View Full Version : Talking to pirates

08-19-2008, 02:35 PM
Everyone seems to be talking about fellow indie game developer Cliffski and his request for pirates to tell him why they pirate his games (http://positech.co.uk/cliffsblog/?p=76) and his summary of everything that he learned (http://www.positech.co.uk/talkingtopirates.html). There were a lot of valid issues raised about games (mostly mainstream). I'd just like to chime in that some of us (and this is fairly common for indie companies) have already tried to take many of these issues into account. Below are many of the issues raised and how we handle them.

Too expensive: Currently Depths of Peril is selling for $19.99. Personally I think this is a great value and much better than the typical $50-$60 retail game. We also have tons of players that have characters with days of playing time. That's way less than $1 per hour for just one character.

Tech support: We support our games quite a bit through our forums and over email. Just read a bit of our forums to see how often I post helping people out. This even includes strategy and mod related stuff, so we try to go further than just tech support.

System requirements: We purposely try to keep our systems requirements reasonable and they are much lower than mainstream retail games.

Too derivative/gameplay issues: We try very hard to release games that are very different. This is something that I plan on doing for all games that Soldak creates. For example, Depths of Peril's competing covenants and dynamic world makes it a very different game than the typical action RPG.

Demos too short: Our demo only has a portion of the world and has a level cap, but you can play it as long as you want. I have heard from many people that have played our demo for 5+ hours. That's more gameplay than some full games.

DRM: We don't use any real DRM. The only thing we use at all is a simple activation key on some versions of Depths of Peril.

On top of all of this, we offer a 30 day money back guarantee, so there really isn't any risk of buying a game from us.

If I am missing anything that we should change, free feel to speak up. I don't always do what people suggest, but I do always listen.

08-19-2008, 04:55 PM
I agree, especially the usage of these text based databases are a great thing, that makes you feel the inside of the game and motivates you for modding and translating.

08-19-2008, 05:27 PM
Your game IS great value for the price. You spent time on it, and it shows. The UI and engine is a bit weak (the lack of decent lighting doesn't pay justice to the texture work), but the game is excellent.

The demo is great; I played it several hours as well.

I 100% agree about the costs. There's just too many bad games out there. You're more likely to strike gold at the casino than get something good for your 50 euros. Maybe because of the interactive nature of games; it's very difficult to enjoy a game with a bad gameplay. Gamers can get past clunky controls and medium graphics, but not gameplay. On the other hand when you pay for a seat at a local movie theatre, even if the movie is bad it provides some entertainment, in the worst case you just laugh with your friends while you eat your popcorn and exchange smart comments.

I can certainly imagine myself buying more games if they cost half the price. Everytime I go to the local "FNAC" I check out the games. Many games look interesting, but I would NEVER buy one on impulse. I'd buy games between 10-20 euros as an impulse but those games are usually very old titles sold as "budget".

Demos are too short that's for sure. I'm going to be mean... but I suspect some games are just plain bad; and the developers know it, they have deadlines and such, or they produce yet another uninspired license, they wouldn't want you to see too much or you'd give up. On the other hand good games could benefit from longer demos. "The Witcher" gave you the whole 1st chapter for example. That means no limitations. It's like reading the first chapters of a book for free. I don' see how that hurts the sales, only when you are really hooked, you can't help but to buy the game to continue. At that point, if the game is in stores, you could buy it on "impulse" instead of looking for a crack.

But my personal pet peeve is the merchandise you get with games. I like the box art, I like it when a game comes with a nice manual. Most games nowaday don't give you any incentive to get the boxed product. The manuals are usually lame and uninspired. Exception is for the classic rpg's and such which tend to have something more interesting. Guild Wars had some nice contents. The Witcher special edition I bought made me feel for the first time like I really got my money's worth. No lame manual, or booklet with illustrations: a splendid A4 format book with art from the game, with a good binding, you get that kind of art books for the price of the game itself in comic stores and such! And the art book IS really nice. Not just pictures but also comments from the developers, artistic choices they made and such.

That to say, your game is the first one I bought online.

Personally even in online form the publishers could do better: give us the music in mp3 format, give us wallpapers, a good manual in PDF format, etc.

08-20-2008, 05:12 AM
I think it is a certain mix of elements that goes into the decision to pirate a game. Reason 1 I have pirated most of the games that I have were the small lan parties I used to be involved with. 2 or 3 players would have a game and the 4th wouldn't or something similar. Major reason 2 would be distrust. After being burned several times at 30, 40, 50, or even 60 dollars a pop, I as a consumer feel much less loyalty to the developer.

That being said, a major factor in restoring that loyalty in our relationship is the lack of DRM in a game. This is why I have purchased several things from Stardock and part of the reason why I just purchased DoP. I also purchased DoP because the demo suggested that the game might be pretty decent and at 19.99 I was willing to take a chance. If the game was priced higher I probably wouldn't have been willing to take the chance.

Anyways, that's my two cents.

08-21-2008, 10:02 AM
"Because I can" is still the single most compelling reason. When I was a kid and had no money, this was enough justification for me. Now its not. Can't remember the last time I pirated a game.

08-28-2008, 12:38 AM
When I look at the issue of piracy, I see a jaded group of otherwise normal people who are led to steal by the following:

1. Convenience & Neglect -- It's easy to get a pirated copy of almost any software. Easier, in fact, than going out to the store to get one, and perhaps even easier than punching in billing information and buying it via digital download. Coupled with the "try before you buy" mentality, they will guiltlessly acquire the game via torrent or otherwise and immediately begin playing. Unfortunately, they often get tired of the game before they finally commit to buying it, and in the end they decide not to pay for a game they are already finished with. I feel that there is a significant number of pirates whose mentalities are far from criminal.

2. Industry Spite -- Do you know how many mainstream or even minor/indie developers half-ass a project, push people to buy, and then leave them to suffer a poorly made or unfinished product? Although my perspective is that of the consumer, I would estimate that at least a third of PC games developed are not released "complete" or "safe" and more than half of those are never finished or repaired. Although I can only assume the impact, I imagine it eliminates the consumer's feeling of deserved pay toward the developer. I have heard many times that consumers feel cheated for having paid for what they played, or many pirates feel relieved they didn't pay for a poor product. Oppositely I have seen consumers feel that their money was well spent and heard of pirates pulling out their wallets to pay for what they felt was a "worthy product." So why don't they take advantage of a 30 day guarantee? That's a good question. I think it's probably a convenience issue.

Of course, this is just part of what I see the pirate community as. These are probably minority issues, but that is the very reason why I have posted them -- just food for thought. The biggest culprit is and always will be carelessness. "Why pay when I can get it for free?" It's the same with music.

I would be more interested in interviewing the people who hack/crack games and make them available to the general public. Why go through all the trouble to make a criminal act more accessible? The motive certainly isn't greed, and I have a hard time believing it's an issue of principles and beliefs.

08-28-2008, 12:15 PM
(...)Why go through all the trouble to make a criminal act more accessible? The motive certainly isn't greed, and I have a hard time believing it's an issue of principles and beliefs.

Back on the Amiga I always hated how they shamelessly inserted their group's name into the game credits or other place where it would be visible in the game's startup screens.

Cracking of games and software seems to me some kind of underculture where groups fight for so called "respect" or status. Just read the NFO's to see the pitiful mentality they are set in. Group xyz boldly claims that they are the "best" because group abc could'nt crack so-called game, and they did the REAL crack yada yada. "We are the best". "Our crack contains all the cut scenes but yours does not" etc etc.

Back in the Amiga days I thought they maybe they have some principles. There were sometimes efforts by crackers to "release" something only on the day the game came out in the stores, to give it a chance to make decent sales. How generous and gracious of them! Because they're fighting each other; they can never even have such simple principles as, "lets release cracks only X days after its release in stores". As you say; they have no beliefs, and no principles that they can hold on to.

They also often add in their NFO's "if you like the game, buy it". They put this just to look good, or to pretend to themselves they are right somewhere. Which is the worst part really, I dont think they really understand what they're doing.

On the other hand sometimes I wonder where we would be without cracks. How many talented programmers and artists out there have learned the ropes on software suites like Adobe Photoshop, Flash, etc? These things sell for ridiculously high prices. Yes, there are alternatives, and they suck for the most part. GIMP? No way.

Imho, as long as there is ignorance there will be piracy.. but piracy is also there for a reason. I think it goes much deeper. To say that the way money works today is fine would be insane. There are tons of problem with the way money works in this world today and I guess piracy is the little black spot on your skin that tells you you are sick and you need some serious healing...

08-29-2008, 07:38 AM
I think Temple of Elemental Evil was a rip-off. The game is so short and the maximum level allowed was 10. It had so many bugs and mistakes, the game would have made some beta-demos ashamed. I felt so outraged at the quality of the product, I would have gladly pirated that piece of crap had I not already paid for it.

Now, compared to that crap game, DoP is so polished, it makes my eyes squint in pain. It's a shame great indie game makers suffer because of unscrupulous game developers that destroy faith in consumers. I don't know about the other reasons people would pirate, but one thing for sure is poor products being pumped out of mega-game-developers without any conscience. When gamers fork over hard earned $50, they want to feel satisfied. It's been a while I feel like I can say that $50 was totally worth it. Compared to that, $20 for DoP is bargain, since I'm still playing it after weeks of solid game play.