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Getting your game past Windows Smart Defender

A topic by JN O'Neal Bay Park Games created Oct 08, 2017 Views: 1,520 Replies: 10
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Hello all,

I know this is probably not the best place to ask this question however I'm assuming that a lot of you have run into this problem. So first of all, I'm a new game developer trying to have this game released onto this platform. The first problem I ran into was that my Unity3D game came with a Data folder and it was making it very difficult to release the game since I really don't expect that most people would like to unzip a game before playing it. 

Then I did some searching on YouTube and found that two game developers were using an installer program called innosetup. So I went ahead and tried it, then tried uploading the finished exe file to my project game area, however when I tried downloading and running the exe, I got this error: Windows Defender SmartScreen prevented an unrecognized app from starting. Running this app might put your PC at risk. I figured that maybe the error was caused not by the exe being unsafe but maybe that innosetup was not a recognizable application?

So I took that off and bought an almost $50 copy of WinZip Self Extractor because I figured that everyone knows what WinZip is but then when I set it up and run the WinZip of the exe game, I get the same error. So I'm at the point where I feel that unless I just release a zipped version of the game, I'm always going to get that error and I know that other small game devs don't jump through this many hoops to release their small games so I'm just wondering how game devs get around this Windows warning message? Is there a process that I can go through to prove my game is safe?

Anyway thanks so much for reading through and maybe offering a suggestion.

Jeremiah O'Neal

Modern versions of Windows expect apps to be signed with a cryptographic certificate, not unlike those used by websites for secure browsing. You'll get that error no matter how you make your .exe installer; in fact, people trying to play your game will get the same message when trying to run it. Not being a Windows developer, I haven't looked into getting a cert; for now, just explain the situation in your download instructions.

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I just downloaded and unzipped your game. I am running Windows 10. It gave me the same old message "The publisher could not be verified. Are you sure you want run this software?" message. I get that message pretty much every time I run an exe file. All but the biggest noobs to Windows will be used to that message by now. They just decide if they trust the source they downloaded it from, and if they do, they click the "run" button. Nothing out of the ordinary. Is this something different than you are seeing?

P.S Your game didn't work for me. it's just a black screen after the Made with Unity splash screen.

P.P.S. Please go back to Inno Setup. Your Winzip self extractor didn't even give me any options of where to unzip it to. I still don't know where it unzipped to. It looks like some kind of temporary folder or something. So you want people to unzip it every time they play it? Inno Setup has been around for 20 years and is very trusted. In fact I dare say it's the best install program out there and I've tried quite a few.

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I did a bit more research and apparently there is something called Smartscreen that some people have enabled on their computers. I still don't completely understand it, except that it's nothing but a huge nuisance and should be turned off as soon as possible. Are you using Explorer/Edge by any chance? It seems like most results I found in my search related to people using those browsers. Or maybe you're using Winows 8? (the worst operating system ever made) I see a lot of issues with that related to Windows 8 as well. In any case, rest assured that it has to do with settings on your own computer, and it's Microsoft's fault. I don't know how many people have this thing enabled, but I haven't heard of any problems with people trying to play my games yet, so probably most people know how to shut it off or get around it or don't have it active. (it's deactivated in Windows Defender settings I think)

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I've repackaged the program using InnoSetup and I've also left the option to download the zip file on the page. The OS I'm using is Windows 10. It came with this Lenovo computer that I'm using to make the games.

I hope it works this time. This is all the files I included when creating the zip file and the InnoSetup file.

Small update: There was a problem with the data files and not the folder itself being included in the .exe file I made with Inno. I've updated it so now the setup.exe file will install the program and also the data folder. So it should work now.

It works now! :-)

Did the game itself work or just the installer?


The installer and game both worked.

Thank you.

Thank you all for the installer checking and your support. It took me a night to really think about the Windows Defender popup and why it was happening. The warning crossed my mind because I understood that I'm basically presenting a possibility of introducing malware in the form of an exe. Of course the installer itself wouldn't be that code but with every installer containing different information, how would Windows be able to detect that. 

I did research how I could possibly go around that by applying for a certificate with a known CA and then signing my installer. That of course cost money (for Windows to accept it) and I'd imagine the process would take time. 

The way around the defender warning I discovered was to zip the contents of the Unity exe and data folder and to upload that. When I downloaded the zip, it did not show a warning which I'm guessing is because the exe is already signed by the Unity company and the code within the data folder is not known as being dangerous? 

In any case, I think in the future, I will submit both a zip file and an InnoSetup file. The InnoSetup file is great, I know. It's a simple one click install without messing with unzipping stuff but at the same time, I'd personally would like to not have to turn off a Windows security setting or make an exception to run an exe and think there's going to be other people that will feel the same. None the less, I'd understand why other people would want to disable that setting as well and I figure, with the knowledge and understanding of IT that I have, there are safe ways of doing that.

In any case, I appreciate all of your support. This has given me a better understanding of how to go about doing things and knowing how to do these things. As a new game developer. We (me and N.) are learning new things.

I just got this same issue with an .EXE out of a .ZIP. Has anyone found any new best-practice solution for this in the last year?