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February 2, 2006

When I was a teenage role-playing-game nerd my brother and I used to dig Games Workshop's american-football-meets-warhammer board game Blood Bowl. Sam and I had a whole league set up - we did match reports after games and everything.

Last year whilst reading Penny Arcade, I saw mention of a "Blood Bowl"-like RTS game callled Chaos League. Champion! I ordered a copy immediately and started to play. I liked the game a lot, although the interface for spellcasting by individual players on your team was rather unwieldy. I ordered a second copy so that Sam and I could play each opther head-to-head. I took my copy of the game over to Sam's to give to him so that he could learn the game while I was waiting for the second copy.

However, the game had also installed a copy protection system called Starforce.

Soon afterwards, my PC started acting weird. The DVD drive kept running slowly and I kept getting problems with the master boot record on my hard drive. Now, I'm a reasonably clueful computer user and so I keep my virus and spyware protection as up to date as I can, but the persistent MBR problems made me think that I'd got infected somewhere along the line. I gave a resigned sigh, backed up my data and did what you have to do if your machine's been 0wnz0r3d: I wiped and reformatted the hard drive and reinstalled from scratch. It wasn't too painful since I keep all the important stuff on the Mac Mini.

A few weeks after that I was pointed to this "Boycott Starforce" website. It looked like Starforce was potentially the cause of the problems on my PC and may have paved the way for something more insidious to infect it:

Starforce drivers, installed on your system, grant ring 0 (system level) privileges to any code under the ring 3 (user level) privileges. Thus, any virus or trojan can get OS privileges and totally control your system ... with the Starforce drivers, the old system holes and instabilities are back and any program (or virus) can reach the core of your system by using the Starforce drivers as a backdoor.

Great. And I'd just handed a disk with this shit on to my brother with a reccomendation to install. I immediately rang him and sheepishly explained the situation. Luckily, the Starforce removal tool linked to from the Boycott Starforce page worked fine and the Starforce drivers are now gone from Sam's system, but apparently it could have ended up with physical damage to the DVD drive of his new laptop.

My second copy never arrived. The website from which I'd bought Chaos League eventually told me that it was no longer available. I see that now the game is only available as a download. I wonder why they suddenly stopped selling the gane on CD?

Sadly, I won't be playing Chaos League or its sequels, even though I really enjoyed it, because they punished me for buying the game by installing nasty crap on my computer. Bah.

Posted by Jonah at February 2, 2006 5:49 PM