Re: [stella] Perfect BIN copy protection

Subject: Re: [stella] Perfect BIN copy protection
From: "Eckhard Stolberg" <Eckhard_Stolberg@xxxxxx>
Date: Sat, 2 Feb 2002 20:44:26 +0100
> Well, the goal Thomas and I had, was meant to provide 
> BINs that run flawlessly on an emulator, but not on any 
> real hardware.
> We know how to disable the Cuttle Cart, the 
> Supercharger, Distella and the Debugger of PCAE.

That still leaves out the people who burn the game on an EPROM
and play it in a socketed homebrew cart without paying you for
it. Unless you are going to create your own bankswitching scheme
for your game, there is no way to stop that. And if you make
your game use a new bankswitching scheme, you'll have to add
support for that to the emulators. And if you add support for
a bankswitching scheme to an open source emulator, anyone will
be able to recreate it in hardware.

Also since neither Thomas nor you own an actual Cuttle Cart
or Supercharger I doubt that you are locking out the hardware.
You probably only lock out the BIOS, which in the case of the
Cuttle Cart comes on an socketed EPROM chip, which could be
replaced with an updated version if nessesary. So there is no
perfect protection here either.

> It'd be a 2600 in _every_ sense, but noone halfway 
> insane would go through the troubles to hack it to run 
> on the Cuttle Cart :-)

I'm starting to get a little offended by the fact that you
constantly talk about the Cuttle Cart as if it were a device
that was solely created to pirate games. Other people's Cuttle
Carts and Superchargers have been used for playtesting games
from both, you and Thomas. In both cases this has helped you to
find and remove bugs that otherwise would have been much more
difficult to track down.

Also the Cuttle Cart allows you to keep all your legally owned
games on a CD, which is very convenient for playing them without
the need to shuffle around dozents of cartridges. This is a
feature that your protected games would not allow their owners.

And the Cuttle Cart is a homebrew project itself in a certain way.
The people who bought one for $100 + s&h + taxes have already proven
that they are willing to support the homebrew scene with their money.
Treating them as if they were all mean software pirates who just want
to steal you your game sure isn't going to help your buisines, as they
probably are a large percentage of the potential customers for your

I think that you want to allow the distribution of your ROM in an
emulator-executable format, because you think that people would
be more willing to buy it, if they had a chance to try it out. But
emulators will never be perfect. We constantly get complaints about
the colour palette for example. And for an action game where the
controls are important, playing the game with a PC keyboard won't
really give the a true impression of how the game is. And our recent
discussion with Simon has showed us again that some VCSs react quite
differently to certain TIA tricks. So you can't be sure that a game
would play nicely on your particular system without the ability to
try it out on that console. And if I can't really try out a game,
I'm less inclined to order it in cartridge form. Therefore I think
distributing the ROMs without the lockout code would actually help
your sales more than it would hurt them.

Also, just like you feel challenged to prove that a copy protection
is possible on the VCS, there are people who feel challenged to prove
the opposite. And if those people create versions of your protected
games that work better than the original (i.e. the game is playable on
the Cuttle Cart) that wouldn't make your games look too good either. ;-)

Of course you are under no obligation to release anything. You have
every right to protect your games as you think it is nessessary. But
if you won't allow us to play your games without paying for them, then
I don't see why we should use our freetime, knowledge and tools to help
you for free.

Ciao, Eckhard Stolberg

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