The unofficial Nier: Automata FAR mod contains an anti-piracy check, and people aren't happy

The unofficial Nier: Automata "Fix Automata Resolution" patch released in March reportedly made some much-needed improvements to the game, including "vast improvements" to framerates and a fix for a bug that kept it from running at native resolutions. But since yesterday, the mod has been getting attention for a different reason: users picked up on the fact that it makes a check to see whether or not the game it's being installed on is a legitimate copy, and that has some gamers very unhappy.

The FAR mod software license agreement is the sort of thing that's easy to click past without noticing, as Kotaku points out—"Use of this software is granted on the condition that any products being modified have been licensed to you under the terms and conditions set forth by their respective copyright holders"—but it actually requires "a simple SteamAPI validity check," as mod maker Kaldaien explained on NeoGAF. "Nothing malicious happens if you fail this check, you're just presented with an infinite license screen that you can click Accept on but since you don't respect licenses the license doesn't respect your click." 

Like modder Durante, who fixed Dark Souls and is a contributor to PC Gamer, Kaldaien is well-known in modding circles. He's released 60 fps patches and other fixes for Tales of Zestiria, Final Fantasy X/X-2, Batman: Arkham Knight, and other games. After arguments broke out about the FAR patch yesterday, we reached out to Kaldaien, but haven't heard back yet. In the meantime, things have escalated.

If you detect a certain snarky tone to his explanation above, then you'll likely notice the same thing in the two options he presented to people who find themselves stuck failing the license check: 

  • Uninstall the mod and accept that you're not entitled to everything in this world and acting like a giant baby because you don't get your way is immature.
  • Obtain a modified version from someone else who condones piracy and who can take responsibility for how their modification is used.

That didn't help smooth the ruffled feathers of people who felt there was no call for a piracy check in the first place—and who were presumably also being prevented from using the mod. Predictably, uproar quickly followed: Some users expressed support, others called names, and Kaldaien himself was eventually hit with a temporary ban from posting on the Steam forums because of his unapologetic—some might say combative—attitude toward his detractors.   

Interestingly, Kaldaien said on GAF that the check has nothing to do with his personal views on piracy. "I don't condone the practice, I don't generally think highly of people who do it, but this is not done to punish them. It is to protect me against asset injection of copyrighted material, which began to happen in my mods between Tales of Symphonia and Tales of Berseria," he wrote. "It is the party who facilitates copyright infringement who always takes the fall, never the end-user who commits the crime. So pirates—take my actions as some sort of punishment if you will, but they're not even about you—I don't care in the slightest what you do as long as I'm not tied to it."

Despite those concerns, Kaldaien recently listed an older version of the mod as an alternate release, with an "Attn. Pirates" message saying, "This is the version you want; it is compatible with your outdated crap. Legitimate owners should not use, this is not compatible with the Steam release."

Over on Github, meanwhile, which he said he will now be using "for all future documentation," he appears to have disavowed his connection to the furor on Steam: "Steam Moderator and apparent pirate Zefar has assumed ownership of the Steam support thread against the author's express written wishes," he wrote. "Although unaffiliated with the project, he now holds Intellectual Property ransom that does not belong to him."

Kaldaien has created a new Steam Community thread to continue discussing FAR. If we hear back from Kaldaien, we'll follow up with more detail.

Andy Chalk

Andy has been gaming on PCs from the very beginning, starting as a youngster with text adventures and primitive action games on a cassette-based TRS80. From there he graduated to the glory days of Sierra Online adventures and Microprose sims, ran a local BBS, learned how to build PCs, and developed a longstanding love of RPGs, immersive sims, and shooters. He began writing videogame news in 2007 for The Escapist and somehow managed to avoid getting fired until 2014, when he joined the storied ranks of PC Gamer. He covers all aspects of the industry, from new game announcements and patch notes to legal disputes, Twitch beefs, esports, and Henry Cavill. Lots of Henry Cavill.