Fighting the war on crapware and bloatware
I found this story this morning on reddit.
So my friend recently has been telling grand tales of trading on Grand Fantasia, and I decided I should try the game since it seems he might actually be settling on an MMO for once. After running through the installer, I noted that the installer had quietly added (it did NOT ask to install it, or even mention that it would be installed) a little piece of adware called “Aeria Ignite”. And when I went to start the updater, this chunk of crapware started with it. Bonus: It had set itself up to start with Windows via registry key. Didn’t ask me or anything, just dropped the key in there. Allright, uninstalled that crap… and now my game won’t start.
I reinstalled the thing and did some digging. I found that the game shortcut pointed to aeria_launcher.exe, a 100K stub that checks if Ignite is installed, and if it isn’t, prompts you to install it; then it checks if Ignite is running, and if it isn’t, starts it; then it launches the REAL launcher, _Launcher.exe. No integration hooks or anything actually useful; just a malicious pseudo-launcher that forces you to run their crap.
Yes, that’s right. You can uninstall Ignite, delete aeria_launcher.exe, change the shortcut to point to _Launcher.exe, and play the game without their “required” crapware, no problem. So the app does, literally, NOTHING. Just yet another chunk of useless code to potentially cause problems.
Aeria, I’m sure you’re feeling the heat from the new competition in the F2P market, but forcing useless crapware on users is a great way to scare off more technically-minded customers. There are better F2P networks with better games that don’t make me clutter my system.
You think that’s bad. I didn’t know about the following.
Welcome to the world of F2P MMO’s, Korean ones in particular. Most stealth-install ones are there to monitor your input for abnormal behaviour or programs to prevent botting/automated keyboarding etc, but such programs walk a fine line between virus and malware.
Some examples that come to mind:
Silk Road comes with a backdoor rootkit which most virus scanners won’t pick up.
Nexon games come with ad programs which happily occupy your (desktop) screen when you exit the game. Can be manually deleted but are annoying. Login process to the game is insecure as it links to a website not using HTTPS.
Webzen and C9 have similar issues, I couldn’t even get the game to work, albeit it’s still in beta.
NCsoft has (temporarily) stopped using Pando Media Booster, which is a P2P streaming client, but some people claim to have issues with it, as well as it taking up unnecessary bandwidth during gameplay.
Several companies use Hackshield which is known to conflict with other programs.
In short, prepare for pain if you like F2P games.
The more I read the comments on reddit, the more I’m glad I don’t care for F2P games.