Thought I would never say this...

This is a discussion on Thought I would never say this... within the A Brief History of Cprogramming.com forums, part of the Community Boards category; Went and bought Mass Effect today and found it has some very instrusive copy protection scheme. So much that I'll ...

  1. #1
    Super Moderator VirtualAce's Avatar
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    Thought I would never say this...

    Went and bought Mass Effect today and found it has some very instrusive copy protection scheme. So much that I'll probably be looking for a way to remove it just so I can enjoy the game 3 to 4 years from now when their 'activation' servers aren't up.

    Going to write a strongly worded letter to EA about this. I own nearly 100 EA games and have paid for them all. Automatically assuming I'm a criminal is ridiculous. The pirates will still pirate the game while I'll be calling trying to re-activate mine. I think you are allowed 3 activations and it checks every 10 days to see if your code is legit. There are rumors this was relaxed a bit after a huge barrage of emails from PC gamers so perhaps I have old info.

    I hope developers realize this - if they begin to seriously upset their core PC consumer they will only have a console market. Further they will not gain the PC consumers back in console sales b/c I know many PC users that will not buy a console. Gamers seriously affect the PC market and maybe it's time we reminded them of that fact.

    If things progress like this I guarantee PC sales will drop through the floor. Bean counters can say what they want but the primary reason for high dollar PC sales in the consumer market is gamers. Everyone says the market is shrinking but I don't buy it. Now when a PC game doesn't sell they attribute it to piracy. News flash. Maybe your game just sucked!! But blaming the boogeyman is so much easier than admitting you botched. Everyone I meet online who is not a cheater or hack has paid for their game and is eagerly awaiting more and more games. I don't mind throwing 50 to 60 bucks at a great game - and I want a nice package, some type of manual, maps (if applicable), and doo-dads are nice too.

    I just don't agree that piracy is the key reason for the lost sales in PC games. Perhaps it's because gamers are tired of the same old same old and so companies took that same old same old to a new market. Bet it gets old sometime for them as well. I pay top dollar for my components and my PC game looks better on medium than the console version on max - but graphics mean diddly to me. Give me a great game I can get into and play and I'll play it over and over and over. I'll buy every expansion pack they release and continue to play. I still like to load up GTA 3 and GTA Vice City and as cartoony as they look it is still a ton of fun.

    Maybe some companies will begin to realize the huge void that has been created and cash-in with some great games.

    Excellent read about Stardock's no copy protection policy.
    http://draginol.joeuser.com/article/...racy_PC_Gaming

    I happen to have bought Sins of a Solar Empire and enjoy it more and more. At first it was hard but it is a great game and the no copy protection stuff reminds me of the glory days of PC gaming.

    This goes along with what I've been saying but in different words. Pirates are not customers and never would have been customers so how are they lost sales? I still buy my games and I could care less if pirated versions are available. I will always buy my games.
    Last edited by VirtualAce; 07-19-2008 at 08:02 PM.

  2. #2
    (?<!re)tired Mario F.'s Avatar
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    I wholeheartedly agree, having been just recently victim of copy protection mechanism, as you may remember, to the point of actually forcing me to download an illegal copy to actually play the game I bought on the store.

    These mechanisms only make it harder for those willing to spend their hard earned money. Piracy will go around them in the first few days and all that is left is the legit user who payed for a harder to use version of the software, where fully copyable versions (and upgradeable!) are made available for free in the illegal circuits. That's just bad business and has driven many people onto getting illegal versions instead of buying them. Oh, it has!

    A good game will sell. And it will sell like bottled water in August. I own three (not one, three!) copies of Diablo II plus the expansion pack simply because I was so nuts about the game I wanted to play it with friends in a LAN at my place. I have Neverwinter Nights with both expansions and ALL premium modules. Everything bought with a smile. Becuse these games were great.

    Then you have something like Neverwinter Nights II, of which the patching alone will drive you nuts. A completely bugged game with serious performance issues that could actually never solve them entirely. The scripting at points actually ruins your questing and doesn't let you complete the game. The patching has to be done version by version with rollback versions in the middle. Patching NWN II took me 7 non-stop hours on my meager internet connection! Just insane... and then they complain people don't want to buy games...

    Or you have games like Half-Life that demand you to be online and have a broadband connection to install a single-player game that will not connect to the internet... and then they complain people don't want to buy games...

    It is my take copy protection and anti-piracy mechanisms have done more for piracy than anything else in the history of computing.
    Last edited by Mario F.; 07-19-2008 at 08:38 PM.
    The programmer’s wife tells him: “Run to the store and pick up a loaf of bread. If they have eggs, get a dozen.”
    The programmer comes home with 12 loaves of bread.


    Originally Posted by brewbuck:
    Reimplementing a large system in another language to get a 25% performance boost is nonsense. It would be cheaper to just get a computer which is 25% faster.

  3. #3
    Super Moderator VirtualAce's Avatar
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    It is my take copy protection and anti-piracy mechanisms have done more for piracy than anything else in the history of computing.
    That would make a great sig.

    Stardock software has put a big big dent in the flawed argument that piracy reduces sales. I believe they have the #1 top selling PC game this year and there isn't a shred of copy protection on it.

    I guess a dev house has two choices:
    • Use ever more draconian forms of copy protection. Isolate your actual paying customer base and leave them no choice but to illegally obtain the software just to get it to work. Make great games but lose sales because of a lousy copy protection scheme.
    • Make it as easy as possible for your paying consumers to modify, use, and enjoy the game. Let the pirates be pirates and only focus on your paying customer base and continue to make great games.


    Let's take stock quickly here. A game comes out and regardless of copy protection measures it is usually cracked within the first 24 hours of release. So you paid oodles of cash which could have been poured into development for a copy protection scheme that does nothing to prevent it yet causes consumers to not buy the product thus reducing sales further. Makes perfect sense.

    Since when have you seen ANY business employ schemes that target the people who steal the product and thus aren't really a customer and in the process upset your actual customer base? How do you remain profitable with that kind of business model? There is also mounting evidence that some copy protection schemes actually cause problems with the games that otherwise would not have been there.

    It's sad too because the dev teams suffer because of this. They produce an awesome game and experience meager sales because no one wants the copy protection on their computer. And the devs probably have nothing to do with the copy protection code. I'm sure it's just a component that is added well after it leaves the dev's.

    If EA and others continue this practice I will never buy another one of their games. Companies will appear that will get the hint and get back to just producing games instead of cute schemes designed to thwart the bad guys.
    Last edited by VirtualAce; 07-19-2008 at 08:54 PM.

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    I agree. Copy protections are totally useless. Games like Assassin's Creed were cracked even before the official release. The pirates actually got the game earlier than legit customers.

  5. #5
    and the hat of wrongness Salem's Avatar
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    When hacking the game seems like a more interesting exercise than playing the game, then you know they've done something wrong.

    You might also ask them what the $ value of all the development time of all this crappy protection was compared to the development time of the game. Was it money well spent?

    As you say, a fundamentally great game will sell, protected or not.
    If you dance barefoot on the broken glass of undefined behaviour, you've got to expect the occasional cut.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bubba View Post
    I will always buy my games.
    They're not doing these things for people like you.

    http://www.gamepro.com/news.cfm?article_id=165488

  7. #7
    Super Moderator VirtualAce's Avatar
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    They're not doing these things for people like you.

    http://www.gamepro.com/news.cfm?article_id=165488
    But what they are doing is affecting me and not the pirates. Normally I don't bother with rules that don't affect me but this time even ignoring the rule doesn't work. These intrusive forms of copy protection must stop.

    There are some who are trying to bring a class action lawsuit against SecuROM and one in the works for Starforce. SecuROM is developed by Sony and they have already been in trouble for other reasons.

    That 75 to 80 percent is not lost sales. Those people wouldn't have bought the game in the first place. And the copy protection STILL does not stop them from playing. So either way they only end up hurting their actual customer base.

    If copy protection is working and keeping illegal copies out then why are there over 40 EXEs for FEAR and other games for those who bought the game but cannot get past the CP b/c they have two DVD drives?. It's not working. Stop worrying about the boogeyman and make great games. You can't stop it from happening. CD-keys are fine by me and it's a small bit of CP that is non-intrusive and perfectly acceptable. It doesn't work either but if companies want to at least say they are trying to protect their investment then I say CD keys are the way to go.

    But it doesn't seem like they are stopping anything but legit sales. But it's fine if they want to squash the so-called meager sales then they can go ahead and continue to do this. Their games will not be on my shelf. If EA, Ubisoft, and others do not listen to the gamers they will not have a legit customer base for long. I'm beyond tired of this scheme that clearly does not work.

    Those companies should stop putting malware, spyware, virus-type programs that use tricks to fool the OS, make files unremovable, make registry entries unremovable, detect programs that can remove bad registry entries, etc., etc. If this does not stop gamers should seek legal action because what they are doing is against the law as much as the pirates they are trying to stop.

    This is akin to making a car harder to drive for the customer just because some of them get stolen. Ridiculous business tactic.

    I'm not against all forms of CP I'm against the draconian types that are flooding the market and are borderline illegal in themselves.
    Last edited by VirtualAce; 07-20-2008 at 11:50 AM.

  8. #8
    (?<!re)tired Mario F.'s Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by medievalelks View Post
    They're not doing these things for people like you.

    http://www.gamepro.com/news.cfm?article_id=165488
    That's a ridiculous number, and I can't even comprehend it. If piracy rates in the US were 75&#37;-80% and as high as 90% in Asia, as that article claims, then the whole market would crash. And that is just not happening. On the contrary, companies claim record sales every single year with the exception of... guess who?... EA.

    Meanwhile, the whole argument is exactly that anti-piracy mechanisms are increasing piracy instead of diminishing it by making it harder on people who actually spent money on the game. So whether or not they aren't doing it for people like us - who spent the money - it's only people like us who are going through it. Pirates remain completely unscathed.
    The programmer’s wife tells him: “Run to the store and pick up a loaf of bread. If they have eggs, get a dozen.”
    The programmer comes home with 12 loaves of bread.


    Originally Posted by brewbuck:
    Reimplementing a large system in another language to get a 25% performance boost is nonsense. It would be cheaper to just get a computer which is 25% faster.

  9. #9
    Super Moderator VirtualAce's Avatar
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    I think they are just playing the blame game for their lack of sales when it's really because of their lack of quality and innovation. I'm sure there are hundreds of legit games they turn down for publishing either because the time span is too long or the concept is one they don't think will
    sell well.

    If indie dev companies start coming out with great games and rid us of this horrible CP scheme I'd be willing to say they will generate some amazing sales. Stop concentrating on million dollar graphics. Give us a game that runs on old and new alike and has enough eye candy to be good, but not Crysis spectacular. I would run to the store and buy that.

    Of course I'm off to go buy Deadliest Catch just to see what it has. Doesn't have good reviews but who cares? I don't listent to reviews for my movies and I don't listen to them for the most part for games. Some of my best games IMO have been the underrated 20 dollar bargain bin's.
    They don't offer the latest graphics but the gameplay is outstanding. So shave the graphics a bit and just make a good game and you won't have to make a billion dollars to break even.

    As the guy from Stardock said, You don't target a product for an audience you 'could have had'. You target a product for a specific audience and if some of the edge audiences buy it then great. I'm finding companies that target 'everyone' target 'no one' and the game, while polished, sucks.
    Last edited by VirtualAce; 07-20-2008 at 12:22 PM.

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    Stealing software has become an accepted part of the culture. If pirated copies were unavailable, I highly doubt that NONE of these people would buy the games. How many would is impossible to determine.

    I mean, they obviously want to play them.

  11. #11
    (?<!re)tired Mario F.'s Avatar
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    Matter of fact is that I've been hearing the exact same arguments and the exact same figures ever since DOS days. So I just dismiss these numbers. Besides more important than the numbers is to know how exactly they come up with them. Phone calls? Guess work? what?... gimme a break.

    I'm more interested on other issues. Like for instance...

    Quote Originally Posted by Bubba View Post
    It's sad too because the dev teams suffer because of this. They produce an awesome game and experience meager sales because no one wants the copy protection on their computer.
    This is actually quiet interesting. I would really love to know the inside stories of many development companies. As far as I understand, much of the copy protection mechanisms is decided outside their jurisdiction by the producers. I agree and I'm pretty sure many development companies (from development teams to project leaders and even project owners) really hate copy protection and anti-piracy mechanisms as much as we, the consumers, do. The last thing they want is for their work to be judged, not on its inherent quality (or lack of it), but on how many problems people had to install or play the game due to a piece of software they were forced to add to their product and that on many occasions really messed with their previous work.

    On the other hand, some development companies are their own producers and resellers. Take Valve, for instance. The irony here is that they could expand vertically exactly because they made loads of money with one game that was sold without any copy protection mechanism whatsoever. If all the crap was to be believed, companies like that could never make any money out of their work. But we do know better. We know that companies like Valve were born out of obscurity by one single game and became some of the most profitable businesses in the gaming industry thanks to that one game. Half-Life had 8 million copies sold in 2004. And Half-Life had no real copy protection mechanism worth its name or an anti-piracy mechanism whatsoever. So... where exactly is the problem? Definitely pirates aren't ruining anyone's life.

    ...

    If you want me to theorize, the reason of bad sales is under all that, right at the core of how video gaming companies are operating. Basically its about all that is wrong with computer games these days.

    What's a computer game today? One of, if not the most, sophisticated piece of software we can install on our computers. The amount of work and people involved in the making of a modern video game is incredible. These people are also handsomely payed due to their specialized and advanced know-how. Due to the increased demand on better graphics, more advanced physics, more detailed textures, smarter engines, and other odds and ends, a computer game is just, in my opinion, a money sink for many companies.

    What's really annoying is that this demand was never from the players. True, we always asked for better. But companies always wanted to push the envelope further. To surprise us. And consequently, they kept increasing their development teams, supporting bigger and more costly games and hiring brains worth their weight in gold up to the point in that, today, a game can cost the price of a Hollywood motion picture.

    What's worst is that video games don't share the lifetime or the friendly markets of a movie. There's no rental market, there's no theaters. There's only one market; the shelves of a store. And there's also an increasing smaller lifetime too as companies in their thirst for competition kept shrinking games gametime and lifetime by producing smaller versions and hosts of expansion packs and by quickly starting to work on other projects, turning avid gamers into addicted gamers demanding for more and quicker.

    So what you have is not really bad sales. What you are having is bad profit. And it will only get worse alright, as games become increasingly more complex, demand bigger development teams and more brain power.

    What's sad is that what players really want is not better graphics and sound. Sure they'll gloat. But they will survive without them. I know they will. What they want is interesting games. Games made with a passion, that don't seem like they were made in an assembly line by some cloning process. Games that can live on their HD for more than just the time needed to go from start to finish. Companies aren't doing this for the most part. Replayability was, since I remember, the most demanded feature of any gamer I know of. I'm yet to know a gamer that would trade months of fun, for a week of out of this world graphics and sound.

    Take Half-Life 2. I had the privilege of playing this game much, much later after it was released. Just recently in fact. This allowed me to witness exactly the problem with gaming companies. I played Half-Life 2 and its two expansion packs one after the another over the course of two weeks. As you know each expansion pack introduced new graphical capabilities to the game. But as I moved through expansion packs, my FPS was dropping, and I was facing the hard choice of turning these features off. Episode 2 (the last expansion pack so far) ended up looking worst on my computer than Half-Life 2, the original game which looked absolutely gorgeous. And consequently, my enjoyment of the game was not the same.

    So... you have games that cost more to produce, that take more expensive hardware to run (which many people simply don't have, can't afford to upgrade, and consequently don't buy the game), on most cases which quality, ingenuity, and general interest is not matched by players who end up commenting on being Just Another FPS, or Just Another RPG. You also have games that aren't made to be replayable and consequently have a shorter lifespan... exactly how do they think they could sell or even make a profit?

    The industry moved itself into a sinkhole and they aren't knowing how to get out of it. As such, they blame piracy.
    Last edited by Mario F.; 07-20-2008 at 01:23 PM.

  12. #12
    Cat without Hat CornedBee's Avatar
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    Also, we've seen many "studies" on how much piracy hurts the industry, on how many copies of a software are pirated instead of bought.

    What I haven't ever seen is a comparative study of what fraction of a game's copies is pirated in a game with no copy protection vs a game with a draconian copy protection.

    In other words, I haven't seen any studies as to the effectiveness of copy protection. Perhaps piracy is to blame for low sales, perhaps not. But companies slap copy protection on the software in hopes of reducing piracy, more often than not annoying the normal user - does this actually help?

    Good programmers profile before they optimize. They don't go after problematic code until they're sure it's really the problematic code. I feel like no one has ever profiled copy protection systems.
    All the buzzt!
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    & the hat of GPL slaying Thantos's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by CornedBee View Post
    Good programmers profile before they optimize. They don't go after problematic code until they're sure it's really the problematic code. I feel like no one has ever profiled copy protection systems.
    Probably because the ones insisting on the "protection" are suits and not programmers

  14. #14
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    Btw, as a creator of something, do you not have the right to defend your work? In that sense, copyright protection schemes aren't evil. It's copyright protection systems that cause more harm than good, such as SecuROM and the very very very bad Starforce that's the problems here.
    Mass Effect if I'm not mistaken was a step in the right direction. Activate once, play with no disc in drive. Activate perhaps at some common intervals later to make sure you're still with them.

    I don't think it would be fair to complain about this until it stops working.
    The only think I can think that is bad is people with poor connections or non-existant ones.

    Good copyright protections do not interfere with legally bought games.
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    You mean it's included as a crutch to help ancient programmers limp along without them having to relearn too much.

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    (?<!re)tired Mario F.'s Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Elysia View Post
    Btw, as a creator of something, do you not have the right to defend your work?
    Do I?
    I think I do. But what exactly am I defending when I'm disabling the right of the consumer to make a backup copy of his CD or DVD?

    Quote Originally Posted by Elysia View Post
    In that sense, copyright protection schemes aren't evil. It's copyright protection systems that cause more harm than good, such as SecuROM and the very very very bad Starforce that's the problems here.
    All DRMs are essentially evil. Copyright is declared by the copyright notice, protected by copyright laws and enforced by traditional law enforcement authorities. The company has no right to stand as an active part past the decision as to the copyright notice contents. Certainly the DMCA put an end to all that and not only supports DRMs, as it specifically prohibits consumers from exerting their rights. Hopefully that will change soon, and the DMCA will fall (along with its European counterpart).

    More, for a copyright mechanism to be minimally effective it needs to go past the simple registration of a key as you well know. It needs to implement solid ways to prevent copying the contents. These methods cannot be anything other than intrusive methods on a computer platform that is traditionally, and architecturally, Open. It is simply impossible to do it in any other way (or at least it hasn't been found yet).

    What this leads is to some strange arrangement in that in order to protect themselves from the piracy boogeyman they are:


    • Disrespecting our right to create backup copies of software we bought. A right that is being taken from us by the DMCA and the ECD. Even more serious, the fact that both laws (a law and a directive in fact. The ECD hasn't been really been much implemented in Europe thankfully) go against the law that defines our right to a backup copy.
    • Disrespecting our right to know the contents of our own computer, and our ability to fully control what is inside.


    But, there's no piracy boogeyman as we are trying to establish (or better, discuss) here. What is there in fact is a loss of profit derived from an industry that has become too expensive for their own good, a strategy that puts more importance in technology than it does in creativity, and a market that is becoming exhausted with the general bad quality of the products being released.

    And bad quality does not pertain only to the creativeness. The ever increasing technological demands for these games has increased the patches considerably, which leads on most cases to hours spent on game installation. In fact, when you buy a game today there are two things you know for certain; that it will not work as advertised and that its an incomplete work with bugs that are yet to be patched. This is terrible business. Companies insist on consciously providing consumers with inferior quality products. The lack of confidence that results from this, along with a general distrust for the gaming industry (an industry that used to be loved) has already damaged its selling ability. Now add to that the fact they even want to strip away your lawful given right to make a backup copy of your software, and you have all the ingredients for shrinking sales.

    Shrinking sales that are yet to happen, mind you. Again, I insist, the issue so far is loss of profit due to the ever increasing costs of production with a non matching sales figure. However, sales have been generally rising. But soon enough - mark my words(!) - things will change. Sales will drop. It's just a matter of time until the industry feels the real blow. This is not me being a doomsday advocate. This is just simple reasoning; the signs are there that people are becoming dissatisfied, and yet ther industry is not answering their concerns. As such...

    Quote Originally Posted by Elysia View Post
    Good copyright protections do not interfere with legally bought games.
    I hope I made it clear why I don't think there is such thing as good copyright protection schemes. DRMs, in the absence of the DMCA, would essentially become illegal.
    Last edited by Mario F.; 07-21-2008 at 05:37 AM.
    The programmer’s wife tells him: “Run to the store and pick up a loaf of bread. If they have eggs, get a dozen.”
    The programmer comes home with 12 loaves of bread.


    Originally Posted by brewbuck:
    Reimplementing a large system in another language to get a 25% performance boost is nonsense. It would be cheaper to just get a computer which is 25% faster.

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