Game Maker DRM Permanently Vandalizing Paying Users’ Games

Popular indie game making tool, Game Maker, has a bit of a DRM problem. Over the weekend, some users noticed that the tool was permanently vandalizing their sprites with images of a skull.

A recent update to Game Maker Studio has left many developers confused and frustrated after an anti-piracy system went haywire.


Those who use a legally obtained version of Studio have had game resources, such as sprites, overlayed with an image of a skull and crossbones. The resources are permanently edited, rendered useless.

In response to these complaints, YoYo Games has decided to remove this particular action from the many things its current DRM does when it detects a pirated copy of the software. However, the DRM and the many more 'passive' things it does will remain.

We’d LOVE to be able to remove the protection completely, but we know that vast numbers would simply copy it if it was that easy. There are many levels to the current protection system, and while many are visible like this, there are also many hidden so that we can always tell when a final game was created with a crack.

We expect an update to go out tomorrow to remove this protection, and will move away from the “destructive” protection like this, to more passive methods to help protect innocent users who through no fault of their own, somehow trigger it.

While YoYo states that it would love to remove DRM completely, it feels that because it is targeted by pirates so much, it cannot do so. It feels that it would not be able to retain the same level of sales without it. This is an unfortunate decision as many game developers, such as CD Projekt, have found that without DRM, it is still possible to make money.

For now, YoYo advises those who have this problem to uninstall the application and delete all the data and registry files and then reinstall.

The current solution is to uninstall, delete both %appdata%\GameMaker-Studio and %localappdata%\GameMaker-Studio, delete the GameMaker-Studio registry key, scan your machine in case its a virus, and then reinstall.

What this DRM will do to Game Maker's reputation among indie developers is yet to be seen. Few if any people would willingly use software that would vandalize their game projects. Hopefully, those affected by this DRM will be able to properly recover their projects without losing much if any of their progress.

-via Techdirt

– E. Zachary Knight GP Correspondent

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  1. Sleaker says:

    That's my first thought.  There's a monetary cost associated with the destroyed assets: how long it takes to fix them, and if the assets are irreparable, and need to be recreated from scratch.  In a business sense every affected company/user with proof of purchase should be able to hold the company liable.  At least that's what I would think they would be able to do, I don't really see it much different than requiring a car company to repair a vehicle for faulty equipment, or even holding that company liable in cases where the vehicle had a severe failure.

  2. Neeneko says:

    If someone pushes the issue, I could actually see liability coming into play here.

    They modified their product to intentionally destroy content created by users of their application and failed to properly secure that section of code so it did not impact legitimate users.  I wonder if someone could make a case against them.

  3. MechaTama31 says:

    Even had the detection system been correct, that doesn't make it ok to irreversibly vandalize art assets.  Reminds me of this article.  The alleged piracy isn't even the issue.  The response taken was totally irresponsible and out of line, and as a result has caused harm even to their paying customers.  Smooth move.  Loving the half-assed non-apology, too.

  4. Mr.Tastix says:

    "We’d LOVE to be able to remove the protection completely, but we know that vast numbers would simply copy it if it was that easy."

    It already is that easy. Your layers upon layers of "security" aren't actually secure.

    Build 100 walls around your product, that only means it'll take 100x longer to break through, but someone will eventually break through.

  5. Brosch91 says:

    I've believed that for a long time that DRM is not the solution, because it isn't. I personally think that it's time for companies to stop battling piracy, because it's a battle that cannot be won, the only people they are hurting with DRM are the paying customers. DRM can be so invasive that it may lead PC gamers who bought legitimate copies of their games, to crack them. Yep, you heard me right, CRACK the game they bought! Because of annoying DRM! I would know, I've cracked some of my retail games because I just can't live with the DRM issues. plus, who likes putting in the disc every time you want to play? I sure don't. What I see happening is companies are gonna start treating video games more as a service then a product, because that's really where it seems like we are going if piracy can't be solved.

  6. Hevach says:

    Yep. This really brings back some memories of my bad experience with gmod last year when the creator added his clever piracy check that gave a technical sounding error code. I was one of the many, many false positives that got their forum accounts banned trying to fix it. Redownloading multiple times on multiple computers never fixed it, and eventually I just stopped trying and buried the game at the bottom of my Steam library.

    I've also got a couple business clients who run bootleg copies of all manner of software becausee of things like this – 20 system Adobe licenses that stop activating after 5 installs, new out-of-the-box workstations that don't pass Windows Genuine without calling support, all kinds of software that can't authenticate after a hardware change on the same system, that only allow one install ever. UPS didn't get Windows Vista support for a couple models of their shipping label printers until after Windows 7 was released.

    My favorite are the ones with USB dongles, still see those on a lot of CAD software. Nine times out of ten there's no drivers for the most recent version of Windows until a year or two later, or sometimes require you to buy a new key for ridiculous reasons. Some of them use obscenely old legacy ports or come in the form of oddball memory cards that aren't typically on USB card readers anymore. Or I can just crack the software and be done with it. Most clients actually prefer that because the dongles get lost and broken too easily and are expensive to replace. They aren't willing to risk the liability of pirating it and still spend hundreds of dollars on it, but they'll specifically ask us to crack it for them.

  7. Andrew Eisen says:

    And, once again, the only people affected by the DRM are the ones who legitimately bought the software in the first place.


    Andrew Eisen

  8. ddrfr33k says:

    This is a damn shame.  I used to use GameMaker all the time back around version 4 or so.  It was great stuff! 

  9. DorkmasterFlek says:

    So the moral of the story is don't ever use Game Maker.  Which is a shame, because it used to be a good tool for people to get started developing games, and we need more tools like this.

    But that issue aside, this is totally unacceptable.  DRM will always always always get false positives.  Always.  It is never 100%.  It's bad enough when it cripples or even stops the software from working.  But permanently ruining paying customers' data?  No no no no no.

    This is complete bullshit on so many levels.  I can't believe they had the gall to do this.  If I was a paying user, I would be furious.  Hell, I'm still furious anyway.  I'd be on the phone to them even if I was lucky enough not to get hit by this bug yet.  This has honestly got to be one of the stupidest DRM schemes I have ever seen.  What in the name of high holy fuck were they thinking when they did this?!

    This is destruction of properly.  It's wilful vandalism on the part of a supposedly professional company.  There should be a class action lawsuit over this.  If any larger developers used GM, there sure as hell would be.  The only reason there probably won't be is because they're all indies.

  10. Speeder says:

    I am a independent developer with some years of career already.

    At one point I used Game Maker, but it DRM was crap…

    IE: I bought 3 licenses for my team, and it refused to launch in two computers of the team (including my own), after some lengthy discussion with YoYo, I did a test.

    I went to google, and typed: "game maker free"

    I downloaded the first link… And whooray! It worked fine!

    I reported this to YoYo.

    Their reply was: "you are a filthy pirate that pirated our software" (note: like I said, I paid 3 licenses of Game Maker), and they deleted all my support tickets and stealthbanned me from the foruns after I complained there (ie: since banning would be obvious to other forum members, they instead removed ALL my permissions, even permission to see the forum list, but do not banned my username).

    Now I not only avoid Game Maker, but I actively campaign for other indies to not use it, I already convinced a bunch of studios to stop using it.

    This recent DRM problem only helps me in my "quest" to further free people from that DRM-riddled thing.

    I wish Overmars moved away from YoYo, his ideas were actually good :/

    note: I once sent a e-mail to Overmars complaining of the situation, his reply was: "say sorry to them".

    I was like: WTF, they fail to help me, and I am the one that have to say sorry?

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