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First post, by Speedwarrior956

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After my most recent squabble with that infamous "Digital Rights Management" system, Yours Trully decided to check if any other games for Windows were MALIGNED (Yup; That pun was deliberately intended.) by that poor excuse of an "anti-piracy system". As expected, my search brought me to the following list of PC games and simulators that contained it in one way or another.

So here's what happened so far:
After downloading my copy of World Racing 2 from the My Abandonware site -with the update patches sourced from The Patches-Scrolls as usual-, Installed everything religiously and played eagerly thorough the first missions (that was a few days back, of course). Upon restarting my machine early this morning.......

KABOOM!!!!!

It greeted me with an 0xc00000428 error code (Driver Signature Error), which almost forced me to fully reload the OS. Fortunately, i was able to issue a Driver Signature Bypass (F7 key IIRC) command thorough the Recovery Options Menu to make it boot into the desktop as intended and get rid of the culprit ASAP. (Thank goodness for Microsoft Bing. It saved me from an impending doom!)

Now that you know the details of my adventure with StarF*^%, here's the aformentioned list as retrieved from the Wayback Machine:
(Please feel free to update it as needed; This one was originally compiled back in Mid-2006)

http://web.archive.org/web/20060815130545/htt … e.html#released

Hope this bit of information helps.

Greetings.

Reply 1 of 21, by RetroGamer4Ever

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If I recall, it made it's way onto a bunch of "Value Software" releases of older, popular and not so popular games that basically wouldn't run because of the DRM constipation. A bunch of those probably got ripped and put on to the various game downloading sites, so you're likely to run into them sooner or later. I bought a copy of the Star Wars strategy game "Empire At War" at Staples, where that was the case and I never got it to work.

Reply 2 of 21, by The Serpent Rider

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You can't install StarForce on modern OS that easily. So it's probably something else. Also that DRM usually requires legal CD/DVD to be present.

Get up, come on get down with the sickness
Open up your hate, and let it flow into me

Reply 3 of 21, by dr_st

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StarForce got a lot of criticism when it was first introduced, a lot of it undeserved. It's as legitimate an "anti-piracy system" as any, and no more intrusive than some.

They have a good FAQ for end-users on their website:
https://www.star-force.com/support/users/

Which tells you how to maximize compatibility by upgrading drivers. Still, some versions are too old to be running on newer OS, no matter what, so you would need a CD crack.

The problem described above:

It greeted me with an 0xc00000428 error code (Driver Signature Error), which almost forced me to fully reload the OS. Fortunately, i was able to issue a Driver Signature Bypass (F7 key IIRC) command thorough the Recovery Options Menu to make it boot into the desktop as intended and get rid of the culprit ASAP

is the standard thing that Windows does when you attempt to load an unsigned (for that OS) boot-start driver, which, unfortunately, the StarForce driver is. The remedy (boot with signature enforcement disabled or "last good known configuration" and remove/replace the driver) is also an official, documented procedure.

The Serpent Rider wrote on 2021-08-08, 16:10:

You can't install StarForce on modern OS that easily. So it's probably something else. Also that DRM usually requires legal CD/DVD to be present.

Unfortunately, the problem is exactly the fact that you can install it that easily. The installer installs a driver and registers a service using standard Windows installer APIs. But in the next boot, the signature enforcement refuses to load it, and since the driver is marked as "boot-critical", the system crashes.

Here is a small piece "in defense" of StarForce:
https://web.archive.org/web/20191105161102/ht … m/Piracy_9.html

Last edited by dr_st on 2021-08-10, 09:10. Edited 1 time in total.

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Reply 4 of 21, by mr.cat

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SF poses a special challenge to Wine too, because there just isn't any way to imitate a ring0 driver in Wine. Iow, these titles won't work at all.
Btw it seems this thing is even included in some of the old game demos! Without the CD-check of course, but the kernel driver is there.

Reply 5 of 21, by kjliew

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Use VM then 😉 I was able to run 2 StarForce infested game demos, GT Legends and Xpand Rally, on QEMU. The DRM does not seem to care about running on virtual machine. With snapshot capability on the OS image, the StarForce DRM drivers can't mess with the OS at all.

Reply 6 of 21, by Speedwarrior956

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kjliew wrote on 2021-08-08, 22:41:

Use VM then 😉 I was able to run 2 StarForce infested game demos, GT Legends and Xpand Rally, on QEMU. The DRM does not seem to care about running on virtual machine. With snapshot capability on the OS image, the StarForce DRM drivers can't mess with the OS at all.

I've ran GT Legends (The EUR release from Atari that is; The Viva Media US-NTSC version was plagued with the #StarFuss thingy IIRC. ) on my current Windows 10 machine on Win XP SP3 compatibility without any problems, mods and everything. It was a pretty good game with some slightly flawed physics engine. If memory serves me well, there was an old forum entry at the defunct NoGrip Racing website depicting the MAJOR issues that such game release caused on computers running the most recent versions of Windows (including the aforementioned Fatal Error Code for starters) and how to get those issues sorted out.

Here's said forum thread as retrieved from the Wayback Machine. It includes instructions for the -old- Steam release as well.
(I'm suspecting that it was the Atari distributed version with Steam's proprietary DRM thrown in for good measure. #PleaseConfirm)

http://web.archive.org/web/20170614031639/htt … ad.php?t=344840

Reply 7 of 21, by dr_st

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mr.cat wrote on 2021-08-08, 22:36:

SF poses a special challenge to Wine too, because there just isn't any way to imitate a ring0 driver in Wine. Iow, these titles won't work at all.

So I guess Safedisc is a problem too?

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Reply 8 of 21, by mr.cat

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dr_st wrote on 2021-08-09, 09:32:
mr.cat wrote on 2021-08-08, 22:36:

SF poses a special challenge to Wine too, because there just isn't any way to imitate a ring0 driver in Wine. Iow, these titles won't work at all.

So I guess Safedisc is a problem too?

Not sure if SafeDisc uses any kernel drivers? (EDIT: Yup, seems it does)
As kjliew mentioned, this problem can be overcome with virtual machines/emulation, but Wine is only for things living in userspace (at least, for now).
The disc checks aren't necessarily a problem because the host system's drives are visible in Wine.

Reply 9 of 21, by Speedwarrior956

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mr.cat wrote on 2021-08-09, 10:16:
Not sure if SafeDisc uses any kernel drivers? (EDIT: Yup, seems it does) As kjliew mentioned, this problem can be overcome with […]
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dr_st wrote on 2021-08-09, 09:32:
mr.cat wrote on 2021-08-08, 22:36:

SF poses a special challenge to Wine too, because there just isn't any way to imitate a ring0 driver in Wine. Iow, these titles won't work at all.

So I guess Safedisc is a problem too?

Not sure if SafeDisc uses any kernel drivers? (EDIT: Yup, seems it does)
As kjliew mentioned, this problem can be overcome with virtual machines/emulation, but Wine is only for things living in userspace (at least, for now).
The disc checks aren't necessarily a problem because the host system's drives are visible in Wine.

That's right on the money. The last version of SafeDisc includes its own driver into the main installer, giving it instant elevated access to the machine's internals in the process, which poses a major security flaw as it would wreck some serious malware-induced havoc.

Here's some info on their final project, known as SafeDisc Advanced. (then again, sourced thorough the Wayback Machine.)

https://web.archive.org/web/20070113074 ... fedisc.htm

Reply 10 of 21, by kjliew

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I believe all forms of sophisticated disc based DRM schemes (SafeDisc/SecureROM/StarForce etc.) will have troubles with Wine. Unless they were replaced with online-based DRM or completely alleviated by later patches/re-releases or cracked non-legitimately by underworld fans/hackers, there is no way to play them otherwise. StarForce claimed to be "un-crack-able" compared to SafeDisc/SecureROM, so any games which were infested would require the courtesy of publishers/studios to release patches/re-releases that endorsed the removal of DRMs. I think Wine is also problematic with games that simply do CD check, but those kinds of copy-protection can be easily circumvented.

For archiving purposes, I think the details on how to archive the CD images properly such that ISO or CUE/BIN rips would be able to pass SafeDisc/SecureROM/StarForce DRM check on VMs is very useful, if such was even remotely possible.

Reply 11 of 21, by dr_st

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kjliew wrote on 2021-08-09, 20:29:

StarForce claimed to be "un-crack-able" compared to SafeDisc/SecureROM, so any games which were infested would require the courtesy of publishers/studios to release patches/re-releases that endorsed the removal of DRMs.

It claimed, but in practice, it was cracked just the same - for most StarForce games, hackers have released "fixed" EXEs with the copy protection removed, as far as I know.

kjliew wrote on 2021-08-09, 20:29:

For archiving purposes, I think the details on how to archive the CD images properly such that ISO or CUE/BIN rips would be able to pass SafeDisc/SecureROM/StarForce DRM check on VMs is very useful, if such was even remotely possible.

Don't think it's possible in ISO or CUE/BIN formats, at least not in general. Alcohol MDF/MDS format does work most of the time - I've used it extensively to rip my own copy-protected CDs.

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Reply 12 of 21, by kjliew

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dr_st wrote on 2021-08-09, 20:45:
kjliew wrote on 2021-08-09, 20:29:

StarForce claimed to be "un-crack-able" compared to SafeDisc/SecureROM, so any games which were infested would require the courtesy of publishers/studios to release patches/re-releases that endorsed the removal of DRMs.

It claimed, but in practice, it was cracked just the same - for most StarForce games, hackers have released "fixed" EXEs with the copy protection removed, as far as I know.

This is interesting, I thought that was only possible with SafeDisc/SecureROM. Do you have an example of StarForce game cracked with "fixed" EXE?

Reply 13 of 21, by dr_st

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Cross-reference the games in this list with GameCopyWorld / GameBurnWorld. Obviously I will not post links to the latter, but you can just do a web search for "game name no cd".

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Reply 14 of 21, by RandomStranger

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Speedwarrior956 wrote on 2021-08-08, 13:45:

Now that you know the details of my adventure with StarF*^%, here's the aformentioned list as retrieved from the Wayback Machine:
(Please feel free to update it as needed; This one was originally compiled back in Mid-2006)

http://web.archive.org/web/20060815130545/htt … e.html#released

My early retail copy of Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time doesn't have StarForce (and Warrior Within is DRM free, I remember being able to rip/copy the CDs without any issue). The Two Thrones however is. I know the retail copy I bought in the month it released wouldn't run on Windows 7.

sreq.png

Reply 15 of 21, by dr_st

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RandomStranger wrote on 2021-08-10, 05:48:

My early retail copy of Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time doesn't have StarForce (and Warrior Within is DRM free, I remember being able to rip/copy the CDs without any issue). The Two Thrones however is. I know the retail copy I bought in the month it released wouldn't run on Windows 7.

The Prince of Persia trilogy is one I have researched extensively (since it is one of my favorite game series).

Early releases of Sands of Time and Warrior Within had SafeDisc worldwide and StarForce in Russia. Early releases of Two Thrones had StarForce worldwide. I have played a cracked "repack" shortly after the game came out. That's how I know that StarForce games were, in fact, crackable (apparently on a game-by-game basis).

Later DVD releases (like those that were released in the bundles) were a toss-up - some were DRM-free, some still had SafeDisc/StarForce.
And interestingly, the Russian release of Prince of Persia (2008) also was StarForce-protected, although worldwide it was always DRM-free. At least it's a new version of StarForce, which can run on any Windows up to 10, 64-bit included.

More info:
https://cloakedthargoid.wordpress.com/pc-game … op-ttt-special/
https://cloakedthargoid.wordpress.com/russian … tions/pop-4in1/

https://www.pcgamingwiki.com/wiki/Prince_of_P … e_Sands_of_Time
https://www.pcgamingwiki.com/wiki/Prince_of_P … _Warrior_Within
https://www.pcgamingwiki.com/wiki/Prince_of_P … The_Two_Thrones

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Reply 16 of 21, by RandomStranger

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I guess. All I know back then a friend of mine bought an early release of Warrior Within, lent it to me, I imaged the discs with Nero or CloneCD and the game installs and runs without cracking.

If my memories served me right, he claimed to have (pre-)ordered it from the US, because back then games had delayed release in our region. Also he was a big fan of both the PoP series, both the US.

sreq.png

Reply 17 of 21, by Dancsi40

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That's because Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time is protected with SafeDisc v3 and not StarForce 3, unless you have the russian version of the game.

Next time, check this page for game information, you will get all the details (and if you have an account there (free), you can contribute to the page/modify it and add some new infos for others (like bug fixes) : https://www.pcgamingwiki.com/wiki/Prince_of_P … e_Sands_of_Time

You can also use protection utilities like A-Ray or ClonyXXL to check the game protection (DRM) on the discs (CD/DVD) itself.

RandomStranger wrote on 2021-08-10, 05:48:
Speedwarrior956 wrote on 2021-08-08, 13:45:

Now that you know the details of my adventure with StarF*^%, here's the aformentioned list as retrieved from the Wayback Machine:
(Please feel free to update it as needed; This one was originally compiled back in Mid-2006)

http://web.archive.org/web/20060815130545/htt … e.html#released

My early retail copy of Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time doesn't have StarForce (and Warrior Within is DRM free, I remember being able to rip/copy the CDs without any issue). The Two Thrones however is. I know the retail copy I bought in the month it released wouldn't run on Windows 7.

Reply 18 of 21, by Procyon

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Most games I have that have StarForce have been hacked by now or I have digital download versions like GT Legends and GTR-2 on Steam which have it removed.
Only two notable exceptions are Trackmania Original and Trackmania Sunrise Extreme, which happen to be my favorite Trackmania games. ☹️
Until a couple of years ago I ran a Windows XP machine just to run those games, I've yet to rebuild it, I think I needed the harddrive for some console mod project I was doing.

Also:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p-wyIalhdPU

Reply 19 of 21, by willow

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dr_st wrote on 2021-08-09, 09:32:
mr.cat wrote on 2021-08-08, 22:36:

SF poses a special challenge to Wine too, because there just isn't any way to imitate a ring0 driver in Wine. Iow, these titles won't work at all.

So I guess Safedisc is a problem too?

Safedisc doesn't worked in windows 10 but no cblue screen at win 10 launch like with starforce.