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Shadow
03-08-2010, 04:31 PM
The war between pirates and publishers continues unabated. I'm sure most of you have heard about Ubisoft's DRM they are in putting in their latest PC games. If you have been living under a rock :), it basically boils down to you need a constant internet connection to play their single player games. Being someone that develops games for a living, doing it as an indie, and being a big fan of PC games I have a different point of view about all of this.

This doesn't surprise me in the least. Ubisoft, like most publishers, feels like they are getting backed into a corner. They are more and more feeling like the PC market is dying, not because there aren't a ton of PCs out there playing games, but because of all of the piracy. They are getting more and more desperate to try to continue to make games on the PC, but they feel they can't without more and more restrictive DRM. Others are just abandoning the platform for the consoles or moving over to server side games like MMOs or facebook games. I at least give Ubisoft some credit for trying.

However, my opinion specifically about their DRM is that it sucks. Being cut off from playing a single player game you bought because your internet connection goes down, because Ubisoft's servers go down (which it has already), or because you are on the train with your laptop is just plain wrong. I understand why Ubisoft wants to do this, but it still sucks. All this is going to do is piss off paying customers, which is never a good idea.

Unfortunately, what is going to happen is a bunch of people are going to use this crappy DRM as an excuse to download the cracked version and possibly continue with other games. Even if you bought a legit version of the product you are still part of the problem. This will just make publishers want to use even worse DRM. If you do this, you just become part of the endless cycle.

I'm going to let you in on a secret, most developers and publishers don't like DRM. In general, it costs a lot of money, takes developer time, introduces more bugs, and causes problems for your customers. Most companies would get rid of all DRM in their products if they thought they could do it without losing money. Yes, I know there are some companies out there that want to restrict how you can use your purchase so they can sell you the same thing multiple times, but they are a small minority. Piracy is the root cause of why we have most DRM.

Why does any of this bother me? Well for 2 reasons. I really like the PC as a platform, but if current trends continue the only games that we are going to have on the PC eventually are things that have a server side component like MMOs. This is going to suck. The other reason is that despite all of the bull-shit justifications that pirates use, they still pirate from us indie companies that are struggling to survive, that have large demos, and that have pretty cheap games just like pirate everything else. Actually piracy hurts us even more than a big publisher. At least big publishers have mega hits here and there that supports everything else they do, most indies do not have this luxury.

My humble suggestion to everyone is vote with you wallet. Don't side with the pirates, they are the ones instigating the problem in the first place and siding with them just results in worse DRM later. However, don't side with the publishers that put in DRM that hurts you, the customer. Buying their crap just tells them it is ok. Instead go buy some other cool game that doesn't have crappy restrictions. Show your support for PC games, but don't support the individual games that do stupid crap.

Now for my pitch. Hey it is my blog after all. :) Our games have pretty large demos (Din's Curse will soon), are fairly cheap, have money back guarantees, try to be unique and not just simple clones, and only use simple keys for copy protection. We also actually listen to our gamers and try to be a very open company. So what do you have to lose?

dnuggs40
03-09-2010, 10:10 AM
Thanks that was a good read, and your thoughts echo mine completely. I participate on a few popular PC gaming forums and the general attitude of most people is really saddening. Constantly vilifying developers/publisher...which boggles me as they are the reason we have this wonderful hobby. Nobody ever looks at it from the publishers/developers perspective either...and lord do they love to pretend piracy has zero effect on their bottom line. In some cases, I have even seen people try and say piracy is a BOON to the game industry :mad:

So people throw their hands up at DRM...meanwhile when games get cracked they celebrate like it's some kind of victory for PC gamers. It's insane...the people cracking games and those who pirate (millions) are doing a lot of harm...yet it's met with celebration.

I don't like DRM...I don't think anybody really 'likes' DRM (maybe the people who make it :p )...but I am not going to direct my anger at the people who invest their blood, sweat, and money to create something and then want to protect it...I will instead focus that ire on the cheapskates ripping them off forcing them into that reaction.

With everything said, I think Ubisoft's effort is misdirected and like you mentioned, may only cause more problems for them. Unless of course the DRM is wildly successful, and other content providers follow suit. Last I heard it hasn't been cracked either...the one that does exist is incomplete and the game doesn't function correctly.

To be honest I am not that concerned over the whole issue, one of the great things about the PC platform is how diverse it is. In the last year I have purchased Torchlight, King's Bounty, STALKER, Bad Company 2, Din's Curse, Left 4 Dead 2, Borderlands, and pre-ordered Grim Dawn. These games are from all sorts of different kinds of developers (small, indie, large, mega) with all sorts of different philosophies on game design and DRM. I feel as a consumer the PC platform has a lot to offer, I just wish some people would stop justifying their selfishness and start supporting the industry that makes this awesome hobby possible.

/rant

udm
03-10-2010, 11:05 AM
Hey Steven I posted this on the GOG forums. Seems like most gamers agree with the sentiments, which is a damn good thing :)

http://www.gog.com/en/forum/general/soldak_steven_peeler_comments_on_ubisoft_amp_039_s _drm

Kreb
03-10-2010, 11:15 AM
I think Ubi has every right, perhaps even a fiscal responsibility (to their shareholders), to get game piracy under control. I mean, the statistics are just staggering. particularly in Eastern Europe and Latin America.

http://w3.bsa.org/globalstudy/

These are real dollars that are being stolen from real people. The pirate communities rationalizations are totally self-serving and demonstrably false.

I have no idea what percentage of Soldak's users are running pirated copies. I hope it is small. Whatever it is, it is theft, and it leads directly to higher prices for legitimate customers. In a sense, they're stealing from everyone.

citizen_gkar
03-10-2010, 11:33 AM
I mean, the statistics are just staggering. particularly in Eastern Europe and Latin America.
http://w3.bsa.org/globalstudy/

The only way to describe the 'study' referred to above is WAG - wild assed guess. Nobody really knows the real rate of piracy and even more to the point, no one really knows the real affect of that piracy. Step back from your self-righteous pose and think for a minute: a) just where did those percentages come from, forgetting for a moment that BSA has every reason to wildly exaggerate their claims. b) even if we established that a program was downloaded from a sharing site X number of times, does that really mean there were X number of lost sales? I think not.

Is piracy a problem? Sure. But treating legit customers like the enemy is never a winning game.

Kreb
03-10-2010, 11:50 AM
The BSA study is based on in-country surveys of manufacturers and users (not counting downloads from file sharing sites). Agreed, there is no perfect way to study the number of people who are using pirated copies, but when studying any illicit activity, you're necessarily going to have to make due with what you have.

Interestingly, BSA has found a decline in piracy over the last few years - a fact they attribute to better enforcement (particularly in China) and stronger DRM.

Maybe BSA wrong, but they've made a serious effort in trying to understand the extent to which piracy is a problem. That counts for something.

As far as whether UbiSoft is smart for alienating potential customers with its new DRM scheme - that remains to be seen. If their measures result in greater total sales (gains from persons buying their game instead of pirating it minus legitimate customers who didn't buy it because of DRM), then its a sad, but telling data point about the extent to which piracy is a problem. If the reverse is true, then that also helps us calibrate there the sweet spot is.

getter77
03-10-2010, 08:13 PM
One has to admit though, there's some irony in Eastern Europe and such largely being the breadbasket of dev houses for some substantial hits these past couple years---despite being in an area where such issues are quite prevalent.

UBI, in this case, surely could've chosen a better way considering the broad history of "ways" documented out there. If you have to assume for contingencies as a rule, what possessed them to go with something with such a large bullseye on it as a grand constant activation server dealie as the blowback's writing was practically on the wall.

Kruztee
03-11-2010, 05:56 PM
I'm a massive fan of the Silent Hunter series. I don't condone piracy and I know it hurts developers but I won't be buying SH5. Take that as you will.

I enjoy using Steam to buy and manage my games, the DRM included in the Steam client should be sufficient that the ridiculous, draconian and invasive DRM included on the 2 latest UBI titles is totally unwarranted.

For the record, I have purchased multiple copies of DoP (including a treasured boxed version that I've never installed), one Kivi's licence (even though I didn't even like the game =P ) and will buy at least one additional copy of Din's Curse in support of Soldak and it's policies of low key DRM and flexible attitudes to fair use of it's software.

So, so far it's Soldak with over $100 from my wallet vs. UBISOFT $0

Who's really winning the DRM war I wonder? Certainly not honest customers, that's for sure.

geelw
03-12-2010, 01:43 PM
Great Post SP!

This sort of restrictive DRM is a terminally lousy solution, as is trying to stop the sale of used boxed retail games by locking out purchasers trying to save some cash. I understand the industry is struggling (it's hard not to notice a bunch of small to large studios shutting down), but this isn't the best way to go at all.

Game download services aren't perfect, either. While Steam is indeed worthy if you plan to follow its policies to the letter, folks who have no clue and buy certain games used are going to be in for a nasty surprise or three. About a month ago, I ended up emailing every ebay seller that posted used DVD retail copies of Killing Floor because the game can't even be installed on a new Steam account if it's been already registered previously.

Also, given that some folks still aren't on broadband (for any number of reasons), even if they bought a brand new copy of the game, there are issues. The automatic updates during the Steam and game install process would have them waiting 'til the cows come home (they'd be dry-aged beef by then) before they even saw the darn title screen...

Granted, it's a fun game, but being stuck with it forever makes me wonder why it was pressed onto a disc in the first place if you can't get rid of it (via trading or reselling) at some point. I know folks need to be paid, but this is pretty darn ridiculous.

Anyway, there are those who try to defend piracy with ridiculously inane arguments (as you'll see by the response I got on the Edge boards):

http://www.edge-online.com/news/ubisoft-no-drm-crack#comment-28992

I love how this guy tries to put words in my mouth (what's with the race thing he rants about?) and laughably says stealing games/music or other media over the Internet isn't theft because it's ONLY "data" that's floating around... :rolleyes:

Yeah, right. Try and get some of that data from a FBI computer and when you get caught, go use that line as a defense in court. Someone had better hope their lawyer faints before he finishes speaking and the judge has a sense of humor when he's sentencing is all I'll say...

And yes, my anti-piracy stand is ridiculously harsh, but as an artist, I've had work stolen in the past and know folks who've also been hit. So yup, I'm all about cracking down on thieves, period.

Of course, one can also safely say if there were fixes addressed by publishers in a timely manner, a lot of folks wouldn't have to fish around for some of the less legal solutions. But I think that impatience is more of a factor for many of those who justify their hunting around for unofficial fixes by saying that since they paid for a game outright, it SHOULD run perfectly out of the box.

(Has there been a "perfect" PC game that's never needed any patches whatsoever?)

Still, at the end of the day, honest consumers ready to spend money on new games shouldn't have to jump through hoops, use assorted cracks to get games to run or "get used to" increasingly overly insane DRM. Conversely, there needs to be some sort of incentive for gamers to buy product at retail that includes more leeway in trading/reselling games they no longer want to play.

As for possible solutions to keep future PC games DRM-free, I'm all for free or lower-priced download content, giveaways for users that hang onto a game for a while, reduced prices on expansions or sequels if the original game is registered and other fun stuff. Hell, I'd even support some sort of recycling program or even a limited license transfer for retail DRM games that currently can't be played on a new user's PC.

Of course, if all PC games go download-only (a bad idea in my opinion, as there's always going to be someone who wants to buy a game and hasn't the connection speed or simply wants a disc version in case download servers go down, an account expires or hell, just for collecting purposes), most of my ideas are moot.

As for older DRM such as StarForce and the like, none are perfect (and there are a number of registry cleaners that can permanently remove those annoying files, by the way), but I'd still take those over what UbiSoft is doing. I've never had any major problems with those copy protection systems simply because I've always used one PC for gaming.

On the other hand, I totally sympathize with folks who had to pull all sorts of strings while dealing with "take it or leave it" attitudes from assorted publishers because they simply wanted to run the game on a home PC and a laptop or two. Maybe the extra DVD copy that movies get should come to PC gaming with a bit more leeway that allows for some sort of sharing (all a game's multiplayer maps/modes plus a limited single player demo or something?).

Kreb
03-12-2010, 02:20 PM
Your respondent's answer is truly remarkable. He resists with a series of increasingly tortured logical steps the obvious conclusion that stealing someone's computer program is theft. If a program costs $30, and you download an illegal copy of it, you stole it. It doesn't matter whether or not you were going to buy it. It doesn't matter whether or not the cost between having 100 copies and 101 copies out there is the same.

The basic point is that someone spent their time writing a game (or any program) and offers people a copy of that game for $30. You can buy it and use it. You can choose not to buy it and not use it. Those are your ethically viable options.

And for the record, I expect more companies to go the UbiSoft route of putting their content on a server that you access, since it makes it a whole lot easier to control illegal copies.

wynams
03-12-2010, 03:16 PM
Guess thats the death-blow to my plans of buying Settler's VII.

Voting with your wallet is THE NUMBER ONE WAY to make sure your input is tallied

Shadow
03-12-2010, 03:24 PM
Kreb: I agree Ubisoft has every right to try to protect their game (as long as it's not damaging my computer). I just disagree with their method.

geelw: The person that responded to you on that other thread is why I no longer read piracy or copyright threads on Slashdot. Their points seem to always boil down to justifications, why they are entitled to something for free, arguing about semantics, and insults.

geelw
03-12-2010, 06:15 PM
A few days back, I showed his response to a guy I know who did copyright and entertainment law for about 35 years and I've never seen someone go from nearly keeling over laughing to getting completely serious and asking if it was a joke post within a split second.

When I told him that he's not the only type that thinks theft isn't theft based on odd logic about acquiring other people's work for no cost, I got a "Is this what these guys all think? If so, they don't have a wooden leg to stand on legally."

After reading that mess the first time, I didn't even bother to reply to the post because my head was hurting from bumping it all over the deflector screens this clown set up in his "defense".

He's obviously set on believing his own BS no matter what anyone says. Folks like that never learn until they end up having to see the error of their ways. Of course if anyone wants to point out how wrong he is over on Edge, feel free.

geelw
03-12-2010, 07:41 PM
Kreb: I agree Ubisoft has every right to try to protect their game (as long as it's not damaging my computer). I just disagree with their method.

geelw: The person that responded to you on that other thread is why I no longer read piracy or copyright threads on Slashdot. Their points seem to always boil down to justifications, why they are entitled to something for free, arguing about semantics, and insults.

Funny, though -I don't even know the guy who responded and as far as I know have never had him reply to any of my other posts there Also, I rarely post on Edge (unless I'm commenting on something less controversial), so I found it striking that he'd spend so much time responding and still be completely wrong, point after point.

Guess I hit a nerve or something...

And yup, I'm sure more publishers will follow Ubi's lead, but I'm hoping they manage to at least try and do their versions of DRM in a less restrictive, more user-friendly manner. We shall see, I guess...

trjp
03-21-2010, 04:22 PM
I'm a massive fan of the Silent Hunter series. I don't condone piracy and I know it hurts developers but I won't be buying SH5. Take that as you will.
The best reason not to buy SH5 is that it's unfinished, buggy and broken - the DRM is just icing on that particular 'brown and smelly' cake.. With luck, by the time they've patched-it-up the DRM will be forgotten under the smouldering ruin that is their DRM server network.

Ubi are just heading further down the road which inconveniences their customers in order to strike-out at people they have a problem with/are breaking the law. Not many people have commented on it, but EA have a similar system in place with C&C4 - they claim it's for online tracking of your achievements etc. but they require a persistant connection to play regardless.

For the record, piracy is not theft - it's violation of copyright law, big difference. Using the term 'theft' is just a way of lambasting those who commit it but it's technically inaccurate.

The idea that a pirated copy = 30 lost is ridiculous tho - it's rather like Rolls Royce assuming they've lost 250,000 everytime someone buys a Toyota! :)

Jorlen
04-20-2010, 04:23 PM
The best reason not to buy SH5 is that it's unfinished, buggy and broken - the DRM is just icing on that particular 'brown and smelly' cake.. With luck, by the time they've patched-it-up the DRM will be forgotten under the smouldering ruin that is their DRM server network.

Ubi are just heading further down the road which inconveniences their customers in order to strike-out at people they have a problem with/are breaking the law. Not many people have commented on it, but EA have a similar system in place with C&C4 - they claim it's for online tracking of your achievements etc. but they require a persistant connection to play regardless.

For the record, piracy is not theft - it's violation of copyright law, big difference. Using the term 'theft' is just a way of lambasting those who commit it but it's technically inaccurate.

The idea that a pirated copy = 30 lost is ridiculous tho - it's rather like Rolls Royce assuming they've lost 250,000 everytime someone buys a Toyota! :)

I agree and I think that's part of the problem; these big publishers have their heads in the clouds when they absorb these kind of skewed statistics and respond with more invasive DRM at every turn. A pirated copy isn't a lost sale, it's someone downloading it that probably never intended to purchase the product to begin with.

Take myself and several people I know for example. We know we can mod our consoles and just download games for free, or pirate PC games easily. However, we choose to purchase for several reasons. If a game doesn't have DRM, I'm not going to say, "Hell, it's easy to copy this, I will just pirate it!". And ironically, if any product comes out with DRM that I disagree with, I along with tons of others will simply not buy it and move on.

Obviously there's nothing wrong with companies wanting to prevent people from easily pirating their software, but there's a fine line... There has to be limits as to how it's going to affect the customer. Ubisoft and EA have crossed that line to the point where they are turning away would-be purchasers in droves AND upsetting those who weren't aware of the limitation.

Needing an internet connection to a server to play a single player game is nothing short of madness, and madness doesn't sell well. EA, Ubisoft and Activision are some of the biggest publishers out there right now, so I hold them mostly responsible for the PC market and they're screwing it up for everyone, their own customers included.

I have no doubt that Ubisoft will look at low sales of Assassin's Creed 2 and blame piracy even though it was their own anti-piracy system that created the problem to begin with. Talk about a vicious cycle.