Valves unveils new anti-piracy measures for Steamworks

Among other features you can find here.

Chief among these is a Custom Executable Generation technology intended to act as a complement to Steamworks’ anti-piracy solutions. With CEG, users gets unique copies of a game that they can access on multiple PCs with neither install limits nor root kits.

I like what I hear, as a consumer I feel pretty satisfied with these conditions, especially if they can convince developers to stop using an additional drm.

Hmm…unlimited installs? What is this? Listen to the customer week?

I wish there were more details available, like what exactly is altered from executable to executable. I’m guessing the executables are encrypted with some sort of public key method and get decrypted or some such at load time or possibly run time.

I wondered when someone would finally do that. The question of course is how hard it will be for pirates to scrub the EXE of identifiable markings. Probably not hard. Considering they already have experience doing it for leaked press builds.

If the EXE gets decrypted at any point on the target computer, it’s not a valid solution unless they do the kind of invasive shit other copy protection does like refuse to run if you have a debugger present.

The goal here may not necessarily be to create something “totally un-pirateable” as it is to find a solution that makes publishers feel better while heading down a more consumer friendly path.

Right now DRM only truly hurts the ones it loves.

I doubt they expect this to be a 100% cure for piracy. At the very least it sounds like it’ll hamper pirates from being able to develop simple cracks that modify a given game executable using a simple binary patch mechanism.

Yes, I know, but publishers aren’t quite as stupid as people think. If this solution doesn’t solve anything, it’ll be right back to the old shit we love to hate.

I’m not up on encryption much. If it’s like the example above, would the game only be decrypted by the private key linked to your account or something? Or is it just something to identify who is doing the pirating?

Isn’t it really meant for the more indie developers anyway, where any protection would be better than the home-brewed schemes or complete lack they’d otherwise have? Any bigger publishers are still going to publish through the Steam client and get the full protection.

If it’s just a stamp or a watermark, however, it’ll still be a binary patch.

I’m wondering if they are going to do something more interesting though. Like, maybe instead of a watermark, the exe will have a unique key, and that key is used to encrypt the contents which valve’s server then decrypts – wrong key, no decrypt, and the system fails. The keys could even be set up as a one time pad that increments with each connection so each time it’s encrypted differently.

That’s a good point though I imagine this is an alternative to the more cpu heavy alternatives which are also easily circumvented. You’re right though, unless there’s some sort of run time interpretation going on pulling the decrypted code from RAM would be trivial. This would just get around people trying to copy the game from their PC to their friends. Maybe that’s the limit of the intent though.

edit: I need to type faster.

You speak like the old shit worked. If the objective of the “normal” DMR was to delay pirated versions as much as possible, this could work as well as that.

Well, putting user identifiable watermarks in an EXE doesn’t do anything by itself. You have to start suing people before it’ll actually stop any kind of casual piracy.

Well, playing advocate’s devil here, but what happens if Steam can detect if you are running and unprotected copy thanks to the watermark? They don’t need to sue you, they just need to block your Steam account (basically, the 360 Live model applied to PC). It wouldn’t stop piratery but it would put a serious threat to casual pirates.

It´s just a wild guess, don’t know how it works but my guess is that Valve must have a good understanding of what is needed to give confidence to studios.

If they can strip the watermark, they can strip the steam connections as well.

This doesn’t strike me as an anti-piracy measure at all. It seems like they’re taking steps to make the DRM itself less draconian: I’ve got my copy and I can install it whenever the hell I like. It’s progress, anyway!

PR pressure on the Publishers from Steam.

You don’t have to use this, but your customers want you to use it.

Yeah, in no way is this aimed at 100% stopping piracy… because that’s a stupid impossible goal. If they just make it so it’s really hard to make general-purpose cracks, that’s all of the advantage of DRM with none of the horribleness. It also completely replaces cd keys, because they’re directly baked into the executables now.

What do you mean “cracks”, though? If it’s not paired with some other DRM, there’s nothing to crack in the first place – it’s an open executable.

here is the official press release:

i want to know what ILTPS has to say about all this. looks like valve won’t have to worry about key gens after all. ;)