minimally intrusive and (if possible) give some sort of added value.

            Will we ever get back to the ideal again? I doubt it. In the absence of such an ideal, Steam offers something where the games (typically) just work as long as Steam is running. They give you sales on games fairly regularly, and you don’t have to worry about losing/damaging a disc.

          3. Steam literally is the reason I stopped pirating games. It’s easier in just about every way, and I don’t have to worry about any bullshit.

  2. I don’t have links to support this at the moment, but I’ve read anecdotes (don’t know if they were formal enough to consider ‘case studies’) that suggest that things like this are the best form of copy protection that there is.

    I’ve read about games that had some copy protection that was simple and relatively easy to remove. However, the game would detect this simple removal, and make a small change to the gameplay that makes the game unwinnable. Remove a key that’s needed to open a critical door, remove a quest-giver, that sort of thing. The trick is to make the change happen somewhere about an hour, hour and a half into gameplay.

    The crackers test the game, see that it works, and seed all the usual distribution channels with this ‘cracked’ game. This becomes the most widely distributed version, and even if the error is found and re-cracked later, there is enough confusion about which versions will work and won’t that it makes downloading less attractive. More importantly, this turns a pre-release crack into a post-release crack, and at the time I read, the vast majority of a game’s profits were generated in the first couple months of sale. Not sure if that’s still the case.

    1. It sounds reasonable, but I wonder: how many people decide not to buy a game after they “test drive” a pirated copy and run into a game-stopping issue?

      If I play a pirated game and it sucks because of something subtle that makes the pirated copy unplayable… I’m just going to think the game sucks. By the time it’s reported on (it takes a while to get reported when it isn’t as obvious as this) I’ll already have changed my mind about wanting such an apparently crappy game.

      I haven’t illegitimately obtained games since high school, which was before they were doing things like this but not before overbearing DRM. Well, that’s not true – I got one about a year ago that I really wanted to play but which I was skeptical would run smoothly on my computer. I waited a long time for a demo, but they never released one. I think there was something subtly game-breaking in that one, but I didn’t get that far because it ran like a slideshow at the lowest settings.

      1. If you’re really interested, you’d probably google around, and find out that the subtle “bug” is the DRM kicking in.  Also, I don’t think as many people convert from pirate to paying customer as people posting would like us to believe. So a lost sale from a pirate is lost anyway.

        1. Yeah, after writing I realized my theoretical situation is rather unlikely. But I still don’t think it makes sense to do really subtle bugs. Something like this – if it kicks in after half an hour or an hour, so you at least can get a taste of the game – is funny and makes sense as a “gotcha” deterrent.

          And even then, does that really make people want to buy the game instead of just deleting it, or waiting for the next crack? I know it’s not as common as posited in internet comments, but I did buy games that I pirated first and liked back in the day, and I do the same for music and movies now. The people who make the Call of Duty games would not have gotten the several hundred dollars out of me I’ve spent in total – every single game in the series – if I hadn’t pirated the first one and been blown away by it.

          The funny thing is, this is truly a (theoretical) lost sale, whereas most pirates do not account for actual lost sales (they would not have paid no matter what).

        2. “So a lost sale from a pirate is lost anyway.”

          In that case, why not just let them play the game as intended? The central goal of making art is for people to see your art, not to punish random people for random inconsequential actions. If these random people wouldn’t pay anyway, then a true artist would want them to see it, anyway. Any other action reveals the ‘artist’ to be a person who doesn’t actually care whether they communicate anything to other human beings. This reflects poorly on their art itself. That is why most things that are protected by DRM (of any kind) actually suck.

      2. This did happen with Titan Quest which had a less hilarious plain drop you out DRM that few seem to have figured out before the rumor that the game was just buggy got spread around enough to hurt legitimate sales. And now that studio is dead. 

  3. The only problem with this is now I want to pirate the game and see how far I can make it with an invicible scorpion nipping at my heels. 

  4. If the game was from EA, an actual giant assault-rifle wielding scorpion would be sent to your house.

  5. I doubt more then three pirates will ever see this guy, while more then a hundred paying customers will throw the game out because of it.

    further prophecy: A patch will be released to fix the scorpion that will contain code created by hackers.

    1. Counter prophecy: A patch will be release to allow honest players to access the cool scorpion level.

  6. My favorite will always be the Batman: Arkham Asylum DRM.  You can play just fine up to a certain point, at which one of your buttons will stop working and you’ll fall to your death.

    The best part was all the pirates posting about the “bug” to the official forums.

  7. Hopefully, the game considers itself “bought” if you manage to complete the game despite being chased by an unkillable murder machine.

    Oh dear, that’s a frightening thought- judgmental DRM. “So I see you purchased a student license- let’s see if you’re up to snuff by taking this randomly generated exam on… (clackety clackety) … the history of Croatian rugmaking. Begin, college boy.”

    1. That’s not particularly far-fetched. I remember playing Leisure-suit Larry — a vaguely adult-oriented adventure game — as a kid and first having to answer a bunch of questions to “prove my age.” I just kept having to run down to the kitchen to ask my mom who the prime minister of England was in 1979 and things like that.

      She was probably very happy that I was playing an educational game…

      1. That’s true. Though in my head I was conceptualizing it more in cyberpunk/singularian dystopic terms- where the EULAs are embodied as surly fantasy guardians, their avatars leaning over your shoulder to see if your contribution of money and kowtowing renders you worthy, and coopting your household robots to beat you if you fail, all the while deleting the data of you and your family.

  8. It’s a funny thing, but copy protection of this type has a long and storied history, dating back to early DOS games; in one memorable example, you had to look up answers in the manual to get past a wall of malevolent vines (I think it was; it’s been a while) guarding a castle.

    It’s certainly more fun than the kind that can use rootkits and generally tux your machine up.

    1. yeah, except even then they don’t always get it right. there was one old dos game converted from floppies to a cd rom that didn’t come with the full manual, making its puzzle impossible. it was some space quest game… we spent like 5 hours trying to get past it but kept dying…

  9. My favorite example of this kind of copy protection is EarthBound. It would let you get all the way to the final boss before crashing and deleting your saved games.

  10. Ok, its DRM and that isn’t good, but this does allow you to play the game some, showing you just how much fun it is and encouraging you to buy a legitimate copy.

  11. BFG’s. It´s always about the BFG’s. There is no such thing as “overpower”, just reload and FIRE!

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