Denuvo introduces Unreal Engine Protection feature blocking access to game files and debug consoles

Developers of anti-tamper solution Denuvo have announced a new feature that would prevent users from manipulating files in games made with Unreal Engine. Branded as another way of fighting against pirates and fraudsters, it poses a real threat to modding.

Denuvo's new Unreal Engine Protection feature poses threat to modding by blocking access to game files

What happened?

Denuvo owner Irdeto announced the Unreal Engine Protection feature at Gamescom. The new solution is said to help developers prevent data mining attempts and create “formidable barriers against cheat creators, pirates and fraudsters.”

Unreal Engine Protection can be integrated into the game on a binary level. Here is how the new feature will work, according to Irdeto:

“It shields Unreal Engine game data files against decryption, blocks the use of in-game debug consoles, and conceals entry points to deter game modification. As the tools for attacking Unreal Engine games are publicly available and easy to use, this feature becomes an essential safeguard, offering an effortless yet robust defense against this vector.”

Irdeto CEO Doug Lowther noted that the company’s goal is to help the games industry fight against hackers “trying to do things with games that are not supposed to be done.”

As if that wasn’t enough, the company also introduced Integrity Verification feature that would allow developers to “verify the integrity of their own game code, safeguarding against both static and dynamic tampering.”

This tool will make it impossible for users to alter the protected game code before launch or during gameplay.

Why is Denuvo’s new feature bad for modding, one of the industry’s core pillars?

Although Unreal Engine Protection (in theory) could be useful for online games, some of which are plagued by cheaters and hackers, it could also make it much more difficult for people to mod games built with Epic Games’ framework.

Accessing game files and data is essential for creating mods, which not only expand the community around certain titles, but also help players get new experiences and prolong the lifecycle of their favorite projects.

As much as Irdeto tries to equate game modification with piracy and fraud, it is usually not the case at all. In addition to creating new content, modders sometimes also fix bugs in long-abandoned titles or even make some quality-of-life improvements like text localization. Not to mention that many developers got their start in the industry by modding popular games or making new levels for classics like Half-Life or Quake.

Former Epic Games design director Cliff Bleszinski recently explained why it is important to make development tools available to enthusiasts: “It’s not always going to be the AAA developers from Activision or EA, or Microsoft that are innovating; it’s often the person in his parents’ garage in Middle America that takes a game and modifies it and comes up with something that goes viral. And that’s just the beauty of it all.”

You don’t have to look far for examples. Some of today’s most successful games were originally made as mods for popular titles, spawning new creative ideas and sometimes even genres: Counter-Strike, Dota, PUBG, the list goes on.

Some game companies have complicated relationships with modders, but there are also studios that support enthusiasts. For example, CD Projekt has long been hiring modders to improve Cyberpunk 2077 or help the studio finish the next-gen update for The Witcher 3.

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