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Protecting software against piracy: Your suggestions here!

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September 25, 2008 2:46:20 PM

Hi everyone,

Like the title plainly says, I am looking for your input on what you think could help solve some of the piracy issues. We all have read the flame wars about DRM and Securom protection...and how gamers are being somewhat penalized from purchasing a legitimate copy of the game...to a point where people simply won’t purchase the game. That being said, I rarely hear about solutions to the problem.

So, would you kindly provide input on what you think could protect intellectual property without using DRM or Securom?

Also, I think this could be a good topic for "Second-Take" when you guys run out of ideas...not that you would but...instead of saying how DRM is problematic, which we all know by now, provide suggestions. Maybe this thread could help provide various suggestions and then we can tackle each suggestions on whether these would be plausible or problematic.

Have fun!

Alex
September 25, 2008 2:52:37 PM

Hello !! Lets finish piracy !!!!

First lets acknowledge one thing !! Piracy like corruption within governments will have a healthy percentage !!

Now, the solutions:

Publisher/Developer model with a Top-Down or Horizontal Distribution, whatever fancy your side. This will improve the profits (Net and margin) for the publish even if you cut the price in half !!!!

With games, with no DRM, or just a serial, or even , who knows a online account !!! No Securom Rights to be paid by each copy !!


Oh......its called Valve right ? I have no solution.
September 25, 2008 3:27:36 PM

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once a month have people's computer history sent to microsoft for analysis so they can see everything we have been up to.


The amount of porn sites visited would be mind boggling.

September 25, 2008 4:52:08 PM

1.) Stop wasting money on DRM/copy protection so games can be sold at a more competitive price. ($35-40)
2.) Meet with Valve.
3.) Sell your games on Steam.
4.) Support your games with patches and decent optimization.
5.) Watch sales increase.

That's what Valve does different from the rest of the industry and it seems to be working exceptionally well for them, while the rest of the industry seems to be affected by piracy.

For anyone who didn't get it, the basic solution is to take Valve as a role model and copy their business model.
September 25, 2008 5:04:05 PM

Quote:

1.) Stop wasting money on DRM/copy protection so games can be sold at a more competitive price. ($35-40)
2.) Meet with Valve.
3.) Sell your games on Steam.
4.) Support your games with patches and decent optimization.
5.) Watch sales increase.

You do realize that #3 cancels out #1? Steam is DRM/copy protection and last time I checked Valve isn't a charity organization. Chances are they are not going to sell EA's games out of the goodness of their heart and hand over 100% of the price paid. If they were going to do that then why does Crysis on Steam cost the same as the retail version?
September 25, 2008 5:26:45 PM

Stop making PC games and do exclusively console games.

On a serious note, I think that providing healthy demos for your game would help cut back on piracy. A lot of people use the excuse that they pirate it to test it out and then buy it if they like it. Why would anyone buy a game if the full version is already installed? With a demo at least the people "trying" it out might not feel inclined to snag a full copy from pirate bay.
September 25, 2008 5:52:27 PM

The problem with demos is sometimes they don't represent what the full game really feels like.
I've bought games based on the demo and was dissapointed because some things that weren't shown in the demo really turned me off from the full game.
On the other hand, sometimes demos don't show how great a game is because they only show the "newbie" zones or don't show some more advanced game mechanics.

But to answer the OT, I think Stardock went the right way with Galactic Civilizations by providing the full game with no serials and no DRM. If the user wants to download new patches he has to register an online account with the serial key included with the game. And since they really put lots of effort in providing great patches with lots of fixes and optimizations as well as new content, players really had a reason to buy the game, or play the free "handicapped" version.
One final advantage is that some players will buy the game if only for the "cause", to support developpers that don't regard their customers as potential thieves, whereas some people aren't buying spore not only because of the DRM problems but because they want to protest.
September 25, 2008 5:55:02 PM

I think it's pretty simple, make your product better than the pirated version. First of all that means no DRM, or very basic DRM like a cd key or a one time online activation. Second it means providing content that a pirated copy can't, easiest of which is online content. That could be something as simple as online multiplayer with stats tracking to something more involved, like new content. Third, it means not treating your paying customers as potential criminals.

Aside from that game studios need to realise a few things. First, piracy is not going to vanish no matter what they do. There has always been piracy, and now that the internet has made it even easier there always will be. Second, not every pirated copy is a lost sale. It's basic economics. People will be much more likely to take something if it's free, but that doesn't mean they would have paid $50 for it if they couldn't. I'll bet the vast majority of people downloading any given game would not have bought it otherwise.

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once a month have people's computer history sent to microsoft for analysis so they can see everything we have been up to.

I hope that's a joke...
September 25, 2008 5:59:20 PM

purplerat said:
Quote:

1.) Stop wasting money on DRM/copy protection so games can be sold at a more competitive price. ($35-40)
2.) Meet with Valve.
3.) Sell your games on Steam.
4.) Support your games with patches and decent optimization.
5.) Watch sales increase.

You do realize that #3 cancels out #1? Steam is DRM/copy protection and last time I checked Valve isn't a charity organization. Chances are they are not going to sell EA's games out of the goodness of their heart and hand over 100% of the price paid. If they were going to do that then why does Crysis on Steam cost the same as the retail version?


Yeah you are probably right, I didn't think about that, but Steam is a DRM I am willing to live with, since at least to me it's non-intrusive and actually functional. I am certain that if games were sold at $35-40 (at least on digital distribution systems), you'll be surprised at how many people would actually flock to them.

To give you an example, I didn't really care much for the Orange box at the time (Had already played HL2, EP1, and EP2 on a friends PC), but the only game I hadn't tried or read anything about was TF2, I wanted to try it, but I didn't want to pay the full price for the Box (even though it's completely justified and worth it), and I found TF2 solo for $30 on Steam, that had me sold on it even if it didn't turn out to be all that great.

Valve not only keeps supporting their games, also they keep the prices a little bit below the industry standard, and distribute them using a functional non-intrusive DRM manager, which is okay by me, since I actually like Steam a lot, I'm not really going to buy a game anymore unless it's on steam or is a must-have.

While the industry as a whole keeps complaining about piracy as a problem, and as a response they keep trying to jack the prices up, constantly screwing your customers with half assed games, and very little to no support, while on the other side you have Valve, the exception of the rule, providing quality support for their games, able to run in a wide spectrum of systems with quality gameplay, albeit not cutting-edge graphics, but good enough and they have actually stated that they are not disclosing their numbers, but they are doing quite good as far as sales go, and every time a free-weekend of sorts happens they get up to a 20% increase on their userbase, you have to wonder who is going on the right track.... Valve or EA, Ubisoft, and the rest of the industry.

Basically, it's not just slashing your prices and putting them on steam that'll solve everything, it's the whole concept of a company backing their products, producing quality stuff, and actually putting real work on them instead of trying to screw the customer for a quick buck. The PC Gaming market is more demanding as far as quality goes on their games (See Exhibit A for proof, Halo considered the holy grail of FPS...) and they are not about to pay for crap.

EDIT: You might get from my post that I am a bit of a Valve fanboy, and I'll admit it, at this point I am willing to preorder anything that comes out with the Valve seal of approval, in fact I am preordering Left 4 dead as soon as it's available. However, this kind of loyalty and reputation that you get from your customers is only built on the fact that they feel that it was worth their purchase on every aspect of it. Common sense really... a customer will definitely come back to you (and trust you) if s/he feels satisfied with the previous purchases of your product.
September 25, 2008 6:23:37 PM

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I think it's pretty simple, make your product better than the pirated version.

Um, so you suggest that game developers should have to compete with their own product in order to make their own product sell better? How do you propose "making the retail version better" in a way that the improvement can't itself be pirated? If they can do that then why not make the whole game pirate proof?
Regardless of all that in most cases the pirated version is the same as the retail version or close enough with the one not so minor exception that it is free, which in itself is very hard to compete with.
So hears what I'm hearing as your proposal.
Make games in a way that users easily have the option to pay for it (retail) or not(pirate). Then commit to making "extra stuff" beyond the basic game which is:
a. Very difficult to pirate
and b. worth the price of the original game.

Of course if you can do a. and b. for the "extra stuff" why not do it for the original game?
September 25, 2008 6:33:47 PM

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Yeah you are probably right, I didn't think about that, but Steam is a DRM I am willing to live with, since at least to me it's non-intrusive and actually functional. I am certain that if games were sold at $35-40 (at least on digital distribution systems), you'll be surprised at how many people would actually flock to them.

I'm not really sure where the misconception that game prices are being "jacked up" came from or that lowering them will really do much. I mean basically as long as I can remember - going back to my NES and Sega Genesis days - $50 has always been just about the price of a top tier new release video game. So it's pretty hard to argue that pricing is the issue when it has pretty much remained the same for the past 2+ decades.
September 25, 2008 6:37:18 PM

See exhibit B, Team Fortress 2, the developers keep working on it for free to bring newer content and attract more customers (with a reported up to 20% userbase increase each time a free weekend/big update occurs confirmed by Gabe Newell in an interview), this is the kind of philosophy other developers should choose to follow to be successful.

If Valve were to take Episode 3 as a joke and release EA/Ubisoft kind of crap, sure people would buy it, but on their next release nobody would trust Valve anymore.

I don't see what makes other developers so special that they expect to be rewarded as much as Valve is, but they don't do even 1/4 of the work that Valve puts in their games. I know it's not fair to have your product pirated, but if you do half the work on your product as another company does, be prepared to receive only half of the profit.

EDIT: As I stated at the end of my post, it goes beyond pricing, reread it once again.
September 25, 2008 6:44:59 PM

Quote:
See exhibit B, Team Fortress 2, the developers keep working on it for free to bring newer content and attract more customers (with a reported up to 20% userbase increase each time a free weekend/big update occurs confirmed by Gabe Newell in an interview), this is the kind of philosophy other developers should choose to follow to be successful.

That may be true but TF2 is both a.)very difficult to pirate(via Steam) and b.)worth the price (as part of OB it's very cheap for a game of it's calibur) regardless of the extra work put in after it's release. Even if Valve didn't do so much for it they still would not be having to compete with a pirated version the way other games like Spore do.
September 25, 2008 6:45:23 PM

Quote:
Um, so you suggest that game developers should have to compete with their own product in order to make their own product sell better? How do you propose "making the retail version better" in a way that the improvement can't itself be pirated? If they can do that then why not make the whole game pirate proof?

Yes. And I did propose a way to do it.
September 25, 2008 6:51:28 PM

The way I look at it, you are asking for a solution to problem, which requires a radical approach, yet you (purplerat) aren't willing to accept anything but simple answers.

Well the answer is simple, but radical. Drop all extra DRM/Copy protection crap (which makes publishers lose money, since they don't really do anything for them) and turn Steam into the standard PC gaming platform for distribution, game support, online store, and as a game manager. Games pretty much install and update with only 2 or 3 clicks and no annoying activation/CD checks, you can't streamline the experience much more than that, it's simpler than even consoles.

Basically, if you want to play games, you use Steam. I don't think any legit users would object to that.
September 25, 2008 7:22:32 PM

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and turn Steam into the standard PC gaming platform for distribution, game support, online store, and as a game manager.

That is a horrible idea.
The problem with EA's DRM is not so much how it affects any individual game. The real issue is that EA has such a large part of the gaming pie that they can do something ridiculous like limit the number of installs and get away with it because people will still buy their games just due to the simple fact that they have so much control and influence in the gaming market. A small time developer and/or publisher simply couldn't get away with it.
But somehow the answer is to further consolidate the gaming market into one company, be it Steam MS or anybody else? That is just a bad, bad, bad idea. And I hate to break it to you but Valve is not some benevolent company who's only reward for making games is the joy of bringing happiness to games the world over. Just like there was a time when EA was as loved as Valve is today, both companies are in the same business for the same reason - to make money.
I like Valve/Steam too, but the idea that they should be the be-all, say-all, end-all for PC gaming makes me sick to my stomach. First off consider exactly what Steam is.
You never actually buy a game from them. You simply pay for the privilege to install the game on your PC. Then every time you want to play you must get their permission again. And all of your games are tied to your account, meaning you have no options to trade or sell those that you've purchased. And if anything happens to that account, or Steam/Valve for that matter, you are screwed.
Now imagine if the entire PC gaming platform was tied to Steam. That would mean you have no options, whatever they say goes. Maybe Valve decides to start charging monthly fees for Steam subscriptions. Either pay them or give up playing PC games and that goes not only for future purchases but also for any previously bought Steam titles. What can you do, you'd have nowhere else to go. Or even consider something not quite as far out there, say if Steam's servers go down. It happens all the time with online games, but at least you can either play single player or another game, but not if all games are tied to one platform/account.
It's just plain old not a good idea and that's not even taking into consideration the normal consumer problems related to a monopoly in any industry.
Now I've done a lot of babbling on this topic and I plan to reveal my plan later on when I have time to sit down and pull all of my thoughts together. But I can guarantee that it will be simple, because that's the only way it would ever work. Complications are what created this mess in the first place.
September 25, 2008 8:52:03 PM

DRM is trying to hurt the people who are pirating. The DRM does not affect these people in the slightest. The problem is, most of these measures can circumvented, as long as the problem is kept in the digital domain.


So maybe trying more of a 'carrot' than a 'stick' approach. Make people WANT to buy the original.

Somehow make purchasing the original more appealing.

Not sure how this could be done, but maybe some ideas:

1. Patches can only be downloaded by supplying the CD key that came with the game....
2. Make certain content available only to those who have a physical proof of purchase...
3. Include some physical 'bonus' that comes with the game.
4. Have adults take some responsibility for what their kids are doing with their PC's
September 25, 2008 9:08:12 PM

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1. Patches can only be downloaded by supplying the CD key that came with the game....

If the game can be cracked, why not the patch?

Quote:

2. Make certain content available only to those who have a physical proof of purchase...

Why not just require physical proof of purchase for the entire game?

Quote:

3. Include some physical 'bonus' that comes with the game.

Well don't all retail versions offer this? At a minimum you get box art, booklet, and CD. Some games offer CEs, and even many standard editions come with things like pullouts, posters etc. I mean how far do you expect game companies to go in enticing consumers to buy rather than steal their product? Maybe a little bag of gold in every box?

Quote:

4. Have adults take some responsibility for what their kids are doing with their PC's

I'm not really sure how that addresses the problem. Are you suggesting only minors pirate software? I would guess that most piracy is done by people of an age old enough to not need supervision to prevent them from doing wrong including many adults.
September 25, 2008 9:15:44 PM

As I said in my post:

>>The problem is, most of these measures can circumvented, as long as the problem is kept in the digital domain.

Not suggesting only minors pirate software, but I'd be willing to take a bet they they form a large slice of the pie.
September 25, 2008 9:29:09 PM

I'm sure a lot of minors (17 and under) do pirate games. But we're not talking about 11 and 12 year olds whom we can expect parent's to have a great deal of oversight on what they do. 15-17 year olds and even young adults living at home can not reasonably be expected to have constant oversight by their parents. Hell when I was 17 and pirating a lot of games, music and other software I did it all through school. The T1 connection at my highschool was much faster than the dialup at home and I owned a SparQ drive for transporting large files and could run them directly from that drive. There wasn't a thing my parent's could do even if they weren't completely clueless about what digital piracy even was.
September 25, 2008 9:35:18 PM

Quote:
The problem is, most of these measures can circumvented, as long as the problem is kept in the digital domain.

The problem with that argument is not that what you suggested is a bad idea, but only that those measures face the same exact problems as the problem they are supposed to solve. It would be like if there was a cure for cancer but the side effect was that you got cancer again. You could keep on chasing your tail around for ever but eventually you have to solve the real problem.
September 26, 2008 5:05:06 PM

purplerat, I think the disagreement here stems from the fact that you're approaching this problem in terms of what's right and wrong, while I and some others are approaching this in terms of what's practical. In practical terms, piracy is not going away. There is no magic solution and DRM certainly doesn't work, it's just a part of the world created by the internet that game studios will have to live with.

In a lot of ways the situation with piracy is similar to the war on drugs that started back in the 60's. It came about through the denial of the practical situation in favor of what was perceived to be the right thing to do. 50 years and countless billions of dollars later it's still a complete failure that, arguably, has created more problems than it's solved.

I'd love to see a world where game studios don't have to worry about their games being pirated, but that's not the world we live in. And I'm not prepared to give up the world of a free internet to fight piracy, because I believe a free internet is far more valuable than some lost sales.
September 26, 2008 5:31:07 PM

Ok since I'm always up for an argument on this topic I think it's only fair that I explain how I would solve this problem. Here goes.


At it's core what I propose (not to imply that anybody really cares or will listen) is very simple and requires nothing new of game makers nor game players. Really all it requires is a shift in the way both sides think about how games are sold, bought and played. But really it's not all that radical of a shift because, as I will point out, both sides have already accepted this idea in principle when it's necessary.

The basic principle that I propose is that always on broad band internet become as necessary to gaming as having a GPU has become in recent years. This would allow all games to use forms of DRM seen in MMOs, Steam and other online games that have proven to be both successful in thwarting piracy and have been accepted by gamers as reasonable measures. Also to the gamers every game would essentially then become an online game and would promote developers to include more online features even in games that are not traditionally thought of as online games. Really what this means is that buying a game would no longer be viewed as being a copy that you own but rather that you are buying access to particular content. In actuality there are many cases in which we are already doing this but we just don't think of it that way, which is why the biggest hurdle to such a plan is not in implementation but rather in changing the way people think.

Obviously there would be push back to this idea but most of those objections are easily answered by just pointing to how Steam and MMOs operate.Questions like what happens if a server goes down or a company stops supporting a game would be no different than if you were playing WoW or TF2. If you accept either of those models then this should be no problem for you. I know there are some die hards out there who even hate Steam and MMOs, but I'm not talking to those people because I have no reasonable expectation of winning them over. If you're not one of those people and find any objection to this idea first ask yourself if and how the same issue is addressed by any of the afore mentioned models that have proven to work well.

What about people without internet access or dialup on? Well sorry :(  Broadband internet access will inevitably become near universal in the US and most other developed parts of the world. So denying this plan on those grounds is only delaying what will inevitably happen. We should be working closer towards the bleeding edge of technology rather than slowing down for the those lagging behind. I mean we wouldn't accept developers designing games to run on Intel IGPs rather than ATI or nVidia cards just because that's what most people have.

And it's not just the consumers who have to get past this mentality. Game companies have to realize that there's more to be made off producing better products for a smaller number of people than trying to make games that are accessible to everybody. One parallel I see to this is the shift from broadcast over the air television to cable/satellite. For years programmers were reluctant to but top programming on cable because it didn't reach everybody. That meant that for example despite ESPN having superior coverage of sporting events all premier events were shown on the networks. That's starting to change a little bit now but I'm getting a little off track. The point is we shouldn't be hamstringing ourselves in trying to include everybody.

Just a couple final points. First off I'm not supporting a single method of online DRM or any one company controlling it all. I would want there to be many different variations and competitors, because competition is what drives innovation. Secondly this my idea is hardly original and borrows from a lot of different ideas that others have mention. Digital distribution, providing extra content, better user experience etc are all part of this. I didn't really discuss any specifics on how to prevent piracy because that's already been figured out by companies like Valve and Blizzard. We just need to accept that as the norm for video games and the rest should take care of itself.
September 26, 2008 5:54:31 PM

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purplerat, I think the disagreement here stems from the fact that you're approaching this problem in terms of what's right and wrong,

Really? I'm not sure how I come off sounding like I'm talking about right and wrong. For the most part I always keep these discussions to what's real and what's not.
I think you're confusing my opinions with those of other people whom I've discussed right and wrong and morality with in another thread, but that is hardly my thesis for this topic. I believe it's true that piracy hurts gaming, but I'm not one to get up on my high horse and tell other people to not pirate games. I do however call bull sh*t when I hear somebody try and justify why they pirate games. But at the same time I've even told people who say they pirate games to try them and then buy that they are just wasting their money and should just keep the pirated game and not buy at all.
Maybe you disagree with me, but I see DRM as the most practical way to prevent piracy - which I know me and you have gone over in another thread so I won't make that argument again. It's not about right or wrong. It's about the fact that anybody who produces something to sell it has the reasonable expectation to be able to protect it. Some forms of DRM is bad and/or doesn't even work. Others work very well and even to the benefit of the customer.

The reason why I care about this issue is not because I'm concerned gaming companies are being wronged. What I've said before and was criticized for saying was that my main concern is how it all affects me. Fewer games on the PC along with bad attempts at DRM make me think that something has to be done. My conclusion after many debates is that reasonable, effective and customer friendly DRM is the best way to improve MY gaming experience.
September 26, 2008 6:37:34 PM

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Really? I'm not sure how I come off sounding like I'm talking about right and wrong. For the most part I always keep these discussions to what's real and what's not.

The way you're coming across (to me at least) is that piracy is something that needs to be faught directly, because it's wrong and because game studios have the right to protect their products. I acknowledge that piracy is wrong, but I don't believe it needs to be faught directly, and by directly I mean things like DRM. I think it should be faught indirectly, by convincing people not to pirate games, or by including content that can't be pirated. I think this because I don't believe it can be faught directly, because all DRM can be thwarted.

We've already seen that reasonable and customer friendly DRM has zero effect on piracy, now game studios are starting to move toward unreasonable and customer unfriendly DRM in the hopes of getting a better result. Not only will it be just as ineffective against piracy, but it may even create more piracy as legitimate customers get so annoyed by DRM that they turn to pirated copies instead.
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Ok since I'm always up for an argument on this topic I think it's only fair that I explain how I would solve this problem. Here goes...

I think this is along the same lines as the solution I proposed, just a little more extreme. I think a single player game should still be a single player game, not requiring an internet connection to play. But game studios could offer online only content as an addition to the single player game, and this content would obviously be tied to a user account to make it much harder to pirate.

I think this is a more realistic solution, because a single player game can always be pirated, even if it's forcefully tied to an online component. Steam games, for example, are pirated all the time by removing the Steam portions from the game.

Unless there's an element to your idea that I'm missing. How would a game like Half Life 2 work under your system?
September 26, 2008 7:22:58 PM

Quote:
The way you're coming across (to me at least) is that piracy is something that needs to be faught directly, because it's wrong and because game studios have the right to protect their products. I acknowledge that piracy is wrong, but I don't believe it needs to be faught directly, and by directly I mean things like DRM. I think it should be faught indirectly, by convincing people not to pirate games, or by including content that can't be pirated. I think this because I don't believe it can be faught directly, because all DRM can be thwarted.

Obviously we differ on this point, but it's not about right and wrong. Your theory is more of a "win the minds and hearts" argument against piracy. Even that is not going to stop piracy any more than DRM. Some people will always pirate games. Even games like those on Steam and WoW are pirated. But my realistic approach is not to look philosophically at what would work 100% of the time in a perfect world, but rather what works the best in a highly imperfect world. Steam and WoW are not perfect but they work pretty damn well compared to the other options (including no DRM at all).

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We've already seen that reasonable and customer friendly DRM has zero effect on piracy

And I'm sorry but that is just flat out not true. You really do not think that Steam or MMO DRM schemes stop a significant amount of piracy? Also I thought the two of us already had a lengthy discussion on casual piracy (people who are more or less just passively sharing copies of a game) and how DRM really does stop that. So to sit there and just make a blanket statement that DRM does not affect piracy at all is the same as saying DRM does not hurt customers at all. You can look at either statement in a very narrow way and see it as true but in reality and practice neither are true.
September 26, 2008 7:26:57 PM

Stardock games - no problems. The piracy rates are not higher (and probably lower) than for other games, but NO DRM BUILD INTO THE GAME.

The only DRM they do is that you have to have an account with them to download and install patches for the game. At that moment they check if you own the game (i.e. if the game is associated with account).
September 26, 2008 7:40:33 PM

MxM said:
Stardock games - no problems. The piracy rates are not higher (and probably lower) than for other games, but NO DRM BUILD INTO THE GAME.

The only DRM they do is that you have to have an account with them to download and install patches for the game. At that moment they check if you own the game (i.e. if the game is associated with account).

My understanding of Stardock is that they know require an authentication each time you install the game. Which means you have to connect to there servers via the internet, even for a single player game.

But here's another idea about Stardock (and to some extent Steam) that struck me as possibly being why they don't have as much an issue with piracy as other, specifically retail, games. The majority of people who use these platforms are tech savvy enough that if they wanted to pirate a game they would. They are actively choosing not to pirate the game. The hardcore pirates are still going to pirate it anyways. But who's left out of this equation? It's the everyday average Joe who buys his games at WalMart and if he can easily share copies with his friends, or vice versa, he will pirate it.

Maybe I'm just reaching here but that theory would make the argument that minimal impact DRM while not stopping all piracy has enough of an impact to be worthwhile.
September 26, 2008 7:47:55 PM

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Obviously we differ on this point, but it's not about right and wrong. Your theory is more of a "win the minds and hearts" argument against piracy. Even that is not going to stop piracy any more than DRM. Some people will always pirate games.

Yes, some people will always pirate games. But I'm convinced this is a very small portion of consumers in the games market who probably wouldn't buy games anyway.
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Steam and WoW are not perfect but they work pretty damn well compared to the other options (including no DRM at all).

WoW is an MMOG, which is a whole different class of games. I wouldn't call what they're doing DRM and I don't see how it could be applied to a single player game like Half Life 2.

I have mixed feelings about Steam. On the one hand it's not what I'd consider overly obtrusive DRM, on the other hand it would be a disaster if Steam were to shut down. But clearly it doesn't stop piracy.
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Also I thought the two of us already had a lengthy discussion on casual piracy (people who are more or less just passively sharing copies of a game) and how DRM really does stop that.

I just don't think it makes any difference whether people are passing CD's to their friends or downloading the game from a torrent site.
September 26, 2008 8:18:04 PM

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But clearly it doesn't stop piracy.

Why does it have to be an all or nothing proposition? No it doesn't stop all piracy but you are a fool if you think it doesn't stop some. And for Steam it's a noticable portion compaired to other games.

Quote:
WoW is an MMOG, which is a whole different class of games. I wouldn't call what they're doing DRM and I don't see how it could be applied to a single player game like Half Life 2.


That's what I mean by change the way we think. It wouldn't have to be exaclty the same, but you could definitly use some of the some principles. HL2 through Steam does require you to connect and log in similiar to an MMO. Also think about Age of Conan, an MMO with a single player aspect. That doesn't necessarily mean those are the exact answers. I'd like to see developers think up new ways to do similiar things rather than just say "put everything on Steam" because they came up with a pretty good method.

Quote:
I just don't think it makes any difference whether people are passing CD's to their friends or downloading the game from a torrent site.

I'm not going to try and make that argument again. It's just one of those things where if you don't get it, you just don't get it. But I'm pretty confident that developers and publishers see a clear difference between the two.
September 26, 2008 8:41:18 PM

Quote:
Why does it have to be an all or nothing proposition? No it doesn't stop all piracy but you are a fool if you think it doesn't stop some. And for Steam it's a noticable portion compaired to other games.

I only approach it that way because it's the only clear way to measure if a DRM method was effective. Saying it stops some piracy is easy, but does it really? Who knows. All I know is the torrent site I'm looking at lists all kinds of Steam games, and once it's there anyone can pirate it.
Quote:
That's what I mean by change the way we think. It wouldn't have to be exaclty the same, but you could definitly use some of the some principles. HL2 through Steam does require you to connect and log in similiar to an MMO.

Yes, but that doesn't mean you can't play a pirated copy of HL2 without Steam.
Quote:
I'm not going to try and make that argument again. It's just one of those things where if you don't get it, you just don't get it. But I'm pretty confident that developers and publishers see a clear difference between the two.

Fair enough, I accept that they're different things, I just don't believe stopping one avenue of piracy and leaving another wide open is going to make all that much difference.
September 26, 2008 8:54:12 PM

Quote:
I only approach it that way because it's the only clear way to measure if a DRM method was effective. Saying it stops some piracy is easy, but does it really? Who knows. All I know is the torrent site I'm looking at lists all kinds of Steam games, and once it's there anyone can pirate it.

By that approach why even try to do anything about piracy? Nothing is going to be 100% effective including trying to win the hearts and minds of pirates. Make the greatest game ever with no DRM and anybody who decides to buy it rather than pirate will be replaced twice over by people who otherwise wouldn't have done either. Add extra content through updates and patches. They'll get cracked and pirated too. Whatever solution anybody every comes up with it will always be flawed in some way. So by your logic it's a complete waste of time to do anything.
September 26, 2008 9:51:06 PM

purplerat said:
Quote:
I only approach it that way because it's the only clear way to measure if a DRM method was effective. Saying it stops some piracy is easy, but does it really? Who knows. All I know is the torrent site I'm looking at lists all kinds of Steam games, and once it's there anyone can pirate it.

By that approach why even try to do anything about piracy? Nothing is going to be 100% effective including trying to win the hearts and minds of pirates. Make the greatest game ever with no DRM and anybody who decides to buy it rather than pirate will be replaced twice over by people who otherwise wouldn't have done either. Add extra content through updates and patches. They'll get cracked and pirated too. Whatever solution anybody every comes up with it will always be flawed in some way. So by your logic it's a complete waste of time to do anything.

Maybe it is a waste of time. Point is nobody knows how effective these methods are.
September 26, 2008 11:14:05 PM

change the title of the thread to "purplerat and copasetic discuss piracy at (great) length" ^^
September 29, 2008 8:29:19 PM

Thanks for the response guys. Here’s a bit more info to consider on this topic.

Not that I want to bias the opinions in this thread...but some arguments are pointing towards the "What`s morally right and what is morally wrong" again. When arguing on such a controversial topic, try following the law system: what is the current legal system and what are the current measures that could be taken to take care of the piracy problem.

i.e. DRM & Securom: The law says that it is illegal to copy intellectual property, those that are in electronic format, or any other format, then DRM & SecuRom are both valid and legal measures to protect intellectual property. Now, is it really effective? Is it really serving it’s original purpose? Well, there lies the argument.

But apart from arguing, I was really looking forward to hearing alternatives that would help publishers protect their products while it did not affect the products themselves (in a negative way). DRM and SecuRom’s are mostly criticized because they imply a limited number of activations (which is inexistent in a pirated version), and because they imply extra security measures such as an online check every so often to make sure you still have a valid copy (not that you would go from legit to pirated but whatever; such is non-existent in a pirated version).

----- From a gamer’s point of view -----

The Pros of pirated versions:
- You get the game for free
- No DRM/SecuRom/security add-ons to worry about (No privacy infringement…unless malware is added)
- No CD required

The Cons of pirated versions:
- Sometimes unstable, no real way to fix through patches or updates
- Online components are in most cases unavailable (Multiplayer aspect)
- Malwares and other harmful code might be included in pirated versions
- Required time to download can be quite long (compared to digital legit copies)
- The cracking process can easily corrupt existing files such as DLLs and other system files.
- The cracking process can also corrupt your registry (or leave loads of lines which can clog your registry after a while)
- In most cases, no uninstall process is available (which leads to some previous issues)
- This is an important one... you are breaking the law!
- Software required to run pirated copies are conflicting with legitimate copies

Obviously, It’s we are all more productive when we try to answer to what alternatives should be implemented to have a win-win situation (rather than debating on what is morally right or wrong). Above, are just a few points to help make better alternatives.

Regards,

Alex
September 30, 2008 5:04:36 AM

I have said this many times, but here goes.

Steam or Stardock.
Both seem to be working, follow their models. If you are not familiar with their models then you haven't been paying attention.

Nothing you do will kill piracy, not friggin possible. But if you give your legitimate customers a better overall experience than the pirates then you will get more sales. Obsessing over every pirated copy being a lot sale is a losing game.
September 30, 2008 1:48:01 PM

I have a better idea, now on a more serious note.

Brands should sell their "computers" with Vista 64. Most cracks don't work on 64 bits.
The amount of pirated software that would fail to work is enormous.

Of course people don't like the simple effective solutions. Oh well.
September 30, 2008 2:49:37 PM

radnor said:
Most cracks don't work on 64 bits.


Only because 64 bit windows is used on such a small percentage of machines.

When we've all moved to 64 bit windows, I bet the cracks will be there.

And we're back where we started.
September 30, 2008 3:00:54 PM

jay_l_a said:
Only because 64 bit windows is used on such a small percentage of machines.

When we've all moved to 64 bit windows, I bet the cracks will be there.

And we're back where we started.


- It wouldn't damage/hassle who bought the original.
- It's a question of legacy. Pirates make a excellent job, but they wont publish Service Packs.
- It will be cheaper than Securom.
- It will be the biggest speed bump. Tech Savy peeps this wont affect them much.
- It would be a publicity for Joe Consumer "Pirated Software doesnt work"

It would have more effect on piracy than securom. And Joe Consuemr would be better server. Vista 64 Bits Kernel is pretty good.

September 30, 2008 3:07:41 PM

If games are written in 64 bit then cracks will be written in 64 bit too.
September 30, 2008 3:48:53 PM

copasetic said:
If games are written in 64 bit then cracks will be written in 64 bit too.


I rest my case. Obviously all games are made in x86-64 yes ?

And about legacy ones ? LEgacy can mean Bioshock for example. Doesn't have a 64 bits exe.
So no more pirating bioshock !! Go buy from 19.99 bin !!!
September 30, 2008 4:25:00 PM

True, 64-bit coding is not as easy to crack...but then again, the idea would probably penalize the general consumer even more than DRM no? What about gamers who have XP or vista 32-bit?

However, encrypting the game might be a good idea. The ".exe" file are somewhat encrypted when created but it obviously doesn't stop crackers to figure out the code and crack the games. But perhaps additional encryptions might make the game near impossible to crack. Hmmmmm.
September 30, 2008 7:26:17 PM

Quote:
I rest my case. Obviously all games are made in x86-64 yes ?

And about legacy ones ? LEgacy can mean Bioshock for example. Doesn't have a 64 bits exe.
So no more pirating bioshock !! Go buy from 19.99 bin !!!

32 bit games can run on 64 bit operating systems, same with 32 bit cracks for those games. A 32 bit crack will not work for a 64 bit exe, but all that means is someone will have to re-write the crack for the 64 bit exe. People are doing this already, there's 64 bit cracks out for Crysis among other games.
Quote:
However, encrypting the game might be a good idea. The ".exe" file are somewhat encrypted when created but it obviously doesn't stop crackers to figure out the code and crack the games. But perhaps additional encryptions might make the game near impossible to crack.

That's the major problem with stopping piracy. In order for your computer to be able to use the software it needs to decrypt it, and once it's decrypted it can be accessed by crackers. From there it's a relatively simple process to change the exe and re-encrypt it, or just decrypt everything and release it without the encryption.

If your computer can run it, you can access and change it. Therein lies the problem.
September 30, 2008 7:59:33 PM

encryption doesn't work because your system has to decrypt it in order to run it. Also it has to have the key. So there are now two ways to crack it. 1. find the key. 2. copy the decrypted exe from memory. Also the decryption will slow down the system.

Also forcing all gamers to use 64 bit solves nothing. I have no idea what you are going on about with legacy. New cracks come out for new updates all the time. Patch 1.15 comes out and breaks the crack, crack comes out that fixes patch 1.15 the next day. This is nothing new.

Furthermore I have now gone back through and read the rather lengthy posts by purplerat. Your model is fundamentally flawed. Here is why. MMOs work as anti piracy because the majority of data is stored and even processed on the company's servers. Maintaining these servers is absurdly expensive. It is simply not economically feasible to run a non-subscription based game on that model and it is very unresponsive. Have you noticed how all MMOs use a similar combat system of attack queuing and non-direct control over the fight? That is because if it ran like a true FPS for example, the lag would be unplayable.

The MMO model only works for MMOs and will until everyone has fiber optic to the house and gigabit or faster connections.

Now as for your misunderstandings on Stardock. I have corrected you on this before. If you buy a stardock game you can install it and play it without ever registering or activating it. The game comes with a key that you can get away with never using. What the key allows you to do is register the game with Impulse (formerly the stardock app) which allows you to download patches or even the whole game. You cannot download patches elsewhere so you have an incentive to register. The game itself has not one ounce of DRM. The patches have very VERY light DRM.

My point is and has always been that if you just follow the model of Steam or Stardock you will do well. You don't necessarily need to use their service, but if you make your own service based on those principles it would be fine.
September 30, 2008 8:05:29 PM

Quote:
Have you noticed how all MMOs use a similar combat system of attack queuing and non-direct control over the fight? That is because if it ran like a true FPS for example, the lag would be unplayable.

Actually SOE tried an FPS MMOG with Planetside, which turned out to be a complete success. The game all but died due to bad design decisions in later expansions, but lag was pretty minimal even in large 300+ person battles. It wasn't as accurate as, say, Counterstrike, but it was definately playable.

But you're right that we'll never see this kind of system in a non-subscription game, it's simply way too expensive. So unless we all want to start paying monthly even for single player games, we need to look for a different solution.
September 30, 2008 8:30:21 PM

I would be willing to bet that planetside did client side processing, but that is just speculation. That could still work as long as the content itself is server side. And the main draw of that game was PVP which would be harder to pirate for.
September 30, 2008 8:36:27 PM

Authentication servers, comprehensive patches, DRM software, and everything else are just adding to the cost of getting the product out the door. Drop in a simple CD key or something cheap to prevent the casual pirates.

Determine a realistic sales figure for the final product given the target market. Determine a retail price for the product. Determine how much return you'll get back for each sale. Take that number and set a development budget. Build a game in that window and you generally win. It also works in reverse.

This is what Stardock does for anti-piracy. It isn't their patches. They just make a game that is cheap to develop from a technical standpoint. It doesn't hurt that they release the games into a market that is light on competition either.

Development costs have spiraled out of control and it is causing a lot of bad things. Restrictive DRM in the hopes of increasing sales is one partial side-effect. Buggy unfinished final products is another. Shortened games is another. Huge market dominating publishers is another, since you can't build a game without millions of dollars from somewhere.
September 30, 2008 8:47:02 PM

The FPS market is inundated with crap. That is also the style of game that is most aggressively pirated.

Graphics are overvalued across the platform. While great graphics are nice, I notice them maybe two or three times over the course of playing a game. Mostly the gameplay is what interests me and keeps me excited. The gameplay is what makes me want to preorder. Not graphics.

In fact if you make a graphics heavy game you are going to cut out a heavy percentage of the gaming population. One of my gaming systems that sees a lot of use by a roomate is a P4 with a 7600GT. That system can run just about every non-FPS game out there. Developers need to consider other genres once again. Interest in strategy games never truly died out.
September 30, 2008 9:01:31 PM

Quote:
MMOs work as anti piracy because the majority of data is stored and even processed on the company's servers. Maintaining these servers is absurdly expensive. It is simply not economically feasible to run a non-subscription based game on that model and it is very unresponsive. Have you noticed how all MMOs use a similar combat system of attack queuing and non-direct control over the fight? That is because if it ran like a true FPS for example, the lag would be unplayable.


I know my post was kind of overly long, but I think you missed the point. I'm not saying all games need to become MMOs or that all games need to be on Steam or another digital distribution platform. My point is that we need to think outside the box and the afore mentioned have some good points to take from. Saying "oh no, MMOs are too different it could never work for a single player FPS" is not thinking outside the box, it's just reinforcing the box. My general idea is more centered around tying games to an account with internet access and a log in required to play. There's a lot of ways to implement and reinforce it, but I'm not going to put too much effort into devising a specific method until somebody pays me to. What's holding back the widespread use of such schemes is not feasibility due to cost or effectiveness but rather the reluctance on both sides to change the way things are done even if it would serve everybody better.

And yes you are right that you corrected me on Stardock before, except that I ended up finding out you were not entirely correct. Here's the info I received on installing a Stardock game through impulse:
"Currently installing from the Impulse archive does need a one time internet connection. They are working on a system to handle everything completely offline, but as they are hosting downloads for a number of other publishers, those other publishers also need to be satisfied with the arrangement, because not everyones' view exactly matches Stardock's."

The point being you still need an internet connection and an Impulse account to install these games.
September 30, 2008 11:35:45 PM

Well here's the problem with online authentication in single player games, from a programmer's perspective.

Somewhere in the game's executable, or one of its other files, there needs to be a set of functions that handles authentication from an online server. So when the game starts, these functions get called to authenticate, then return a variable (like a 1 or a 0) that let the rest of the game know if you're allowed to play. If yes, the rest of the game loads and you start playing, if no the game throws an error message and exits.

Now a cracker comes along and knows all of this. He uses various tools to find out where those functions are and what memory addresses they use to store the return variable. Then he either removes these functions by editing the game files, adds a function that automatically stores a "yes" variable in the memory location the functions use, or changes some code so these functions just don't get called at all. Usually the last option, because it's the easiest.

Now the whole online authentication system is useless, because they game has been 'tricked' into not authenticating at all. That's the problem, code is not set in stone. It can always be altered, and it only needs to be altered once in a very small way to defeat an entire DRM scheme. This is complicated stuff we're talking about, involving disassemblers and writing in assembly code, but it only takes one person to do it.
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