Serious Sam dev Croteam lures pirates into a DRM honeypot with The Talos Principle

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The Talos Principle, a philosophically-inclined first-person puzzler from Serious Sam developer Croteam, punishes pirates that steal the game by trapping them in a particular elevator at a key point of progression.

One such thief fell for the honeypot and outed themselves on the game’s Steam forum. Although the original post appears to have been taken down, it was recorded by a NeoGAF user and shared on publisher Devolver Digital’s Twitter for shaming.

This is not the first foray into gameplay-linked piracy protection from the Croatian developer Croteam. In 2011, Serious Sam 3: BFE featured an immortal pink scorpion that would only appear in pirated copies of the game. The fleet-footed, invincible nightmare relentlessly pursued the player from the opening moments of the game, making it  nearly impossible to play.

Punishing piracy in-game has become an increasingly popular solution to the age-old problem of illegally-copied digital games. Croteam’s solutions are reminiscent of what Kairosoft did with Game Dev Story, a game development simulator wherein illegal copies featured in-game pirates that would steal the player studio’s games until it went bankrupt.

Instead of adding in punishing features, Ubisoft protected Far Cry 4 by removing certain camera control options from the game that were then patched in to legitimate copies in a day one update.

Clever, in-game ways to actively punish pirates are an appealing alternative to restrictive, universal digital rights management policies, such as requiring a constant internet connection to play. These DRM practices often provide more frustration to legitimate owners of the game than pirates.

Online requirements on for single player modes have led to substantial technical problems and fan outcry in recent years surrounding the launches of games like Diablo III and SimCityFlooded servers in the aftermath of release locked out many paying players who had no interest in using online features in the first place.

The Talos Principle, released on December 11 for Linux, Mac, and Windows, is a first-person puzzle solving game that feels like a cross between Portal and Myst. It features a growing set of reconfigurable elements, such as blocks and lasers, but infuses its head-scratching action with a philosophically rich story to uncover through careful exploration.

The game is scheduled to arrive on PlayStation 4 and Android platforms in early 2015.

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