Re: [stella] Perfect BIN copy protection

Subject: Re: [stella] Perfect BIN copy protection
From: Thomas Jentzsch <tjentzsch@xxxxxx>
Date: Sun, 17 Feb 2002 22:02:05 +0100
At 02.02.2002, 20:44, Eckhard Stolberg wrote:
> 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.

I wouldn't go that far. Everything I'd do, I'd do in software only (just
because I'm to stupid for any hardware modifications :-).

> 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.

Yes, we would have to rely on certain values of some 2600 registers
after the game starts. Sure that could be changed by clever people too.

>> 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.

Nobody called the CC a pirate device. I like the CC (and SuperCharger)
very much and I wish I would own one (or both!) of them too.

And I'm not that much afraid of pirating as you might expect. I see the
whole copy protection discussion more from the sportive side. For me,
it's just as much fun to invent and implement some ideas for that as it
was to develop the kernel for Thrust.

I can only speak for myself here, Manuel's opinion might differ.

> 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
> game.

That's a good point. And I also think, the vast majority of the sales
comes from the collectors. So they wouldn't be interested in playing the
game with CC or burning their own ROM, they want the official cart (box,
manual etc.) anyway. 

> 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.

I think you might be right here too, and I also want to believe this.

So, I DON'T want to offend you with my next question: Do you own a
copy of Thrust? (That would somehow prove your statement above)

I know you where very interested in that game during developing and
wanted to test it on your 7800 cart. And I made some changes to the code
that you could do so (and to be honest, also (mainly?) because you could
help ME testing it on real hardware :-).

I'm also very interested in the sales of Mental Combat, because nobody
has been able to play the game before. But I don't think, that will
increase or decrease the sales significantly (see above).

> 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. ;-)

As I said, for me it's more or less a competitive question. And to
protect lamers from hacking my own games to those IMO disgusting
Kabul/Bin Laden stuff. That's what started me thinking about that, the
CC protection idea came later (have to check my mails to find out who
had that idea).

> 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.

I totally agree with you here. I like this list very much, and without
it's support, most of the modern homebrews wouldn't exist. But I think
it's ok, if somebody tries to find a compromise between totally free
availability and some (very limited) protection.

With an existing, working protection, we would perhaps also be able to
play e.g. the EbiVision games or Mental Combat on the emulators (which
are doing a nearly perfect job for me already).

Have fun!
Thomas Jentzsch         | *** Every bit is sacred ! ***
tjentzsch at web dot de |

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