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Op Ed

All Aspect Warfare developer blog #14 - The DRM Minefield.
The key to DRM for developers/publishers is that the longer it takes for hackers to break the game, the more chances you have of actually making some additional money on the game. There is no such thing as a casual pirate anymore. At least not since everyone discovered the Internet and Google. So DRM implementation is not about preventing uncle Tom from making a copy of your game for your cousin Harry. Tom doesn’t need to crack your game in order to make that copy for Harry when he can just go online and get it from someone who already has done the job for him. Heck, Harry can probably do it all by himself. Casual piracy is no farther than a trip to a search engine.

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19. Re: Op Ed Jul 15, 2009, 00:12 Jerykk
 
It would be actually an interesting experiment to sell two version of the same game one with and one without DRM at let say a 8 dollar difference and see how many people by the cheaper DRM version on how many the more expensive without. This put a dollar figure of how much DRM reduces the actual perceived value of the product.

I think it would be much more interesting to sell two equally priced versions of a game, one with no copy-protection whatsoever and another with CD-checks, CD-keys, activations, install limits, etc, all clearly stated on the box. I'm pretty sure the one with no copy-protection would sell a lot better.
 
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18. Re: Op Ed Jul 14, 2009, 23:17 zee
 
As much as I am generally against DRM. That is a pretty reasonable approach. As long as the developer can ensure that DRM causes:
1. No Hardware and Software incompatibilities. (e.g. it won't run on this DVD drive -- or -- it won't start if you have Visual Studio installed)
2. It doesn't slow down the game with checks.
3. It doesn't slow down the computer or disable functionality when I am not playing the game. (e.g. just because Nero can be used to copy DVDs doesn't mean you should disable it when I want to burn my pictures to a DVD.)
4. It doesn't suddenly stop working because I reinstalled the game or my internet connection went down.

The fundamental reason why most people hate DRM is because it is usually slapped on at the last minute and significantly increases the risk of things not working properly for absolutely no benefit whatsoever for the gamer. Sure 9 out of 10 everything works dandy. But having to go to a hacker's site to get a game working properly, leaves the distinct impression that the hackers are providing the higher quality product.

It would be actually an interesting experiment to sell two version of the same game one with and one without DRM at let say a 8 dollar difference and see how many people by the cheaper DRM version on how many the more expensive without. This put a dollar figure of how much DRM reduces the actual perceived value of the product.
 
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17. Re: Weaksauce Jul 14, 2009, 19:17 Razor
 
@ Derek:

Since your post clearly points out your obvious stupidity, I have nothing else to add as that will just ruin the fun.

Weak. You can only blame yourself, Derek, for your retarded blog post to begin with.
 
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16. Re: Weaksauce Jul 14, 2009, 18:45  dsmart 
 
@ Razor

Since your post clearly points out your obvious stupidity, I have nothing else to add as that will just ruin the fun.

Its days like this that make me happy that I actually have a pulse.

This comment was edited on Jul 14, 2009, 18:45.
 
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Game developers are just human beings who happen to make games for a living. If you want to hold us up to higher standards of conduct, then go ahead
...but don't be surprised if we don't uphold them
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15. Re: Weaksauce Jul 14, 2009, 17:59 Razor
 
@ Derek:

Is English even your first language?

Is that, seriously, the best you could come up with? You make me laugh =D

...our games don't leave ANYTHING behind. Never did. Never will.

I read your blog post, you dumb shit.

Fact is NOTHING IS EVER REMOVED COMPLETELY WITHOUT ADDITIONAL TOOLS.

Safe to assume you mean your own software. Even if that was not the case, you advocate this as being the norm and that the user should just suck it. No, Derek, it is you that should suck it.

If you don't know what you're talking about, either ask someone to explain it to you with crayons or STFU.

You are so easy to aggravate it's comical. Feel free to eat a dick, Mr. Smart =D

Edit: Just wanted to add one more thing.

Removing SecuROM is not the responsibility of any individual developer/publisher. Thats like putting the onus on us to remove DirectX – or any similar driver component – from Windows OS.

So you're comparing a first-party (some would argue core) component of an OS to third party software not actually required to play a game (save being forced by the developer)? Are there no bounds to your stupidity? Derek, do us all a favour and ban yourself from the Internet.

This comment was edited on Jul 14, 2009, 18:08.
 
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14. Re: Weaksauce Jul 14, 2009, 17:18 eRe4s3r
 
Silly me My wording seriously sucked - obviously even UC was completely mouse driven! I meant if there was done work to the way you can order and select things while in the flight mode of a larger ship for example)

Like a quick selection radial menu kind of thing. In free UC one had huge amounts of (long, stacked) dropdown menus when right clicking which were not really smooth to navigate in flight - where i would for example only want to quickly order my planes to sortie and attack everything or only target torpedoes etc. - or recall all my crafts and run like hell etc.

Guess that is not really the point of UC though ;p

Lmao - i guess i am nitpicking - well AAW sounds interesting and like a big departure from the usual 3000ad gameplay, so when its out i will check it out Not that there is an abundance of games like it...

And seeing that AAW is not at all like Universal Combat i guess that was a really stupid thing to ask

-- Also i don't get why you get flamed here all the time... well back to lurking
 
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13. Re: Weaksauce Jul 14, 2009, 16:34  dsmart 
 
Wow, Derek is so full of shit. Yet another developer blaming Microsoft and Windows for poor uninstalls of software. Give me a fucking break.

If a developer is unwilling to take responsibility for proper uninstalls then they don't deserve my money. There is no excuse for leaving remnants of your shit on my system. Just because it has become the norm does not make it right.

You're such a tit, you know that? Is English even your first language? If it was - and you actually READ my blog and understood it - you would see clearly that our games don't leave ANYTHING behind. Never did. Never will.

But since you have this sordid penchant for being negative about anything and everything, it just stands to reason that you'd open your mouth, stick your foot in it and go for broke.

Packaging, shelf space, advertising space in the store, shipping, the discs themselves... everything related to physical media that ups the cost. Gamers expect a lower price when they don't pay for these things. You can't really blame them. I have a hard time believing the cost to be a mere $1.50.

Rubbish. NONE of those factor in the COGs. Those expenses are paid for by the retailer, not the publisher. Thats why the retailer gets a discount off the MSRP which they then mark up.

The price of retail vs online is exactly I as previously stated. There is NO reason for there to be a price disparity because what you save in COGs for a retail release, gets chewed up by the logistics behind an online distribution.

The COGS are only for the packaging, printed materials (e.g. manual, command sheet etc), disc media and DRM licensing fees if any. Those are publisher costs, not retailer costs.

If you don't know what you're talking about, either ask someone to explain it to you with crayons or STFU.

Now probably this is not gonna get an answer from you/here but are there any plans for a fully mouse driven interface in AAW ? So will it be possible to do anything not directly related flight and fight (yaw/pitch/speed/afterburner etc.) via a mouse driven menu ? Like Crew Management orders and things ? ... - Without having to actually go into separate management screens? (So for example - readying all fighter craft for a patrol and sending them on a standard patrol pattern around your ship straight from the flight screen?)

AAW is not space game and thus has no need for any of that.

ALL our previous games are 100% mouse driven. Try actually playing one of them and see for yourself.

This comment was edited on Jul 14, 2009, 16:36.
 
Avatar 9141
 
Game developers are just human beings who happen to make games for a living. If you want to hold us up to higher standards of conduct, then go ahead
...but don't be surprised if we don't uphold them
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12. Re: Weaksauce Jul 14, 2009, 15:05 Kxmode
 
If a developer is unwilling to take responsibility for proper uninstalls then they don't deserve my money. There is no excuse for leaving remnants of your shit on my system. Just because it has become the norm does not make it right.

Amen brother!
 
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11. Re: Op Ed Jul 14, 2009, 14:41 the_culture
 
Saying that however, there are in fact cracks of our games online. Go figure.

I think that is out of spite rather than wanting to play your games.
 
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10. Re: Op Ed Jul 14, 2009, 14:13 Razor
 
@ Derek:

So I don't understand why gamers expect games sold online to be any cheaper than their retail counterparts.

I think you've proven time and time again that you don't understand gamers =P The logic is simple: gamers expect lower prices when the overhead related to a retail release is removed.

Packaging, shelf space, advertising space in the store, shipping, the discs themselves... everything related to physical media that ups the cost. Gamers expect a lower price when they don't pay for these things. You can't really blame them. I have a hard time believing the cost to be a mere $1.50.

Perception is often more important to people than reality. If a gamer feels like they are being ripped off, they are less likely to buy your product.

This comment was edited on Jul 14, 2009, 14:16.
 
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9. Re: Op Ed Jul 14, 2009, 14:10 eRe4s3r
 
I take you are the main developer of AAW ?

Well, i checked the only trustworthy sources for cracks (gcw/gf/megag....) and could not find a single crack for any of your games. Excluding Universal Combat - and patch 2.030 cracked. Now maybe they are still flying around but it seems your DRM efforts paid off decently. There are no legit scene torrents of any of your latest games around either, according to nforce

Steam however - is not an alternative at all, while it takes distribution and sales off your hands (i guess), its also extremely simple to crack (or rather, emulate) - so you will always need additional Online Auth DRM if you don't want 0-day spread of your steam games. So instead of giving Valve money it seems better to handle it yourself. You are doing so already anyway i guess.

Now probably this is not gonna get an answer from you/here but are there any plans for a fully mouse driven interface in AAW ? So will it be possible to do anything not directly related flight and fight (yaw/pitch/speed/afterburner etc.) via a mouse driven menu ? Like Crew Management orders and things ? ... - Without having to actually go into separate management screens? (So for example - readying all fighter craft for a patrol and sending them on a standard patrol pattern around your ship straight from the flight screen?)

prolly a weird question .. maybe the game is already complete different from Universal Combat Free Version ...
 
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8. Re: Op Ed Jul 14, 2009, 14:03 Bludd
 
How can pirating a game be theft if you don't own the game even if you buy it? You buy a license? Great, I wanted to play a game but apparently I only own a license.

Also, pirating a game is not the same as stealing a Ferrari. For instance a developer can make millions of copies of a game in the same time it takes Ferrari to make a cylinder head for one of their engines.
 
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7. Weaksauce Jul 14, 2009, 13:58 Razor
 
Wow, Derek is so full of shit. Yet another developer blaming Microsoft and Windows for poor uninstalls of software. Give me a fucking break.

If a developer is unwilling to take responsibility for proper uninstalls then they don't deserve my money. There is no excuse for leaving remnants of your shit on my system. Just because it has become the norm does not make it right.
 
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6. Re: Op Ed Jul 14, 2009, 13:10  dsmart 
 
I've never heard of all aspect warfare, sounds like another developer that is looking for a reason that their games are doing poorly.

Considering that its not even out yet? Seriously?
 
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Game developers are just human beings who happen to make games for a living. If you want to hold us up to higher standards of conduct, then go ahead
...but don't be surprised if we don't uphold them
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5. Re: Op Ed Jul 14, 2009, 12:47 Jim
 
I've never heard of all aspect warfare, sounds like another developer that is looking for a reason that their games are doing poorly. the games that have the most sales and make the most money are the ones most heavily pirated. Other games tend to be flawed in some fashion, or just not fun. I wish developers would spend more time on making better games instead of trying to beat an enemy that has essentially infinite resources.  
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4. Re: Op Ed Jul 14, 2009, 12:16 Jerykk
 
Indeed, pirates will only crack games they are interested in or which are popular.

Everything gets cracked, including niche and indie games. The big groups stick with the high profile releases while the small groups stick with the small releases. If you want to find a pirated game online, no matter how obscure, you can do it.

Also, finding cracks online is not as easy - or safe - as it used to be because some wankers are using fake cracks to spread botnets, malware, peddle p0rn etc.

The same applies to full releases, not just cracks. Whether or not you use DRM doesn't change the fact that people will put out fake releases filled with viruses and malware. Piracy has always been risky to the inexperienced and DRM doesn't change this a bit.

Let's be realistic here. You make niche, obscure games with basically no hype or marketing. If a pirate finds out about your games and then realizes that they aren't cracked, he's probably not going to say "OHNOES!!! I HAVE TO BUY IT NOW!!!" No, he'll just download something else. You're fooling yourself if you think DRM is necessary.
 
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3. Re: Op Ed Jul 14, 2009, 11:25  dsmart 
 
Indeed, pirates will only crack games they are interested in or which are popular. Niche games are less interesting. Saying that however, there are in fact cracks of our games online. Go figure.

The thing with DRM is that - as I've always said - it is the necessary evil. You have to have it. Not to keep the dedicated pirates at bay mostly, but to curb wanton piracy.

Also, finding cracks online is not as easy - or safe - as it used to be because some wankers are using fake cracks to spread botnets, malware, peddle p0rn etc. So someone who is not experienced at seeking out pirated software, is probably not going to spend too much time looking for it. Thats what DRM tends to curb: the impulse of "oh, maybe I can find it online and save myself $50)"

And the thing with consoles is that you HAVE to be REALLY experienced to even bother with looking for a crack of a console game because obtaining one and actually getting it to work - on a hacked console - is not as easy is getting a cracked PC game and running it. If you have a hacked console, thats just half the cost of entry to even get cracked games.

I don't understand the issue with Steam pricing of games. The cost of retail production is not as substantial as it used to be. Heck, depending on volume, the entire COGs (Cost Of Goods) for a PC game these days is probably around $1.50. Tops.

So even if you sell the game for $40 at retail, there is no point in selling it for less online because i) you still only get a royalty cut from the publisher ii) there are still costs - in terms of time and resources - involved in getting the game ready for online deployment. So its not like, lets zip it up, upload it and its good to go. God know. It takes a lot of backend resources to get a game online.

So I don't understand why gamers expect games sold online to be any cheaper than their retail counterparts. And depending on the portal (D2D, GG, Impulse, Steam etc) the royalty percent varies with the game and the publisher. Other factors that play into the game pricing and royalty cuts include things like, is it a day & date release? i.e. if there is a retail version, is it released online on the same day.

The greatest Steam asset - apart from having Valve behind it - is that you get all your games in once nice secure place and you have access to them at anytime and from anywhere. It is HARD to compete with that. On other sites, once you download it, thats it. You have to keep track of it, store it safe etc.

This comment was edited on Jul 14, 2009, 11:26.
 
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Game developers are just human beings who happen to make games for a living. If you want to hold us up to higher standards of conduct, then go ahead
...but don't be surprised if we don't uphold them
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2. Re: Op Ed Jul 14, 2009, 10:42 eunichron
 
It just seems like most forms of DRM are more restrictive on the purchasers of games now than the pirates. Limited number of installs, requiring internet connections for single player, things like that.

I'm not against DRM. As a fan of the music and video games industry for >15 years now, I consider game designers artists, and I think they have a right to protect their IP; it is their livelihood after all.

But, pirates will pirate games. There's nothing stopping them. That's what they do. DRM is just a small bump in the road. Big name AAA titles will still be cracked on day 1 (most often before release). Most games are cracked within the first week.

All these situations just lead me to believe that DRM will become more and more intrusive down the road, further punishing those people that do pay for games, while the pirates happily play their single player DRM free.

A side note, I always thought Steam would be a decent form of DRM. A streamlined delivery system that's required to play. But I also figured that games would cost less on Steam, and I think that is one of the major negatives of Steam since it's inception. Since the cost of games tends to be a recurring theme as to why some people pirate, it makes me wonder how much piracy may be curbed if systems like Steam were charging $35 for a brand new game, instead of the same $50 shelf price that includes a box, DVD, and manual.
 
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1. Re: Op Ed Jul 14, 2009, 10:42 eRe4s3r
 
The only reason DRM worked well for UCCE and GCES in preventing 0-day, and really any kind of piracy is because no pirate wanted to play the games. Not because they are bad games, but because they are catering to such a specific target audience that, given the lack of 0-day warez, the people who want to play it probably are buying it instead of waiting for a crack. And if there is no demand for a crack - no crack will be made.

So in many ways what Mr. Smart writes is spot on - And as much as i hate DRM, for a niche market developer decent DRM seems mandatory - sure if its really in demand it will be cracked - weeks or months or years after release. The pirates will wait anyway, and if theres no crack, simply not care.

And people coming with Stardock now - last time i checked every patch for galciv 2 or Sins (in sins even the expansion) had to be cracked.. So Stardock is using DRM just as much as anyone else.
 
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