The Arcade Game that Crashes Itself for Anti-Piracy Reasons -

The Arcade Game that Crashes Itself for Anti-Piracy Reasons

Retro Game Mechanics Explained
Views: 238890
Like: 8595
Did you know that Atari put cruel anti-piracy checks into its arcade games that would cause them to purposefully crash and reset? It’s all explained right here.
Support the channel on Patreon:
Support the channel on SubscribeStar:
Join the RGMechEx Discord Server:
Follow RGMechEx on Cohost:
Atari Quadrascan Explained:


  1. wikipedia: "The Atari 2600's CPU is the MOS Technology 6507, a version of the 6502, running at 1.19 MHz in the 2600."

    In effect the same as the C64 but with an alternate set of peripheral chips.

  2. Tempest was my absolute favorite video game, bar none!!! On another note, my cousin was married to the late Jerry Logg, father of Ed Logg who created Asteroids 🙂

  3. I think that pirated tempest machines may be where polybius comes from

  4. 4:00 Atari had good reasons for it.
    The digital piracy prevention was a lot less sophisticated and with these devices being standalone and not networked, there are very little legal ground for them to go after. However, temperament of the trademark can call for immediate legal action. That's why the Gameboy had similar checking to counter both piracy and unlicensed games

  5. If you're making an exact copy of the rom chips though, why would the copyright be wrong?

  6. Atari learned their lesson with Missile Command.

  7. Some anti piracy bugs would also be good to look at. Like when I bought a brand new copy of red alert back on release day and out of the box it would trip the anti piracy unless you defrag your hard drive repeatedly right before running the installer. I had to call Westwood to complain and thats what they told me to do and it worked everytime.

  8. I wonder how much this actually helped the business in the long run, rather than making a lot of people think 'wow these Atari games are buggy'.
    In fact I wonder how many games available now as abandonware were better at the time because we don't realise they have copyright bugs? Most of the versions of Gunship for the C64 definitely have issues that didn't used to exist.

  9. Could you please expalin why the Game Genie code YEAAAA breaks SMB1 in the way it does? It modifies $80, what can possibly go wrong?

  10. 25:26 – something doesn't add up here, SEI enables interrupts, CLI disables them so they are enabled when Pokey RNG is read from chip, did you mistake unconciously those two instructions during machine code translation?

  11. This technique of shecking the trademark is still being used today, in places you would not expect. Like making sure one piece of hardware only work with hardware of the same company. So you can't use any other part in that device, even if it's not copied, but a completely new design.

  12. Anyone know where the romhack version of Tempest Tubes is or what happened to it? I remember playing those levels clearly.

  13. I love the vector graphics in the explanation!

  14. very clever. intersting to think how worthless it all is now.

  15. If i were an arcade rat back then, I'd be pissed. Ultimately it's the customer who gets the shaft from these measures. They had no way to know if a cabinet was official or a bootleg.

  16. Another dirty trick was to sprinkle in the code, writes to the ROM areas. Normally, this does nothing as ROM can't be written. This causes crash when pirate is using loaded RAM to hold the code.

  17. Your videos are a treasure for comp sci nerds. Thanks!

  18. If the game devs have tightly integrated control of custom chipsets and are writing code at assembler level, I'm actually more impressed with pirates being able to copy a game at all, it seems almost impossible to detect the fairly trivial ways asm code could check that it is running in an expected way.

  19. the copyright message is probably an excellent vector to enable legal attacks on pirates. Later Nintendo wound up doing something similar with the Gameboy. The lockout code was a tiny bitmap image of Nintendo's own trademarked logo, which is why pirated cartriges were a trademark violation.

    I suspect in this case, by forcing the pirates to leave the copyright messages intact, they'd legally be "on the hook" for damages.

  20. Hi, really interesting video, really nice to see some real research and clear explanations, as someone who only develops software occasionally, and has an interest in retro games it's really interesting to see why things don't always work on emulators, I know it is a simple example but it has all the core elements on how this sort of piracy was countered in the early days of computing. Thanks for making the video.

  21. I don't know about this anti-piracy stuff, but I fondly remember ending my score with certain numbers for certain effects…. including 99 free game credits.

  22. This was put in to prevent Chinese clones of the arcade machines. This was a problem that Atari saw after releasing earlier machines.

  23. What if we just draw a black credit over the existing one? The Atari copyright will still be there, but there's just something over it preventing the player from seeing it.

  24. I guess if Super Mario World had anti-piracy checks like that it wouldn't have so many ROM hacks now would it? 😛

  25. 5:25 What kind of crazy encoding are they using for characters? The alphabet isn't even contiguous: A is 16, but C is 1b (not 18). Then E is 1e, which is between A and C. Then D is 1c, which is less than E.

  26. Besides these traps there were a couple back doors in the arcade version of Tempest that benefited the player. If you died w/in a certain point range you would be credited with 40 free games. And if you died w/in a another set range on the next game you could skip to any pattern color group set you wanted to start at. This 2nd backdoor is nice because you could get past the series that were all invisible to the last set that were lime green (and of course insnanely hard in there own right but getting to the last set was hard to accomplish when the one preceeding it was the entire set in invisible).

    For anyone old school to recall, there was also another quite difficult ray vector game called gravitar that had the same pattern sequences used in Tempest including an entire invisible map series. Imagine playing a game featuring a space ship you fly where the ground you're supposed to avoid running into is all invisible.

  27. I wish it had that 16:9 aspect ratio I watch alot of media and that'd be my primary use but I'd it was more of a tablet shape I'd go for it

  28. Doesn't the way the lfsr genuineness check is implemented mean it allows any lfsr to take its place as long as it runs at the same frequency?

  29. And yet it's still easier to crack than Primal Rage

  30. Really? We trade those DOS games like candy long ago! And I think those games are not sold in the philippines!

  31. Never get killed in Tempest: For each level find a 'slot' with the highest angle from the adjoining slots (the higher the angle the better your chances). For example a slot with an angle of 90 degrees or more are the best, 180 degrees are even better (End slots with a high angle are the best since attackers can only approach from a single direction (side). Low angle between slots is not ideal. Then 'park' your 'ship' in that slot and stay there, meaning don't ever move away. Slots with high angles force the targets to take longer to flip into your slot and low angles mean that the targets will flip into your slot at a much higher rate. After you are stationed there you can take one of two similar approaches: 1) Low skill required= simply tap the 'fire' button at a fairly high rate over and over (don't be concerned with the targets as they are approaching, you want them to get to the end so that they are 'flipping' towards you on the end ring). Make sure you are tapping the fire button as they flip into your slot and you will eliminate them successfully every time. 2) (Skill required) Fire normally as they are flipping into your slot, not necessarily a single shot, like the tapping method. You can get really far into the levels by doing this, its important to keep in mind, however, that you want to be parked in a slot with an angle that is of a high value, which takes the target longer to flip into your slot, which increases the amount of time that you have to hit them.

    Another well known hint is that firing on the 'green spike trails' causes your firing rate to be much higher then firing into an empty slot, so if you fire on a flipping attacker while in a spiked slot you're chances of eliminating the attacker are greatly increased….

  32. I didn't figure it out code-wise, I did it with statistics. But check out the C64 version of Steve Jackson's OGRE. It does a disk check for a specific error on the disk that your 1541 cannot create. If it doesn't find it, it shifts the combat tables by 1 in favor of the OGRE. Your 33% chance to hit treads? Just became 17%. The OGRE will win every time. It's diabolical.

  33. Dude I played Tempest on arcade back in the 80s 🤣 We had a bunch of arcade games at the daycare I went to as a kid. 👌

  34. Is Tempest a rare find nowadays? I know one person who has the arcade machine, but until then I had never met anyone who owned this game in my life.

  35. It is such a funny thought. I'm an electrical engineer, but i have more in common with the devs of yore that worked on these games. Than your average programmer does.
    Cause they too had to know how the processor was interacting with its peripheral circuits. To know exactly how the Interface chips like the POKEY and the C64 CIA operated.

  36. Gotta love how your story sounds like a creepypasta at first.

  37. Wow, the rest of the program can be whatever, but so long as they're the ones with the copyright…

  38. I love watching this channel and reading the comments because it reinforces how stupid I am, lol

  39. Me: This is confusing, I can't understand it
    RGME: More?
    Me: Please

  40. No one knows how to break a game more than its own developers!

  41. Piracy checks are bad. You greedy? You want money and not people enjoying your art? Get out of making video games aka art.

  42. I randomly came across this video in my feed and I have to say I'm really impressed with how you presented your video. Usually these topics go over my head but it's explained very well and I learnt a lot! Definitely earned a subscription and I'll be watching more of your videos 😊

  43. Very interesting analysis of a very interesting wrench-tossing mechanism! 😁

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.