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Old 24 October 2014, 17:45   #1
edd_jedi
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Why did people crack games?

I know there are a few ex-crackers on here, it's all 20+ years ago now so I'm guessing spilling the details won't cause any legal issues. I did a quick search and couldn't find any posts along these lines.

So from a consumers point of view, I totally get it - free games! As a 12 year old when I got my first Amiga this was one of the main attractions, I'm not sure how software companies expected children to pay 20+ each for games. But why did the crackers themselves spend all that effort doing it, especially when at the time there was a risk of getting caught?

I know there was an 'ego' element to it, otherwise they wouldn't have put their names etc in the cracktros, but was that ALL there was to it? The market traders that were charging 1 per disk, they must have been getting the games from somewhere and making a profit on them, were they paying the cracking teams to crack games? Was there a financial reward for the first team to crack a new commercial game?

I'm sure the teams cracking games must have realised they were basically killing the games companies, and I can imagine for developers it must have been disheartening to spend all that time making a game only for it to be cracked. It's a bit like the music industry now - people don't make money from music any more because 99% of music in distribution is pirated, where as in the 80s/90s it was perhaps only 50% so there was still money to be made. The disk-based systems had the same dilemma in the 80s/early 90s - I bet 90% of software in circulation was pirated, a problem the consoles did not have until much later. So knowing this was the case, was there any incentive other than rebellion to crack games?

Interested to hear any first-hand experience, or even opinions. I'm in no way criticising your 'work', I benefited from it greatly as a kid But with hindsight, perhaps it wasn't so wise...
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Old 24 October 2014, 17:51   #2
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Originally Posted by edd_jedi View Post
I'm sure the teams cracking games must have realised they were basically killing the games companies, and I can imagine for developers it must have been disheartening to spend all that time making a game only for it to be cracked. It's a bit like the music industry now - people don't make money from music any more because 99% of music in distribution is pirated, where as in the 80s/90s it was perhaps only 50% so there was still money to be made.
I wholeheartedly dislike such statements! Neither the "oh so poor" music industry is dead because of piracy nor was it the case for software companies back in the day (TM)!

Good music sells well, good games sold kinda well too!

You seem to forget that people wouldn't have bought all the games if they would not have been available as cracked copies! 1 cracked game does not equal to an enormous loss of money because of people not buying it anymore!

Anyway, as for why people cracked games, for most, me included, it was just the challenge to break complex protections, the better the protection the more fun it was!
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Old 24 October 2014, 17:56   #3
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Good music sells well, good games sold kinda well too!
Actually its bad music that sells well, have you seen the charts lately?
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Old 24 October 2014, 17:57   #4
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Oh I completely get the fact that one copied game does not = one lost sale for the software companies - the majority of people playing cracked games could not have afforded the original. I also acknowledge in my second paragraph that the software houses themselves were (with hindsight) at fault because they charged too much per game, they would have been far better off selling more volume at a lower price point.

However it is an absolute fact that the 'mpfree' era has killed the music industry - why do you think 'one hit wonder' pop stars of the 70s and 80s made enough money to live on for the rest of their lives, while 'modern day' pop stars make virtually nothing from music sales and rely entirely on performance to make money? I agree it's not exactly the same as software piracy, but there are certainly similarities. Again as mentioned in my original post the console companies benefited from the same safety net until the internet came about.
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Old 24 October 2014, 17:57   #5
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Actually its bad music that sells well, have you seen the charts lately?
I don't listen to chart music and don't care!

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However it is an absolute fact that the 'mpfree' era has killed the music industry
Yeah, right... It's a fact that this just isn't true! I could write a lot about that topic as I know quite a few professional musicians/bands but I better don't get into it here...

Last edited by StingRay; 24 October 2014 at 18:08.
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Old 24 October 2014, 18:40   #6
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However it is an absolute fact that the 'mpfree' era has killed the music industry
I totally disagree with that statement. Where are the facts?
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Old 24 October 2014, 18:50   #7
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I totally disagree with that statement. Where are the facts?
Look at the popularity of iTunes, a lot of people legally download music now.

They are still making money, I mean look at all the Gold Rappers wear, surely they earn enough to pay for it

I can't feel sorry for them!
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Old 24 October 2014, 19:05   #8
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Look at the popularity of iTunes, a lot of people legally download music now.

They are still making money, I mean look at all the Gold Rappers wear, surely they earn enough to pay for it

I can't feel sorry for them!
Exactly.
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Old 24 October 2014, 19:19   #9
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Not cracker, but I think this question was well covered. All games that I copied are the one I would never purchase in first place (same with music). I still buy games, or in better words - I buy selective games... same goes for music...

Speaking of music - interesting thing going here in USA with music, books, tv and movies. Apparently, my library gave me right to download 5 mp3 songs per card in household per week. So like 50-some CD's I year for household of 4, and catalog is not that bad, either. ( http://www.freegalmusic.com/ ) They have similar thing going with renting of books (PDFs), movies and series.

They are adopting to new time... no wonder we voted to keep it financed...
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Old 24 October 2014, 22:50   #10
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the music industry is a false equivalence really, or at least it was back then. these days the games industry is huge, but back in the mid '80s it wasn't quite so secure. not that it wasn't profitable though. even the boss of Zeppelin Games could afford to drive around in a Lotus Esprit so maybe "piracy killed the games industry" is a bit of an exaggeration.

People bought cartridge games for consoles even though piracy wasn't an option there, so the idea that people only bought games because they had copied them doesn't really hold water. But i think games for home computers were different. Because development was so much more accessible, and no centralised control over what was released, there was a lot of quantity without quality.

I can imagine that a lot of people liked to crack games purely for the challenge, like why people climb mountains... because they can.
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Old 25 October 2014, 00:27   #11
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They had been cracking games for fun and partially for profit. We had been buying cracks because we were poor kids.

Today we buy old originals, because we are rich geront collectors and finally we can afford what we weren't able to when it was actual 8)
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Old 25 October 2014, 03:36   #12
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Why did people crack games? Well, they still do, don't they? It's to "set them free", isn't it? Y'know, to get one over on the evil corporate monoliths who seek to jealously guard their precious works of art away from those who haven't paid the admission fee. Power to the people! Etc! At least, that's the popular belief.

However, that's not how I remember the beginnings of "why people cracked games."
I've attempted many times elsewhere to put forward my own views, but have always been shouted down, partly I suspect because there simply aren't enough old timers paying attention anymore in order to corroborate my points. But hear me out for a minute.

If you were a UK or US based owner of a Commodore 64, 8-bit Atari, ST or Amiga in their heydays, you were in a priveleged position. You were able to enjoy the readily-available fruits of a pro-active, indigenous software industry that sprung up to supply a commercial demand. You had ubiquitous news-stand magazines, TV shows, high-street retailers and so on. Lucky you.

But all of these machines were popular in other territories that, for one reason or another, were slow to (or failed to) nurture their own local commercial industry in order to meet the hunger for software - yet, the demand was quickly met. How? Why, in time honoured-tradition, via the black market of course. And herein lies my first controversial statement: "cracking was invented in Europe." It was born out of necessity.

In the early years of the "home micro", the majority of major games software releases were from either UK or US companies - designed for, and released into, their home territories. Retailers in either of these markets would occasionally import games from the other, due to demand, selling them at prohibitively expensive prices, reflecting the cost of the whole endeavour while trying to make a profit. At least they were available.

Meanwhile, if you lived in the Netherlands, West Germany, Belgium, Denmark, Sweden, Norway, Austria, even Poland - where all these machines were popular - what were your options? You might have been able to afford an imported magazine from the UK or US, taunting you every turn of the page, filled with glossy adverts for all the new games beyond your reach. What else to spend your money on? A modem and blank disks! Let's import some games! Anyone know machine code? The benefactor is born.

Back to the UK. Did you have a bunch of "pirated" software for any of the machines I've mentioned? Of course you did. Were you a legitimate member of "the scene"? Probably not. There's an easy way to tell. Did you tap your spacebar impatiently at the sight of a "Dutch USA Team" intro, or reach for your left mouse-button when a German "Red Sector" or Belgian "BS1" intro delayed playing of your latest acquisiton? If yes, congratulations, you're a "lamer". Don't tell me you paid for the disk too!

So, my second controversial statement: "the early cracked games only made it back to UK and US shores as a bi-product and were never meant for us." It was only inevitable, though. How could you control the genie now it's out of the bottle? Sure enough, before long, UK teams were cracking and releasing UK games to the UK; same with the Americans. Perhaps by this stage, cracking really was an "industry" with money changing hands between those involved. From industrial espionage to mafia and terrorism.

However. I really don't think that the likes of Mr Zeropage, Lord Blitter, Conqueror & Zike and Rob had in their minds the liberation of software, just so some pathetic British fucking pipsqueak schoolkid could parade around the playground boasting to his unenlightened friends that he'd personally ripped off some software (read: copied some cracks using X-Copy), much to their impressed amazement, and that they could buy it for 3 a disk. The wanker.

* * *

Surprise ending, there. But anyway: with the possible exception of those Yorkshire and Kent lads (not TKT) on the Atari ST, I don't think that ANY cracker would have knowingly used their very specific skills and elusive talents in order that some sweaty market-stall trader could knock out copies of Speedball 2 for 5 to teenagers. They did, of course, but only (generally) as a bi-product of some greater endeavour.
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Old 25 October 2014, 08:33   #13
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Look at the popularity of iTunes, a lot of people legally download music now.
God knows why... Download from bittorrent for free, or install a huge piece of buggy, bloated malware and pay for the download. It's a no brainer.
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Old 25 October 2014, 08:52   #14
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Meanwhile, if you lived in the Netherlands, West Germany, Belgium, Denmark, Sweden, Norway, Austria, even Poland - where all these machines were popular - what were your options? You might have been able to afford an imported magazine from the UK or US, taunting you every turn of the page, filled with glossy adverts for all the new games beyond your reach. What else to spend your money on? A modem and blank disks! Let's import some games! Anyone know machine code? The benefactor is born.
I don't really agree with this particular point. Can't speak for all of those countries of course, but when the C64 and Amiga were most popular here, there were lots of local computer hobbyist magazines and buying a game just meant going to a shop and picking one up (or mail ordering).

In the very early years the options were maybe a bit limited but availability was fine later in the second half of the eighties and in the nineties.

Copying cracked games from friends, however, was a clearly cheaper option.
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Old 25 October 2014, 09:35   #15
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I've attempted many times elsewhere to put forward my own views, but have always been shouted down, partly I suspect because there simply aren't enough old timers paying attention anymore in order to corroborate my points.
Sometimes it's just because you are wrong...

Like ajk said in most of the mentioned countries getting the games legally wasn't a problem. So the whole perspective of your 'why thesis' seems to be moot.
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Old 25 October 2014, 09:48   #16
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I imagine many people did it for fame. It's a bit like graffiti except everyone sees your name on their disks instead of on walls.
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Old 25 October 2014, 10:19   #17
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Anyway, as for why people cracked games, for most, me included, it was just the challenge to break complex protections, the better the protection the more fun it was!
+1 for me.

I never did any games, only Application software.
The more complex the better. No interest in fame/fortune.

I still think MakeCD was one of the hardest...

Any pirated software that I received, that I later ended up using regularly, I always bought it as a rule. Something I still do today in fact.
If a software author can impress me, it only seems fair they should be rewarded wherever possible.

---

In a related vein.
In many cases, cracking has preserved many games for posterity, which would otherwise have disappeared when their copy-protected media failed.


Cheers,
Red
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Old 25 October 2014, 12:05   #18
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Meanwhile, if you lived in the Netherlands, West Germany, Belgium, Denmark, Sweden, Norway, Austria, even Poland - where all these machines were popular - what were your options? You might have been able to afford an imported magazine from the UK or US, taunting you every turn of the page, filled with glossy adverts for all the new games beyond your reach. What else to spend your money on? A modem and blank disks! Let's import some games! Anyone know machine code? The benefactor is born.
Thanks for making my day. That's been one of the most ridiculous statements I've ever read.
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Old 25 October 2014, 13:08   #19
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Primarily it was done for the challenge, secondly for a rather hidden type of fame.

Hidden? OK, lets clarify that. Why did some cracktros have PO Box addresses in them? Because no-one was stupid enough to put their real address (unless it was in demos to say no swapping games but everything else!). Yes, I and others had 'fame', but it was hidden, because I can assure you, other than people being able to rattle off a list of what groups I had been in, they sure as hell didn't know who I was, and that was the same for every other cracker, rarely did we publicise who we really were.

I nearly got caught out twice, the first time was cracking a piece of productivity software where the software company concerned were very eager to find me (and it wasn't to offer me a job either!), and the second time I was actually outed, but there was some code (feeble as it was) that meant it didn't spread much from the copy party I went to. I was pictured in Amiga Action or one of the big magazines with the rest of Binary Emotions (Speris Legacy, Minskies Furrballs) and some bright spark figured out which one was me.

No cracker or group was afraid of getting bust by FAST, but we sure as fuck wouldn't voluntarily make their life easier, we had more to worry about using AT&T Calling Cards.

Sure, when I went to college, a few blokes thought it was cool I was in Fairlight, the girls however, it impressed them not one bit!

But the primary reason was the challenge, not just of cracking it, it was the whole process.

1). Waiting until 10am for the original supplier to let you know if your services were needed that day.
2). Being told "Yes, we've got X and X coming, do you want to do them?"
3). Waiting for the original supplier to get back and ready to upload.
4). Him asking you want do you want him to do..... "chuck it through X-Copy quickly" would be the usual answer.
5). And then from then on, get the bootblock, build an imager if it was an MFM game (errors on every track), or if it was simply Copylock or a derivative (1 error'd track), image the entire disk minus the track (7/10 you didn't need the Copylock track to get the serial key if it was implemented by a moron!).
6). crack the game, having to constantly answer the phone from the original supplier to find out if its ready or not, whilst he gets modem traders ready and gets the sysop of the WHQ ready to kick off non-FLT members so all the FLT modem traders can sit on a node and wait for the release.
7). Do an intro, playtest, and upload.

And then the hard work begins. The entire time you're doing that, Paradox, Quartex, Prestige, and any others might well be doing the exact same thing you're doing.

Upload to original supplier, who is also connected to the WHQ and is ready to upload immediately, doing the FILE_ID.DIZ (an ascii descriptor file so people can see what it is as the filenames must respect the 8:3 file format of MS-DOS).

Once its upped to the FLT secret conference on the WHQ, modem traders download, a couple of them hit every FLT board in order of importance, and the others then go and hit every rival groups WHQ of importance. So Paradox, Prestige, Quartex, in fact any group that was a worth rival and had the boards to match, they'd get blitzed as fast as possible.

The Sysop of the WHQ would copy the file to the main index so its live to everyone else, nodes freed up for other people.

If you can get your release on all your boards and all rival boards of note within 3 hours of release, you've won, because it will then be so spread from there on in, no other group has a chance.

Cracking? Pah, that was one aspect, the whole race was the thrill, waiting for a poxy page to update, whilst you're uploading, someone from Prestige might have a faster modem and already got their version in the listing ahead of yours.

Good times...... the best of times
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Old 25 October 2014, 13:39   #20
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I've attempted many times elsewhere to put forward my own views, but have always been shouted down, partly I suspect because there simply aren't enough old timers paying attention anymore in order to corroborate my points.
Depends how you define "old timers" really...

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And herein lies my first controversial statement: "cracking was invented in Europe." It was born out of necessity.
This is a bold claim but not one that can really be backed up; cracking's genes can be traced back to America in the late 1970s and the first crack screens (the forerunners to crack intros) date back to the early 1980s on the Apple II from there as well.

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So, my second controversial statement: "the early cracked games only made it back to UK and US shores as a bi-product and were never meant for us." It was only inevitable, though. How could you control the genie now it's out of the bottle? Sure enough, before long, UK teams were cracking and releasing UK games to the UK; same with the Americans.
Putting the Apple II scene aside, the American C64 scene had crackers pretty much from day one with lone crackers moving over from other 6502-based systems like the Apple II or occasionally VIC 20. 1982 was also the year Eagle Soft Incorporated started in Canada, predating most if not all of the European groups or indeed solo crackers.

The UK was a little slower off the block in part because the C64 didn't properly arrive here until some time in 1983 and this era probably isn't as well documented as it could be; that said, some of the more legendary groups from the C64 like the Teesside Crackling Service, Yak Society or Doughnut Cracking Service were up to speed by 1984.

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Perhaps by this stage, cracking really was an "industry" with money changing hands between those involved. From industrial espionage to mafia and terrorism.
Well, there was the Apple Mafia but that isn't really the same thing... =-)

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However. I really don't think that the likes of Mr Zeropage, Lord Blitter, Conqueror & Zike and Rob had in their minds the liberation of software, just so some pathetic British fucking pipsqueak schoolkid could parade around the playground boasting to his unenlightened friends that he'd personally ripped off some software
No, that's not the reason they cracked but it also isn't an exclusively British thing to sell on what they did as you seem to be implying; there were "local lamers" everywhere and anybody who was involved with the cracking scene usually had some contact with them regardless of where they were based or indeed if they wanted to or not.
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