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 Garry's Mod  Developer Enables Error Message To Catch Pirates
Garry's Mod Developer Enables Error Message To Catch Pirates
April 13, 2011 | By Mike Rose

April 13, 2011 | By Mike Rose
More: Console/PC, Business/Marketing

An error message has been added to Source sandbox game Garry's Mod, allowing the developers to catch pirates.

The message only displays when pirated copies of the game are booted up, and tells the user that it is "Unable to shade polygon normals." It also follows up with the users 64-bit Steam ID.

Users with this issue are then being coaxed onto the official Garry's Mod forums to post about the problem along with their Steam ID. The developers are banning the pirates from the forums, and using Steam IDs to lock them out of the pirated version of the game.

Garry Newman, designer of Garry's Mod, revealed via Twitter, "Just enabled this error in GMod today. It happens when you pirated it. Having fun watching people complain."

When asked why such measures have been taken, he responded, "I don't think the error isn't [sic] going to boost GMod sales. I just like to give people that paid something to be smug about."

He continued, "Nothing is ever going to stop piracy, I'm just having fun at the pirates' expense."

Originally a free Half-Life 2 mod, Garry's Mod started being sold via Valve's Steam digital distribution system in 2006, although it still requires the user to own another Source game to run, such as Half-Life 2 or Team Fortress 2.

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Benjamin Marchand
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heheheheheh :D

dan m
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Absolutely brilliant. Garry's mob kicks arse.

Michael K
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One game I worked on got also some error messages like that and our forum got flooded with ppl complaining. But one of our admins continued with the fun and said, that's probably due to a badly balanced CD, because our game had by accident most bits written to one side of the disk, and to help to avoid that, ppl should stick some tape on top, on the other side of the CD.

It was hilarious when ppl started to post that they worry bout their PCs as they start to vibrate like their washing machines and that it still doesn't work, but none replied to: "post a picture of it so we can check if you've done it properly".

Don't fight pirates, have fun with them :)

Anthony Clay
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I wonder if these same people would steal someone's car, then take the owner to court because it's a lemon...

Jeffrey Crenshaw
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This made my day ^_^.

I'll have to remember this strategy.

Sarah Johnson-Bliss
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How can he be certain that he isn't affecting people who actually own the game? That's always my concern with anti-piracy software. I *always* buy my software, and I have been adversely affected by anti-piracy software on many occasions. Once, a game killed my CD drive. Had to reinstall windows TWICE to get it to work again. I wasn't sure which thing had killed it. It became apparent the second time I installed it. This is from a legit copy of a game! New games also do strange things sometimes. There is no guarantee that any anti-piracy software will not affect paying customers.

I wonder how many paying customers GMod has banned...

c anderson
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At least with this presumably it is easily verified that the complaining user actually owns "gary's mod." However, it would suck if the pirates gave somebody else's steam ID (or just a bogus one that happens to match someone elses).

David Campbell
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It's pretty trivial to take a Steam ID and lookup if they've actually bought the game or not, I don't really see much room for error here.

john bonachon
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Stupid idea.

It already has been done a ton of times without much success and with some nasty back-effect:

a) legal users can be affected.

b) legal users looks the product as defective, most users see a customer (pirate or not, it is a customer) complaining about a error and nothing else much.

c) legal users does not want to know that there are some "hidden features" that can hurt them.

Im still remember a small program that use a counter-pirate procedure, when it detect that the copy is illegal then it decided to format the c: and guess that, the detection algorithm failed and it was filled with demand about deleted files.

and, the more important:

d) most pirates does not have a real Steam ID account.

Robert Boyd
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A pirate, by the very definition, is not a customer.

Cedric Bold
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A customer is usually used to refer to a current or potential buyer or user of the products.

Cedric Bold
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Thank you for this detailed comment.

Tom Baird
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Well, as far as A goes:

It allows them to check if said user actually owns Garry's Mod before banning the account

as for B:

While a warning may pop up in the rare case of A, them reporting it can resolve the issues of a false positive. So it should not happen too often.

and C:

Legal users don't ever need to know about the hidden feature that will not hurt them. And in the end it doesn't hurt them (See A)

and for D:

So long as a few pirated users have a Steam ID account, they have been successful at catching pirates.

The whole list seems to rely on A, that it could catch legitimate users, however not knowing the underlying mechanics of what it looks for you can't conclusively say that it can or can't report false positives. And in the end it doesn't affect the game outside a silly popup on startup. All it does is coerce them into volunteering for a review of their ID for potential piracy issues.

Glenn Storm
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Nice. This sounds like the Batman: Arkham Asylum gliding "bug", taken one step further.

john bonachon
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is funny because this kind of protection and other bugs for real customers turned a mixed review of the product, aka = buggy game.

Ramses Brown
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I honestly think they should've been covert about it. Let it linger a bit to catch more.

Andy Lundell
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"He continued, 'Nothing is ever going to stop piracy, I'm just having fun at the pirates' expense.' "

This is a good attitude to have. But I do worry that he'll be outsmarted somehow and legit customers will be effected. I would not feel confident in any situation where I was betting that I was more clever than an untold number of people on the internet.

Eric Schwarz
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Reminds me of the issue with the Galaxy Map in Mass Effect on PC, where you couldn't play past the opening of the game if you were running a pirated version, effectively turning it into a demo of the game. Especially funny because people thought it was a legitimate bug and would post on the forums for months after it was known to be a problem with some copies (of course, cracks later got around it).

Robert Schmidt
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@Sarah, "I have been adversely affected by anti-piracy software on many occasions," have you tried to get on an airplane recently? Games aren't the only industry in which customers suffer as a result of the actions of criminals. If the game industry is unable to protect itself from pirates then gamers will suffer in another way, fewer games will be made or production values will drop.

Leandro Pezzente
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There is something i still just dont get about the piracy issue and that is that i trully believe a sucessful Bussiness model and Added Value Content can overcome and defeat any "anti-piracy software protection" , I.E. Blizzard's "World of Warcraft" . Yeah , you can play on fan-based servers with a pirated version , but you dont get all the goodies , all the quests , all the true hot content you get with a legit WoW software and account.

Shawn Heidingsfelder
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Many people I've seen trying to make pirating software ok tell you that they buy a legit copy AFTER they give the pirated copy a test run, same with movies or CDs. They don't pirate because they're cheap. They pirate because they can. They won't play a pirated copy long enough to miss out on extras, or they'd just buy a real copy after a while if they really wanted the stuff.

Leandro Pezzente
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I dont to create a hot argument about such a sensitive topic. Its just that i am trying not to fall into a black & white "Arggghhh ... ya Filgthy Pirawtessss" or "Free Software for the Masses , Pirates are Socialist Heroesss" perspective. In a first place i divide people who use pirated software in two sets : a) People who wont buy the software anyway even if this software is available ( as a digital download or in physical hardocopy ) or/and its being sale at a resonable price ; and b) People who will buy the software but they doesnt has the cash or its not available for them.

In the subject of publishing companies i would try to gain insight into their development quality procedures , How much time they dedicated to achive excellence in a game ( I trully believe Blizzard did the right thing pushing Starcraft 2 until they got the best polished product they could ) , If they fall into HHRRR abobinationations like offshoring and outsourcing , If they avoid game-testing Horrible Mistakes like a "Known - Shippable" bug.

In any case i am trying to be as much objective as i can be about the subject.

Duncan Rabone
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While I understand that this place is definitely and justifiably anti-piracy, this still smacks of being a jerk. Sure I know it's being a jerk to jerks, but even he said that it will never stop pirates in the end. These pirates may not be exactly the same as paying customers, but they are still a person who is interacting with your game. A problem in the game is a problem in the game and unless they are like the idiots who complained in the article, they will likely just be people who will say, "Hmmm, this game doesn't work," They will likely then go and tell others that it's crap and they should play something else.

I may have been a naive child under a rock or something 15 years ago, but all I used to hear from developers was, "Our game is awesome! Totally go buy it cause it has so much awesome in it and you'll know when you buy it!" You know making good games and like you bought it cause it was a good game and that in itself was what gaming was about. Now it's more, "Those damn pirates are ruining this for everybody! Of course our game is awesome and you'll know when you support us developers by buying it! And if you pirate it of course you won't know how awesome it is because you are the lowliest scum!

In other words: Games are not things I buy for fun anymore, instead I pay for a share in the company.

Leandro Pezzente
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The funniest of all this piracy and anti-piracy issue is that , in the end , developers and publishers let this guys pirate their games because : a) they lack iniciative to innovate and b) they are just lazy.

If dont believe , let me propose an anti-piracy scheme , you can tear it apart if you want to , so we can test how strong it it :

a) When a Client receives his well paid game , he gets and activation code. Now , the DVD he just bought only contains the content , and probably dinamic libraries not related with the data encryption algorithm , nor the actual executable file.

b) Client is forced to go online , registering into the publishers site and creating and account.

c) Client registers his activation number into the account , the server then get his HD serial number and Microprocessor serial number.

d) With this registered numbers , Server Encrypts the executable and DRM encryption related libraries using a DDD 128-bit ( 256-bit if you want more security) file.

c) Client downloads and installs this files.

d) Client Run his well paid Game.

Probable Objections :

1) What if the client does not own an Internet Access?

Well , if your client can paid a 150 uS$ or more AAA publisher game , well , then he can SURELY pay a broadband internet conection.

2) What if the Client changes his HD and/or his Microprocessor ?

Well , thats what support fourums are for right? . If he can login into his account , then he can probably handle enough information to certify his identity and arrange for his DRM encrypted files to be re-issued with proper account tracking.

3) What if the client wants to run his game in a private lan server ?

Your game is supposed to be a single license game. If they want more licenses , well , they can allways contact the publisher site for more well paid ones , right?.

Duncan Rabone
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I'm not expert, but as a consumer, your proposal unfortunately goes against everything I would tolerate in DRM.

For a start, it forces (that the important word here) the owner to do anything that is not operating the game with the equipment necessary to operate it, the activity outlined above is solely for the developer/publisher and not the person who bought this game to play for themselves. Why do I have to become a member of your system, you 'club' for buying a product?

Then it breaches the owner's privacy by taking serial number of his equipment, then throws it through an isolated encryption service. If this service fails for any reason then likely the game will not activate or worse the system send s a message accusing the owner of breaking license, the owner has so far still not played the game and may not be happy.

"d) Client Run his well paid Game."

This sentence gets on my nerves, is the customer these days playing a game? No they're play their 'well paid game.' Nobody has fun just playing any game, they only have fun playing it if they paid for it, the paying even may be the most fun part!

"Well , if your client can paid a 150 uS$ or more AAA publisher game , well , then he can SURELY pay a broadband internet connection."

Don't make assumptions about your customers like that. In fact the only reason to make assumptions is to create groundwork for understanding something we have no facts about yet. The only way this assumption could really work is if the game is online multiplayer, since the game cannot be played without it.

"Well , thats what support fourums are for right? . If he can login into his account , then he can probably handle enough information to certify his identity and arrange for his DRM encrypted files to be re-issued with proper account tracking."

The owner performs a legitimate action and is not being accused of breaking license. They are a busy person with only so much time to enjoy playing games, they now have to spend some time proving to some company that they are who they are just to play a game they know they own.

"Your game is supposed to be a single license game. If they want more licenses , well , they can allways contact the publisher site for more well paid ones , right?."

Not only are we assuming that this person at a private lan (which of course may not necessarily have internet) is somebody who wants to break copyright and play cracked copies with everybody at the lan. Not to mention that if everybody needs to buy a copy to play, that's a lot of money for everybody to spend for a few hours gaming. The way in which the current gaming landscape treats private LAN is what upsets me the most. It is most innocuous and niche part of PC gaming to have any kind of measurable impact through piracy. If somebody in the group doesn't have a copy then nobody plays your game, less people enjoy playing your game and maybe less people will be motivated to buy it. The people who go to these LANs are usually tech-savvy types who will know how to pirate games, they fall into the very "You CAN'T stop piracy" boat and the "They wouldn't have bought it anyway" boat. Why give them even less reason to buy your game? What matters most is that they are playing your game instead of your competitors.

Leandro Pezzente
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I am not an expert either , in fact i am consumer just like you. Most of all , i totally agree with every single thing you stated.

I believe you must feel confused. Let me explain ( from a gamer/client point of view ).

A sentence like "Pirates are thieves" ( wich was the point of view i assumed in the last post ) its utterly extreme , no person can state such a black and white idea . So i am gonna try to analyse some conflicting points :

a) Price Tag : I have heard many times friends of mine stating , "God , this game its too short" when what they are really saying is " God , this game is too short for the amount of cash i spent on it , i expected much more hours of fun gaming for my well spent cash". True is , some gamers just feel ripped off if they dont see their a sane amount of fun return for their money investment. Many developers and publishers will say "If you want to Test Drive the game you can play our Demo Version" , but then again , a Demo sometimes its not a "proof" enough for a gamer their money invest will have its "Ad promised" return. I guess thats one of reason some gamers preffer to test pirated copies of a game first.

b) Distribution and Logistics : I totally agree not every person in the world owns a broadband connection , wich it would be an assumption ( as you know "assumption is the mother of all f**k ups" ) , and probably a very wrong one. True is , Distribution + Compliance policies cand be a big headache for gamers. Now , i am gonna make an educated guess about it. Lets say you live in france , and lets say you know are a native english speaker who dont have an online connection at home , who preffer American based games in their most original form. Now , why on earth do you have to play the entire game , in french , just because a local france law forbidds games ( among other media ) to contain english text ?. You see ? . Thats a Distribution Issue. In that case , if you want to play a "well paid game" you have to 1) play it on french or 2) play a pirated copy.

c)Security and Privacy: Most Common clients and tech-savvy clients are concerned about security and privacy. In fact , i would agree most people does not agree with Ubisofts Startshield's anti-piracy rootkit methods. And even though , a well implemented zero tolerance policy can become a sucessful bussines model ( I am thinking on Apple on this one) , i dont consider Ubisoft policy a sucessful one. So i wouldnt consider many people ( even legit owners ) turning into Starshield's cracks to protect their privacy an ilogical behaviour.

I know there a couple more of conflicting points , i kinda dont have enough time or memory capacity to treat them right now , but i am sure there is gonna be some other time for them.

Leandro Pezzente
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Ohhh yeah .. now i recall ...

d) Speculative Losses and Game Genre Competition ...

Damn ....

Yoni Ballas
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The #1 safety rule of pirates on steam is to never use account with games registered on it.

Pirates use blank steam accounts, and it only takes few minutes to register a new one...

It will take more time to GMod's team to verify and ban a pirate then for the pirate to register new, blank account.

Therefore, Garry Newman also gives for people that haven't paid something to be smug about.

It is a win-win situation :D

john bonachon
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I don't want to say that piracy is good but...

i created a steam account a couple of years ago for play a casual games (that was giveaway for free for a special event), i played it and that's it, i forget about this account.

Then, a couple of days ago, i wanted to play the demo of a game called Portal 2, then i installed steam again and tried to access to my old account, and i found that i was banned, a small message saying that my account was banned because some break of EULA or something like that, and i did nothing!.

So, in conclusion, i was treated as a criminal, what will stop me to pirate this game and any other game of steam?. answer:laziness :-P

And the funny part is that, the pirated version of game include a patch that the same pirates created for fix a problem, patch that, right now, is no available for legal users.

Copied from the net:


It seems that legitimate owners also have to deal with the same issue,

since our cracker didn't expierence this crash we are sorry to have

missed it, now its fixed.

Dear Valve Software, we are crackers, not your problem solvers!"