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Copy Protection / Electronic Arts

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EA has fiercely defended its intellectual properties since the early days of gaming. How they combat piracy has varied though the years...


  • Command & Conquer: Red Alert 2 has a particularly creative version. A pirated copy of the game loads up completely normally, and the actual gameplay itself also operates normally...for about three minutes, until all of your units and buildings simultaneously explode using the nuclear weapon animation, causing you to lose. It's pretty funny. The same is true for Command & Conquer: Generals, where your stuff will explode about 30 seconds into the game.
    • Command & Conquer: Red Alert 3 uses DRM and counts your game installations. Also, for the first time of the history of Command And 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 doesn't allow the player to participate in LAN mode with the same serial key.
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    • Command & Conquer 4: Tiberian Twilight forced players to be always connected to the internet in order to play the game, and it lacked any sort of LAN mode. While it didn't bring up as much bad press as in Ubisoft's case, it still saw plenty of backlash and criticism - and that included one of EA's own employees. Not to mention that it was cracked within three days.
    • Command and Conquer: The First Decade is 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 requires about ten minutes of typing in half a dozen codes for the same product. However, it's so finnicky that some games (Generals and Renegade) break their installers after one time.
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  • Crysis Warhead expansion replaces all the bullets in pirated copies with live chickens. You can keep playing, but the chickens do no damage and no one can die.
  • Earl Weaver Baseball is an pioneering strategy-based sports game, and also provides an early example of Copy Protection. At or near the beginning of the game, the player is asked the salary of a certain position in a certain year. The player has to rely on a code wheel (included with the software and manual) to find the correct answer. The player gets three chances to give the correct answer before getting ejected from the game.
  • There was much controversy that surrounded the release of the PC version of the first Mass Effect. The player is only allowed three activations on a single computer until they have 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 nixed after immense backlash from players. The sequel just uses a disc check and doesn't require online authentication, though obviously the DLC doesnote .
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  • The PC version of Mirror's Edge has 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.
  • SimCity (2013). While it was never 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  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 server pressure, and EA actually told websites to stop advertising the game. The backlash 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 . Additionally, the user is validated against Origin every time the game is launched to ensure that the game belongs to a valid Origin user who have paid up for the game.
  • The various Sims games traditionally asked for a serial key during installation and required their CD be in the reader for the game to run, but there have been some deviations from that standard:
    • The Sims 2 used the controversial SecuROM rootkit for some of its expansion and stuff packs. The Ultimate Collection was offered via Origin, with many claiming that it was offered as an incentive for TS2 diehards to sign up for it.
    • The Sims 3 was leaked online two weeks early. EA claimed the leaked version was "buggy", "pre-final" and was missing half of the content even though that version was not far removed from the legit release version (the leak was 1.0.615 while the legit release was 1.0.631); they eventually resorted to blocking access to the Sims 3 Store to those using the leaked version and offering Riverview (a Store-downloadable world) as an incentive to buy the game.
    • The Sims 4 uses Origin validation. Copies that are cracked to bypass that validation make the Pixellation that appears whenever a Sim is naked fill up the entire screen. Of course, pirates quickly found a way around that "bug", but the time needed to bypass the validation means that pirated copies are always behind with regard to patches.
  • Spore, which uses SecuROM, was cracked a good 4-5 days before release. Its copy protection requires 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. It will still allow the player to login as only the product key are checked in order to register and login for the sharing.
    • The Steam and later GOG version obviously did not use Securom, but both version only gives product key to register and login for legitimate buyers only.
  • Strike Commander is an aversion, it came with instructions to copy the disks and put them in the cupboard in case something happens to your originals.
  • The original Strike Fleet naval tactical command simulation was published by EA and requires 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 results in textual castigation and an immediate quit-to-DOS.
  • The diskette version of System Shock stores more data on disk number one than normal copying tools of the time would allow it to hold; attempting a basic clone would fail.
  • The Wing Commander series requires, for the first game (and its Expansion Packs), information included in the feelies or manual to start playing the game. When the games were reworked for the Kilrathi Saga collection, the check was eliminated.
  • EA's ultimatum in Copy Protection is Origin, their gaming client and competing take at Valve's Steam. Games can be purchased in-client, and a growing number of games will authenticate themselves using Origin's mechanism instead of through their own proprietary login screen or copy protection routine. Origin allows one to purchase games and DLCs from within the client itself, and offers a lot of functionality that are similar to Steam. However, it is lacking in games due to the fact that EA only sells games they publish on it. Also, it's still somewhat crude on several aspects (ie no backup and restore, and still unable to run multiple instances of Origin logged into the same account. And oh, still no Linux client. Steam has already gone as far as having iOS and Android clients where you can purchase games from your phone and have it download onto your PC). Also, as with some games on Steam but taken up to eleven, A lot of its titles are shipped with secondary DRM (usually a version SafeDisc or SecuROM that checks with a server on the internet in lieu of a physical medium), including its On The House range, which are retro games they gave out for free to begin with.
    • Since Dragon Age: Inquisition onwards, all of the Origin games are also equipped with Denuvo Anti Tamper (see main page of Copy Protection) as the secondary DRM, as Safedisc and Securom does not work with Windows 10 (along with the protected game) anymore (games that have Securom or Safedisc cracked or removed like GOG games will work).

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