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Downloading a pirated game doesn’t cost a penny. However, it does take up digital resources, as some games can be well over 100 gigabytes.
This is a problem for people that have bandwidth caps or those who have limited storage or archive space.
Every problem has a solution, of course, especially in a pirate ecosystem where copyright laws are ignored. For pirated games, this solution comes in the form of ‘repacks’, which are essentially compressed versions of full games that work just like the real thing.
Repacks can be made from legitimately purchased games but, in pirate circles, they come with a crack to remove protection. While there are several active repackers, there’s one who has climbed through the ranks like no other
How FitGirl Got Started
To find out more about this largely unknown figure – who uses the likeness of Amélie – we reached out to FitGirl. As the site’s FAQ clearly states that the gender issue is irrelevant, we began at the origins. When did FitGirl get into repacking?
“In 2012, probably, when I started making an offline collection for myself,” FitGirl tells us. “I was using 7-Zip back then and thought that there was nothing better in terms of compression.”
While FitGirl was building a personal home archive, she (we will use this pronoun) stumbled upon public repacks released on pirate sites. These were much smaller than the ones she had made and that’s when things got started.
Instead of relying on 7-Zip, FitGirl became serious about compression and started learning and experimenting. Roughly a week later, the first homebrew repack was ready.
“While my first repack looked pretty much like the current ones, inside it was a mess. Slow loading, slow installation, etc. But I quickly fixed those and started making repacks on almost a daily basis,” FitGirl recalls.
FitGirl Goes Public
At this point, repacking was still strictly for personal use. That was good enough. However, as time went by FitGirl noticed that some of her own releases were slightly smaller in size than the repacks available in public.
This is when things started to shift. FitGirl decided to make the leap from being merely a personal archivist to a ‘publisher’ of repacks on pirate sites. Being born in Russia, she picked local torrent trackers as a start, and not without success.
“I decided to upload my repacks to a few Russian trackers and they were met with sympathy. Then I decided to continue,” FitGirl says.
The first repack was a copy of Geometry Wars 3: Dimensions. The game was losslessly compressed from 250 MB down to 69 MB. However, with larger games, the ‘savings’ easily expand to dozens of gigabytes.
After this initial release, many more followed. FitGirl continued to experiment and improve her compression skills, sharing the results in public. Today, she has repacked close to 1500 games. On top of that, she has gathered a dedicated group of followers, who eagerly await new releases.
A Love for Compression
As they are pirated, these repacked games are available for free. FitGirl does accept donations but the main motivation appears to be the appreciation from the public and her love for compression.
A common misconception among some people is that she also cracks these games, but that is not the case. FitGirl mostly downloads pirated releases from a private tracker. These games are often available on public pirate sites as well.
The repacking itself is often pretty straightforward. Some games are done in an hour while others can take up to a day, mostly depending on the size of the source files.
“The average repack actually is very basic. Most games out there use either Unity Engine or Unreal Engine. Both are easily compressed without any special work. So how long it takes depends only on a game’s size and takes from one hour to maybe a day,” FitGirl says.
FitGirl prides herself on using heavy compression and the best settings. She is also somewhat of a perfectionist who likes a challenge. The more complex a game is, the more fun. That’s also when more skill is involved.
“I love based on non-standard or rare engines! Because challenges in compression are what I love the most. I did re-repack GTA V, for example, like five or six times, always improving compression and/or installation speed,” she says.
“One of the most complex games I’ve met was Red Read Redemption 2. And it’s so sad it’s not cracked yet, so I can’t share my results with the world. Hope that changes one day,” FitGirl adds.
The passion for compression is obvious and FitGirl has no plans to stop anytime soon. However, to make things more interesting, she wouldn’t mind having some extra competition.
“I miss some strong competition, actually. I need more professional teams or individuals who are also mad about compression so it would be more interesting for me,” she notes.
Needless to say, the publishers and developers of the games are not happy with repacked releases. They do send takedown notices to some file-hosting sites, who then remove releases, but FitGirl hasn’t run into any legal trouble directly.
That said, these same companies could also learn from the success of repacks. According to FitGirl, publishers could take a lesson or two on effective compression, so customers don’t have to waste bandwidth.
“Hire just one person, who understands the compression,” is her message to publishers. “And make your games so they could be easily updated with additional patch-files, without full data rebuilding.”
“For example, Unreal Engine supports patching natively. But 99% of developers don’t use it. They just rebuild the whole game all over again and then users in Steam download another 50 GB update. Really, you even have the tools to do it for you, love your users, they PAY for your games!”