Wednesday, March 3, 2010

More Thoughts On the Anti-Pirate Measures That Will (?) Work

Well, the storm of commentary and attention directed at my Assassin's Creed 2 DRM article has died down a little bit. I suspect that that little blog post is one of the most read pieces of text I've ever written. At this point, 90% of the Internet has posted on Slashdot, The Escapist, or somewhere else to say I'm an idiot. The intensity of the reaction was quite interesting to me, and the various responses left me with a lot of what, for me, passes for thoughts.

I think a lot of the intensity of the reaction was because, simply, many people hadn't heard about this new DRM system. Or, if they had, they were still heated up over it. Add in the constant need among pirates to come up with increasingly overwrought justifications for their obviously illegal and immoral actions, and you have the expected traveling firestorm.

It is now rumored that crackers are making short work of this new DRM software. Believe me, I hope this is the case. As I said in the previous article, I think these measures are overall bad for the PC games industry (of which I am a part). However, this alleged victory will, I think, be short-lived. Once these games are being coded to constantly contact the developer's servers, developers have a lot of new weapons in their anti-pirate arsenal. More about this in point #2, below.

But, in the mess, interesting things were said. Here is what I have learned (or still believe):

1. To "work", anti-piracy measures only need to stay unbroken for the peak sales period of the game. That is, the first three months or so. If it stays uncracked for that long, the developers win. I never said that there was uncrackable DRM, because that is not true. It does not need to be uncrackable.

2. UbiSoft's "Have the game maintain a constant Internet connection and move a lot of the processing onto the server" solution will slow down cracking. If not now, then in the future. Developers can move more and more processing onto the server. Right now, it's just saved games. Later, they can move more and more code off of your machine and onto theirs.

You want your very-difficult-to-crack DRM system? Here it is! Take all the statistics (and maybe scripts) for creatures and items and weapons and put them on the server. The game only downloads them when it needs them. This is ten thousand little chunks, only a handful of KB, of vital and irreplaceable data, and it will take a long time for a cracker to get the game to download all of the bits so he can isolate and read them all and put them in his fake server/cracked game. And God help you if he missed an item. Don't just wave your hands and go, "Oh, someone could break that easy." This system is already routinely used by MMOs, and it would work.

(And I suspect Assassin's Creed 2 has some of this and they just haven't told us yet. Remember, it has to be using that constant net connection for something.)

Once the game is developed with a constant net connection in mind, the developer can heap an arbitrary amount of work on hackers. I've read a lot of "easy solutions" to the problem over the last few days. All assume they know everything that's going on on the server side. Not a good assumption.

3. Oh, and by the way, the constant server thing is temporary. UbiSoft has already said that, when they don't want to maintain the servers anymore, they will release a patch removing the need for the game to talk to them. I give it about six months until this happens. Maintaining that many servers is expensive, and once that period of time has passed they won't need the DRM there anymore. Then Assassin's Creed 2 is free to appear on ten buck shovelware DVD compilations, coming to a Best Buy near you.

4. People have an almost religious need to believe in the power of the cracker to overcome any obstacle in his (or her?) way. I think that part of the ideological structure pirates build to justify their actions must include believing that, "Hey, it'll always be cracked anyway." Either that, or people just don't wanna believe that the river of cool free stuff they believe they are entitled to might dry up.

5. If you use the terms "hacker" and "cracker" interchangeably, you will make a small number of people very angry at you.

6. Suppose, for the sake of argument, they did develop pirate-proof DRM on the PC. Lots of people seem to assume that, when people can't pirate the game, they just won't buy it. Hogwash. People LOVE games. If they have to pay money to get games, they will. Just look at the XBox, Wii, and PS3. It's possible to pirate games there, but it is not easy. Thus, people pay tons of cash for them. It's easy to talk big about how you will never pay money for games with restrictive DRM, but everyone has a price. If games as sexy as Diablo 3 ever start coming with the mean DRM, a lot of people are going to sigh, grit their teeth, and accept it.

So, as repellent as the new system is, they aren't insane for trying. The rewards for success are considerable.

So thank you for all the attention. And, if you don't think I'm an entire idiot, my newest fantasy RPG for Windows and Mac doesn't have any scary DRM at all. And the demo is huge and free. Please excuse this blatant self-promotion. Thank you, and good night.

52 comments:

  1. I think you give Ubisoft far too much credit on point #3.

    Basically, look at the later part of http://www.escapistmagazine.com/articles/view/columns/experienced-points/7134-Experienced-Points-Activation-Bomb

    If the servers are too expensive, maybe they'll take them down... but will they release the patch or just laugh at everyone like what happened with Madden recently?

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  2. In not completely unrelated news, what do you think of the rumors that Steam is coming to the Mac?

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  3. pleasure to find such a good artical! please keep update!! ........................................

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  4. Yep, all they need to do is move the enemy AI onto the server. Then hacking the game means writing proper AI, which in modern games is very, very hard. Such a game would likely never be hacked. (And if it is, the hackers are clearly talented enough to be hired by the game companies...)

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  5. As I posted elsewhere, the problem with piracy is no one has (or will) tried to stop it outright and it's merely grown unchecked for years. It like a car with an engine knock. If you didn't do something to fix it when the problem started, by the time you're towed into the shop, you go from a simple $50 fix to needing a new engine (or a new car).

    Ubi's DRM is an "interesting" approach that's akin to trying to enforce a citizen-wide curfew while thieves roam the streets. Everyone's trapped in their houses and you still have people who want your stuff roaming free. Eventually, the villagers who were pissed off just accept the curfew as a new way of life and most of them won't be so upset as time goes on.

    Most piracy seems to be by folks who want stuff for free because they know how and where to get it and/or outright, intentional misreadings of a few different EULA's. Yes, you can backup a copy of the game if you don't want that original CD to get scratched up, but sharing that game over a torrent site with some eyeball rolling disclaimer ("You MUST own the original to download this!") with a few hundred thousand or more users is nothing but theft, plain and simple.

    Crazy idea - a worldwide law that forces ALL torrent sites to pull their content, go dial-up or shut down completely until they can prove every bit of their content is legal and legally obtained in every way shape or form. Sure, it'll get tied up in court for ages (and tossed out if there's a legal team that's not craftier than the eye patch crowd), but it would be interesting to see who will come to the defense of folks who admit to digital theft of millions of dollars worth of media on a daily basis.

    Yes, it's an insane idea, but the stupidity of constantly allowing things to go so far south then try and add draconian solutions like mandatory online connectivity (or mandatory insurance when insurance companies are the problem blocking health care, to bring things to more urgent matters) for otherwise law-abiding folks who don't steal games always ends up leading to insane ideas.

    Or something like that.

    I don't think the always online DRM deal is going to work simply due to it being too expensive in the long run (as you noted, Jeff). Small publishers will need to end up going to Steam or some other online service for security, but that's nowhere close to a perfect solution. Especially if one is used to buying second hand software, which in many cases will not run thanks to CD keys or registration codes locked into another user's non-transferable account.

    And, hell... Diablo III is taking so long to complete that yes, people will pay lots of money for it even if the game required a half dozen different CD keys or other security measures. On the other hand, while console games are harder to pirate (especially using a console that can be easily traced over an online connection) piracy on the DS and PSP are not only ridiculously rampant, it's forced Sony and Nintendo to come up with lousy solutions to combat it (both the PSP Go and the DSi are supposed to "help" curtail piracy, but don't do much at all except cost more money)

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  6. The excellent, if completely scattershot, book 'Chris Crawford On Game Design' contains a chapter on single-machine anti-piracy programming techniques he used many years ago.

    It's well thought out and entertaingly written, and he maintains that it's still unbroken to this day. Unfortunately, it just seems to have resulted in the game getting a reputation for being 'buggy' (The anti-piracy measures deliberately crash the game).

    Worth a read.

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  7. Nice commentary Jeff. I agree with most points, except for one. I don't know if this DRM would make would-be pirates pay for the game, but it would stop me paying for it. Not because I am outraged by the ideology of it but because I do not have a reliable internet connection. It's fast, but breaks at least once every 2-3 hours or so. For most things, it doesn't matter - the connection will re-establish in a couple of seconds - but sounds like AC2 would boot me out of the game with no autosave. I have quite enough random PC crashes in games without the developer adding a couple, thanks. Of course, if I would still like to play it, I will do so on the Xbox (rental naturally). If their goal is to get me out of PC gaming - congratulations.

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  8. Interesting article. Here are my 2 cents, point by point:

    1. I still wonder how developers CAN win by inserting a form of DRM that will make it impossible for potential honest customers to buy it (unstable connection, feeling it ruins the immersion in the game, etc...)

    2. If you make a comparison with MMO you must never forget that MMO's actually make money from their servers. Players pay a monthly fee so the developers have every reason to keep the servers running smoothly; if they screw up they migth lose a lot of money next week.
    Unless singleplayer games also adopt this strategy (give away the game cheap, then charge monthly) I fear this will never work. After all, why trust a developer will keep the server running if he already has your money?

    3. How can you be so sure they will patch it out?

    http://www.computerandvideogames.com/article.php?id=235596&site=pcg

    If you read that interview you'll notice that the Ubisoft employee uses every trick in the book to not have to promise it will patched. And if you think of it: why would they? In 2 years or so, wouldn't they rather have you buy the new AC instead of playing the old one? Wasn't that the trick Microsoft pulled to get people buy their new software: shut down support for the old software so people would have to migrate?
    If Ubisoft doesn't trust me, why should I trust them?

    4. Well the ironic thing of this situation is that I'm now rooting for the pirates. Why? Because I hope that if the DRM gets cracked, Ubisoft will be wise enough to patch it out (small hope, see above) so I can still buy the game.
    So actually the pirate that cracks it will be my hero because he will have enabled me to finally get the game.
    Legal customers rooting for the crackers; surely that isn't what Ubisoft is trying to achieve??

    5. Oh yeah, absolutely! :D

    6. I'm not so sure that is hogwash. In this case, for me to buy the game there are three hurdles to take before I can actually purchase:

    a)want the game
    b)want to pay the price
    c)be able and willing to live with the DRM

    Now, I've cleard a) and b) but I can't buy it because I'm stuck on c)

    Someone who wants to pirate it has only to clear a)

    But if he cannot download it, he has now to clear TWO hurdles instead of one. How can one expect that someone who didn't want to pay for it in the first place would suddenly want to PAY for a RUINED gaming experience? That's weird reasoning...

    And I stress again: even if the DRM is successful and it doesn't get pirated: they already have lost revenue because of honest customers who couldn't buy the product due to the DRM.
    How many pirates would you need to convert to make up for that loss, and how many more to actually gain something?

    And finally: why does DRM necessarily have to be restrictive to the customer? Shouldn't it be enough that it's restrictive for the pirate?

    greetz
    Tax

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  9. Hi Jeff, a quick thought:

    I was previously (a week or two ago) on the Avernum 6 page (http://www.avernum.com/avernum6/index.html) looking for the demo download link, but left after not being able to find it.

    I just visited that page again to make a 2nd try at looking for the demo, and *this time* it occurred to me that the big prominent download links halfway down the page *are* (probably) the demo download links! So now I'm downloading the demo.

    I probably wouldn't have missed this earlier, though, if the page used the word "demo" anywhere on it! (Maybe you've done this intentionally, though?)

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  10. I completely agree people are shallow morons. Look at how much dough MS Antivirus makes a year:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/AntiSpywareMaster

    Over $2 freakin' million. Because people are stupid.

    A single person can't rake in that kind of money by making something constructive.

    These games shipping with computer AIDS on them would have had zero sales, period, in a parallel universe of non-morons.

    And it is annoying, but I learned months ago that Starcraft 2 was going to ship gimped: you can't install it without an internet connection. This is doubly moronic because Blizzard already has the best DRM there is: Multiplayer that requires a legitimate key.

    So I'm not going to buy any version of Starcraft 2 with this poop going on. I'll just have to settle for the demo, forever. Logically thinking about the situation makes it easy:

    * I have survived this long without Starcraft 2 or Diablo 3. They might not be that important.

    * They will be old cat food after a couple weeks anyway.

    * I deserve the right to play single player games in single player. If I need internets to play or install it, it isn't a single player game.

    * It's just dumb to stay in an abusive relationship.

    And no, I will not be pirating either of these for any dozens of reasons. The most important one, morally, is that attention is profit. If I'm thinking about the game or talking about it, that just contributes to them getting richer. They already have more than enough cogs out there working for them.

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  11. It's not hard to pirate games on the Wii.

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  12. Bad news... Ubi's DRM has been already cracked. Silent Hunter 5 was the first "victim".

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  13. It might go unspoken, but I think that lost sales are more real from the used market than from the pirated markets. Companies might claim to have lost millions of dollars from sales when they see rampant piracy, but many of those people aren't consumers. They are criminals. A perfect drm system can't turn criminals into good consumers.
    But a better drm system would get that other batch of actual consumers, those who purchase used, to become good, paying consumers. And used sales can more easily translate into actual lost sales to the publisher/developer. With AC2, Ubi is also addressing those who purchase used (much as Valve has done). But I think Ubi needs to follow the examples from the recent announcement that the next Tomb Raider game will be DLC only. DLC has become, if not embraced, then accepted by gamers. It prevents the used game sale, and it also enables someone who might have bought the main game used, to throw some money the developer's way by purchasing the dlc.

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  14. I'm always amazed when people do anything but laugh at game publishers whining about used game sales.

    ABSOLUTELY EVERYTHING is resold. How are video games different from books, CDs, DVDs, or board games? Of course, they're not. This is a very simple fact of life for any industry selling any product. There are whole stores that sell nothing but used books and/or CDs which have existed for decades. Oh noes, they're killing the blah blah blah.

    If game publishers claim they can't survive because of resale, they're clearly doing something horribly wrong as a business. Other industries selling exactly the same sort of goods are doing just fine.

    But it's just a con, no less so than when the movie industry was pretending VHS would kill them. It's not something that should be taken remotely seriously, except as obvious groundwork for digitally neutering resale with DLC and the like. That's the only difference here; game publishers have the technical ability to stop what has long been an obvious, assumed economic right.

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  16. For people to say that Computer PC games aren't in a decline, seriously must be living under a rock. Growing up, there where row upon row of PC games to choose from. Now there is 1 half row. The truth? It pisses me off. The PC is and always will be the system with the best ability to bring the best of video gaming home to the user. But now, because people have rationalized stealing alot of companies are moving on to console based games. Do I blame them? Nope, they need to make money.

    What I do wish is that as was suggested earlier, that all of the stupid torrent sites would be taken down, or at least monitored. With fines (large ones) assessed to any site hosting illegal downloads.

    People glamorize some basement dork, who learned some rudimentary beginner programming skills, or learned how to use a hex editor, and they raise them up on some pedestal. The truth is, their accomplishments aren't grand. All they are doing is making it harder and harder for good games to get made for the PC platform. It's that simple. So go ahead and play your cracked game. Enjoy it while it lasts, and while you're at it don't expect your new best friend mister cracker to learn how to actually make a game, because when the well dries up, they aren't sticking around either. But you enjoy your illegal game, you're so living on the edge dude. I bet you feel smart playing a cracked game too. Almost like you're a cracker as well? What a rebel.

    Matt-fu

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  17. I love reading the tags on your blog posts.

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  18. It seems that DRM will work...
    http://torrentfreak.com/ubisofts-uber-drm-cracked-within-a-day-100304/

    in a future...

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  20. @Matt-fu

    You said: "Nope, they need to make money"

    Again I ask: how exactly are they making money when they create a DRM that prevents honest customers from legally purchasing their product?

    I also have another question:

    I would really like to buy the game but at the moment I'm unable to do so because of the DRM (I don't have a stable connection and the fear of losing it while playing really ruins the gameplay experience for me).
    Now, suppose someone releases a crack that enables the game to be played without the 'always online'-requirement.

    What should I do (piracy is NOT an option for me):

    a)still not buy the game
    b)buy the game and download the crack so I can play it

    If I don't buy the game, the developer won't get the money you say they need. However, if I buy it and download the crack I will have supported piracy.

    What should I do

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  21. Imagine: You have 100 people. 90 of them are thieves, vagabonds and miscreants. 10 of them are decent hard working folk who wait with wallets open to give you money.

    You take the 10 honest people to one side begin repeatedly beating them for the crimes of the other 90.

    This is what Ubisoft call a "sustainable business model."

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  22. Your whole article is moot. The game has already been cracked and is fully working save games and all. Available fully working at many torrent sites. Great game BTW.

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  24. I laughed out loud @ #5.

    Re #2: As a preemptive response to all those who think you could just gather all the responses from the server and replay them to get the scripts, just remember that this data could easily be encrypted (or obfuscated, or steganograph'd). Then you would have to hack (or crack) it out of memory, etc. This can also be done, it just won't be as fun for the crackers; hence less lulz.

    Which brings up an interesting question: Can you take enough lulz out of the equation for crackers to give up on cracking your game?

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  25. Actually all those reminds me of Wizardry IV (or was it V?) which had codes printed in blue ink on maroon paper. You had to copy it out by hand, work out the algorithm etc, but you couldn't just Xerox it — and in those days, sending data remotely was very rare.

    This is just another version of the same phenomenon. Make it tough enough to last until the company makes its expected and rightful profit. Then they can sell it cheaply (yes, $10 DVD game-plus-expansions-and-extras compilations) to make a steady flow of small but good income that will be better than downloading it yourself from a pirate site or even torrent.

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  26. @titopaul28
    I'm short on URLs right now but several economic studies have shown that the used market supports the primary market. Not very difficult to grasp that I'm willing to pay top dollar for a game knowing I'll get something in return when being able to sell it after having played it through.

    So drying up the use market is shooting yourself in the foot but we all know, game companies are used to do that.

    And Jeff, while I really like your take on this topic I must say, I am NOT going to buy Starcraft II and will be happy to spend my attention/money on other media.

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  27. Assassins Creed II was cracked 15 hours after release.

    Legitimate consumers must suffer the ridiculous DRM forever, despite the only purported reason for the DRM being made a moot point after 15 hours. The pirates - as usual - get the better game.

    If Ubisoft gave be a choice: buy our version with the DRM, or the pirated version without it for $10 more (from us, Ubisoft, not from a pirate seller) - I WOULD BUY THE NON-DRM VERSION EVERY TIME.

    What are they even thinking? What other industries deliberately antagonise their customers in the hope of hurting non-customers?

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  28. DRM is very Zen, because it hopes to both give and not-give data to you.

    In the real world, it's impossible to not-give data you give to someone. If you gave them it, they have it. If you give them "assets" (including magic constants, models, textures, video, audio, etc.) but write your code so that they're not cached, people will simply edit the code so that they are cached.

    If you have a finite number of assets, stored on a server, people will just stripmine your server by running your own code to look like a genuine request, but they'll do it for every possible asset. They'll either find all genuine asset IDs by searching your code, or they'll simply run through all possible IDs.

    People have successfully cloned MMOs before. It's not impossible.

    You simply can't trust an environment where your code runs on someone else's hardware. They can and will edit your code for their benefit.

    Encryption covers sending messages from Alice to Bob without Eve getting them. With DRM, Eve is Bob.

    The only "DRM" that can work is for games which, as an integral part of the experience, REQUIRES a network connection to hardware you physically control.

    This is possible for MMOs due to the "network effect" - even though people run their own servers, all their friends are on the legitimate servers.

    Another thing you can do is create so many assets, it's easier to stream them from the server than it is to store all of them locally. This only really works if all your assets are large. People routinely download Youtube, Hulu, etc. videos, but nobody has saved off EVERY video on these sites, because few people have petabytes of storage lying around. If the total storage space required is over 100GB, most people won't bother downloading. If the storage space required is over 1PB, pretty much nobody but a dedicated operation would download it. The problem comes: how do you create 100s of GBs of content? Any step you take to bulk it out by repeating content, the pirates can repeat to save space.

    Another thing you can do is put not assets, but COMPUTATION on your secured server. This is no good for a game like Assassins Creed, as it's a linear game where all the responses are already statically mapped out, by the scriptwriters if no-one else. People can just do a replay attack on the code to find out what all combinations of player state could trigger what event. In an MMO, the scales are much larger but it's still possible. Pirate versions need to write their own little server-engine to replay the appropriate answers.

    All this means that you need to give out dynamic answers that can't be cached, which means different answers to different people, and different stories to different players. This is something that needs to be built in at the plot writing level, so it's hardly a magic bullet.

    Anything less than this is easy to crack. Sorry, that's just how it is. You'll never eradicate piracy of mass-market software, the only thing you can do is ignore the pirates and come up with ways of selling to more customers - by making your version more convenient than the cracked version, and by making it easy for people to act "morally" by pricing your game reasonably.

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  29. 2 - It works on MMOs. Sort of. But every popular MMO has emulated servers out there. Quality varies.

    3 - Someone already provided a link, but UbiSoft have gone out of there way to say that they're going to do this. It's all been "we hope to" and "there is a plan"... they've down-right refused to state plainly that this will definitely happen. If you've nothing to hide...

    4 - You're right, but that stems from the hackers having a deep-set concept that anything can be hacked. And while it sometimes takes time, they're always proven right.

    6 - Of course sales go up. But do they go up enough to off-set the cost of developing this new DRM, maintaining the servers, and bringing in the extra customer support staff to deal with people for whom it doesn't work? Some people really like games, but pirate them anyway and use their disposable income on going to the cinema or such. If they actually prefer games, and just pirate because they can, they might then buy the game. But there's a whole load more people who would rather go to the cinema, or to the pub, or to a restaurant, or buy a book... If they have to choose, because piracy ceases to be an option, they'll just stop playing games.
    I kind of hope this DRM does work for a while, as then we can see exactly what sort sales increases will result from un-piratable games.

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  30. "And, if you don't think I'm an entire idiot, my newest fantasy RPG for Windows and Mac doesn't have any scary DRM at all. And the demo is huge and free."

    Yes the "I wouldn't have bought it anyway" people will still pirate it. Jerks.

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  31. Just wanna clear something up about Starcraft 2. While an online connection is required for the initial install, you can player single player offline as much as you want afterwords.

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  32. You mention that you "only need to stay unbroken for the peak sales period of the game" but is that really true? I was under the impression that the sales figures had pretty heavy tails, especially for non-"big name" titles. So wouldn't it seem more natural to protect, and extend, the heavy tails rather than the peak? It would seem like heavy tails would be hurt the most by piracy.

    You also mention only half of the way to prevent piracy. The disincentive to crack copy protection by making it more difficult or annoying to do. But there's really a whole different side that I would think should be equally as important; the incentive for consumers to buy legitimate copies of the game.

    For example, Mass Effect 2 does something like this, but with the idea to encourage people to buy new games instead of cheaper used copies. They do this by having free downloadable content to people who've signed up with a unique code that comes with new copies of the game.

    I would naively think that adding intensives like this to buy new (or legitimate) copies of the game would be much stronger in preventing piracy, since consumers will always feel like they're "missing out" if there are parts of the game only accessible to "official" copies, and directly appealing to what the consumer wants is always a very powerful force! So is making the consumer feel like they're getting something "extra special." This also has the added benefit of protecting the heavy tails of the sales distribution more.

    Of course, this could be broken too, since moving DLC around is not too hard, but it would seem like doing this combined with more traditional copy protection would be the best bet.

    It also has the advantage of making customers feel like they're being treated specially for being good customers, instead of being screwed over by a big company who doesn't trust them.

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  33. I've always been bemused by the idea that DRM only needs to work for those first few months. Sure, that's the make or break sales period (in our idiot short-sighted industry model, at least), but the idea that a significant number of would-be pirates will go and shell out for the game at its most expensive rather than wait a couple months for a crack is nonsensical to me. People who are interested in paying $60 for the game (thanks, Ubi, for charging $20 more for your months-late, DRM-encumbered PC version than people can pay right now for the console version) are already doing that. People who are interested in paying less than that are going to have to wait either way.

    Also, I am deeply saddened to hear that Starcraft II will require server activation to install. Chalk up another hotly anticipated game I can't buy in good faith. Thanks, Blizzard. (I'd be getting the Collector's Edition, too.) It's not about my ability to live with the DRM personally - I've got always on internet. But built-in obsolescence is a terrible move. Let the medium have its history, please!

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  34. The whole piracy thing is a red herring.

    It's all about removing the ability to own something. To my knowledge, it isn't a criminal offense to loan or give someone a shovel or a book.

    That so many more words are wasted on the herring is insulting. It'd be like saying "the terrorists" want to take away our freedoms. While all the while they, themselves, keep saying "Get out Whitey" over and over and over and over.

    This strange inhuman mechanical thirst for profit corporations exhibit when they twist and warp reality, both in the meat space and the reality inside our minds, always kind of reminds me of Azathoth.

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  35. Here is me, who would like to be able to play a (legitimately purchased) game in locations where there may not be any internet. Such as on a 16-hour plane flight. Or on holiday. Or at relatives' houses in the middle of nowhere without even dial up.

    It's hard enough being without the internet itself anyway. But having to also down tools in the middle of a fascinating and addictive game which has no real need to use the internet, that is a step too far.

    I buy my software. Where does Ubisoft's DRM leave players like me? It just shits on the lot of us. The only ones who suffer are legitimate players. The pirates - at most - suffer delay. Then they get their cracked copies sorted out (and they will) and they play whenever and wherever they like.

    Whereas us legits are stuck having to play with a CD in "for verification" and run through various hoops when we've already bought the game.

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  36. I had the same issue Mr Schneider was having in finding the "demo" on the Avernum 6 page. The download buttons are obvious, but something just was not registering: "I'm a demo link. Click me!"

    I scrolled up and down looking for a "demo" link. I almost left the page until I moused over the download button to read the referrer as "Avernum6Demo.exe".

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  37. "Just wanna clear something up about Starcraft 2. While an online connection is required for the initial install, you can player single player offline as much as you want afterwords."

    Right, but what you can't do is play LAN games (which is what made SC1 really huge back then) cause you have to play multiplayer games over Battle.net. Thanks, but no thanks.

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  38. Uh-oh, it seems the shit has already hit the fan:

    http://forums.ubi.com/eve/forums/a/tpc/f/4721051016/m/7481010838

    Apparently Ubisoft's server is on it knees, which means that those who legally bought AC II are stuck with a game they can't play. Somehow I have the feeling that those people will think twice in the future before buying a Ubisoft game.

    Way to go, Ubisoft!

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  39. Somehow I don't think they know what an Ubisoft is.

    But it's all okay! As long as awesome next-gen AAA titles like Battle Kid: Fortress of Peril get made, there's still a reason to continue to live!

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  40. I have to reiterate something. I said in both posts that I think this DRM is a terrible idea and bad for the PC games industry.

    This failed servers debacle is astonishing. Not surprising, but wow. What a screwed up situation.

    - Jeff Vogel

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  41. I pirate lots of stuff.

    It isn't because I don't want to spend all my money, there just hasn't been a lot of great games that I actually want to use my hard-earned cash on. That includes Avernum, even number 6 (Yeah, cracked already, you guys need a longer and more complex code, I found a key-gen in 5 minutes of searching on Google)

    However, like Jeff said, if I want to play a game, I will buy it. If there is DLC, I'll go to the nearest Gamestop and grab some MSPoints.

    The truth of the matter is that Pirates, Crackers and Hackers will be slowed down, but no system is truly safe.

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  42. For the same reason everyone doesn't run out and buy all the consoles just to play the games on them, people won't run out and buy the games just because they can't pirate them. The reality is there are people who are not hardcore gamers, who will have a much lower price they're willing to pay. In order for me to buy a game, it basically has to be under $10 and on Steam. There's no way I'd ever run out to the store and buy a $50 ubisoft game with such draconian DRM. While I probably wouldn't pirate it either, the point is that not everyone is a hardcore gamer willing to throw away all their money on video games.

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  43. Sorry if someone already posted this, 43 comments are a lot to read. Ubisoft has said that it doesn't plan to take the servers off *ever*. Check it out, from PC Gamer:

    "If for some reason, and this is not in the plan, but if for some reason all of the servers someday go away, then we can release a patch so that the game can be played in single-player without an online connection. But that's if all of the servers are gone."

    and then

    "... we don't plan on shutting down the servers, we really don't."

    http://www.computerandvideogames.com/article.php?id=235596

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  44. First of all, I have never read something so naive and ill-informed. A random guy who wants to make us believe that because he's programmed some small indie game engine that he recycles over and over and over, that that means he knows as much about hacking and cracking games as anyone out there. PLEASE.

    Your mistake, and the actual reason everybody is rightly calling you an idiot, is that right out of the gate you start off assuming you know as much as anybody else out there does. You're not only wrong, you're wrong in the stupidest, most face-palming way possible there is to BE wrong. That is the very *definition* of an idiot.

    Second, you write an article that is disingenuously and sneakily written from the beginning to straddle the fence and come out on top no matter what happens:

    If the DRM works? "See you guys, I told you it would work you guys!!! I told you you guys!!! You saw me say it!"

    When it doesn't work? "See you guys, I said it was a bad idea, I did say it was a bad idea you guys!!! You saw me say it!"

    So no matter what happens, you're right... correct? No matter what happens or how things turn out, you're still the big guy who knows everything. So no need to actually say anything of substance, because no matter how it ends up, you can say you "predicted" it. Freakin' ridiculous.

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  45. @Teddy Maul: Dungeons and Dragons Online. Its a fairly popular game (at least as popular as some free-to-play games with cash shops that have private servers), yet to my knowledge it has never had a private server. Neither emulated nor stolen. Its not a young game either having been released in February of 2006.

    @jonxia_rules: Hacker and cracker don't go together. The first is a highly skilled person. Amongst them are those who invented the programming languages used to make most games, along with various old yet still highly used POSIX-compliant OSes like BSD and Linux.

    Crackers are people who have absolutely no real talent beyond basic skills at beating what is already a really pathetic system. Sure they can crack Jeff's game. But you don't need a lot of skill to pop up a hex editor and read through the machine code to figure out how it decodes the small five-digit number. At best, compared to hackers, crackers are just kids in terms of skill. Thus the term "script kiddie" arose.

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  46. I think piracy is overrated. The problem is with the binary sales model we've adopted from history - it's either buy or don't buy. Given the price point of many games it's no wonder that many decide to not buy if they know how.

    Personally i wish i could:
    - download whole games legally
    - play the first 2-3 missions (20-30 minutes) for free
    - then get asked if i want to play the same amount for a small price ($5) or buy the whole game for ($50) and get an extra (DLC, virtual item)

    A lot of people copy because they just want to try out the game. See how it's like. If they like it. They use it as some kind of a demo but without the restriction that it'll eventually stop. For that, they subject themselves to huge security risks (a lot of cracks come with trojan horses, backdoors and other malware).

    If instead we could download every game we want to play legally, and play each game in demo mode the first 20-30 minutes without having to pay, then one major reason to download pirated games goes away.


    @Simon Schwartz: so, what exactly was your point other than you didn't like Jeff's article/opinion and doubt his credibility? I worked for EA and agree with him on all the technical details and business decisions. Being an Indie for 10+ years and running a business is no mean feat. He probably even knows a lot more about this industry and the technologies used than the average geek doing his 9-5 job at a big game publisher.

    He's definetely right that this kind of DRM works but overall it's bad for the gaming industry (not just PC). While i don't agree with some of his opinions his argument is sound.

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  47. Valve must be on the right track then. They reuse the source engine A LOT. With just minor tweaks and adjustments. Maybe sometimes major tweaks.

    ReplyDelete
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