Command & Conquer: Red Alert 2 had a particularly creative version. A pirated copy of the game would load up completely normally, and the actual gameplay itself would also operate normally...for about three minutes, until all of your units and buildings would simultaneously explode using the nuclear weapon animation, causing you to lose. It was pretty funny.
Command & Conquer: Red Alert 3 used DRM and counted your game installations. Also, for the first time of the history of Command & Conquer, two players couldn't even play in LAN mode with the same license (while before, the game using two CDs allowed it). Tiberium Wars also didnt allow the player to participate in LAN mode with the same serial key.
Command and Conquer: The First Decade was a collection of all of the games in the series as far as Generals, along with all the appropriate expansion packs. While not nearly as bad as most of the examples here the package took the rather silly step of using a separate CD key for every game, meaning that installing all of them required about ten minutes of typing in a dozen or so codes for the same product.
There was much controversy that surrounded the release of the PC version of the first Mass Effect. The player was only allowed three activations on a single computer until they had to buy another copy. You don't get back an activation, and changing your hardware settings takes one up. There was also going to be a validation process that checked up on you every 10 days (or else the game wouldn't run), but this was canned after immense backlash from players. The sequel just uses a disc check, and doesn't require online authentication, though obviously the DLC doesnote If you have the game illegally, you can't get the DLC, because in order to activate the DLC, you have to "check in" online, which will detect that your version is illegal. Mass Effect 3 does something similar, and also integrates the online multiplayer into the single-player game, where the multiplayer portion obviously will not work if the copy is illegal.
The PC version of Mirror's Edge had copy protection in the form of a trigger that tripped in the game's third stage. When the player runs toward the first jump in the stage, the character model of Faith slows down to a snail's pace, rendering it impossible to jump the requisite gap to continue the level. A patch was later made to address this.
The SimCity copy protection sheet actually could be copied, if you had a copy machine that could be adjusted properly...or if you spent all afternoon at your friend's place doing it by hand. Once color photocopiers became prevalent, the scheme fell flat on its face.
The 2013 version of SimCity. While it wasn't said if the game's "always online" requirement was due to copy protection, it seems very likely, given that hackers have found that the game works perfectly fine offline — you simply can't save your city or interact with others'. In fact, the game actually allows players to play for twenty minutes offline if they get disconnected because there is a variable disconnect timer that forces the game to quit when it elapses.note All this despite official claims thatit would not be possible to play the game offline without "a significant amount of engineering work" In any case, many players could not play the game when it came out due to — again — server overload. This time, Amazon.com temporarily stopped selling the game, a patch was released that actually cut out several features in an attempt to relieve sever pressure, and EA actually told websites to stop advertising the game. The Internet Backdraft from angry gamers was so intense that the head developer stepped down and EA eventually began working on a local-side server so the game can be played offline. note They also revealed that the server side was written in Java- which experienced programmers will tell you is a horrible bloated language that should not be used for something as demanding as game servers. The local side server that was eventually released was written in the less demanding C++.
Maxis' The Sims 3 was leaked online several weeks early, giving many players a sneak peek at the game's functionality. EA caught wind of this pretty quickly, and said that the leaked version was missing half the game's content and was glitched to hell, and instead of hunting down every single person who downloaded the game and preventing them from accessing the game altogether, settled on telling them they were running an unauthorized version and pleading them to buy the full version to get extra content.
Thanks to the SecuROM situation, EA decided to scale back this games' copy protection to the traditional CD check and serial number that the earlier games used.
Spore, which used SecuROM, was cracked a good 4-5 days before release. Its copy protection required that the computer running it be in constant contact with the internet to verify the game's authenticity. So, if you're disconnected for whatever reason...
Some gamers even went so far as to buy the game, then download the pirated version in order to not have to deal with the copy protection.
Strike Commander came with instructions to copy the disks and put them in the cupboard in case something happened to your originals.
The original Strike Fleet naval tactical command simulation was published by EA and required players to provide data from the manual regarding a selection of the various listed ships on startup, such as the displacement of an Oliver Hazard Perry-class frigate (for the record, 4,100 imperial tons). Failure to provide the correct piece of information would result in textual castigation and an immediate quit-to-DOS.
The diskette version of System Shock stored more data on disk number one then normal copying tools would allow it to hold; attempting a basic clone would fail.
The Wing Commander series required, for the first few games, information included in the feelies or manual to start playing the game. When they were reworked for the Kilrathi Saga collection, the check was eliminated.