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Gears of War grind to halt

Expired digital cert kills PC play

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A digital certificate that expired Wednesday ground Gears of War to a halt last week, leaving many unable to launch the original PC-version of the first person shooter until Epic Games works out a fix.

The online cheat detection used in Gears relies on a Windows digital certificate that expired January 28, 2009. Gamers attempting to launch Gears since Wednesday have been blocked with an error saying the game can't run "with modified executable code."

"Well, we made an embarrassing mistake: we signed the executable with a certificate that expired in a way that broke the game," said an Epic Games spokesperson posting on the official Gears forum.

"We're working with Microsoft to re-sign the binaries properly, and hope to have this fixed very soon. We know how much this situation sucks, and we apologize for the inconvenience."

In the mean time, gamers can work-around the problem by setting the computer's clock to a date before January 28. Of course, that's far from an ideal solution.

As of this publication Monday, Epic still hasn't released a patch fixing the error.

We should note that the spokesman made a point of claiming the error is not related to DRM, but the term still has been thrown around quite a bit for the screwup. This seems to be more of an argument about semantics. It is in fact code that breaks an application based on unauthorized use. On the other hand, the lockout is local and doesn't phone home to an Epic Games server.

Tough call; we'll just call it really $*@%ing annoying. ®

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