[Mar 24, 2009, 12:10 pm ET] - Share - Viewing Comments
Valve announces new "Custom Executable Generation" (CEG) technology "that
compliments the already existing anti-piracy solution offered in Steamworks" is
now part of the Steamworks package of free developer tools, claiming this makes
DRM "obsolete," presuming you do not consider this DRM. Coincidentally,
quotes 2D Boy's
Ron Carmel calling DRM a "waste of time." Here's word on the new Steamworks
STEAMWORKS MAKES DRM OBSOLETE
Suite of Services Expands With Customer Executable Generation (CEG), Support for
DLC, Matchmaking, and More
March 24, 2009 - Valve today announced a new set of advanced features delivered
in Steamworks, a complete suite of publishing and development tools that are
available free of charge to developers and publishers worldwide.
Headlining the new feature set is the Custom Executable Generation (CEG)
technology that compliments the already existing anti-piracy solution offered in
Steamworks. A customer friendly approach to anti-piracy, CEG makes unique copies
of games for each user allowing them to access the application on multiple
machines without install limits and without having to install root kits on their
The new features also include support for in-game downloadable content (DLC) and
matchmaking. The in-game DLC support allows developers to deliver new content as
they choose (paid or free) from inside the game itself, allowing users to make
immediate purchases and experience the new content in the same game session. The
Steamworks matchmaking now includes the robust lobby system shipped and tested
in Left 4 Dead.
"Delivering this extension of services on Steamworks first anniversary,
demonstrates our commitment to continually develop the platform to better serve
the community working with these tools," said Gabe Newell, president and
co-founder of Valve. "As we roll out these features, we continue to look for new
ways make PC games easier to create and better for customers to experience."
Steamworks was launched in early 2008 and has already shipped in products
distributed at retail and electronically with major PC releases such as Empire:
Total War, Dawn of War II, F.E.A.R. 2: Project Origin, and Football Manager
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||Re: Steamworks Versus DRM
||Mar 24, 2009, 15:49
Actually this sounds like a form of exe watermarking. I'd wager they're doing something like re-arranging the locations of the functions in the binary for each individual Steam user, for example. That plus lots of other techniques would have the same effect as schemes like SecuROM i.e. discouraging casual copying.
You're probably relatively close to the truth here. I remember Age of Empires 2 randomized values during a multiplayer game in the page file that it kept to prevent online cheats, but the problem was that the "randomization" really wasn't very random, could be predicted, and if memory serves there wasn't any other cheat prevention mechanism, giving way to rampant online cheating.
The problem with such a watermarking is if they use any kind of "formula" for randomization, it'll be predictable, and thus can be broken. Then again, avoiding the online portion activation/checking in with servers nullifies the whole point, but at that point you can't patch, upgrade, or connect online.
If I had to guess, what you'll see is a combination of your watermarking idea, with impulse/steam's ability to download wherever you have a steam account. I expect they'll rely more heavily on online activation, delivering the exes online during activation, to help limit day one warez, with a checksum of the exe bound to your account. That way, they can track *who* leaked the copy of the game that eventually became warez.
This still won't stop the warez scene, but it might put a dampener on 0-day warez, which is where the serious fight seems to be focused on. Most rational devs have flat out stated that they know piracy will never go away, and focus on limiting it in the first 60-90 days, with a focus on 0 and 1-day releases.
Interestingly enough, if a dev environment was set up properly, *every* exe throughout development could be custom-watermarked and tracked during the dev cycle, and thus, over the long term, could track the individuals who work inside the industry who get hold of the game and leak it to the cracking groups for 0-day releases. I'm sure there's a relatively small number of them who are responsible.
I suppose even that could be circumvented though by modifying the exe extensively enough by the crackers. There might be enough forensic evidence though left to determine the source though, depending on how it's done.