Today Garry Newman surprised those who have pirated his popular Half-Life 2 mod. He flushed out illegal users by adding a simple error message to the game that only pops up in pirated versions.
“Just enabled this error in GMod today,” he said on Twitter. “It happens when you pirated it. Having fun watching people complain.”
The error message reads “unable to shade polygon normals” and seems harmless enough. Newman, however, tweeted a link to a quick Google search that showed people complaining about the error, which has apparently hit a huge percentage of users. According to Bit-Tech, it’s already caught out over 2,500 illegally obtained copies.
Newman has identified and banned the pirates from the mod as well as his forum thanks to a further piece of code trickery that displays the user’s 64-bit Steam ID upon receiving the error, which looks like a debug code on the user’s end. A simple cross-check against legitimate sales effectively rats out the pirates. Is this one of the best ways of handling piracy to date? Almost certainly, and Newman’s reasoning behind its implementation is sound.
After being asked about the situation, Newman replied, “I don’t think the error isn’t going to boost GMod sales. I just like to give people that paid something to be smug about.”
Get your own copy of Garry’s Mod from Steam—it costs $10.