Posts Tagged DRM
Cross Posted from Divine Knight Gaming.
I will never understand why companies continue to insist on using DRM. It makes absolutely no sense to punch your paying customers in the gut, call them pirates and tell them to stop stealing your stuff. These are your paying customers. They paid you. Why would you insist on treating them like thieves?
DRM is absolutely one of the most evil inventions in software. If you read anything I write here or elsewhere, you will know how I feel about DRM and companies that use it. I will never use it in any game I develop nor would I be willing to deal with DRM as a consumer. As a Linux user, I have to deal with the fallout from DRM on a most everyday basis. I am not legally allowed to watch DVDs on my computer. I couldn’t until recently watch Netflix on my computer. (I only can because some very clever developers not affiliated with Netflix made it possible.) And many games will not run properly even through Wine because the DRM is incompatible. All these things have soured me to any company that uses it.
That is why the recent news of Game Maker’s absolutely disgusting DRM implementation has me gagging. YoYo games go so far beyond what most companies do with DRM that they are beyond redemption. This company has designed their software that if it so much as gets a hint of you being a pirate, they will permanently vandalize your game. Seriously. They will force images of the Jolly Roger onto all your sprites in a bid to shame you into… what… paying? Paying for software you already paid for? That is the kicker. The people getting hit by this “retribution” paid for the software. They are not pirates.
The problems with this DRM seem to be so bad that the only way to recover from it is to completely uninstall Game Maker, delete every last trace of the program from your computer and reinstall. That is absolutely unacceptable. So not only is the developer out the time it take to clean up their computer and reinstall the software, they also have to spend days possibly weeks restoring their artwork. For what? They privilege of paying? I am sorry. That is evil.
To make matters worse, according to one former paying customer, they have absolutely horrid customer service that will at the earliest possible moment, accuse you of piracy. Then they will treat you like crap and silence you if you try to complain. No. That is wrong on every level.
I had long ago made the decision to not use Game Maker in my game development work. Primarily because it lacks support for Linux. But this seals the deal for me. I will never recommend this tool for any game developer, ever. I will never willingly submit anyone to such destructive and abusive developers. No one deserves to have their hard work destroyed in that way.
It doesn’t even matter that YoYo has promised to strip out that particular action from the DRM. Why? Because they will continue to rely on other just as bad if passive attacks on you the paying customers. It is time that this company felt the pains that come with such tactics. They need to lose business. Those using the tool, need to stop. There are plenty of other great tools available that you could use. I have talked about several. There are many more that I have not talked about.
We just need to stop supporting DRM using companies altogether. If they insist on treating paying customers like trash and thieves, they do not deserve our business. They deserve to fail. That is all there is to it.
Originally Published on Game Politics.
Popular indie game making tool, Game Maker, has a bit of a DRM problem. Over the weekend, some users noticed that the tool was permanently vandalizing their sprites with images of a skull.
A recent update to Game Maker Studio has left many developers confused and frustrated after an anti-piracy system went haywire.
Those who use a legally obtained version of Studio have had game resources, such as sprites, overlayed with an image of a skull and crossbones. The resources are permanently edited, rendered useless.
In response to these complaints, YoYo Games has decided to remove this particular action from the many things its current DRM does when it detects a pirated copy of the software. However, the DRM and the many more ‘passive’ things it does will remain.
We’d LOVE to be able to remove the protection completely, but we know that vast numbers would simply copy it if it was that easy. There are many levels to the current protection system, and while many are visible like this, there are also many hidden so that we can always tell when a final game was created with a crack.
We expect an update to go out tomorrow to remove this protection, and will move away from the “destructive” protection like this, to more passive methods to help protect innocent users who through no fault of their own, somehow trigger it.
While YoYo states that it would love to remove DRM completely, it feels that because it is targeted by pirates so much, it cannot do so. It feels that it would not be able to retain the same level of sales without it. This is an unfortunate decision as many game developers, such as CD Projekt, have found that without DRM, it is still possible to make money.
For now, YoYo advises those who have this problem to uninstall the application and delete all the data and registry files and then reinstall.
The current solution is to uninstall, delete both %appdata%\GameMaker-Studio and %localappdata%\GameMaker-Studio, delete the GameMaker-Studio registry key, scan your machine in case its a virus, and then reinstall.
What this DRM will do to Game Maker’s reputation among indie developers is yet to be seen. Few if any people would willingly use software that would vandalize their game projects. Hopefully, those affected by this DRM will be able to properly recover their projects without losing much if any of their progress.
Originally Published on Techdirt.
For many years, Ubisoft has been the go-to company for stories about DRM gone horribly wrong. They really seemed to believe that always-on DRM actually does something to stop piracy. That was followed with story after story after story of Ubisoft doing things that harm only paying customers and generally shoot themselves in the foot. You can go back over our posts about the company to see just how badly they have handled piracy for years. It really looked like the company was never going to learn the simple fact that it is more important to maximize sales than to fight piracy. So imagine our surprise when the following story came to light.
Ubisoft began making the rounds early this week, contacting a number of video game sites including Gamasutra and Rock, Paper, Shotgun and providing interviews. The purpose of these interviews? To tell the world that Ubisoft has changed its DRM ways. Much like the end of Charles Dickens’ ‘A Christmas Carol’ in which Scrooge takes to the streets to spread peace and goodwill, Ubisoft wants the world to know that it believes that providing its customers with the best gaming experience is the most important part of its new strategy.
In the interview with Gamasutra, Ubisoft’s VP of digital publishing Chris Early speaks about its past use of always-on DRM.
If you look back to early 2011 and before, we did at one point in time go with an always-on activation, for any game. We realized that while it was probably one of the strictest forms of DRM, it wasn’t the most convenient for our customers. We listened to the feedback, and have removed that requirement from those games, and stopped doing that going forward.
This is interesting because we had been complaining about always-online DRM since at least 2010 and other forms of Ubisoft DRM since 2006. However, the fact that they are actually listening to the feedback of consumers is a huge plus for them. This is a bold move for the company that decided that paying customers wouldn’t miss playing their games at all for a few days while it moved its servers.
What we’re trying to do is make [playing a game] easy for players who have legitimately bought our software, and at the same time put a registration requirement, or one-time activation requirement in, that includes some element of [software] protection.
The reality is, given enough time and effort, any game can be pirated, and many are. But what we’re looking to do is validate the customer, then provide value to that customer for registering their software.
This is exactly what many customers have been asking for and many other successful companies have been giving. This idea that providing value to paying customers is a better way for success has been one that companies like Valve, Stardock and CD Projekt Red have known for years. But this lesson on DRM is not the only one that Ubisoft has learned.
Ubisoft also seems to have learned some very important lessons about piracy in general. Specifically, that not all people pirating a game are doing so just to get free stuff and that not all pirated copies are a lost sale.
I don’t believe that every single pirated copy is a lost sale. In some cases I’m sure it’s just someone trying out a game. At some level, you can almost look at it as a demo program. So as far as many of those could’ve been sales? I’m not sure.
In general, when people talk about piracy, there are all kinds of reasons cited, whether it’s because of an economic imbalance, where people can’t afford to buy a game in that particular [geographical territory], or it’s a challenge, or it’s someone who doesn’t believe in supporting publishers by giving them money. There’s a whole variety of reasons. That’s why we want to focus on the rewards and benefits of owning the software.
This is another idea that other companies have known for a while, that piracy is the result of under-served customers. By focusing efforts on making the paid option more attractive than the free options, you can capture more sales than if you spent your time trying to stop piracy.
Over at RPS, They didn’t go quite so easy on Ubisoft’s representatives. RPS asked many times for a statement on just how bad its DRM was for paying customers and whether Ubisoft had any regrets, but all RPS ever got were whitewashed PR statements.
RPS: Do you acknowledge that always-on DRM has been extremely damaging to Ubisoft’s reputation?
Burk: I think that, as Stephanie said, I think this is where that feedback comes in. We’ve obviously heard from PC customers that they were unhappy with some of the policies that we had in place, and that’s why we’re looking to make these changes – why we have been implementing these changes, as Stephanie says.
RPS: Would you be willing to say that it was a mistake?
Burk: No, I wouldn’t say that. I’ll let Stephanie say what she thinks, but I wouldn’t use those words. This is a process, and we listened to feedback.
Perotti: I would say the same.
This attitude of not wanting to admit to any mistakes while still making this sweeping change in policy has the potential to leave a lot of people with a bad taste in their mouths. While the company is no longer hitting their customers over the proverbial head, they have not yet apologized for those actions, at least not out right. A good apology could go a long way in smoothing things over with their past and future customers — though perhaps just the act of changing and admitting to the change is a form of an apology for many.
Over all, this is a great move by one of the last hold outs in regards to video game DRM. While many other companies still require some form of DRM, none were quite so bad as Ubisoft in that regard. Hopefully, this change of heart will echo throughout the gaming industry and all developers will abandon efforts in the futile fight against piracy and instead focus on maximizing sales through added value for their customers. Ubisoft has a bright future ahead of itself on this path and I wish them all the best of luck.
Originally Published on Techdirt.
Ever since Blizzard created the massive hit that is World of Warcraft, it has decided that requiring gamers to be constantly connected to the internet while playing is a good thing. Unfortunately, things have not gone as smoothly as it had hoped. If you are familiar with recent events surrounding the release of Blizzard’s latest game Diablo 3, you may recall the Error 37 issue in which users who tried to connect to Blizzard’s servers on launch day were unable to due to the lack of infrastructure. Since then, it has had fewer issues, but still some users have difficulty staying connected to the servers while playing and thus risk losing progress that has not been saved. This has some people and groups upset.
Via Cinema Blend, we learn that one German consumer group has given Blizzard an ultimatum to change the Diablo 3 packaging to reflect the need for such a connection. The original report from the German site PC Games states:
Potential purchasers must know before purchase what are the requirements for the software to be used. Whether a permanent Internet connection, obligatory registration to an Internet platform including the related access to a game, or downloading additional software: all these things are essential information that the user much receive before purchase.
The primary complaint is that the requirement to create and log in to Blizzard’s Battle.net service in order to play is not clearly disclosed prior to purchase. Because of this requirement to be tethered to a constant internet connection, some people are having a number of issues, even when trying to play single player modes of the game. This consumer group has given Blizzard until July 27th to respond to the complaint. If Blizzard fails to respond or respond adequately, the group is prepared to pursue legal options against the company.
Unfortunately for gamers, many game companies are moving toward the use of this kind of “always-on” DRM. To those companies, it is a necessary part of the war on piracy. However, these DRM schemes are more often a nuisance for paying customers who have to deal with unexpected and even planned server outages. What makes these types of DRM more infuriating to consumers is the fact that it not only applies to the multiplayer portions, where you can understand a potential need for an internet connection, but also to single player portions that are typically done locally. There is never a reason to require that a gamer be connected to a server at all times when playing by themselves.
Hopefully as more consumer groups and consumers in general voice their dissatisfaction with such DRM schemes, more game developers will listen. We have seen many developers already making the stand that DRM is not useful or wanted. Those developers have found that treating fans with respect is a far more effective means of maximizing profits than any DRM scheme could ever be.
Every 3 years the US enters a period in which consumers and consumer groups get to beg the government for the return of their fair use rights which were stripped with the passage of the DMCA. This year, consumer groups are asking the government for permission to bypass Digital Rights Management (DRM) (That’s the politically correct term) on game consoles and other devices. They are also asking for the right to bypass DRM on DVD movies so that consumers can rip their movies and use the digital files for any reason that would not normally infringe. One thing that often get’s left out of this discussion and process is just why is DRM a part of law.
That is a question that Rick Falkvinge of the Pirate Party asks. In his latest article on the topic, Rick demands that Digital Restriction Mechanisms (The more accurate description) be banned. According to Rick:
Legislation is a matter of pointing at the bad guy in order to slap them in the face. In order to do that, you need to establish who the guy breaking the social contract is.
As the law stands right now, circumvention of DRM is illegal. In other words, it is the people running their own code on their own computers in order to manipulate bits on media they have legitimately bought that are the bad guys. That’s not acceptable and that’s what needs to change.
You don’t establish that by changing the law to say that these people may not be quite so bad after all, maybe we don’t need to be quite so harsh against them. Instead, you do that by establish that they are firmly within their rights, and that another party – the firms robbing citizens and consumers of their legal rights – are the guys breaking the social contract.
He certainly has the picture right. The people who simply want to play their game, watch their movie, listen to their song, or read their ebook are not the bad guy here. The people telling those legal purchasing consumers that they cannot do that unless done in a specific way allowed by the producer are the the ones doing the harm. We have seen over and over again in the games industry just how bad DRM has been for gamers. Just in the last few months to a year, you can find story after story that details the pains that paying customers must go through to play games that are plagued by DRM.
For two recent examples we have the following. Back in February, Ubisoft decided to migrate its DRM servers over the course of a couple of days. Because those servers were taken offline for this process, legal paying customers were unable to play and access games they bought. Such an event would never have happened had Ubisoft not used DRM on its games.
Then we have Blizzard. Blizzard decided that it wanted to control every aspect of the gaming experience of its new Diablo 3 game. The only way it could do this was by forcing every paying customer to always be connected online via DRM. So what happened? The first few days (and still on occasion) gamers could not access the game on a consistant basis, many not being able to play for the first day.
These are just two examples of the horrors of forcing DRM on paying consumers. The internet is rife with complaints about the process. So yes, I do think that Rick is right. DRM should be banned. If it can’t be done by law (which usually follows popular opinion, or money, which ever is more powerful at the time), then it should be shunned by gamers and game developers. We have already seen a number of successes from game developers who have chosen not to release games with DRM.
For example we have CD Projekt, the guys behind the Good Old Games store. They have determined that DRM is futile as a way to stop piracy. Then we have Stardock which realizes that it is more important to maximize profits than to stop piracy. Finally, we have the Humble Indie Bundle. This little promotional tool uses the lack of DRM as one of its primary selling points. Each iteration has been more successful than the last because of it.
If the lack of DRM can be considered a positive by gamers and developers, we should hold equal disdain for games and developers that utilize DRM. Until we can get DRM banned from use in digital offerings, it is important that we shun any developer and any game that utilizes it.
Most everyone has heard the news about CD Projekt’s CEO Marcin Iwinski on DRM and Piracy. This story is awesome and illustrates just why you should support this developer and the platform they have developed, Good Old Games. These guys know just what PC gamers want. What makes this story interesting is how some people read too much into any kind of piracy figure.
All over the internet, people are making a huge deal about how Iwinski came to figure that CD Projekt’s latest game, The Witcher 2, was pirated 4.5 million times. That is a huge deal but that number is not important. Iwinski admits from the start that he was figuring those numbers on the bat and out of data he pulled out of nowhere.
So why is everyone making a huge deal about it? I think the main reason is that some people want to find some kind of solid number on just how much damage piracy does to the games industry. However, trying to quantify that is meaningless. Not every pirated copy is a lost sale. But that doesn’t matter to people who want to make a big deal out of piracy.
But the ultimate takeaway from Iwanski’s interview is CD Projekt’s views on DRM.
In my almost 20 years in the industry, I have not seen DRM that really worked (i.e. did not complicate the life of the legal gamer and at the same time protect the game). We have seen a lot of different protections, but there are only two ways you can go: Either you use light DRM, which is cracked in no time and is not a major pain for the end-user, or you go the hard way and try to super-protect the game.
Yes, it is then hard to crack, but you start messing with the operation system, the game runs much slower and – for a group of legal gamers – it will not run at all. None of these solutions really work, so why not abandon it altogether?
That quote really is the cut and dry version of his argument and exactly how I feel about it. Why inconvenience paying customers with a product that is not guarantied to work? Why use a system that fails in every way to stop piracy? Well Iwanski has the answer to that as well.
Fortunately and unfortunately at the same time, games are becoming huge business. And as with every growing business, there are a lot of people coming in who… have no clue about games and could work in any other industry. They are not asking themselves the question “What is the experience of a gamer?” Or “Is this proposition fair?” But rather, they just look to see if the column in Excel adds up well or not, and if they can have a good explanation for their bosses.
As funny as this might sound, DRM is the best explanation, the best “I will cover my ass” thing. I strongly believe that this is the main reason the industry has not abandoned it until today, and to be frank this annoys me a hell of a lot. You are asking, “So why is it taking so long for them to listen?” The answer is very simple: They do not listen, as most of them do not care. As long as the numbers in Excel will add up they will not change anything.
These “Excel guys”, as Iwanski puts it, are not really interested in serving their customers. They are interested in hitting a certain sales projection. In order to meet that, they make dumb decisions like add DRM to games to mitigate the piracy column in their spread sheet. If they didn’t add DRM that column wouldn’t be mitigated and they would have a hard time explaining to their bosses why the columns don’t add up. That is a horrible way to do business.
What game companies, such as Ubisoft, need to realize is that the less painful you make PC gaming for paying customers, the more customers will pay. The better you make the game, by that I mean make a game that actually works on the PC, the more people will pay for your game. That is a simple truth that few major players in the games industry realize.
In the end you need to follow Iwanski’s advice and vote with your wallet and only buy games from developers who treat you like the customer and fan you are. Don’t even deal with those developers who want to treat you like a criminal. They will only break your heart.