You're right the average person doesn't think, "Hey, this game is a buggy piece of shit, that's definitely the result of a cracking group screwing up." because the people that pirated the game and then wrote negative reviews because their defective crack triggered DRM that wouldn't have done anything had they purchased the game and played it legally didn't bother to mention they pirated the game and used a crack in their negative review of the game.
So again, the whole crux of your argument comes down to saying that the game sucks not based on it having bad gameplay or bad story or poor level design. Your argument is that the game sucks because it has DRM programmed into it that can only be triggered by using crack to get around the disc check, which you wouldn't have to do if you had purchased a copy of the game legally. Again I point to the story from the Iron Lore devs about people bitching about the game being buggy weeks before it was even released...you know, before it was on store shelves, so obviously the people bitching were people who had pirated and cracked the game.
Using StarForce in your argument doesn't really help all that much because StarForce isn't hidden DRM, you know it's there because it installs the drivers right in front of your face, makes you reboot, then checks the disc every time you start the game. Yes StarForce is horrible DRM, I've had more experience with it than I care for. StarForce has been proven to physically damage hardware, cause OS problems, prevent games from being played\installed. The DRM in Titan Quest was never linked to any such things, if triggered it simply caused the game crash out, which if you had purchased the game in the first place wouldn't have happened.
Games being shipped out before launch dates and being released at different times based on location are a very common occurrence and as far as the fans knew at that point, the complaints originated from those people. On the other side, the pirates had absolutely no idea that their problems were caused by a cracking group's laziness, which is generally unprecedented and not(a well made crack makes the game run better), and not an unknown developer putting out a garbage game, which is a very common occurrence. The solution to that is very simple: A press release stating that all the perceived problems are drm related and not flaws of the game itself.
But do you know what happened? IL did nothing. They didn't give an answer to all the bad press, they didn't explain or justify the seemingly broken game, they didn't reveal their hidden drm, they just let the entire fanbase decide the state of their purchase based on only one side of the story.
And again, the drm DOES give false positives and if that happens, the customer is completely screwed because you can't ask tech support for any problems with it.
And the reason i mention starforce is because cracking a game infected with it is a great boost to the credibility of any scene release group, as was the case with the original release of TQ. Who would you trust when you have a problem with a game?
A group of people who, time after time prove themselves more capable with a keyboard and a hex editor then entire offices full of drm coders(who have the home field advantage) and say that the problem isn't on their side?
Or a group of people who haven't done anything of note at all and remain conspicuously quiet whenever the topic is being discussed?
One last thing. IL didn't even go under because of the TQ disaster. They went under because nobody hired them after they put out the thoroughly broken dawn of war: soulstorm, which is a by all accounts a shitty game, pirates or no pirates.
As a slight aside, Stryc9, this runs into a personal peeve of mine, of late, regarding StarForce.
Using StarForce in your argument doesn't really help all that much because StarForce isn't hidden DRM, you know it's there because it installs the drivers right in front of your face, makes you reboot, then checks the disc every time you start the game. Yes StarForce is horrible DRM, I've had more experience with it than I care for. StarForce has been proven to physically damage hardware, cause OS problems, prevent games from being played\installed.
As an aside, about Starforce, it acctually hasn't been proven to physically damage hardware. I'm unsure about OS problems, it's quite possible, but I am slightly suspicious. Now, as for preventing other games from being installed/run. Yeah, the various iterations of Starforce don't play nice with one another.
There's actually a very interesting discussion on the subject of StarForce here.
A few quick excerpts
Other evidence against StarForce includes a few unverified stories which state that StarForce slowed down their systems, caused crashes, or even damaged their optical drives; the Boycott StarForce site shows a picture of a shattered CD for example to emphasize this last point, despite there never being evidence that it does this. To cap off this wave of negative publicity, in 2006 a $5m Class Action Lawsuit was launched against UbiSoft, based on the allegations above. What is not so publicized is the outcome of the lawsuit; two years on it appears the case was dropped. UbiSoft insiders reveal that when the plaintiff in the StarForce case brought the example of his system being infected and ruined by StarForce, UbiSoft's first submission was a 12,000 end-user survey which it had carried out showing none of the sampled users had any such issues.
To be fair, it would be somewhat idiotic of Ubisoft to present evidence showing these failures, but, in a n=12k survey, you'd actually expect at least a few positive cases if the claim had some merit.
In most other cases though, the stories of StarForce-related issues when examined closely are wildly speculative. The problem is that as soon as people experienced any BSODs, crashes or hardware failures - something which happens on any system for a multitude of reasons - upon visiting a support forum for example they were instantly told by uninformed forumgoers that all their problems were due to StarForce. This is particularly true of the Ubisoft forums at the time, when anti-StarForce sentiment had reached fever pitch.
Like the author of this article, I bought into this too. In retrospect though, I feel like an idiot, as someone with some technical proficiency.
Starforce's genuine crime was this:
To make matters worse, StarForce didn't handle the hate campaign very well. --- Out of desperation they turned to some ill-advised actions, such as threatening a popular blog with legal action, and providing links to a pirated version of a non-StarForce protected game to prove it was being pirated.
Their PR team should be drawn and quartered. Though, as I recal the one who linked to the pirated copy of GalCiv2 wasn't even in the PR, it was a programer, who was pissed off with the treatment he was getting (I could be completly mistaken on this point, it's been 4 years).
From here he discusses the death of Starforce and then moves on to SecureRom. Anyway, I do recomend reading it.
One thing that I don't think many people appreciate is that developers themselves rarely make the decision to include DRM in their games but rather it is mandated by publishers. This was the case with TQ where Iron Lore, the developer, argued against using DRM but was ultimately required by THQ to implement it before they would release the game.
TQ didn't suffer as a result of piracy. Iron Lore tanked because they made an expansion to a game that didn't sell as well as it should have.
Just heard about this game today. Gonna be the tits.