If I Ran the Show

By Shamus
on Sep 18, 2008
Filed under:
Video Games

A good question from Galen in the earlier post on Spore DRM:

I’m just curious now, from the other perspective, lets say you made the game. What would you do as DRM assuming your game was good enough to sell… a lot. I’m definately not siding with EA here. I’m just noticing that when you review games you say how you would do it (FPS trackball, Survival Horror posts). So what would you do if it were your money and time that will be pirated?

That depends on how much control I had. If I was working for any normal publisher, then I wouldn’t have any choice at all. I’d have to use whatever system they told me to.

But if I was making an indie game, or if I miraculously had the clout to dictate terms to a publisher, then I’d take my own advice:

1) I’d leave out all DRM, so that paying customers would get just as good an experience as the inevitable pirates. The pirates wouldn’t have the better version of the game, so customers wouldn’t have to choose between getting the “good” version for free vs. getting the hassle version for $money.

2) I’d keep running this blog, and keep myself open to the community, and I wouldn’t discourage people on my team (assuming I had a team) from doing the same, even if it meant they might sometimes say things that revealed that our company was not a utopia of harmony and boundless creativity.

People might be okay with ripping off a faceless company, but they will be less so if they see the game as the result of hard work from real people.

3) I’d have a demo, if possible. I’d make sure the demo was as representative of the final product as possible. I’d make sure the demo was worth downloading. None of this “1.5GB download for fifteen minutes of play” crap I’m seeing these days. The idea is to get the player hooked, and then sell them the game. You can’t get hooked on a game in fifteen minutes. (Usually.)

4) It depends on the game, but if I was running a Stardock-sized company I’d try to entice people to register, and make registration a requirement for getting free add-ons and updates. Although, if the development team was a one or two person operation this would be less viable. You need a good bit of infrastructure for a system like that, and it would probably be beyond the reach of indies.

5) I’d make sure that the game had the same pricetag and the same release date in all English-speaking countries. There is no reason to make Australia or the UK wait for months on end. I’d have a downloadable version so the customer can do an end-run around retail outfits that want to mark the $50 game up to $100. This will head off the would-be pirates who are frustrated at being made to pointlessly wait for months on end and then asked to pay double for no reason.

All of this still wouldn’t prevent piracy, but it would try to convert as many of them into customers as possible.

I know, I know: Easier said than done. Talk is cheap. I’m sure a lot of things are near impossible. Publishers dictate terms to the developers, not the other way around. Retailers dictate terms to the publisher, not the other way around. Still, this is how I’d approach the problem if I were on the developer side of things and I had the power to have my way.

Win or lose, I’d know I was Doing The Right Thing.

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From the Archives:

  1. Brian says:

    Shamus, you need 300ccs of Independent Games Developer, stat! I know I’d buy that Survival Sneaker concept game if it had all of the above; why don’t you put out a demo and see who else would? =)

    Isn’t it a bit annoying that the games that come up from the armchair game design on this site (the stealth survival game, the sword fighting game) sound so much more fun than anything I’ve got on my games shelf?

  2. Eric says:

    That’s right no DRM.

  3. Stevan R says:

    Too bad then that customers don’t dictate terms to others (retailers, publishers and devs), because they/we should be at the end of that (food-)chain…

    I hope they’ll get even more people complaining about this stuff when The Sims 3 comes out (I guess it’s going to have DRM).

  4. Alleyoop says:

    @Stevan R. – the Sims community is a tricky one. I wouldn’t be surprised to see a sizable number gaily skipping into TS3 as they’ve done with 1 and 2 no matter what, which is what EA counts on I’m sure, but I could also see a Spore-like backlash…perhaps even a bloodier one, as un/reinstalling the game when it’s running cranky is the most common answer to all that ills from EA tech support. And simmers are legion. Leeeeegion.

    @Shamus: stop making sense. It may spread. ;)

  5. Kevin says:

    (Sort of off the subject a little… but related)

    Is there any reason that anyone can think of that an indie game developer couldn’t pull a “Dr. Horrible” and simply create games for sale only as downloads, cutting the publishers out of the equation entirely? You’d only need a name gamers recognized to attach to it, make it seem like some grand experiment, and do some industry press. If it worked, you could push it as the new paradigm for super-fun, non-expensive games. I’m thinking you could work up a lot of word of mouth advertising like that.

    Oh, and Shamus’ game would have no DRM. :-)

  6. Vacca says:

    Since no comprehensive study has been undertaken to ascertain if piracy results in even one lost sale, it’s highly possible that it costs more to put DRM on your game, than to not do it. One million people might download your game illegally, but does this mean one million lost sales? How would you even determine this? No idea, but I went from being someone who purchased hundreds of games over the years, to someone who hasn’t bought a game in years now, due to the ever mounting level of frustrating DRM …… not to mention that I’m finding game content to be pretty crappy for $50.

  7. Matt says:

    @ Kevin (No.5)

    They did – the wargame Combat Mission: Beyond Overload, from http://www.battlefront.com, was initially only available online from the developers. It also happened to be just about the best wargame on the market when it came out. Since then, I think battlefront have done a deal with publishers to get their product out into the mainstream (after all, the wargames market isn’t big compared with The Sims).

    Also – as Shamus points out – the developers are very available to the game community through the forums on their website.

  8. Liz says:

    How about this addendum: Whenever the player pushes up against the boundaries of the demo version (gets to the end of the plotline, tries to access a limited feature, etc), offer the player the option to submit credit card information to download/unlock the rest of the game immediately. Immediate desire + convenience = impulse purchase, FTW!

    Heck, release the game on a CC license and encourage pirates to distribute it. If you’re not dealing with the traditional box-on-a-shelf distributors, then you can take the dandelion approach to getting your game out there. Offer incentives to buy rather than punishment for not doing so, and suddenly you’ve taken the wind out of the pirates’ sails.

  9. Roxysteve says:

    Only one boil on the buttock of the idea as far as I can see: Distribution.

    Which isn’t about moving the game from a server to a customer in this case, but telling them what you have so they’ll know to come a-lookin’. You need to distibute the fact of the game’s existence.

    It’s why all those indie bands talk big about gettin’ free of “da Man” then sign with EMI or Sony.

    Rule one: Being a starving artist is more fun to think about than to do.

    And if you think this is a trifling matter, think on this: The creaky GeezerGroup Yes, with a large following of devoted fans who would buy almost anything the group laid down, had a commercial flop with their “Talk” album.

    Even though it was one of their best and most commercially accessible doings since “Owner of a Lonely Heart” sold a bajillion copies (on vinyl yet!).

    Even though it was a flawless DDD recording (still a rarety in ’95 despite a decade of the equipment being cheap and plentiful – recording companies never spend an unnecessary cent but the chaps used their own kit).

    Even though tracks from the album were getting prime-time radio play.

    Even though they played “Letterman” (it was hearing Jon Anderson’s vocals from my kitchen that made me realise they were back in the game).

    All because the distribution part of the process fell apart.

    But if you combine this non DRM model with the tres-compact vector-based graphics you were extolling a few months ago and use an architecture that avoids resource ultrasuck, I’d buy the game just to keep you in the running and stick it to “Da Man”, Shamus.

    After all, I already know where to look for it.

    Steve.

  10. pdwalker says:

    Stardock seems to manage ok doing what they do.

    (at least I sure hope they do)

  11. Cat Skyfire says:

    Amen to the good demo. Robin of Sherwood came out with a fantastic demo. All the good characters, and one whole scenario. No limits beyond that. I played it several times and wanted more. So I bought it. Boom – Demo to customer.
    A good demo gets you hooked or convinces you it isn’t for you. (Hooked is better, but as a consumer, I’d rather have a chance to play something that I realize isn’t for me.)

    Amen!

    …Now we just need to get you lots of money so you can make this all come true.

  12. Factoid says:

    I’m actually in the process right now of doing some research and formulating topics to write a case study / whitepaper / editorial on DRM in the software industry, of which games will play a significant part. Finding real numbers to do fiscal analysis is the most challenging part so far, but I’m sure that’s nothing compared to how hard it will be to get anyone to do an interview with me. I’ve shot some early ideas to my former MBA and computer science professors for feedback and places I might look to publish.

    My goal is to get it at least published in some sort of educational journal where it can be used for business case-studies. At the very least it might help educate future students of the futility of DRM.

    I’m hoping to line up some interviews on both sides of the fence and get this baby published, preferably someplace like Wired where the article is both in print and online. Probably a pipe dream, but we’ll see. I’ve already got an outline in the can, and some of my former MBA and computer science professors with industry contacts who can help me out.

  13. Steve C says:

    @9 Liz:
    Yuck.
    That turns software into nag-ware. Nag-ware is awful. It’s like a hard sell for a car, or a TV or any other situation where you have an annoying salesperson. I’ve yet to fully explore a demo with nag-ware as it ticks me off long before it makes the sale.

    On auto-updates…
    The same reasons why online activation steps over the line the same thing can be said about auto-updates. In both cases you don’t control it, and therefore own it.

    If someone wants to update their software and wants to turn it on so that happens automatically, that’s fine. If a company thinks they can sell me something and then enter my home without permission to fiddle with it… that’s not fine. If auto updates are enabled by default that upsets me greatly on by the violation of control of personal property on a fundamental level and in the case of computer security causes a huge security hole.

    Kudos to Shamus for getting it right.

  14. Rats says:

    @Shamus: Didn’t you bring your opinion of the solutions to piracy up in a previous post? Stateing that DRM was not the way forward, and that piracy was a social problem? I realise the content is not a direct answer to Galans question, but I feel it is relevant for any new readers to your blog looking an insight into your views on this.

  15. Kilmor says:

    @Factiod:
    Stardock is pretty forward and open, you might be able to get an interview with…Wardell(sp?). The main guy-dude there, seems like a pretty accessible guy. I’m pretty sure he posted some info about their numbers, as far as how much of galciv1 they sold, stuff like that.

  16. Vao Ki says:

    I’ve always believed in the power of the customer to decide what is created/successful. The key is getting enough people to pay attention and realize it’s in their best interests to act! Being proactive is not as common as it should be, unfortunately.

    As for the game plan outlined above, I like it. A lot. It’s a shame that these things are so costly to create, otherwise I envision many groups like the community here creating their own software and publishing it through the web.

    All it takes is getting enough like minded individuals to act as a team, work for peanuts, and jump when Shamus says jump.

    Oh…and some type of mass-hypnosis program that auto runs from YouTube, etc., inducing a need to come to this site and download the demo.

  17. Steve C says:

    @Factoid: It depends if you want real statistics for piracy or previously researched fake numbers. Real numbers don’t exist. Period. However you can get real fake numbers. If you are really keen on that whitepaper (thesis kinda keen) you might be able to research your own piracy numbers based on your own research.

    To derive its piracy rate, International Data Corporation (IDC) (research firm hired by the Business Software Alliance) estimates the average amount of software that is installed on a PC per country, using data from surveys, interviews and other studies. That figure is then reduced by the known quantity of software sold per country-a calculation in which IDC specialises. The result: a (supposed) amount of piracy per country. Multiplying that figure by the revenue from legitimate sales thus yields the retail value of the unpaid-for software. This, IDC and BSA claim, equals the amount of lost revenue. -The Economist May 19th 2005

    Keep in mind that most (all?) of the research done so far is so biased and or flawed to be unusable like the above. Always check the methods and the specific questions asked. There is nothing close to the quality of a study on piracy like the quality of research Kinsey did on sex.

    To aid you in starting your research, I recommend you find “good” websites and throw key terms into a restricted google search for that website. For example: “site:digital-copyright.ca BSA piracy” That search gives you other key terms to search for or organizations to contact (like the International Data Corporation). Make lists of any names and key terms that seem like they might be useful for future searches.

    BTW The digital-copyright.ca site mentioned above has an online community with various professionals and academics interested in copyright. Good place to request help regardless of country.

  18. Carra says:

    I think nr 5 is the reason tv shows get copied so damn much.

    It’s basically a “wait a year” until they show it on the Belgian tv or download it now. That is, if you’re lucky enough that they’ll show it in the first place. Series like Battlestar Galactica haven’t been shown for the first two seasons. Only when season 3 was busy in the US have they started to show the first season… At 23.30 in the evening.

    If it’s not available in any other way, I can’t see any problems with pirating stuff. They’re not loosing a single penny if you download it as you can’t buy/view/use it anyway.

  19. Jeff says:

    I’d think I’d at least have a serial number, to prevent casual piracy…

  20. Hal says:

    For #4, would there be a way to make that only available to paying customers without smacking into “laborious DRM” territory?

  21. illiterate says:

    @Hal —

    For the free logins, the users can register a username/password to their serial number. This also becomes their username for the user forum (allow non-owners in the forum, maybe, but have them tagged as such).

    This allows you to watch multiple downloads by one serial number, without putting spyware in their PCs.

    the pirates would redistribute the add-ons, but you’re not making money from them anyways. Letting them see the love you show paying customers may even pick up some converts.

  22. The Lone Duck says:

    I think one hassle free way to prevet piracy is to make the demo a separate program from the game itself; Take out the level info, and such that isn’t used in the demo. If all a pirate has to do is crack the activation code on a demo, that’s easy for them. If non-paying people don’t have physical access to the other level-data, they can’t pirate the game from a demo. Instead, we get shortcuts, downloading the whole game just to play for 10 minutes.

  23. Kris says:

    @Steven R #3
    We do. By voting with our dollars. Every time we give them money we say we agree with what they’re doing and the product we’re buying.

  24. krellen says:

    Kris wrote:

    We do. By voting with our dollars. Every time we give them money we say we agree with what they’re doing and the product we’re buying.

    Thank you, Kris. This is exactly why I advocate strongly against the “buy and pirate” crowd. They aren’t helping anything that way!

  25. noneofcon says:

    quote:
    “It’s why all those indie bands talk big about gettin’ free of “da Man” then sign with EMI or Sony.”

    What if there was a Pandora for independent games? It might work something like this:
    You would either put in the name of a game you liked or you could browse by grene. Then it would suggest similar games. It would be desktop software (like steam or impulse) so it could download and manage demos and then the software you buy.
    The system could also have a place for people to rate games, forms for disscussion and a place for mods.

    Now I know this might not work, but if pandora can introduce people to music they might not have ever heard, why not the same for games?

  26. Smileyfax says:

    I thought I heard that a developer somewhere (Crytek, maybe?) determined that their game was being massively pirated by comparing the number of games purchased vs. the number of times a patch was downloaded — there was a gross disparity between the two figures. It seems that this would be a good way to measure piracy figures (as long as the patch itself doesn’t need cracking, in which case it would end up on filesharing sites itself and totally skew the numbers).

    If I were designing DRM, it would do one of two things:

    1. It would do a one-time check online for activation.

    2. If it couldn’t find the activation servers for whatever reason, it would silently check the system clock to see the date. If it was after a certain date (say, 3-5 years after it had gone gold), then it would activate without need of Internet server. (Of course, this would be an unlabeled feature — it would be oodles easier to set the system clock ahead than to crack it, or even download a crack).

  27. Illiterate says:

    If I were designing DRM, it would do one of two things:

    1. It would do a one-time check online for activation.

    2. If it couldn’t find the activation servers for whatever reason, it would silently check the system clock to see the date. If it was after a certain date (say, 3-5 years after it had gone gold), then it would activate without need of Internet server. (Of course, this would be an unlabeled feature — it would be oodles easier to set the system clock ahead than to crack it, or even download a crack).

    This system carries the seeds of it’s own destruction the same as any other form of drm.

    firstly, what if I buy the game in store and don’t have internet? It’s not actually a civil right or basic service.

    secondly, you’re talking security through obscurity. That NEVER WORKS.

    I’m a big fan of blizzard’s model for games like starcraft/diablo. Deliver the patches through a service which checks your serial number. They can flag “suspected shared” serials.

  28. Matt K says:

    I have a question for those of you like Smileyfax coming up with a DRM scheme. What is the point of having DRM on your product? Is it to prevent piracy (which no type of DRM actually does at all), prevent people sharing discs (which I don’t understand why you’d want this especially since people could just pirate the game anyhow), or something else?

    As for me, the only DRM I would accept would be online activation for internet play only. That is a system like in Diablo 2 where you need a valid cd key to play online otherwise who cares. People are always going to pirate games the best you can do is encourage people to buy your game instead. This is where good will comes in which seems lost on most publisher (EA and Bethesdasoft for example).

  29. lowlymarine says:

    Smileyfax wrote:

    I thought I heard that a developer somewhere (Crytek, maybe?) determined that their game was being massively pirated by comparing the number of games purchased vs. the number of times a patch was downloaded — there was a gross disparity between the two figures. It seems that this would be a good way to measure piracy figures[.]

    This is a horrible way to measure piracy. I have downloaded the patches for FarCry probably half a dozen times due to reformats and getting new computers since I bought that game. If they looked at only me, holy crap! They’d find that 80% of their patch downloads were to filthy pirates! And I somehow doubt I’m the only person who has ever reformatted or bought a new computer since 2004.

  30. Factoid says:

    @Kilmor: Brad Wardell had crossed my mind. If I had my choice of people to interview it would probably be Brad Wardell from Stardock, Doug Lombardi (marketing director for Valve), and whoever the current Marketing Director for EA might be.

    Problem is that most people won’t consent to an interview on a controversial topic, especially to a non-journalist with no publication affiliation.

    If I can’t get any interviews it wouldn’t really work as a published article, and would really be more of a research paper slash business case study.

    As my outline stands right now I could probably write about 20 pages on the topic without getting repetitive. It would need to get edited to 3000 words or so for a magazine, and articles like that are usually written by “featured” authors. I’m having fun doing the research for now, though, so I don’t much care if nothing comes of it.

  31. Viktor says:

    I have a question for those of you like Smileyfax coming up with a DRM scheme. What is the point of having DRM on your product? Is it to prevent piracy (which no type of DRM actually does at all), prevent people sharing discs (which I don’t understand why you’d want this especially since people could just pirate the game anyhow), or something else?
    This. The most oppressive DRM scheme out there(Spore) was cracked before it was in stores. That means that the most expensive and intrusive system was worse than useless. Why do you think anything else would be better?

  32. Roxysteve says:

    <>

    I dunno. It’s popular to sing this song at the drop of a hat these days, but consider: banks wouldn’t be very secure if they built the vault in the carpark and left the combination stuck on the door on a post-it. Security by obscurity can work just fine. It doesn’t work for every single security problem in every single case, but, yes, there are plenty of places it demonstrably does work and has for decades.

    In any event, it seems to me that Smileyfax wasn’t trying to implement a secure feature, he was trying to turn off a mildy inconvenient one when becomes so old he doesn’t care about it any more.

    Steve.

  33. Chris Arndt says:

    Do you know what I want? For console FPS games

    I want a Demo released, not a beta but a demo, a full year in advance, with a comment card.

    The comment card would be about the control scheme.

    The final release would be based on fan reaction to the demo.

    Honestly I wish the Demos were more like betas and there be a final chance to fix the control crap between Demo and final release.

    Which I suppose really means I want the Demos to be not really Demos… and I wish the Beta was more widely available.

    Your plan is good.

  34. David B says:

    MMOs have the right idea in one regard – by basing the gameplay at the server level, and requiring subscriptions, it matters a lot less if people are pirating the software. A server-based model like this isn’t ideal for all games, but I don’t think all the possibilities this method can offer have been explored yet.

  35. Kel'Thuzad says:

    I wrote a satirical paper for my English college class on DRM. Got an A. Heh.

  36. guy says:

    @theloneduck

    They don’t do that already? what kind of idiots are they? i’d have thought they did that as a matter of course. it would reduce file size, after all.

  37. Smileyfax says:

    I know all DRM is terrible, but the system I proposed would at least allow playing of games as they got older.

  38. illiterate says:

    Chris Arndt — why would they wait a year after they have a finished product before releasing?

    If the engine has gone gold (not beta), then most of the level design is done too, right? what stops your internal people from leaking it? that guarantees piracy.

  39. Kevin says:

    So what exactly is meant to entice the paying customer in this situation? Most PC games don’t have much/anything in terms of online content (online multiplayer playing, for example) that can’t also be worked around by piracy.

    It seems to me that, from what’s been described here, that the choice is essentially between a free version and a paid-for version. I don’t see how that encourages pirates to cross over to paying customers. In fact, I think that has the direct opposite result. Why pay for something when you can get the same product for free? There is no incentive. Obviously, this sort of thing doesn’t apply to certain types of games (all MMOs, for example, in which you’re paying for the privilege of playing with other people, either directly (WoW) or indirectly (Spore)), but for a game like, say, Half Life 2 (ignoring Steam for the moment), there is absolutely no incentive to pay for the game when I can get the same exact thing for free online. It’s madness to think that this would encourage pirates to come back. It’s like suggesting people would happily buy bread at a bakery when equal quality bread is available for free just around the corner.

    In sum: I fail to see how removing DRM would help matters. I think it would only make things worse.

  40. Shamus says:

    Kevin: Removing DRM would not stop hard-core pirates. Those people are a lost cause, and there is nothing you can do to MAKE them pay.

    Getting rid of DRM would help in the case of many of the people you see on this site: “I was going to buy the game, but the DRM…”

    Those people would RATHER pay for the game, but for a variety of reasons become pirates when you treat them like pirates. Those people can be enticed to pay for the real thing.

    How could removing DRM make it worse?

  41. Kevin says:

    But doesn’t the lack of DRM also encourage piracy? I know I’ve pirated quite a few applications simply because it’s easier (as well as infinitely cheaper), and the fact that these applications have nothing in the realm of DRM just encourages me further. Hell, I’ve been pirating comic books for quite some time simply because it’s easier and I don’t have to pay a cent. Make no mistake, I could afford any of these things, but it’s pure capitalism in action when I can get the same product for nothing.

    Removing DRM makes it worse by presenting no marked difference between a full retail copy and a pirated copy of the game. Sure, some people will pay for their copy because they’d prefer to do so, but you’ll probably get just as many people think “gee, why buy this game when I can get the same exact thing for free?” These aren’t hardcore pirates who pirate everything, but people like me who can’t see the logic in paying for the occasional application or comic when they can get it cheaper and easier online. AT LEAST with the most basic of DRM (think red-tinted glasses and code wheels) you are secure in the knowledge that you have an accredited version of a program which won’t land a lawsuit on your front porch one day.

    This may all come down to a matter of other factors, like amount of disposable income, but the fact remains that you’re not actively enticing people to not purchase your game. There is no extra bag of goodies involved in doing so, and as long as that is the case I can’t see any appreciable means by how removing all DRM would make things better.

  42. Gullwhacker says:

    You know, I think Spiderweb Software does at least the third point, if not more. They have a demo – which seems to cover about 25% of the plot of the game, or some fraction of the game world – and when you hit the boundary, you’re asked if you want to get the full version. Pretty nice.

  43. Galen says:

    Rambling: Woah Shamus you made my day. I kinda expected a neat little yellow box with a three bullet point. Instead my existence is verified by an internet micro-celebrity and an entire page of writing!

    Actual comment: Another idea given to me (besides the kitten poster) was that some extra goodies are included in the box. Morrowind had this covered. They included a world map in the box! Free bonus you can use AND is much cooler than a .bmp of the same thing. I found that rather nice since the in game map didn’t work too well. Obviously this wouldn’t work on a downloaded game but it’s worth pointing out how that worked in Morrowind.

  44. Euphemism says:

    Kevin: Lack of DRM may encourage casual piracy – the type where you burn off a copy and give it to your friends. Or perhaps you install the game, play it through to the end, then sell it.

    Lack of DRM doesn’t encourage online piracy in any way, however. Or rather, lack of DRM encourages online piracy less than having DRM does. Let’s put it this way…

    You live near a bread store and a few blocks further away, a homeless shelter giving away bread for free. Yes, you can go there and get free bread, if your conscience does not bother you. This is the DRM-free model.

    This is the DRM model, as Yahtzee would describe it…
    You live near a bread store, where all the bread they sell has dog shit all over it… (Fortunately, some of the breads are wrapped before they put shit on it… that’s the lighter DRM.)

    However, you are right. Lack of DRM doesn’t attract more customers, except in that it pisses people off less and is less likely to drive them towards piracy (e.g. Spore)

    As for DRM models…

    I’d say, serial number plus CD check. Of course, you can then use a one-time activation to remove the CD-check that doubles as registering yourself with the company which will allow you access to their game forum/free content downloads/goodies.

    Thus, permanent lack of internet availability does not hinder you, and the CD-check goes away as soon as you go online once. You’d have to do that anyways for a CD-crack.

    One thing about DRM I’m feeling increasingly disinterested in is the idea that being ‘treated as a potential criminal’ should be offensive. Maybe that’s partially because I do pirate some stuff, but people have made valid points about stores having surveillance cameras or the like. Or libraries with their magnetic sensors. You could also consider places that would have police patrols, for instance. Or, consider the sheer amount of ‘safety’ we build into everything as engineers. No one is offended by the fact that we pay extra to ‘idiot-proof’ things.

    Just to make it clear, though, inconveniencing the end user to ‘protect’ their goods is perfectly valid. The corresponding analogy would be strip searches. Or Clippy, the annoying Office animation we all love to hate.

  45. Sheer_FALACY says:

    One thing you’re leaving out of the bread analogy is that the reason the homeless shelter has the free bread is they break into the bread store every night and bake it using the bread store’s recipes and materials. It doesn’t make anyone any happier with the dog shit, but it sure makes the shelter look a lot worse.

  46. Mark says:

    @Kevin, Shamus
    So basic’ly, thar be 4 kinds o’ people:

    1.) People who’ll buy th’ game no matter what.
    2.) People who’ll pirate th’ game no matter what.
    3.) People who’ll buy th’ game if thar be DRM but will pirate it if thar ain’t. (I’ll call ’em Scalawags.)
    4.) People who’ll pirate th’ game if thar be DRM but will buy it if thar ain’t. (I’ll call ’em Land-lubbers.)

    Kinds 1 an’ 2, they aren’t matterin’ much. What ye have t’ know is if th’ Scalawags outnumber th’ Land-lubbers. If so, DRM’ll tip the scales.

    ‘Course, even that be a gross oversimplification ‘cuz DRM, it comes in degrees, aye? And some’ll flee from games brandishin’ SecuROM while gettin’ cozy with a game that’ll insist that ye t’ insert th’ CD.

    Publishers just be tryin’ t’ maximize their profits, and ye won’t find me arguin’ with that. But I agree with Captain Shamus that thar be other ways besides DRM t’ get Scalawags t’ buy yer game.

  47. Eric says:

    Sorry to be non helpful to the current conversation, allthough the biggest bonus to removing drm from games is that it frees up a nice chunk money that could be put into another part of the game.

    Here’s another chance for us, the people to combat global terrorist Uwe Boll:http://www.petitiononline.com/RRH53888/petition.html VIVA LA RESISTANCE!!!!!

  48. Steve C says:

    @23 The Lone Duck:
    I think that’s a given assumption to the term “demo.”

    A demo that is not a separate program isn’t called “a demo” it’s called “cripleware.” Cripleware isn’t quite as offensive as other things like DRM, but it’s still offensive for the same base reason: subversion of property rights. If I have software (any software) then I have the right to change it in any manner I wish for my own personal use. I likely can’t distribute that change as it would be a derivative work (unless it’s a patch… aka a “crack”.) Attempting to prevent me from doing so is, dum-dum-daaaaaa… DRM!

    Consider a “demo” automobile. It’s got a sealed gastank and sealed engine so it has an effective max range plus all the passenger seats are full with non-removable space fillers. Just like with cripleware you can the remove the useless space fillers, unseal engine, put in your own gas and drive to your heart’s content.

    I’m fairly sure we were all talking about real demos here. Cripleware exchanges the dogshit for catshit and misses the point.

  49. Steve C says:

    @42 Kevin:
    Your points are both valid and not. That’s the flaw with the business model, not with DRM vs no DRM.

    It’s not smart business to attempt to compete against a illegitimately free version, by selling a legitimate version that’s exactly the same for $50 more. Give it 20yrs and there will be absolutely no difference between that business model and shareware.

    The trick is to add value to the customer in ways that a pirated version can’t compete with you. Shamus would do this with his plans #2 and #4 above and Stardock does it now. WoW is successful because Blizzard gives away the game for free* and charges for the community interaction. Cory Doctorow’s newest book is a collection of essays about this exact subject and is a 100% free and legit download. These people are successful not because the free version is inferior, but because the paid for version is superior.

    Kevin you are right in that all things being equal, free is better than paying for it. But there is no reason to keep all things equal. You don’t have to keep the same business model and you can continue to add value in other ways. Attempting to remove value to the paid for version by adding DRM is just stupid. Now you are attempting to sell an inferior product for more money.

    *Yes. 100% free. Both as a download and in the store. The WoW box in the store with the discs includes 1 month and that’s what you are paying for. There is a completely legit way of getting a 2nd boxed copy from the store and paying nothing extra.

  50. Avilan the Grey says:

    Ilitterate:

    Depends on what you live, I guess. Here “high speed” access (2Mbit or higher) is so common and so cheap that it is to be compared to having a phone line (actually it costs less than a phone line).
    So no, I do not have that much sympathy for the argument “I can’t get on the Internet” anymore. To me it is simply a matter of choice; if you choose not to have an Internet connection, then you choose not to be able to update programs etc, just like you can choose not to have a phone line installed in your house and therefore might not be able to say call the cops, or order pizza.
    As long as the requirement for an Internet connection is listed in the minimum spec panel, there is no problem whatsoever. In fact, I rather think an Internet connection could and should be assumed these days.

  51. Sharon says:

    – there would be a “back to the top” or “home” button at the bottom of your pages

  52. Mayhem says:

    Why should it be assumed you have an internet connection. What if you are travelling. Or *gasp* not living in the united states where by the sounds every person was born with a high speed wireless connection. What if you happen to live in a rural area where you get charged an exorbitant rate per minute AND per megabyte for traffic, assuming your connection even works. Yes, this means no WoW, but what is wrong with the classic idea of the single player game played wholly offline. If there are updates, the user should be able to get them from somewhere else, like driving into town and downloading em onto a usb key or whathaveyou. A good friend of mine lived for several years in Kenya, his internet activity was maybe once a month when they went into Nairobi for supplies. He still spent lots of downtime playing lan games at his campsite.
    Among other things, they avidly downloaded the latest starcraft patches and maps in town and brought them back to camp.

    Why should people like that be prevented from playing their own *legally purchased* games because you want to run a check every time. Steam I’m looking at YOU!

  53. Illiterate says:

    One thing you’re leaving out of the bread analogy is that the reason the homeless shelter has the free bread is they break into the bread store every night and bake it using the bread store’s recipes and materials. It doesn’t make anyone any happier with the dog shit, but it sure makes the shelter look a lot worse.

    Whether or not my conscience will let me take it for free from the homeless shelter, I’m certainly not going to buy the one with *!@# all over it.

    A “no-!@#$” model on their part would make me much more sympathetic to any actions they take against the thieves.

  54. Euphemism says:

    @46:Sheer_FALACY:

    No, the analogy is sufficient. I’m comparing the morality of piracy against the morality of you, being the average employed person with the money to purchase bread, slumming and taking free food that’s meant to go to homeless people. Or perhaps starving artists.

  55. Factoid says:

    @Euphamism: I really like your idea: Key CD Check UNLESS you register online…then you get the NoCD goodness. Just as long as it doesn’t leave a SecuROM rootkit on my system.

    Personally I think Half Life had the right solution to casual piracy. I remember that we played it a lot at LAN parties, especially for Team Fortress and Counterstrike. It got shared around and installed on peoples computers so that we could all play.

    But if you wanted to play online, it verified your key to see if more than one person was using the same key at the same time. It didn’t care what computer you used it on, just that you only used one at a time. Battle.net works the same way.

    With this method the solution to the “What if they go out of business” problem is that you allow third parties to host server listings and whatnot. Most people won’t do that, though, because it will be a cesspool of retards and script kiddies and most of the good servers will be on the official system, so you have a pretty good deterrent against casual piracy there, at least for multiplayer games.

  56. Blackbird71 says:

    @Avilan the Grey (51)

    “Depends on what you live, I guess. Here “high speed” access (2Mbit or higher) is so common and so cheap that it is to be compared to having a phone line (actually it costs less than a phone line).
    So no, I do not have that much sympathy for the argument “I can’t get on the Internet” anymore. To me it is simply a matter of choice; if you choose not to have an Internet connection, then you choose not to be able to update programs etc, just like you can choose not to have a phone line installed in your house and therefore might not be able to say call the cops, or order pizza.
    As long as the requirement for an Internet connection is listed in the minimum spec panel, there is no problem whatsoever. In fact, I rather think an Internet connection could and should be assumed these days.”

    That’s a very narrow and uninformed opinion, allow me to enlighten:

    Up until a year ago, I lived in a town where high-speed access was impossible as the phone lines were not of high enough quality to carry the signal. They were so poor quality, that even a 56Kbps modem was limited to about 20Kbps (or less) functionality. Oh, and there were no cable lines either. To get patches and updates, I’d have to drive 10 or more miles to a friends house, college campus, or other location where I could actually download something without the connection breaking every five minutes.

    And this was not some third-world country or middle of nowhere location. This was in the U.S. less than 30 miles from a major State capitol.

    Since then I have moved, and thankfully I now have access to high speed. But to say that everyone has access to the internet, that it is just “a matter of choice,” is quite frankly both ignorant and insulting.

    Maybe you should learn a thing or two and consider the world beyond yourself for a bit. Just because your situation is one way, it does not mean that everyone is in the same situation. Keeping that in mind will help you get along a lot better in life.

  57. guy says:

    @avilon the grey

    You know, i live not 50 miles from washington DC, and the highest connectivity i get is 440kps. most of the time, it’s lower, and it has a tendancy to randomly fail. if my family was willing to deal with the headaches associated with changing important email addresses and risk a house fire, we could possibly get Fios. but assuming that internet connectivity is universally aviallible is stupid

  58. MuonDecay says:

    Retailers dictate terms to the publisher, not the other way around.

    This isn’t -entirely- true. Familiar with the crooked anti-competition deals Nintendo used to undermine sales of the Sega Master System?

    …SEGA (their biggest competition) who accused Nintendo of forcing their console, the SEGA Master System, off store shelves via crooked deals with retailers. The courts found Nintendo guilty and required amends to redistribute a large amount back to the consumers and break exclusive deals with third parties and retailers…

  59. Avilan the Grey says:

    Mayhem, Blackbird, Guy:

    I DID write “it depends on where you live, I guess”.

    “Over here” means “Europe” and in my case Sweden.

    I would not have written what I wrote a year ago, but now we have the mobile broadband* so anyone, anywhere (99% coverage) in this country can at least get 7.2 Mbit for approx $12 a month, no other fee.

    *”Mobile Broadband” is using the 3G / Turbo3G standards for Cell Phone connections, utilizing a “modem” that is basically a cellphone with no keypad that can only dial a single number, to the ISP. It is connected by the USB port and depending on what ISP you have (the ISPs for these are, quite naturally, cell phone operators) you have coverage in up to 99,5% of the country including the archipelago and wilderness areas.

  60. RudeMorgue says:

    I’d go the Infotater route.

    A la the old Infocomm games, Star Control 2, etc. — they simply made the packaging part of the game, via maps, documents, etc. that made it sort of difficult to just copy it for a friend.

    Will it stop Pirates? No. Will anything stop Pirates? Probably not. But it will help curb casual social piracy, which is the only kind that seems to be inhibited by DRM.

  61. Kyle says:

    Reminds me a little of Radiohead, how they released the album online for free with only “suggested donations.” They did pretty alright and had no risk of piracy because they came across as real people and like they understood the common man. Playing the “my way or the high way” card only pisses people off and makes them more likely to pirate.

  62. Felblood says:

    I recently moved to a place that has broadband growing on the trees, but for many years I lived in a town with absolute garbage for internet.

    I spent those years being utterly screwed over by oversized patches, online activation, and the general assumption that if you don’t have broadband, you must live in some kind of backwater, or a third world country.

    Internet 2.0 my eye!

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