Warcracked III

By Alec Meer on February 7th, 2008 at 11:24 am.

Seven [actually five and a half - Basic Arithmetic Ed] years on from release, Warcraft III is still seeing new patches. Blizzard forever chase the elusive spectre of perfect balance – the RTS equivalent of absolute zero.

I wouldn’t usually bother mentioning a patch unless it did something incredible, but of note in this most recent is that it adds official no-cd support – in other words, you no longer need the game disc a-spinnin’ inside your PC whenever you want to play the game.

I’ve always found it fascinating when games do this after release. It’s an admission that copy protection is just an irritation to legitimate players, and that disc checks are a particularly buffoonish and archaic anti-piracy measure at that.

I don’t need the Paint Shop Pro disc in my DVD drive whenever I want to butcher my holiday photos, after all. It was always doubly unncessary for a game like W3, which also employs serial number checks if you want to play it online. Having the CD check as well seems like leaving a polite post-it note on the windscreen of a driver prone to double-parking. Don’t bother. Just wheel-clamp the bastard.

While there’re still some reasons to be circumspect about online distribution systems (my web connection fell over yesterday; I almost wept when I found I couldn’t play Bookworm Adventures or Garry’s Mod or Puzzle Quest or whatever else was already installed unless Steam could report back to the mothership. Better offline modes plzkthx), they do spell an end to miserably sorting through quivering towers of plastic discs or popup-heavy crack websites. This brave new world, in which the data already installed upon my hard drive is all that’s required to play a game I’ve paid for, is one I know I want to live in.

And is there really anyone still playing W3 after all these years who didn’t apply an unofficial no-CD crack long ago? I guess it’s a kind courtesy on Blizzard’s part, and it certainly saves yet another visit to Gamecopyworld come the next patch, but it does seem futile this late in the day. Epic, on the other hand, were pretty quick to add official no-cd support to UT2004, and I remember thinking it quite the consideration at the time. In stark contrast are 2K, who promised they’d eventually chop the icky installation restrictions out of Bioshock – no sign of that yet.

Anyway, educate me: what other games have officially removed their CD checks?

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78 Comments »

  1. Nallen says:

    I seem to remember Supreme Commander chopped the media check pretty fast.

  2. Philip says:

    Unreal Tournament (the original) had the CD-check cut fairly early on in the patch cycle; I think that’s the earliest example I can think of.

  3. Mickiscoole says:

    Supreme Commander and it’s expansion, Forged Alliance got NOCD patches because the securom was playing up for some legitimate customers – so they decided to get rid of it instead of grief the customers.

    GPG are awesome.

  4. Freelancepolice says:

    x3 did it pretty quickly, removed the starforce need.

  5. rob says:

    NWN finally lost its CD check around the release of the second expansion, Hordes of the Underdark, which was a huge boon for a primarily online game. I also seem to remember Uplink not caring at all if the CD was present right out of the box although I’m not sure of Introversion’s subsequent releases.

  6. Cigol says:

    I think more significant is what games don’t use draconian copy-protection to begin with. There’s no prizes for raping a customer and then flipping them over to apologise.

  7. Optimaximal says:

    Didn’t Ubisoft also relent by releasing Heroes of Might & Magic V (and all subsequent games) without copy-protection?

    Oh, silly me, they just used SecuROM (the chocolate teapot of the anti-piracy industry).

  8. Chris Evans says:

    I think some of the older Champ Man/Footy Man (the SI ones) were playable without a disc after installation/patches. Think nowadays though you need the disc all the time =/

  9. FP says:

    > And is there really anyone still playing W3 after all these years who didn’t apply an unofficial no-CD crack long ago?

    Yeah me, only picked it up a couple of weeks ago (mainly to fill in the WoW backstory) and haven’t gotten around to finding a no-cd yet.

    > Anyway, educate me: what other games have officially removed their CD checks?

    Quake 3 did IIRC.

  10. Nick says:

    Does company of heroes count by not having one? (just a login thing..)

  11. Sucram says:

    Blizzard also released a no-cd patch for Starcraft not so long ago.

    I can see the point of cd checks for the first maybe month of sales, but after that they should be removed in official patches.

    Absolutly hate games which you can’t play SP unless you’re connected to the internet. 70% of the time I’m on a laptop and regularly don’t have any connection so I simply won’t buy those games.

  12. Andrew says:

    Company of Heroes lost its disc check a couple of months after release, and the login screen was only added with the release of Opposing Fronts. So it was effectively ‘cracked’ for most of 2007.

  13. Mal says:

    Publishers who have spouted forth on this matter in the past have all pretty much coughed to the fact that copy-protection measures are only really there to prevent zero-day cracking, which they regard as by far the most damaging to their coffers.

    The reasoning being that the vast majority of users are happy to pay for a legit copy if one is available, but if the game hasn’t been released yet in that particular territory (or at all) then impatient gamers will go for the pirate copy and never bother upgrading to a legitimate version when one becomes available.

    Therefore an official no-CD patch after a short period would make sense, although so many years after the event seems a bit pointless.

    Maybe Steamworks will obviate the need for such irritating contrivances in the first place.

  14. Seniath says:

    I recall Quake II did as well, but not having the CD in the drive meant losing the soundtrack in them there days.

  15. shai says:

    Prey removed the cd check with the 1.4 patch (January 10th)

  16. drunkymonkey says:

    Gee, I might find myself losing at the battles more often then, if there’s a no-cd patch.

  17. Iain says:

    I’ve re-bought quite a few games off Steam (Deus Ex, WH40k: Dawn of War, X-Com: TFTD, for example) precisely because it means I don’t have to faff around finding the disks whenever I want to play them. (When you’ve got around 250 games on PC alone, this is a pretty big time-saver…)

    The CD/DVD should only be needed for installation these days – I can think of plenty of less intrusive ways that developers could use to ensure that a game wasn’t pirated – e.g. setting up an encrypted file on the hard drive upon installation that could be checked against the CD key and an authentication server – i.e. pretty much similar to what the Steam version of DEFCON does – it would require an internet connection, or you could cache the information for five game starts between reauthentications, for those times when your ISP is being rubbish.

    The point is, the player wouldn’t even have to know it was there. The developer knows the game is legit, and the player doesn’t get pissed off. Win-win. Enforcing media checks these days just seems archaic and does nothing but alienate the person who bought the game legitimately…

  18. Janek says:

    Off the top of my head, one of the later Flashpoint (probably Resistance) patches did the whole No-CD thing. 1.96 I think.

    The second patch for Silent Hunter 4 removed the copy protection, what with having caused all sorts of trouble amongst legitimate consumers. Come to think of it I think it was based on FADE (like Flashpoint). Hmm.

    I’m fairly sure I’m missing some, although I pretty much crack all my games anyway. Dicking around with CDs/DVDs is just a pain in the ass, and completely unnecessary.

  19. Ingix says:

    Iain said:

    > e.g. setting up an encrypted file on the hard drive upon
    > installation that could be checked against the CD key and
    > an authentication server – i.e. pretty much similar to what
    > the Steam version of DEFCON does – it would require an
    > internet connection, or you could cache the information for
    > five game starts between reauthentications, for those
    > times when your ISP is being rubbish. The point is,
    > the player wouldn’t even have to know it was there.

    That’s a great way to anger me substantially. Now the game tries to hide the fact that it will need an internet connection and the publisher’s servers eventually to work. With Steam I at least know that I’m at their mercy and can therefore avoid it.

  20. Hieremias says:

    Warcraft 3 was released 5 1/2 years ago, not 7. July 2002.

    Still, long time to be supporting a game.

  21. Steve says:

    Company of Heroes still requires the CD every time Relic Online goes down (which is still fairly frequently), if you want to play single player.

  22. Andrew says:

    Dawn of War hasn’t needed one, I think from Dark Crusade’s release.

    Company of Heroes used to not need one for offline play, now it does. It’s kind of a backwards example, heh. (It won’t need one if you can connect online however).

    Call of Duty games didn’t need the CD in for multiplayer, but did for singleplayer. /me shrugs

    Neverwinter Nights/Unreal Tournament was already mentioned. UT3 doesn’t need the DVD does it?

    Still, it’s only a handful, sadly.

  23. Iain says:

    @Ingix: I think you’re going to find that it’s probably going to become the general standard for software authentication anyway, whether you want it to or not; it’s nothing that Microsoft haven’t already been doing for years with Windows, for example.

    The customer rarely gets to dictate terms – if you want to use a product, you have to abide by the seller’s rules. Or you could just not play the games… But where’s the fun in that?

    There is another option, of course – piracy – but that would make you a criminal very naughty person, and I’d rather put up with the faff of online authentication than cling onto some high-minded principle that because I didn’t need to do it ten or fifteen years ago, I shouldn’t have to do it now…

  24. Zeno, Internetographer says:

    I’m actually very excited about this. I never bother applying no-CD cracks to games I actually own – mostly just because it makes the occasional patch a bother.

  25. Matthew Gallant says:

    This is good news, I might just throw WC3 on my hard drive now for a rainy day.

  26. The_B says:

    Unreal Tournament has been said, but UT 2003 and UT2004 also had CD Checks removed after their first patch (or couple of patches) – I’m not sure about UT3… I might check that in a second.

    I agree though in a lot of respects that convience is a big factor in removing them. Currently I have about six or seven games I’m playing in fits and starts, and attempting to start GH3 for a quick blast on one song only to find out both my drives are being used by Stranglehold and World in Conflict irks me when I have to root around my desk to get the disk. Even more so when I’d rather install and then just be able to keep the box on my shelf. So when I want to finish Crysis after that I can just click the shortcut…

  27. Heartless_ says:

    Note: Must update WC3, unload the iso image from Daemon tools, and enjoy.

  28. Ben Hazell says:

    Heh, I just left RPS to check Boingboing and got bounced right back here.

  29. Jim Rossignol says:

    None shall leave.

  30. David McBride says:

    Introversion’s Darwinia didn’t use any kind of copy-protection hack. I was most pleased when I discovered this.

  31. cannon fodder says:

    Minor point:

    This story including link to RPS is top of the slashdot main page now. Prepare for slashdotting in 3, 2, 1…

  32. Giolon says:

    Stardock publishes its games w/o any copy protection whatsoever, not even a a CD-check. They instead rely on a unique CD-key that must be provided to obtain game updates, bonus content, and the ability to play online.

    I bought their newest game Sins of a Solar Empire last night and was thoroughly pleased to find that I could not only install it on my desktop and laptop with ease, but:

    1) No cd-check on the game so no need to seek a no-cd crack out for my laptop to play easily on the go.

    2) The license allows you to play two-player over LAN with the same cd-key, so if a friend comes over, we can play.

    3) Registering your cd-key provides you with the ability to re-download the game at any time from Stardock’s website.

    If only all publishers behaved this way and didn’t treat its actual customers worse than the pirates!

  33. Jonathan says:

    Dear Alec Meer.

    Kindly sit up and remove that stick. Blizzard could have abandonded this game long ago. But instead they’re still working on it. Patching and balancing it as new hardware arrives or new exploits are found. They release, the simple, copy protection they had on a game that is still selling on the high street and all you can do is criticise them for it. Very polite.

    Also if we’re talking about copy protection and copy right shouldn’t Alec Meer and Jim Rossignol and Keiron Gillen be publishing their PC Gamer articles for free on here. So that people don’t have to go to all that trouble of picking up a magazine. Or paying.

  34. Alec Meer says:

    You’re right, I was unbelievably mean to Blizzard. Ooh, the things I said.

  35. Jonathan says:

    Hey Alec, don’t apologise to me apologise to Michael Morhaime. Imagine his face reading that, his nice present being thrown back in public. Imagine his smile fading as he reads it. Imagine him hanging his head and saying he’s a bad person.

    He’s holding a scrapbook and looking at all the good reviews and nice things you’ve said about his games. You know what he’s doing? He’s crying.

  36. SwiftRanger says:

    Well, Alec is right that Blizzard is way too late with these recent cd check removal patches (I believe Diablo II will get the same treatment as well). Blizzard always sells gazillions of copies in the first month after release to very loyal fans and if someone does want to copy their games then a cd check won’t stop them at all.

    Of course, better late than never. :)

  37. Zeno, Internetographer says:

    I reeeeeeeally hope D2 goes no-cd…

    The grades, they will slip.

  38. John P (Katsumoto) says:

    UT3 got almost instantly patched to remove the cd-check. Which is nice.

  39. Not-a-bot says:

    None of Introversions games have ever had cd-checks

  40. Masked Dave says:

    I don’t mind anti-piracy efforts.

    Seriously, they’ve never bothered me in any way.

  41. Jim Rossignol says:

    “You know what he’s doing? He’s crying.”

    Into his money.

  42. Arnulf says:

    Still waiting for the NO CD patch for Diablo II: Lord of Destruction. Please! Blizzard?

    Ah.. and while we’re at it: Diablo 1 and Warcraft II: Tides & Beyond the Dark Portal Battle.net Edition (phew!) also needs one. Thanks.

    Actually when they unlocked Starcraft I eagerly tried all my other Blizzard games. Was quite a feat locating the old discs. Now get this: WC2, D2, WC3, and Starcraft Brood War were all installed on my current computer. Played up to various stages in their respective story lines… I need to remember to back up my old savegames.

  43. WanderingTaoist says:

    Just like in the case of Stardock, Paradox-developed games never even had cd checks. And I love them for it. I have most of them sitting on my desktop – Hearts of Iron II w/expansions, Europa Universalis II and III, Victoria – and whenever I feel the urge, I just click and play them. Some of the games they published have no CD checks too, Take Command: 2nd Manassas pops in my head immediately. I want to see more of the behavior from the others as well. That or adopt Steam.

  44. lilblackdemon says:

    None of the Introversion games have had CD-checks. However, Uplink required you to have a code-card handy to start a new game (just as annoying) and Defcon requires a CD key (except over Steam).

    All 4 UT games have had No-CD patched in.
    Quake 1 & 2 could be played sans CD, but at the expense of the soundtrack. You could, however, pop your own CD for the first custom soundtracks.
    Quake 3 had No-CD patched in.
    Quake 4 had No-CD out of the box, but would phone home to check for a legit CD key if you were online. Offline, it would just play.
    Doom 3 had a No-CD patched in, but would also phone home to check your CD key if you were online.
    Steam works if you “Go Offline…” while already online, then disconnect.
    X2 and X3 had No-CD patched in.
    Starcraft + Brood War had No-CD patched in recently.

    I’d love to see Riven offer a full install (no more CD swapping midgame) and every online-only game get No-CD patched in.

    Oo… that reminds me… the original Myst had No-CD out of the box.

  45. B says:

    Enough with the “adopt Steam” comments! Some of us don’t want to be told what, when and where we can and cannot do with whichever games we buy.

  46. The_B says:

    “Enough with the “adopt Steam” comments! Some of us don’t want to be told what, when and where we can and cannot do with whichever games we buy.”

    Games might not be the choice for you then. You know, given every EULA ever.

  47. Elyscape says:

    @lilblackdemon
    Riven is pretty much the easiest game ever to make run without CDs. The way it works is this: when looking for data, Riven checks the DATA subfolder of its install directory. If the expected data isn’t there, it checks the DATA folder on the CD drive. Thus, to make it run off your hard drive, just copy all the DATA folders into Riven’s install directory.

  48. UncleBoogie says:

    Throw in another Stardock supporter. The entire reason I bought Galactic Civilizations 2 was because of their stance on treating their customers as customers rather than treating them all as thieves.

    Will be buying “Sins of a Solar Empire” most likely. Again, almost entirely to support a developer who gets it. (I know very little about the game, but Stardock make good stuff, so it’s not like it’s a risky purchase.)

    I’m also a big fan of Steam. A lot of people whine and moan about it, but the fact is I have access to my games, I have no disks to lose, and reinstalling on another system is a case of a few mouse clicks rather than finding disks, putting disks in, finding CD keys etc…

  49. malkav11 says:

    Color me also a fan of Stardock’s methods, although to be perfectly honest I haven’t yet gotten into their games. I think the next GalCiv II expansion may be my breaking point on that game, though. Race-specific tech trees = happy.

    Titan Quest had the SecuROM patched out, but apparently that didn’t remove the CD check.

  50. nimble says:

    What I especially wish would get the copy-protection removal treatment would be demos. I understand that they don’t want to ship unprotected binaries in demos so as to prevent crackers from seeing what is changed, but copy protection software has gotten really really annoying lately. With a game you can at least apply an unofficial crack, but there’s no such choice for a demo if the copy protection is stopping it from running on your computer.

    It’s SafeDisc, I think, that has been in most of the recent demos I’ve been unable to try, but whatever it is, it seems that games publishers think I’ll go ahead and remove the most useful Windows upgrade in the world from my startup folder and then, not just stop the program from running but reboot my computer(!), just to try out their demo.

    So there has been a handful of demos recently that I’ve gone through the effort of downloading and installing and then never been able to try out (WiC, Time Shift, and Overlord spring to mind). And I rarely buy a game without trying the demo first.

    Of course, Sierra I can understand doing this since they seem to have a very inflated sense of how many hoops potential customers are willing to jump through just to evaluate one of their games for purchase. I’m expecting them to soon add a 1/2-hour timer to their license agreement screen, to make sure you actually read the entire agreement (you already have to have been seen to have scrolled through the entire thing) before trying a demo.