Cider gains use as a game piracy tool

TransGaming’s Cider technology has been twisted to be used as a way to let gamers play pirated PC games illicitly on their Macs, according to reports. TransGaming says it’s aware of the problem and hopes that the issue will remain isolated.

Cider is a way of bringing games to new Intel-based Mac. According to TransGaming CEO Vikas Gupta, it encapsulates a Windows game binary and acts as a translation layer to Mac OS X. The software has already been used to bring Heroes of Might & Magic V to the Macintosh, along with Myst Online: Uru Live, X3: Reunion and GameTap Lite. It’s being used to bring six games to the Mac from Electronic Arts (EA), including the new Tiger Woods and Madden NFL games.

Hackers have recently discovered that by plumbing the depths of a Cider game’s Mac installation, it’s possible to replace a portion of the package contents with a pirated PC game — typically available as a “no CD” crack, published online through pirate Web sites, BitTorrent and other peer-to-peer file sharing services. Users have had some limited success getting certain titles to run this way, though Gupta cautions that this provides them with a very incomplete experience.

“Enough Cider based titles will soon be out in retail stores that I think people will have enough of a comparison to show that legitimate Cider games offer a really great Mac gaming experience. Consumers really have to look at this objectively,” said Gupta added.

As Cider requires an Intel-based Mac to run, it’s also possible to install those same “cracked” games in Windows running on the Mac, through Apple’s Boot Camp software, for example. That might provide pirates with a more complete experience, but the advantage here is that Cider doesn’t require a copy of Windows to play.

“You’re not even close to the properly packaged [Cider] product,” said Gupta. “They may be successful in getting the game to run, but that doesn’t mean the game is nearly where it should be.”

Although the Cider “wrapper” itself may provide the raw essentials needed to get the binary to actually run on the Mac, Gupta said that it won’t have the optimizations or even the basic shaders in place to provide a very good game experience.

TransGaming, for its part, remains aware of the issue. Gupta said, “We’re internally discussing what our options should be. We could lock down Cider on a per-game basis if necessary. We’re watching the community, and right now it’s only a handful of people who are doing this.”

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