I received Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic, among other things, as a gift a few days ago. It looks like a pretty neat game, it appears to be pretty much Neverwinter Nights with a new graphics engine, better storyline and a Star Wars theme. My good friend Alex recommended it highly.
Of course, Alex has only played it on Xbox. But the PC version can’t be too different, right? Well, one would hope. Little did I know what path lay ahead. Would I stick to the happy, legal, light side? Or would I succumb to the dark powers of software piracy?
First off, I insert disk 1 of 4 into my DVD RW drive. Wait. The drive makes unusual noises and sounds uncannily like a floppy does when it is read. This worried me, so I popped out the disk and checked for scratches. Clean. If I’d been thinking, I would have guessed something was up, but just pretend that I’m your normal clueless consumer here.
Eventually, after a long period of humming and grinding, the following message appeared:
The background image could not be located.
Please check your CD for dirt or damage
“Now that’s kinda strange”, I thought to myself.
A brief perusal of the BioWare forums brought several FAQs to my attention. One of them mentioned that a little company called SecuROM makes the copy protection that KOTOR uses, and that problems with DVD drives are not entirely uncommon. I contacted them with my problem. A brief struggle of wills ensued (myself vs. a bunch of form letters) but I emerged victorious and eventually got a response from a real person.
Thank you for your email. Unfortunately this error is not SecuROM related. SecuROM has no influence on the installation of the game.
Please contact the software publisher for further support options related to issues specific to the software.
Sorry for the inconvenience.
If you have any questions, please feel free to ask.
SecuROM Support Team
Right. Now, why don’t I believe him? Let’s see.
- I traded in the game for another copy at WalMart, but I get the exact same results.
- I went around and tried the disk in two other systems. Same result.
- I can read disks two, three and four just fine. Guess what? They don’t have any copy protection on them.
- It says “The background image could not be located.” LucasArts’ support department emailed me to inform me that this was a CRC error. Are you kidding me? Why does it need to check the entire CDROM before even lauching autorun? I mean, the installer checks the quality of the data files already. This sounds a whole lot like copy protection.
The anti-piracy mechanism has prevented me from reading the CD, period. I can’t even copy off the troubleshooting document.
I was forced into “piracy” and a life of crime. I installed Alcohol 120% and attempted to circumvent the evil SecuROM protection. I got errors stating that my drive was unable to rip the disk. I tried anyway and got a ton of errors at the 88% mark.
I embarked on plan D. (or maybe it was E, I’ve lost track at this point.) After hunting around for a while, I found a half decent KOTOR torrent. Sixteen hours later, I had downloaded the image for disk 1. I mounted it using Alcohol 120% and opened autoplay. Guess what? It worked.
Let me repeat that. Some software pirate called “Razor1911” packaged KOTOR better then LucasArts. You can argue that LucasArts needs to protect their property, etc. but the fact remains. The pirated software worked. The official, real, ligit stuff didn’t. The pirated package even included a patch so you don’t need to mount the CD image every time you play.
I’m not condoning piracy. But look at it. Pirated software is easy to install, it’s less hustle, and it’s just less frustrating overall. People should step back and look at just why torrent sites are prospering. Because, as I’m learning, the commonly used “They just want free games” argument is only one side of the coin. The software industry would be wise to investigate the other.