Impulse

  By Shamus   Apr 8, 2008   33 comments

Brad Wardel, president of Stardock, was nice enough to stop by and leave a comment explaining a bit more about how Impulse is going to work. (Impulse is their upcoming content delivery system, which I mentioned here.) His comment in full:

Hi guys,

A couple things about Impulse that aren’t readily known yet.

1) Impulse does NOT require any DRM or activation. Individual programs may use it but it isn’t required. You don’t have to keep Impulse running or what have you. Even on things that do have activation, it’s only on installation (and you have to be connected obvoiusly to download it in the first place).

2) Impulse will be adding a lot of community features. For instance, Stardock, Gas Powered Games, and Ironclad are teaming up to build a unified multiplayer network for strategy games that will be made freely available to other developers who want robust match making in their games.

3) Impulse will have a lot of major third party content on it shortly. By end of the year, most major game publishers and many major PC software companies will have their content on Impulse.

I love Steam. I use it more often than I should for TF2 and such. But it strikes me as something largely designed for first person shooters when it comes to getting games going (I mean you can launch Company of Heroes but it’s not like their server list includes company of heroes games in it). Impulse will let you browse through multiple strategy games for open games or press a button and find someone for you to play which I think is a pretty big deal — since I like strategy games.

From a “DRM” standpoint, this is exactly what I would expect from Stardock: Treating people like customers and not like an army of amoral data pirates. In a perfect world, this wouldn’t even be praiseworthy behavior. This would be about as remarkable and heroic as not giving your date a suplex at the end of the evening. This advice should be so obvious as to make you feel like an idiot for bothering to utter it. But I have not found a way to inhabit that perfect world, which means I have to give credit to Stardock and their dedication to their suplex-free customer service.

The stuff about combining, Voltron-like, with Gas Powered Games and Ironclad is interesting stuff. Brad has more on this over at his site. Being a hopeless introvert, I rarely have need for matchmaking services myself, but I can see what a tremendous boon something like that would be to developers. Far too many games have shown up with their very own neglected and horrible matchmaking service, and paid the price in terms of review scores. If you’re going to invite players to scour the internet searching for faceless adversaries and trash-talking brats to be their digital playmates, then at least make sure the software is easy to use. Matchmaking should run like a Vegas wedding chapel, arranging those brief, unpleasant unions with maximum efficiency. (That is, it needs to be as much unlike Gamespy arcade as possible.) But good matchmaking takes time to develop and fine-tune, and I’d just as soon those development hours went into the game itself, perhaps cutting down on the number of plot-driven doors or DIAS gameplay. If Impulse can offer this service for games to hook into, then we are all richer for it.

Third-party content is also good news. I no longer hate Steam with the burning, teeth-clenching enmity I once did, but I’m still not crazy about it. I’ve often wished I could partake of the digital buffet without encouraging that sort of behavior. I’m very interested to see what will end up on Impulse and how that will work. (I thought it was a terrible betrayal when Steam allowed the SecuROM laden, activation-driven install of BioShock onto their service. It sort of required double-activation, although the Steam side of the activation was probably pretty smooth. Not that I would know. They never promised as such, but I thought there was some sort of unspoken agreement going on that Steam was supposed to free us from the need for all of those other, worse, DRM systems. When they were willing to put BioShock on their service with all of its restrictions intact, the whole thing felt like a sham, and gamers ended up with the worst of both worlds. Wasn’t this the problem we were trying to fix?) So now I’m looking at Impulse and wondering how they will approach this problem. The laissez-faire Stardock is about to partner with some companies that most likely have a very different view of DRM. The pro-DRM camp is going to want access to the impulse audience, but they probably are going to want to enter the digital delivery frontier while dragging all of their old attitudes and bad habits with them. It will be interesting to see what sort of compromise we’ll get between the two approaches.

Finally, I want to note that Brad himself stopped by and left a comment here, which is exactly the sort of thing I was talking about in Publishers vs. Pirates. Most people hear “publisher” and imagine a monocle-wearing baron, heavy with wine, siting atop a golden throne and thundering at the servants to throw another bushel basket of twenties onto the fire before he freezes absolutely to death, curse the lot of you indolent wastrels! This is an image instantly obliterated the moment the baron in question stops by and leaves a comment on a blog or forum you frequent. All of a sudden he looks more and more like, you know, one of us. A fellow gamer.

For contrast, I couldn’t tell you the name of a single person at 2kGames aside from “2kElizabeth”, who I view as the clueless mouthpiece for someone who ought to be hit by a bus. It bears repeating that piracy is a social problem, not a technological one. The difference from these two approaches to community is that I get mad when I hear about someone pirating from Stardock and yet experience a profound sense of schadenfreude when I learn of the same crime perpetrated against 2kGames.

Looking at these two personal reactions, it becomes obvious that speaking to your fans outside of the context of advertising and press releases isn’t just a friendly thing to do, but a legitimate vector against piracy.


201333 comments. Hurry up and add yours before it becomes passé.


  1. JFargo says:

    It’s always awesome when someone you viewed as a baron becomes “one of us.” I’m glad he took the time to stop by and give a perspective on things.

    I’m excited about this, personally, and think it’s going to be great.

  2. Fenix says:

    It’s always refreshing to see Stardock doing it’s thing.

    However I’ve been wondering what you (Shamus) think about Sins of a solar empire and if you have tried it out. A few of my friends and I love to read your “rants” on good games ie/ GalCiv 2. They have always givin me a better look at the game because of the level of depth you go into.

    Well anyway I have to stop this post before I go into rant mode. (Wrote a comment (that I deleted) that would dwarf your post before realizing i could say pretty much the same thing in a few words. “Stardock roxxor my soxxor, Shamus do u like SoaSE? luv ur rants dude!!!” …………. (cough)).

  3. Avaz says:

    This is a “me too” comment, dovetailing on JFargo’s.

  4. GAZZA says:

    You know, when you were talking about “matchmaking” there, for a second I thought you meant in the dating sense. You were saying, “… being a hopeless introvert …” and I was all, “Ohhhh…” :)

    I have recently started using Big Fish Games; is this something similar?

  5. Deoxy says:

    It bears repeating that piracy is a social problem, not a technological one. The difference from these two approaches to community is that I get mad when I hear about someone pirating from Stardock and yet experience a profound sense of schadenfreude when I learn of the same crime perpetrated against 2kGames.

    I wouldn’t get mad at either of them, really. The point of not bothering with DRM is that piracy WILL happen, regardless, so just ignore them, and don’t hurt your customers (you’ve said as much many times). Stardock loses nothing out of the deal, but they haven’t treated YOU like crap, so you still like them. In other words, they still win, and so do you… and so does the pirate, unfortunately, but in the other scenario, the pirate was the ONLY one winning, so that’s a nice improvement.

    It would be nice if Impulse had some kind of “No DRM” policy, but then, the third parties in question would simply take their toys and go home, so that really wouldn’t change anything.

    (Also, your choice of “suplex” is probably much more family-friendly and enjoyably silly to boot, but really, “date rape” would probably be the more accurate description.)

  6. WysiWyg says:

    I’m just wondering; you DO know that piracy is actually good for sales right? That they actually MAKE money from it? Right?

  7. Shinjin says:

    WysiWyg – I’m curious to see the flow your logic.

  8. Aaron says:

    The amount of money made from pirates who actually go purchase the game pales in comparison to the amount of money lost by because people pirate the full version and never bother to pony up. Saying piracy is good for sales and makes a company money makes me wonder what your definition of “piracy” is.

    The American Heritage Dictionary defines it thus:
    “The unauthorized use or reproduction of copyrighted or patented material: software piracy.”

    From my understanding of that definition the only people who benefit from piracy are the pirates (and a few other people who talk to the pirates). While the software companies might see a kickback in sales due to someone having pirated a version then purchased it to have it legally, the vast majority of pirates don’t bother. Why should they? They already have the game they want.

  9. Phlux says:

    I wonder how Stardock feels about Penny Arcade / Hothead’s new Greenhouse service. For now they seem to be focusing on undiscovered Indie titles and of course the Penny Arcade Adventures games, but in the future, who knows? Could be more competition.

    I’m glad stardock is adding value to the digital distribution model with a matchmaking service. It always seemed silly to me that digital distribution was something that needed to be centralized. The only reason to do so is if it adds value to customers. Patch management, updates, matchmaking, etc… Otherwise it’s just another “online mall”.

  10. Andy Adams-Moran says:

    @Phlux: I expect Stardock will welcome Greenhouse! There’s more than enough room in the marketplace for multiple DM-free game dissemination services. If more spring up, that validates the business model (and helps us move away from customer == enemy).

    As for needing to go beyond being an online mall, you may be right. But having many online DRM-free malls to go to would be an excellent start :-) After all, it’s easy to add the kinds of features you mention (and any decent service is going to provide patch management and updating).

  11. qrter says:

    Although I do see why Stardock want to do their own thing, what with not wanting to have a “download monopoly” (my words), it does make me wonder how convenient this is for me, the customer.

    Personally, I don’t relish the idea of having my games scattered over several different download services.

    Actually, the whole ‘no monopoly’ thing would really only make sense if all these services could offer all games – most games will be tied exclusively to one service, I expect. In the end, the consumer still doesn’t have a choice where he or she wants to buy a product.

    All that said, I can’t applaud Stardock enough for their non-DRM stance, eventhough it should be the norm, not the exception.

  12. Lonster says:

    The root problem with DRM is this:

    If you don’t control the data, someone else will.

    As soon as I have a disc in my hand, and I install the game, the data is mine (possession being 9/10ths, etc), and I can do with it what I please. Not that I do, but I can.

    The only foolproof way to protect your software is to force date-sensitive online checks (potentially cumbersome) or provide hardware that is not easily imitated (USB Dongles for VPNs, anyone?).

    Anything else, is just data. And Data can be changed.

  13. Shinjin says:

    In the end, the consumer still doesn’t have a choice where he or she wants to buy a product.

    This depends.

    For a given Product X, sure you’re stuck with a single vendor.

    But suppose you are in the mood to buy either Product Y or Product Z. Product Y is available through a hoop-jumping download service that *must* always be installed if you want to play. Product Z is available through an easier to use download service that is only required for (*gasp*) distribution.

    Not only that, should the easier to use service become successful, there is the potential that the hoop-jumping service may feel pressure to reduce its own complexity in order to compete.

  14. qrter says:

    But that’s my point – I expect most games will be exclusive for one service or other. I really wonder how many games that aren’t over 2 or 3 years old will appear on two or more available services.

  15. Tichfield says:

    I play mostly single-player games, and I really dislike Steam’s insistence on running whenever possible. Heck, I dislike it to the point where I uninstalled the Orange Box and CCleaned the whole deal before playing through even a fraction of the content.

    Thankfully, I’ve found a lot of wonderful alternative avenues for digital distribution. My favourites are gamersgate.com and gametap.com – the latter has more indie programs than you’d guess, and a remarkable number of fun oldies. Meanwhile, gamersgate has tons of titles I’d never have heard of otherwise. They charge fair prices, and even have one-dollar games (including a few from the Europa Universalis series) to encourage visitors to try out the service.

    Strategyfirst.com has an unfortunate selection of games, but their downloader works well and when they decide to clear something, they REALLY clear it. I recently purchased Sacred Gold from them at $15, which I thought was a reasonable price… then at the checkout, they threw in Darkstar One for free.

    Stardock’s own downloader is excellent, even in its current form.

    Direct2drive.com WOULD be nice and convenient, except that the prices it charges are exorbitant.

  16. krellen says:

    Aaron writes: The amount of money made from pirates who actually go purchase the game pales in comparison to the amount of money lost by because people pirate the full version and never bother to pony up. Saying piracy is good for sales and makes a company money makes me wonder what your definition of “piracy” is.

    You make the (incorrect) assumption that when piracy is not an option, the pirate will buy the game. The choice is almost never between “buy the game” or “steal the game”. It’s generally between “steal the game” and “not have the game”. The fact that any pirate ponies up and purchases the legitimate product is, in fact, an increase in sales, because under normal conditions the pirate is not a customer in the first place.

  17. Phlux says:

    @qrter

    “Personally, I don’t relish the idea of having my games scattered over several different download services. ”

    I guess I don’t really care if the services are separate unless I have to install a download client for every separate one. That’s what I like about Greenhouse…it’s got a downloader, but it’s just a tiny little application to help you pause and resume downloading, you don’t install it, and don’t even need to save it permanently.

    I say let the developers self-publish digitally, as long as I don’t need a full piece of client software to download ONE game…which is kind of what Stardock Central was for me. The only reason I had it was to download GalCiv2 and the patches/expansions. I would prefer to not need it at all.

  18. Daosus says:

    You make the (incorrect) assumption that when piracy is not an option, the pirate will buy the game. The choice is almost never between “buy the game” or “steal the game”. It’s generally between “steal the game” and “not have the game”. The fact that any pirate ponies up and purchases the legitimate product is, in fact, an increase in sales, because under normal conditions the pirate is not a customer in the first place.

    From an individual point of view, that may be correct. From a systemic point of view, the piracy which introduces your games to a new audience also prevents you from ever selling product there. Let me give you an example: when I was younger and lived in Russia, every kid knew what Wolf3d was, and had played it on the few computers available. But, there is no way ID could have sold Wolf3d, or Doom, or any other game. The pirates would have simply copied it and sold it for cheaper. And at the end of the day, advertising a product is easier than removing piracy and the attitudes attached to it.

    I think that the “pirates raise awareness of your product” line makes some sense in the First World, but not so much in the Second and Third. The problem in discussing pirates is that it is important to distinguish between those who could buy the game, and those that could not. Among those that could, piracy takes away sales. Among those that could not, piracy spreads the word, but precludes any sales from happening.

  19. Coyote says:

    Krellen: You are also making an assumption that pirates are the hardcore types. The concern most publishers have isn’t for these guys, but the casual pirates who normally buy games, but find that they can get it for free with trivial difficulty (even easier, I should add, than getting a legitimate copy).

    That’s the big issue. Piracy is getting easier every day. And the music biz has pooched it so badly by now (and it looks like the games biz is following the exact same path…) that the upcoming generation doesn’t even think about it – sharing music is just what you do.

    DRM is only a stopgap solution. Stronger DRM is falling victim to the law of diminishing returns. But the industry is still clinging to DRM like a drowning man to the side of a sinking lifeboat.

  20. guy says:

    is impulse the thingy called StarDock Central? if so, it works great, although it took me a while to figure out how to access my download. what you do, nonintuitively, is get the demo, then go to updates, update the demo, and when it asks for your serial number, input it. at least, that’s what i did, you might not need to get the demo.

    i’ve got steam now, but with a game best described as archaic, so all i can say about that is that it can’t launch from the steam window directly. i might actually buy stuff off steam in the future, they seem to have a decent catolouge.

    EDIT: i just tested to see if it would work. steam didn’t complain even though i was not on the net.

  21. Noumenon says:

    Also consider this. When I pirate a copy of Age of Empires or whatever, I can honestly tell myself I was never going to buy that game in the first place. But — I was going to buy something to play, and now I’m not. Maybe I would have bought the expansion pack to GalCiv II or Oblivion and now I’m playing Age of Empires instead. So piracy hurts the whole market for games even when it doesn’t hurt that company specifically.

    When you look at it that way releasing your game without DRM could be a business strategy. Other people incur the cost of fighting piracy (the cost being angry customers), and you take advantage of the larger market for games that creates. You’re a free rider.

    If that’s true it would imply DRM is going to be killed by natural selection, just like any defense that helps others and can’t be withheld from cheaters.

  22. Annon says:

    I agree with Shmus’ social approach t the problem. I have pirated stuff, or used pirated tools, an it was for these reasons:

    – The demo was crap, so I wanted to try a more robust version before I shilled out $20 for it.

    – I could give less of a crap about the creators (most notably Microsoft–got my copy of Windows for five bucks…)

    – I can’t install the game without it. Hello ToEE and NWN.

    – I want to play on a LAN. I wish someone would make this possible without piracy–I would buy the game in a heartbeat.

    – I’m a poor college student bored to tears without room in the budget for games that aren’t really worth their pricetag.

    Everyone I know has at least some concept of publishers who ‘deserve’ to have their games bought and those that don’t. I don’t think that ever existed for the music industry. That really helps with the second and fifth items on the list, and may or may not help with the rest. Now, even if I did copy a Stardock game, at some point I would feel compelled to buy it (maybe when I get my tax return…), because publishers that do things right should be rewarded for it.

    I won’t make the claim that I am a part of a majority of pirates, other than what I know from my own small group. Any mark in the number of pirates is progress, however.

  23. ArchU says:

    Posts like this make me wish I have the time to play PC games again ~_~

  24. Serdic says:

    Actually, the lack of copy protect in Sin of a Solar Empire is the reason I bought the game. I’m not a fan of RTS, but I felt that I had to support a company who was treating me like a customer and not a criminal.

  25. Aaron says:

    @Krellen: I make no assumptions about the piracy option. Pirates will do whatever they can to get their hands on a game . The assumption (read as:fact) is that piracy is illegal. That’s why it’s called piracy. If (as you state) the options are steal it or don’t play it, I highly suggest not playing it simply due to the illegality of the issue. If that’s not enough (and if money is a factor) save wisely and purchase it later. I frequently wait until much later in a game cycle to purchase it either due to dropping prices, possible game bugs, or simply because I’m strapped for cash. I’d rather have the LEGAL copy, knowing it’s legal, being able to update without concern, and paying the people/company who created it for their artistic and entertaining endeavor. Frequently I’ll purchase a game just because it sounds good (even if it winds up to be crap). Maybe that’s my perspective alone, and if it is so be it. When someone creates something, they have a right to be compensated for their intellectual property.

    The fact that any pirate ponies up and purchases the legitimate product is, in fact, an increase in sales, because under normal conditions the pirate is not a customer in the first place.

    I can’t agree with this statement in its entirety. Any purchase of the game will increase sales. That being said; the marketing strategy doesn’t revolve around piracy. It revolves around whatever target audience the PR guru’s shoot for. This is (usually) the mid teens – 40 crowd (depending on the game and content). Game advertisers don’t put up big signs that say “No pirate purchases please!” They want everyone to buy the game. Including the pirates. What they don’t want is the pirates killing their profit margin.

    Regardless of the piracy hijacking of this thread (sorry Shamus!)I’m not a big fan of the company treating the customer like one. It was definitely nice to see Brad pop in and drop a comment like that. It gives us gamers that warm fuzzy feeling. Thanks Brad!

  26. Roy says:

    You make the (incorrect) assumption that when piracy is not an option, the pirate will buy the game. The choice is almost never between “buy the game” or “steal the game”. It’s generally between “steal the game” and “not have the game”. The fact that any pirate ponies up and purchases the legitimate product is, in fact, an increase in sales, because under normal conditions the pirate is not a customer in the first place.

    As someone who, in the past, regularly both bought and pirated games, I call “bunk”. Sure, there were a number of games I pirated that I would never have otherwise purchased, but there were some that I pirated that, if I hadn’t been able to find them so easily, I’d have almost certainly purchased.

    I’d love to see some evidence that pirates actually increase sales, because, I’m sorry, but I find it really, really hard to believe. It’s like the suggestion that music piracy is actually good for the music industry. It’s good for consumers in that it lets them easily and quickly amass huge collections of music that they might otherwise not listen to, and maybe some of those people go out and buy an album they wouldn’t have otherwise, but, as someone else pointed out… in the meantime, there’s tons of stuff they’re not buying that they might have.

    Piracy is a problem. It’s just that most current methods of dealing with it are completely ridiculous and unacceptable.

  27. Rick C says:

    “- I could give less of a crap about the creators (most notably Microsoft–got my copy of Windows for five bucks…)”

    This is not a valid reason, and it encourages developers to stop developing.

    “- I’m a poor college student bored to tears without room in the budget for games that aren’t really worth their pricetag.”

    This is not a valid reason. Get a job, or go without.

  28. Deoxy says:

    “I’d love to see some evidence that pirates actually increase sales…”

    I’ve got great examples of both music (bands that give their own music away often do better than bands that don’t, as the artists don’t really make much on CDs, anyway, and they get more concerts, etc, where they DO make money) and books (great example, forget his name – released his entire book online, helped “pirates” translate it to other languages, book sales SOARED). No good examples for games, yet, but in part, I think that’s because it’s so hard to really understand what goes on in general in software (good data is hard to come by).

    “You make the (incorrect) assumption that when piracy is not an option…”

    You make the (incorrect) assumption that piracy is EVER “not an option”. DRM does not work. It is stupid because it does NOTHING to stop the pirates, but it DOES (in many cases) inconvenience people who actually pay for the game – that is, as has been repeatedly pointed out, a noticable number of “pirates” have a legitimate copy of the game, but the pirated version is BETTER (for several possible reasons), so they get that, too.

    Is piracy a net loss? Hard to say – it’s hard to get actual, useful numbers (how many “pirates” have a legal copy, but are using the pirated version as a “NoCD” version? Or can’t get the legal copy to work as well because of the DRM? Etc) either way. What can be said is that there are several forces at work that give rise to “piracy”:

    -legitimate users (for several reasons)
    -pure pirates
    -“try before you buy”

    Piracy DOES increase “exposure” (that is, it’s free advertising)… but it also does prevent at least some sales. It also helps some people actually use the product they legally purchased.

    Edit: one thing I didn’t mention here is that “3rd world” discussions are rather pointless, as that is far and away outside the power of the companies in question to stop, and the US government shouldn’t really even try. It will continue, there’s nothing to be done about it, stop even thinking of it as a “loss” – most of those wouldn’t be able to afford it, anyway, even if they wanted to. End edit.

    Now, are lost sales MORE than the value gained? These numbers are going to vary greatly from one game to the other, so I think that’s hard to say for the industry as a whole, but the industry simply does not acknowledge these other forces, so that makes it very hard to believe their claims. Of course, many gamers hand-wave away the industry’s concerns, as well, so it’s hard to get real dialogue.

    One last thing:

    “The assumption (read as:fact) is that piracy is illegal.”

    Granted. However, not all laws are just. Indeed, most (read as: ALL) moral belief systems have stated or obvious cases where the follower of that system is expected and/or allowed to violate the law. This is not to say that laws should simply be ignored, merely that “It’s the law” is not an end-all argument (not even close).

    In this specific case, fairly severe abuses of the “intellectual property” laws have led a very signficant portion of society to believe the entire concept to be flawed, or at least the current incarnation of those laws to be unjust. This is not a trivial concern.

    Nor does it make violating those laws trivially into something is completely acceptable, either, mind you. But at least a large portion of the “social acceptability” of piracy, music sharing, etc, is the response of a people whose leaders are doing what they, as a whole, do not want. If a large enough portion of society feels that a law is wrong, it will no longer be the law (though it might still remain on the books) – there are MANY examples of this throughout the history of the US and other countries.

    This is becoming one of those cases. The music and movie industries’ short-sighted behaviour may well lead to their own destruction (and many other undesired secondary effects, as well). This is part of that mess.

    Yes, as you may well have noticed, I offered no solutions. I really have none, at this point – I think it may be too late.

    Edit: wow, that turned out to be quite a long post, didn’t it? Sorry…

  29. Aaron says:

    @Deoxy:

    I can definitely see what you’re saying about laws being “just”. This plays right into the idea of piracy being a social problem and not a legal one. The reason I put the statement there (aside from the argument I was attempting to make) is that there is supposedly a social stigma attributed to illegal actions. Social acceptability did (and still does) absolutely play a huge part of why music sharing (and game piracy) are still issues. I have to say you’ve swayed my opinion some on the issue in that social culture does tend to dictate what constitutes “law” in some cases (example: 60 years ago gay marriage wouldn’t have been given a chance, now it’s legal in at least 2 states).

    Here is something else to consider: One of the founding “fathers” (I think it was Jefferson? I’m too lazy to look it up right now) believed that ideas should be shared freely and without restriction by copyright.

    Also, as you stated, I really have no idea on how to fix it. I think Diablo did something right with the multiplayer clones it could make. Really what needs to change are the mindsets of the people who are pirating this stuff (again, the social issue). I still stick with the idea that the intellectual property holder has a right to be compensated.
    On the other side of that, I don’t want to see another music industry debacle (14 year olds being sued for millions of dollars). Where does it end really?

  30. Daosus says:

    I remember a quote some judge wrote in an opinion as he threw out a case. I don’t remember the exact words, and can’t find them again for some reason. The quote was something like “if you make the average man a criminal, average men will cease to respect the law.”

    This was the problem when the music industry had when they were prosecuting college students. The same with the guys who sued the people who broke DVD CSS encryption. The actions have convinced many people that current implementations of IP law are unjust. This, in turn, allowed some people to justify (falsely) that it was “OK” to pirate things because the laws were unjust.

    DRM that prevents you from exercising your Fair Use rights is stupid, and the laws protecting it are unjust. But the damage is done by allowing the argument that because parts of these laws are unjust, ALL of the laws are unjust. When the only way you can exercise your rights is by pirating, pirating ceases to be a stigmatized activity.

    A similar thing actually happened in the Soviet Union. During the Revolution and the Purges, intellectuals and political enemies were sent to prisons and work camps unjustly. To this day, there’s not much stigma attached to being imprisoned, and “prison songs” and “prison poetry” are considered acceptable styles of expression.

    The lesson here is that laws can be used to control your population by threat of force (or lawsuit), or they can be used by the population to control itself through example. When the laws are just, those who break the laws are recognized quickly as bad people. If the laws are not just, there’s not that stigma.

  31. ofb says:

    As far as I know, all of steam’s stuff is optional too. The fact is that every publisher (and many developpers) CHOOSE to turn the DRM on. Just because the technology could work without it, doesn’t mean it will. Look at bioshock which added even another layer of drm ontop of what steam already “offered”.

    I’m not holding my breath on that one. The matchmaking makes sense though.

  32. Deoxy says:

    That USSR thing is a GREAT example, Daosus – I’ll be using that one.

    “there is supposedly a social stigma attributed to illegal actions.”

    No, there is a social stigma attached to IMMORAL actions. Is there any social stigma against speeding? If speeding laws were about safety instead of being simple fund-raisers*, there would be.

    (* When police chiefs publicly state that officers ought to give professional courtesy to other officers and their families and not give them speeding tickets, they have just publicly announced that it’s about not about safety.)

    “When the only way you can exercise your rights is by pirating, pirating ceases to be a stigmatized activity.”

    Exactly.

    Edit: one more thing…

    “I still stick with the idea that the intellectual property holder has a right to be compensated.”

    That’s debatable – the current incarnation of IP laws argue against it a good bit. It is generally a good idea, though, and has done a lot of good for society in the past.

    Due to the current actions of corporate IP holders, we may have to find some other way to give people incentives to produce intellectual products. :-(

  33. Frymaster says:

    The only major thing I have against stardock central is it’s not Steam. This means I have more than one place to go… also, for every game that’s on Steam, the chance of a publisher punting their back catalogue up there increases.

    (a minor issue is that is your stardock account is on one email address, and your paypal account is on another, you basically have to email support every time you buy a game. Steam integrates with the store process better)

    Steam is the least intrusive DRM ever (don’t need the CD; don’t need to be online after initial download) and while I am confident it’s been cracked, the whole let-people-download-but-don’t-decrypt-until-release thing means on release day, the only people who have a copy are legitimate customers. Frankly that’s as good as you’re going to get; stopping the zero-day (or before-official-release-) pirates is a helluva boost.

    so: DRM I don’t actually notice, plus me not losing install media/cd keys, plus the community thing for multiplayer, makes steam a big win for me

    I’d like to know more about the technical details behind steamworks… I know the rough idea is you’d distribute your game in the normal way apart from the main exe, which you’d distribute via steam. Again, stopping the pirates getting their hands on it via the warehouses before release.

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