Recently the maker of the StarForce apparently threatened to sue an author on Boing Boing for talking about his bad experience with their copy protection driver scam. This made me laugh since I removed a game partly because it installed StarForce drivers.
For Christmas my brother Alek got me the Brothers in Arms: Earned in Blood video game. Normally this would be a good match since I enjoy playing first person shooters. The game looked okay but they got many little things wrong. The cinematic cut scenes were awful. I was frequently somewhere far from where the people talking in the scene were. And my character was frozen in place while a conversation was going on. I found the game play to be a little stifled.
But what really turned me off was the copy protection system. After I installed and tried to run the game, I got a message stating that I had to reboot in order to activate the driver. Driver? I had installed a game not a piece of hardware. Why did they need a driver?
The driver was part of the StarForce copy protection scam. From the web site for “StarForce Drivers Removal” the text says
Some versions of StarForce Copy Protection will install dedicated drivers on your PC. Those drivers are necessary for the StarForce specific CD/DVD checking procedure, only. They do not include any hidden functionality. . StarForce constantly improves their drivers to keep them compatible with the latest versions of Windows operating systems.
See http://www.onlinesecurity-on.com/protect.phtml?c=55 for more information. Google is your friend.
The underlining in the text is mine, but that statement is just nonsense. The real reason they install the drivers is to interfere with your system should you have the CD in the drive when you try to use a CD-ROM burner. So even if you are not running the game the drivers run and interfere with your system as the game publisher feels appropriate.
I installed a game. Looking at the back of the box I see that they do sorta warn the user with some disclaimer. Now I normally dislike that I need to keep the CD in the drive when I play the game but I do it. Call of Duty 2 and F.E.A.R. are like that. But AFAIK no drivers are installed and those two games are great.
Windows XP Pro (any version of Windows really) is an unstable environment. And at no time did I see any problems with my system that I could point to the StarForce drivers and say “Them! They hurt my box!” But installing drivers needlessly is just plain stupid. If Ubisoft wants to check the CD by running code when I actually play their game, well I think that’s rude but okay. But to have their drivers installed and running when I am not even playing their game? Nuts.
I removed the game and the drivers and in the future will check the game before I buy. I will look at the back of the game for this warning and not buy it. Game publishers who use this protection scam seriously do not get it. Game piracy may be a problem but people who pirate games get around all the protection. Installing drivers just hurts the end user. This is a game, not launch-the-missiles-now software.