The Sledgehammer – Version 2.0

October 25, 2007

The Photocopier of Judgment

Filed under: Games — Tags: , — Brian Lutz @ 7:07 pm

As I mentioned in my PAX articles, one of the more interesting concepts to show up there was The Eye of Judgment, a Playstation 3 game that uses the Playstation Eye camera in conjunction with a collectible card game.  The hybridization of card and video games is nothing new, but what sets Eye of Judgment apart from other similar games is the use of actual trading cards, which are then “scanned” by the camera on a special board to keep track of score and show the action on screen using the PS3.  It seems like a rather interesting concept, but as Mike Fahey posts over at Kotaku, it turns out that the game has what could likely prove to be a fatal flaw:

 Despite supposedly being printed using special inks rendering photocopying impossible, reports are sprouting up around the interwebs of people successfully copying cards from Eye of Judgment on the PlayStation 3 and scanning them into the game with little or no problem. One of our readers sent pictures of a card he printed out from Penny Arcade, which despite some curling and color differences from the other cards seems to be scanning in just fine.

After which he proceeds to print out a copy of the scanned card on a cheap color printer, and confirms this to be the case.  According to Wizards of the Coast (who will be printing the cards for use with this game) this should not work.  Since I have one of the cards in question (acquired from PAX) let’s take a look at this:

Here is a picture of the actual Biolith Bomber card in question, with a Magic the Gathering card (which also came from PAX, which is the only reason I even have any Magic cards in the first place) next to it.  Although it is somewhat difficult to see the difference in this picture, there is a slight difference in the surface texture of the cards, which seems to suggest that the Eye of Judgment card has an additional coating on its surface to make it less reflective.  I cannot be certain whether or not this is intended to be an anticopying measure, but most likely it was done primarily to reduce glare, since the cards need to be readable by a computer algorithm, and glare could prevent the camera from seeing a vital element of the card.  It is entirely possible that if someone tried to print one of these onto standard glossy card stock similar to that used by the MtG card it could be rejected by the camera.

On the other hand, It should have been  clear to all parties involved at square one that the first thing people would do with this game is try to use phony copies of cards.  In an interview from PAX at Shacknews, Hasbro’s marketing director for the product had this to say (the relevant quote is on page 2:)

 Christy Newton: You cannot color photocopy the cards and have them read. It has to do with the technology and how they’re printed both. And that’s really all I want to say about that in terms of that end of it.

I can promise you that on the Wizards of the Coast side of the business, obviously one of the first things we did was try to play around and break things. Ultimately, there’s probably nothing in the world that can’t be accomplished if someone wants to spend enough time to go break something down. I think the goal of it is, let’s make it difficult enough that it prohibits people from cheating.

Not that marketing people are exactly renowned for their technical knowledge of a product, but that particular response is just trying to dodge the question, plain and simple.  Unless the QA testers on this project were grossly incompetent there’s no way this scenario would not have come up in testing.  I’d say there’s a 99% chance they are fully aware that copies of cards will work just like real ones, and that they’ve either been unable to fnid a workable fix for the issue, or they’ve been getting stonewalled by the project managers to avoid slipping the ship date.  One way or another, unless they find some way to “break” copied cards, Wizards stands to lose a whole bunch of money on Eye of Judgment due to people just downloading their cards off the Internet.  Given the ridiculous ease with which the alleged built-in countermeasures to prevent copying were defeated, I get the sneaking suspicion that whatever solution they come up with to the problem is going to end up being a workaround, rather than an actual fix.

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