Sonic Gather Battle DRM incident

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When fan games start to include malicious DRM, that's going too far.

Sonic Gather Battle is a fan made Sonic the Hedgehog game built on the game engine for "Little Fighter 2", that was created by Leemena back in 2009 and it is still being worked on to this day (as of December 14th, 2017). The gameplay is a mix of arcade beat em ups and Sonic Battle with various characters from the Sonic the Hedgehog franchise being playable, along with unlockable characters from other franchises such as Super Mario, Mega Man X, and Bleach. The game received positive attention during the time it has been available online, but there has been some speculation surrounding the game's code with behavior similar to that of malware after an update on December 4th, 2017.

Summary

On December 10-11, a post was made on the /r/SonictheHedgehog Reddit forums detailing about a suspicious DRM system that was put in place after an update on December 4th, 2017. If the player looked up words along the lines of "cheat", "mod" or "hack" while the game is running, the browser would instantly close on its own and the game would activate a protection stage. At first, the game's backgrounds would be black and blue making it harder to see where your character is on the level, with the levels also being populated by red Hyudoros and the song "Fakery Way" from Sonic Adventure replacing the normal music. Then on a second boot up, the game would at first startup like normal but when you get into actual gameplay, the background will turn red with added static noise, the music would be replaced with the American version of the boss battle theme from Sonic CD, red eyes would start to appear all over the screen, and then giant ghosts would start appearing from the eyes which would kill your character instantly. Upon dying the words "You Died" would appear on-screen and from that point on, the game remains unplayable.

While this is all happening, the game would locate your IP address and then send it to an online database making sure that the DRM would still be put in place even if you try to reinstall it with the only way out being to contact the creator himself and somehow convincing him to whitelist your PC.

Further research by SFGHQ has shown cases of the game requiring administrator access in order to run, the game actively checking for certain web addresses along with installations of "Cheat Engine", registry keys being edited during the installation, and the game accessing raw disk sectors.

Many people speculate that the reason this DRM was put in place was due to the creator trying to protect the custom sprites he made for certain characters after the sprites originally were stolen back in 2014. People have since found out that some of the custom sprites for characters like Vector, Charmy, and Espio come from other custom sprite sheets on Spriter's Resource.

Aftermath

After this discovery was quickly spread around the internet, Leemena was soon banned from any future Sonic Amateur Games Expos and SFGHQ made it clear that no one should download the game for the sake of their PC and personal information. At one point during the time this info was being spread around, the game was deactivated by the creator making it unplayable for anyone regardless if they are considered cheating or not. The creator claimed that they had plans to make the game open-source but other sources say otherwise including an update on December 14th blocking access to the game if attempted on a virtual machine.

Ironically, the developer's toxic effort to keep his custom sprites have been in vain. As payback for his foolishness, users from mugenarchive.com have ripped the sprites and leaked them onto the internet, just days after the malware was openly revealed. You can download them here.

Comments


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GD2031

9 months ago
Score 3
ITS Very sad the fact that the game Actually looks fun
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SuperfishMEMZ

8 months ago
Score 0
There's a virus-free version in 2014, but I can't find anywhere to download it.
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Lesther110

7 months ago
Score 7

How pissed off can someone be to add malware just to protect some OC?.

I would be strict to protect my art but holy crap this is a new low.
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Ivan97Miraheze

5 months ago
Score 2
Not even Ken Penders was this strict.
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Lesther110

5 months ago
Score 3
Oh Penders could do this and the legal system will be by his side, they did it before.
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FightFireWithFire

5 months ago
Score 4
Sonic: You destroyed a good fangame of me?! That's no good!
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MineGuy13

5 months ago
Score 3
Sonic Gather Your Data
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Ivan97Miraheze

4 months ago
Score 2
Sonic Get Bricked
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DoubleJumpMan

3 months ago
Score 0
It's a shame this game is now unplayable, it looks very fun
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XxxRazorbackxxx

18 hours 22 minutes ago
Score 0
What is the lesson learned from this article?

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