These editorials are killing me. LeeMon stirred up 290 e-mail
messages of controversy with his "I
WANT My CD-Key" editorial. Read the cream of the crop of the
messages, and see what I have to say at the end! By the way, this
first letter here isn't in response to the CD-Key article, but
a response to our interview
with Graeme Devine on copy protection.
From: William Night
Subject: CD Keys - re: Graeme Devine - for the mailbag
There's a lot of noise about CD Keys, and id is making their
share of it.
GD: ... and we know who is running cracked servers.
Do they? He says this like Santa, "and you'd better watch out..."
There's no law against running a 'crack' on your programs. It's
no different that applying a patch, except one's made by the company
and the other isn't.
GD: A lot of the keygen programs are really Trojan Horse programs
that snag a users Q3A config and email it off to an anonymous
Seems strange that a pirate would waste his time writing a trojan
to steal keys from users who are guaranteed not to have them...
I can see the Q3-ZBot being a trojan, but not a keygen. Sounds
like a little misinformation to keep people from trying one.
GD: On reflection we should have client side encrypted the key
and we may elect to do just this in a future point release of
That, and simply sticking it in a file called SecretKey.cfg
would have helped. Many Q3 users don't read the quake sites, are
they going to know q3config.cfg isn't safe to share where q1 and
q2 configs were? The overzealous protection was put in without
considering what it would do to users.
GD: So far the CD key system has been a big success, the idea
is to make this painless for legal users and a hassle for pirates.
This they accomplish by making the message for a mistyped key
be 'Someone appears to be using your key' instead of 'invalid
key'. Seems like making it a hassle for pirates is more important
than making it easy for newbie users.
GD: (hacker attempts outnumber real customers with keys, or
probable mistyped keys by more than 2:1)
Well, of course. Assuming a keygen can try 50-500 keys per second
and a real user averages one authentication every 30-60 minutes...
Ten pirates with keygens could easily generate more responses
than all the legitimate users. This is just a "Pirates are terribly
bad, you should put up with crap to let us try to stop their evil
The truth is that the CD Key is an invasion of privacy and a
way for your game to suddenly stop working for reasons beyond
In this system, you have to *ask permission* before every use
of the game that you bought and paid for. If the authentication
server goes down, like it did a few times during the demo release,
your game is suddenly singleplayer only. If the backbone between
you and the authentication server goes down while you can still
reach quake servers, you won't be able to log onto them. If the
authentication server overloads, you won't be able to play multiplayer.
I sure hope you like bots because you're going to be playing a
lot of them waiting for multiplayer to start working again.
The whole thing is a lot like DIVX, where you'd buy a DVD-like
disk, but only be able to play it by authenticating (and paying)
with a master server. If those servers go down, your collection
of disks becomes useless. And what happened with DIVX? The company
cut it's lossed and decided to stop running the authentication,
so everyone who bought in has a bunch of disks that will be useless
when the company finally takes down the authentication server
If id software wants to run their own servers, they're perfectly
welcome to check any ID they want, after all, they're footing
the bill for the server. But if a user who legally purchased the
game wants to run a server, what right does id have to tell them
how to do it?
Then, there's the whole precedent it sets. If we let one company
make us authenticate to use their product, so they can log IPs
and usage times (as Graeme has admitted doing, to watch for his
patterns) then what's to stop Microsoft from doing it? Or Real?
Real was recently flamed into submission when it was discovered
that they were covertly collecting and recording information about
users based on what was on the users HDs. How can you ever be
sure what's going on when your program sends a packet of encrypted
information off to a master server?
Is the evil spectre of piracy worth giving up our freedom for?
GD: In future products we will probably continue to use a CD
key system, but perhaps multi-tier it so that there are “levels”
of users that play the game. “admins”, “sysops”, and so forth,
or even people paying us a subscription would have different access
to the game, and it’s servers than normal players.
Oh, isn't that charming. Now, beat the pants off some guy and
the worst he can do is insult you, or if it's his server, kick
you. But with Quake4, if he pays for the platinum subscription,
will he be able to institute a global ban until you can prove
you don't use a bot? Just what we need, more people with control
over what we can and can't do with a product we legally bought.
This isn't the argument of a mad pirate who can't play Q3...
I've got Doom2, Quake, Quake2, the Hipnotic mission pack, legit
copies, all sitting here next to my desk. I've got $60 waiting
for me to get to the store and buy Unreal Tourney, and I've got
another $60 for Quake3, as soon as id removes the CD Key nonscense.
I'm a legitimate user of these games and I wish to continue this
trend, but I wish to be able to use *my* computer and *my* software
as I see fit, not merely as I am allowed by a company putting
their interests ahead of mine.
I urge everyone to hold off on purchasing Quake3 until CD Keys
are removed and replaced with a form of copy protection that doesn't
interfere with legitimate users.
Hellchick: A well-written letter, William. As Spyke said,
we got an incredible amount of feedback on both the CD key editorial
and on the interview we did with Graeme Devine. And apparently
Graeme received a lot of email personally about it as well - he
told me the day after the interview that people were emailing
him in an uproar about the idea of id doing a subscription-based
game. But think about it: subscription-based games like Everquest
and Asheron's Call are hugely popular; most people are thinking
in terms of Quake. What if id's next game is nothing like Quake
(and Graeme has said that it won't be)? Think about it.
From: Nayan Ramachandran
Subject: WOW! I salute you
Wow, I really have to say, I salute you. Leemon, you took the
words right out of my mouth. I live in a dorm where if you let
a cd out of your sight for a second, you're likely to see the
game on everyone else's computer by the end of the day. I drew
the line at Unreal Tournament. I decided not to let anyone copy
it off anyone. The problem was though, that I really wanted to
play it, but my computer was in the shop. So, I decided to play
it on my roommate's computer to try out the new weapons.
Needless to say, I made a mistake, forgot to delete the sucker,
and by nightfall, everyone I knew had it, and LAN games were springing
up everywhere. I almost broke down right there. I shouted at my
roommate for about 2 hours telling him to grow up, get money of
his own and buy the game. He just said "screw you, this is a game
I like, but it's not good enough to buy" and went back to playing.
I could have said "THEN DON'T PLAY IT," but I knew that it was
a futile attempt. I decided instead to let it be this time, but
stick it to them next time.
My next attempt was Quake3Arena. My roommate and I bought it
because we both wanted the tin boxes (as well as the game, of
course). This was my chance to tell him not to give it to everyone
in our dorm. He asked why. This is what I told him this:
"If you give it to everyone, and someone with your cd key comes
online while you're playing, both copies of Q3 will be null and
void. No more gaming for you two."
Sure it was a fib, but it worked damn well. Instead of hearing
that half the dorm was having a frigging Q3 warez party, I was
hearing that they wanted to come watch as me and my roommate gibbed
each other in Q3Tourney3. Eventually 3 more people actually bought
the game, and we started playing more and more. Sure that's not
a lot of people, but I play more Internet clan matches than LAN
games, and on top of that, we managed to stop piracy in a passive
way without any Torjan horses or viruses teaching them a lesson.
After all, they're my friends, and I don't want them learnign
the hard way.
Sure I used to be a warezer when I was younger, but ever since
I started working at a software company programming about 3 years
ago, I realized how much work these people do, and how much they
do to make a buck. So, I reformed, and I'm totally straight now.
I don't even have mp3's of cd's i don't have. :P
Anyway, thanks for such an eye-opening article. Ill make it
a point to copy and email the URL of the article to some of my
dorm members so they'll shut up about Q3 warezing. :)
Thanks PQ. Keep up the excellent work. Btw, is there an article
writing job in it for me? :P
- Nayan "Trin" Ramachandran
Hellchick: I can't say that I'm squeaky-clean when it
comes to warez stuff...if a friend gives me a program I don't
have but need, I often tell myself that I'll do the right thing
and buy it as soon as I have the money, but of course that doesn't
always happen. But even so, my basic philosophy is this: the people
who made Q3:A are hard workers and deserve compensation for their
work. When you pirate the game, you don't give them the compensation
they deserve, and you quite possibly take away some of their incentive
to make another good game. And if you have any doubts as to whether
or not the guys at id are hard workers, just watch the time stamp
on their .plan updates and notice how late they stay up nearly
every night just to make the best game they can make for you.
Oh, and Trin, about the article job - you need to use the word
From: John Dick
Subject: CD-key article
I must say that although I support IDs decision to protect their
work, something had been nagging at the back of my brain. Near the
end of your editorial on the issue, you casually mentioned the nazi-like
copy protection measures of the late 80's.
I Do not want to ever see it come to anything even remotely
close to that ever again!!!
The hacker proof issues of ten years ago made gaming an utter
chore. What scares me is that the small CD-keys and authentications
of today may very easily turn into the dongles and red cellophane
Nobody likes crackers (except maybe warez doodz who are an even
lower life form) but they are here to stay. There will always
be crime. I just hope that it doesn't come to the point where
protection schemes alienate honest consumers like myself.
Unfortunately, I have a feeling that it's inevitable.
Hellchick: Booger...? You play with the handle "Booger"?!
I guess I've seen worse.
Subject: Response to "I WANT My CD Key"
I'm glad to see that someone has the guts to talk about this
very controversial subject. There seems to be a big ethical debate
about issues such as software piracy, so on and so forth.
As for my own opinion, I understand that the $40-50 cost of
Quake III comes from R and D, packaging, marketing, etc., and
that when I think about it, I get a helluva lot for that money.
After all, my Quake II directory is over a gig, only half of which
is taken up by the actual game. I can definitely say that I get
my money's worth, I enjoy the games a lot and that it's nice to
know that I'm investing in Id's next product. I've been playing
them since Doom shareware, the first game to actually make me
paranoid. :) And Quake III is awesome, I am really impressed with
the product. I just hope they do some small things to make it
better, like making it easier to play and record demos, show scores
at the end of a Tournament game, show accuracy with weapons at
the end of a game (a la OSP Tourney Mod for Quake II), as well
as including the option of a warmup and a countdown preceding
a game, etc. I know someone will probably do all this stuff anyways,
it would just be nice if ID included it in the game to lessen
the headache of working with some of these plugins.
It is wrong to pirate software, I know this and understand how
free market capitalism works. I want Id's people to be rewarded
for their efforts, they deserve it. They must work their asses
off to turn out the kind of games that they do. However, I would
opine that even given the amount of piracy in the past, Id has
certainly not seemed to suffer much, fiscally. I have heard the
stories about J.C. having too many Ferraris to fit into his garage,
etc. Maybe those stories are wrong, but I somehow doubt that they
are far from the truth. Software development is extremely profitable
partially because so little money needs to be spent on actual
production of physical product and maintenance, in contrast to
most industries. The obvious example, of course, is Microsoft.
And Bill Gates, yes, is worth what I consider to be a sick amount
of money. Quite frankly, I don't understand, at in my opinion,
how anyone who actually believes in living under a truly representative
democracy would not have issues with how much that man has at
I know this is PlanetQuake and not necessarily a philosophical
forum, but we all know that sometimes editorials make for philosophical
forums. Well, in my opinion, I don't think that software piracy
is right. However, part of me does not feel so sorry for Id, either.
They seem to be doing allright, thank you. Their genius and foresight
to come out with the right game, with the right graphics and gameplay,
at the right time, seems to have been awarded. Remember, though,
some people's thoughts on what "awards" are can be a little different.
Just because someone invents or innovates, and creates a highly
successful product line, doesn't mean that it is ethical to have
20 or whatever sportscars and a mansion, while other people in
this country can't tap into existing resources to do simple things
like send themselves and their kids to school and live somewhere
without roaches and crime. At least, in my opinion. Lest you think
I'm being melodramatic, let me tell you, it does exist. Certainly
it is not dominant. But poverty is always too common, in my opinion.
Looking at it in any other way would seem incredibly calloused
But don't think I'm some stupid pinko out to "get the man back".
Naw. I just would like to see a more reasonable balance, that's
all. Do I mind spending the $50? Actually, I'm poor right now,
a friend bought me the game, for me and partially cause we love
talking about Quake, how can we talk if I don't own the game?
But I wouldn't have minded paying for it, no. Just be a little
more careful when you tell me to imagine how Q3 would have been
if Id had "two, even three times the money" to put into the game.
The game itself is amazing. And, although I could be wrong, I've
never spoke to J.C. or anyone at Id myself, they don't seem to
be getting up on any crosses and sacrificing themselves for software
pirate's sins. Twenty Ferraris , three Ferraris, 60 Ferraris?
I hate to quote Gene Simmons, I don't even like KISS, but he once
said that there is no way that an individual can really feel the
impact of whether they are worth 100 mil as apposed to when they're
already worth 10 mil. Seems to make sense...
Hellchick: Well said, Willcifer! You know, I had no idea
that the Quake community could be this eloquent and well-versed.
Not that I think all of you are idiots, but I've come across my
share of real-life Jeff K.'s, and it wasn't pretty.
From: Patrick Cody Cannon
Subject: CD Keys, and the people who love them....
I just read Leemon's insipid editorial on cdkeys and central
authorization. It sounded like a cut and paste editorial from
Graeme Devine's .plan file.
I have payed for every piece of software I use. I do not support
software piracy. However, I support the rights of the consumer.
Copy protection to the extent that it interferes with the rights
of the consumer is BAD BUSINESS.
Without acknowledging LeeMon's pitiful counters to the legitimate
concerns people have with the authentication scheme's, I must
say I agree with those concerns.
Look at the problems Sierra has, and has had. Many people who
purchased Half-life, were locked out of playing by the keys that
were supposed to help them. Opposing Forces, and Homeworld both
have CD protection schemes that lock out legitimate users.
What happens when the authentication server for Q3:Arena crashes?
None of the people who gave id their well-earned money will be
able to play.
There is a need for copy protection, but CD-Keys are not the
way. Server authentication EVERY time you try to play is not the
way. Someday, the development and publishing companies will devise
a workable scheme. However, if no one complains about the current
failed attempt, they won't know it's broken.
I don't support cracking, or software piracy, but I do support
consumers standing up and protesting something that is bad for
them. CDkeys are BAD. They must be stopped.
(I'll save my comments on the viral and contagious nature of
Hellchick: While this argument has some validity, it can't
be proven until id's authentication servers (God forbid) go down
and test it. Until then...
Subject: I WANT My CD-Key! - By Lee "LeeMon" Montgomery
I agree 112%. Now, I admit, years ago, I got copy of Wolf3D from
a friend. Later, when I got the shareware version of Doom, I loved
it, and bought it. Then Doom2, Ultimate Doom, and then Quake came
out. I bought the shareware CD, and registered it in two days. For
real, not hacked. Yes, the cd-keygen for Quake was out by then,
but I bought it anyway. And I went back and bought Wolf3D and SOD,
just to make reparations. I also bought the mission packs for Quake.
Earlier this year, I bought Quake 2, and then both Mission packs.
Yes, I could have copied the CDs from people, but I bought and paid
for them. I prepaid for Q3A, and the CDkey doesn't bother me AT
When I installed Q3A, I even typed the CDkey in correctly the
first time. I haven't thought of it since. And until I read this
article, I never knew that the CD check took two seconds. Yeah,
it's a bit of a pain to have the disc in the drive, but I too
have two drives. If the bitch is about music, right, use your
CD player, or MP3s. Don't fed me ta line that you need the drive
for other stuff while playing! The only gripes I have with the
game are that damn id logo that plays every time you start up.
That, and when I forget to put the disc in the drive, and it reminds
me, it goes back to the main menu, rather then rechecking and
continuing. That's it.
Like I said, I typed it in right the first time, and I haven't
noticed it since. Anyone who's bitching about it is just bitching
for the sport. Once you type it in right, YOU NEVER NOTICE IT
I agree with your editorial completely. I hope a working key-gen
never gets made. They can pay for it like I did. It's worth a
hell of a lot more than $50 bucks. Look at Q2. Folks have been
playing it for two and a half years. At $50 for the cost of the
game, that works out to about five and a half cents a day. Would
you say Q2 was worth five and a half cents a day? I would. =-]
And, now, finally, my favorite letter out of all of the letters
we recieved on this heated subject.
From: Robert T. Baty Jr.
Subject: Q3A CD Cracks
50 bucks never killed anyone =)
Robert T. Baty Jr.
Amen brother. Time to put in my few cents. I bought Quake 1
shareware. I liked it. I found the crack on the net, and used
it. Got some nice free Quake, Doom and other games. Then I got
tired of them. I deleted all the games, and was content playing
the shareware versions. I then bought Quake 2 when it came out,
and have, as I stated above, just bought Quake 3 Arena. Not once
did I think about warezing either Quake 2 or Q3A, because from
my experiences, I knew I'd like them. That's not to say that I'm
completely innocent. I've been known to warez games for evaluation
purposes, when a demo hasn't been available. But I do think
that CD-Keys are very important, and that the CD-Key system in
Quake 3 Arena is the best example of copy protection in a product
I have ever seen. It's terrific to see id doing this, and it sucks
to see people get around it, but at least something's being done.
Hellchick: LeeMon was amazed at the amount of feedback
we got from this, and he asked us to include his response to it
all in this week's mailbag, so here it is:
"Wow. I still can't believe the response I got to this.
Start talking about the moral implications of something many
people consider a "right", and suddenly you have a war going
on... ;^) I saw several good points for each side, and I'd like
to see this debate go on further in the community.
Most agreed with me, especially those who have put time
into their own projects. Those who opposed were still unable
to present an argument valid enough to convince me. Yes, CD
checks and keys are a hassle, but in the long run, they're worth
it. Cracking down on game copying is the only way these restrictions
will be removed. It happened once during the shareware craze
of the late eighties... it can happen again. But it begins with
And for those of you who asked for my CD key... here
it is. (wink)"
We'd like to credit MBoffin for the pic - very nice. :)
On Page 2: Nothing about CD-Keys!