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Linux Business Entertainment Games

LGP To Introduce Game Copy Protection 388

Posted by timothy
from the pay-to-pay-to-play dept.
libredr writes "Phoronix reports that Linux Game Publishing have developed an Internet-based copy protection which will be used in their upcoming commercial game port, such as Sacred: Gold. Any user will be able to install the game, but to launch it he will need to provide a valid key and a password, which are validated against LGP's servers. The key/password combination will allow a user to install the software on different computers. However, an Internet connection will be required even for a single-player game, which might be a hassle for some users. This scheme has enraged some of the beta testers and LGP CEO, Michael Simms, responded he regrets he has to introduce a copy protection scheme, but has to do this since a lot more people download their titles instead of buying them, to the point they even received support requests for pirated version. But will every pirated copy magically transforms into a sale, or will this scheme just annoy legitimate users and be cracked anyway? One really wonders."
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LGP To Introduce Game Copy Protection

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  • Re:Failsafe (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Bandman (86149) <bandman@@@gmail...com> on Tuesday June 24, 2008 @10:28AM (#23916551) Homepage

    That's fantastic. I wish more companies would do this.

    It would be very nice to be able to install a patch via CD to Windows XP to make it not authenticate against the MS servers once support for it dries up.

  • Re:No, yes (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Digital Vomit (891734) on Tuesday June 24, 2008 @10:32AM (#23916613) Homepage Journal

    But will every pirated copy magically transforms into a sale,

    No, it won't, but it might get them more sales by slowing down the pirates.

    Honestly, when has this ever -- EVER -- been the case?

  • Re:Hassle (Score:3, Interesting)

    by netruner (588721) on Tuesday June 24, 2008 @10:32AM (#23916625)
    This is why the whole paradigm used for copy protection is broken. Currently, the attempt is to verify (and reverify and reverify) the pairing of licensed product to a user.

    There has to be a better way - the best similarity I can find is what was used in broadcast TV around the 1950's (no broadcast flag there, but no recorders either). There were sponsors that paid for product placement and cheezy ads. How much would a company pay for the splash screen of a popular video game? Also, why use lame generic products in video games (I especially like the orange and green "SODA" cans in Deus Ex) when maybe Coke, Pepsi, etc. may pay something to have their product depicted.

    Sure, these could be hacked out and reskinned, but with little gain to be had, the rate of occurrence will be much less than cracking the game.
  • by dleigh (994882) on Tuesday June 24, 2008 @10:35AM (#23916669) Homepage

    This is just going to annoy potential users, and reduce sales of the game.

    Eventually it will cause less games to be ported to Linux/BSD/etc as the companies will assume that Linux users aren't interested in games (instead of realizing Linux users aren't interested in games that phone home and have irritating copy protection).

    Those that do get a copy the game - one way or another - will probably crack the program (or redirect validation requests to a daemon which always returns a positive verification).

  • Re:Huh? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Shados (741919) on Tuesday June 24, 2008 @10:40AM (#23916747)

    Honestly, who buys a game as a last resort when they can't find a pirated copy of it?

    A ton, and I mean, a TON of people. Its really just anecdotal (but thats enough to prove the amount is > 0 at least, hehe), but I always hear less tech savy people how they finally caved in and bought some game/software/windows/whatever after they couldn't find a crack/got a virus from a crack/crack glitched a part of the game/wanted to play NOW and the crack wasn't available yet.

    PC game piracy is so high, that if you can just delay the mainstream pirated version a day or two, that probably translates in significant sale. Of course, the better, far more effective way, is to have the purchace of the game be a key to access the online part of the game... but that sucks for single player games like Oblivion/Devil May Cry/etc, to the point that the barrier for entry of offline games on PC becomes impossibly high.

  • Re:Hassle (Score:5, Interesting)

    by antic (29198) on Tuesday June 24, 2008 @10:47AM (#23916899)

    I'm wondering (in a half-baked idea kind of way) if a potential solution to this sort of copy protection is incorporating it into the game world. e.g., part of the storyline in suitable games involves going online, authenticating, and performing some sort of action. Something that is partly seemless, something that people actually want to do, not too much of a hassle, but limits involvement to paid-up users?

  • Re:Hassle (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Corwn of Amber (802933) <corwinofamber@skynet . b e> on Tuesday June 24, 2008 @10:59AM (#23917121) Journal

    Not in splash screens, okay, but in-game sounds okay to me... What about nice Coca-Cola skins on the can distributors in FPS? It's actually prettier than some of the skins game devs do use (thinking of Half-Life 1 here, yeah it's old ugly and such, but I'm so not a gamer I can't remember anything else off the top of my head)

    I happen to think it would be good. More immersive than "Caco Caloc" in green on black, at least :-)

  • by Gori (526248) on Tuesday June 24, 2008 @11:08AM (#23917267) Homepage

    Everybody always whines about the lack of linux games. We all know how much effort it takes to write a game, especially a good one. Now here is a company offering something that looks fairly decent, and includes a very minimal and polite way to ensure you actually payed for it. First thing everybody says, no I will not buy it, since it requires me to prove that I bought it ?? WTF ?? Are we really surprised there are not many commercial quality games out there ?

    If you want linux games, you either make your own/help people make them, or you pay for them. It is that simple. Im buying this one when it is out of beta, just as I preferably buy hardware that has good vendor supplied OS drivers for them. Vote with your valet.

  • by RogueyWon (735973) * on Tuesday June 24, 2008 @11:17AM (#23917491) Journal

    This isn't specifically a Linux gaming issue. That it should be showing up in the Linux context just shows how serious the dilemma facing the PC gaming industry has become.

    Before I go any further; I am a huge fan of PC gaming. I didn't own a console until I was 22. I grew up playing PC games like the Ultima series, the X-Wing and Wing Commander games and, later, the Westwood/Blizzard RTSes. I still buy and play PC games and the games as it's clear that, until developers start making better allowances for mouse and keyboard play, some genres (particularly RTSes) will never work properly on a console.

    However, PC gaming is now hurtling towards an abyss. I know people have been saying this for years. But now, for the first time, I believe them.

    We have now reached the point where, when a new first or third person shooter comes out on both PC and consoles, I will always buy the console version. Why? While I don't much like console controllers for playing fpses, I can tolerate them. The resolutions on my HDTV can't compare with what my PC can put out, but they are good enough. But, more than that, I know that with a console game, I do not need to worry about falling foul of a copy protection system which either means I can't read the disk (used to happen a lot... I had to go through 3 DVD drives before I found one that could run all of my games), have to remove some of my existing software to play it (can you imagine "Hey, it seems you have Gears of War game-data on your 360's hard-disk! No Halo 3 for you then!"?) or access the net every time I want to play it.

    I can't entirely blame the PC gaming industry. Piracy levels are absolutely ridiculous. Of course, anybody with half a brain knows that not every pirated copy of a game means a lost sale. But there's no denying that more than a few people who would have considered a purchase will instead be lured by the siren call of bittorrent. I know a few people who work in the industry and a lot of these developers, outside of a few big superstars, operate on the thinnest of margins. Anything they can do to prop said margin up, they will.

    I don't honestly know what the solution is. Between the traditional hardware hassles and the new copy protection woes, buying a PC game is starting to feel like more trouble than it's worth. Over on the consoles, the copy-protection mechanisms are invisible to the average end-user. With Sony deciding to get rid of region protection for games, I'm actually in a position where I have no complaints whatsoever regarding the extent to which my PS3 and PSP are or are not locked down.

    Of course, this isn't to say that there aren't problems on the horizon in console-land either. My big emerging gripe there regards firmware updates. All three of the systems out there insist on these on a regular basis if you want to use any online features. The 360 version isn't too painful, but the Wii version is distinctly irritating and the PS3 updates are far too frequent, take far too long to download and fail to download far too often when the servers are busy.

  • Re:Failsafe (Score:2, Interesting)

    by srlapo (1210476) on Tuesday June 24, 2008 @11:32AM (#23917825)

    "Phoronix reports that Linux Game Publishing have developed an Internet-based copy protection which will be used in their upcoming commercial game port, such as Sacred: Gold."
    The really backward thing is that they removed the copy protection for the Windows version of Sacred Gold with the last patch. Why go out of the way to protect the Linux version with a "call home" system when the Windows version is free of such things?
  • Re:WTF? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by cerelib (903469) on Tuesday June 24, 2008 @11:32AM (#23917829)
    This is a bit of a plague among linux users, but the status quo of the software biz may not hold up in the future. Many large software companies are switching to different business models (i.e. service oriented around open source products). The business landscape is changing and that should not be ignored.

    Your games (democracy, kudos) look very interesting and I am sure your current business model does well, but there are other ways people make money in the small games market. For example, what if your game was flash delivered and ad-supported? You might get more people playing it and more often (i.e. at work). This may or may not be the right choice for you, but it is a model that you do have to compete with in the small games market.

    Anyway, democracy looks interesting and I might try the demo, but it would have to be pretty awesome for me to shell out $20 USD. It looks like the kind of game that I might pay $5 or less for. As a matter of full disclosure, I typically only buy used video games that are $10-$15 or less and only about 3 in a year. So I am a bit of a tough sell. Any other games I play are open source (Urban Terror), abandonware (I just tried the old Neuromancer game), or one of my small collection (Fallout [2], System Shock [NOT 2, that game pales in comparison to the original], Ascendancy).
  • Re:WTF? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by kscguru (551278) on Tuesday June 24, 2008 @11:42AM (#23918037)
    Hear hear, wish I still had my mod points.

    To each and every person whining on this thread about how copy protection violates the spirit of Open Source - yeah, it does. And if you don't like it, don't touch the game. Don't buy it - and don't download it either. This noise about how you have some sort of entitlement to steal/pirate/"illegally download"/crack/ "screw-the-man!"/whatever a game simply because you have a political disagreement about copy protection is pathetic.

    The difference between Richard Stallman / the FSF and half the posters on this article is that RMS avoids software he disagrees with entirely and ACTIVELY contributes to software he morally supports. In other words, he has principles, votes with his actions, and his patronage of free software DIRECTLY contributes to more and better free software. Whereas the "gimme my Linux games NOW and FREE and screw copy protection!" crowd is in it for a shiny new game, but by NOT paying for (or otherwise patronizing - e.g. with word-of-mouth advertising, filing good bug reports) Linux games they are killing the future of Linux gaming for a quick fix now. This isn't the behavior of rational individuals - this is the behavioral profile of drug addicts.

    With apologies to all the honest Linux gamers out there. It's a shame the rotten apples are so enthusiastic about spoiling it for the rest of us.

  • Re:Hassle (Score:3, Interesting)

    by AKAImBatman (238306) <<akaimbatman> <at> <gmail.com>> on Tuesday June 24, 2008 @01:01PM (#23919989) Homepage Journal

    There was a video game called Rocket Ranger back in the 80's that used this device called a "Secret Decoder Wheel" to compute the fuel necessary to go from destination to destination. In fact, you had no way of punching in where you wanted to go. You only entered the fuel amounts.

    Of course, the "Secret Decoder Wheel" was really a fancy lookup table [sayad.net], so it's wasn't too difficult for determined pirates to defeat this protection. But it was something in the vein you're thinking of.

    The game can now be (legally!) downloaded for free at Cinemaware's website: http://www.cinemaware.com/clsgame_rr.asp [cinemaware.com]

    They even throw in a virtual decoder wheel. :-)

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday June 24, 2008 @01:34PM (#23920723)

    Steam is a great example of how this works. The hardest games in the world to pirate are Valve games and WoW. Now, WoW and several Valve games are basically worthless if you're NOT hooked up to the internet, which is an important difference. But even HL2 wasn't that big of a pain to deal with. Yes, there may be inconvenient times when you can't play, but the fact is that piracy is killing PC gaming, and if you have protection schemes that work almost all of the time, it may be worth some inconvenience to make some guarantee that quality games will continue to be released for the PC. Of course it's crazy to say that every pirated game is a lost sale, but millions every year are. If I couldn't play single-player Crysis without being online, but that inconvenience guaranteed that they would continue to support it, patch it, and make sequels, then it may be something that consumers just have to learn to deal with.

  • Re:Does this mean (Score:4, Interesting)

    by IamTheRealMike (537420) * <mike@plan99.net> on Tuesday June 24, 2008 @01:50PM (#23921131) Homepage

    Not just games, any commercial software. I used to work for CodeWeavers and we had exactly the same problem - people would file support tickets but had not actually paid for the software. And this is a company that is a huge open source LGPL-code contributor!

    We had internal statistics (that it's not my place to share) on how much the average support ticket cost, and how many customers filed tickets. To be blunt, the support load was nearly killing the company when I was there. Of course people warezing the binaries and then asking for help was one of the most offensive things they could do.

    Sadly, using Linux does not convert one into a paragon of virtue. Piracy exists on every platform, it just varies as to the extent of the problem.

  • Depends on the ads (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Jesus_666 (702802) on Tuesday June 24, 2008 @02:15PM (#23921659)
    Whether or not I'd like ads in my game depends on how the ads are executed. There are good and bad ways to put products into a game. Some examples:

    Coca Cola is inserted into a Deus Ex-workalike.
    Good: Soda cans are now Coke cans; there are a few Coke vending machines throughout the game.
    Bad: Characters talk about how much they'd like a refreshing can of Coke Zero - full taste and zero sugar, yum.

    Subway advertises in a multiplayer FPS.
    Good: Billboards around the map show the "eat fresh" slogan; a downtown map contains a Subway.
    Bad: Subway baners in every loading screen; every urban map contains a Subway; the Subway Muppet is seen anywhere near the game.

    Dunkin' Donuts sponsors the next GTA.
    Good: There are several DDs sprinkled throughout Abstract Concept City, acting as cop magnets; one mission can be made easier by distracting a cop with a box of donuts.
    Bad: Every single cop in the city and half of the underworld have no other discussion topic but which kind of donut they love most; every problem can be solved by tossing donuts around, Hostess Fruit Cake-style.


    In general, if the product placement is done tactfully and unobtrusively I entirely agree with it and am happy to have my games subsidized. If it's blatant and in-your-face I want the corp in question to piss off and take their product with them.
  • by hanako (935790) on Tuesday June 24, 2008 @02:37PM (#23922045) Homepage
    If it were just "hey, I found this bug" sent by a pirate, that's no problem. That's almost slightly helpful of the pirate, enabling me to fix a problem and release an update for my paying customers (the pirate will just have to steal it again, because I'm certainly not going to provide a special custom download just for someone who intentionally ripped me off in the first place)

    However, some people have no shame.

    Q: "I cracked this demo to have unlimited playtime and now it crashes when I jump on the foozle!"
    A: "Buy the game, then you won't have that problem."

    Q: "I downloaded this game from a torrent and one of the files was broken, can you provide it for me?"
    A: "No. Buy the game, you won't have this problem."

    Q: "I just got this game and it has a huge bug in it at the end of level two! Your company is a terrible game company! I will never buy from you again! I hope your entire family dies in a fire!"
    A: "That bug only existed in the private beta-test version and was already fixed in the very first version of the game that was on sale. Buy the game, you won't have this problem."

    Q: "This game is hard! Can you spend the next few weeks providing a slow step-by-step walkthrough of exactly how to win the game and answer all of my questions about it?"
    A: "... got a receipt?"

    Pirates reporting bugs isn't a problem. Pirates taking your hard work for free and then demanding that you do even more work for them personally, for free, deserve a head-booting.

  • by dltaylor (7510) on Tuesday June 24, 2008 @02:44PM (#23922147)

    I have many legitimately purchased games on my Linux box. I bought games from Loki, back when, specifically to encourage the developers to bring games over.

    I will NOT buy any software with a "phone home" requirement. I just deleted LGP's bookmark.

  • Re:Hassle (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Creepy (93888) on Tuesday June 24, 2008 @02:56PM (#23922351) Journal

    In the late 1980s a lot of games moved to decoder wheels (e.g. Pool of Radiance, Captain Goodnight). In the beginning, most were fairly simple, single wheels, but as pirates cracked and included the lookup table automatically and later posted the answer on the screen (and sometimes forced a certain answer always) and publishing companies went to much more elaborate ones (making it all the more fun for pirates...). This form of copy protection died entirely with the CD-Rom because few people could copy them (CD burners were rare and so were large hard disks).

    The funny thing is, when CD-Roms came out I entirely lost interest in computing because there was nothing to crack, which is what my friends and I did for fun (ok, my first girlfriend at that time is as much to blame, as is my short lived music career). I have never pirated a thing since, but I have downloaded no-CD keys because it is annoying as heck to dig up CDs or DVDs for every game I want to play. Online downloads every time would be just plain annoying because I mostly play single player games when traveling (that's what a laptop and power inverter are for).

    I really don't see how this will help - all it will do is stop casual piracy - real pirates will just remove the check, or hack it to always ask for the same key and return the correct answer (which was retrieved once).

  • Re:Hassle (Score:3, Interesting)

    by hairyfeet (841228) <bassbeast1968@NOspaM.gmail.com> on Tuesday June 24, 2008 @03:04PM (#23922529) Journal
    Well,personally it means that i will never purchase this game. I keep my gaming PCs off the Internet for a reason: I don't like online play and don't want a bunch of Internet related crap(like a firewall) slowing down my pc when all it does is play games and lets me watch cable through my capture card. While I wouldn't mind slapping an extra Ethernet cord on my router one time to simply activate it there is no way in hell I am going to jump through weekly hoops just for the privilege of playing your game. And how is this different from the constant Windows "let us make sure you aren't a pirate" WGA BS that I won't allow anywhere near my PCs either? Sadly I'm afraid the earlier posters are right: all these companies are doing is running off the paying customers while the pirates laugh their asses off. But that is my 02c,YMMV
  • Re:WTF? (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday June 24, 2008 @03:20PM (#23922827)

    A thief walks into a fine winery and takes a bottle without paying for it. Just walks out the door. Two days later, the thief comes back and asks what food might go well with the wine he stole. The store, shocked and appalled at how brazen thieves are becoming, puts locks on the cabinets and asks that people contact an employee, who is nearby and ready to help at any time, to get wine out of the case.
    Except we have to extend your example to better fit. The winery also installs something on the bottle you buy and you have to return to the winery to unlock it every time you want to drink it. The thief steals a bottle and goes to his friend who removes the lock, the paying honest customer is inconvenienced every time they want to use it the thief is inconvenienced once.

    This is why I think the DRM scheme is BAD. I've been locked out of of had problems with too many programs - not just games - that I paid for for me to accept DRM.

  • Re:Hassle (Score:2, Interesting)

    by I'm not really here (1304615) on Tuesday June 24, 2008 @03:36PM (#23923085)
    What about if you got the game for free, were encouraged to freely redistribute, and all you had to do was deal with in game product placement (which game designers would do tastefully because that would make their game travel farther) and a 5 second splash screen on load, on quit, and ads placed unobtrusively in the main menus? If minimal enough, no one will care enough to crack it. Heck, add in a "bonus" feature (extra levels, adds a better starting weapon, increases starting gold for any new character creation, w/e) for those that "register" the copy, and now the company has numbers to show advertisers, allowing the company to collect revenue based on market penetration, while allowing you to either a) not give a crap and just not register it, or b) get the extra and not give a crap that you only had to connect once. Sure, there'd might be some skewing to the numbers, but they can adjust for that. Win-Win, right? You get a $75 game and offline play for $0. Online play can be free (with 3 10 second ads to watch on load, a 5 second ad between cut scenes / levels / w/e, and top/bottom bar ads during play) or pay a $10 monthly subscription to eliminate the timewasters and get rid of banner ads. I'd sign up quickly for that. Play WoW, Dungeon Seige, or Halo3 for free and play online for free if I put up with top/bottom bar ads and a slight wait time between levels? HECK YEAH. And when I have money, I'll kill the ads by subscribing. Win-win for the company's profits, win-win for me... and no real reason to worry about cracking it. Not enough of an annoyance (or they could charge for online play, and give away the game with minimal ads... then even less reason to crack it, and encouragement to "pirate" it). Now if only ID Software, et al, would get on board, we'd finally be in the 21st century for game distribution.
  • Re:No, yes (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Chris Burke (6130) on Tuesday June 24, 2008 @04:02PM (#23923525) Homepage

    Does it matter? Does the fact that pirates don't intend to buy the game somehow give them the right to procure it for free?

    Yes it matters if their method doesn't turn pirates into legitimate customers, then it has no effect on their bottom line, and does nothing but prevent a freeloader from getting something for free, at a negative cost to the legitimate customers.

    Is your desire to deny the pirates their fallacious right to free stuff so important that you will inconvenience your paying customers? At no benefit to sales but at a cost to customer satisfaction? And if your chest was a cannon, would you fire your heart at the pirates, Captain Ahab?

    Hyperbole aside, I doubt this will end up having much effect on LGPs sales. Whatever tiny amount of pirates turn into paying customers will be balanced by those who don't want to buy a game with DRM of any kind, ending up more or less a wash. What, then, is the point?

  • by macdaddy (38372) on Tuesday June 24, 2008 @04:04PM (#23923561) Homepage Journal
    A CD isn't required. Score 1 for us. The product can be installed on more than one PC at a time. Now we're 2-0. The CEO said that they'll release a non-DRM fix if the company ever goes under so your purchase has future guarantees. 3-0! So what are ya'll bitching about?
  • Re:No, yes (Score:3, Interesting)

    by HiThere (15173) <charleshixsn@@@earthlink...net> on Tuesday June 24, 2008 @06:25PM (#23925495)

    Who generated those statistics, and what advantage do they get from having the numbers come out that way?

    I believe that somebody told you that. I will accept the possibility that you actually saw such a report. Before I'd accept that report as truth, I'd need to know a LOT more about it.

    OTOH, I wouldn't bother to study enough to convince myself, because I don't care that much. I accept that they have their reasons, whatever they are. They don't change the cost/benefit to me.

    I already don't buy games very often, because most of the ones that I've bought haven't been worth the money. I still do occasionally, because some have been QUITE worth the cost. Copy-protection decreases the benefit to me, so I will already be buying fewer. (Games that are copy-protected are intrinsically more brittle, more subject to breaking when the system changes.)

    OTOH, I'm not a large buyer of games anyway. Perhaps I'm not typical of their target audience. But this looks to me to be far more likely to discourage my buying additional games than it is to have any other change in my behavior.

  • Re:WTF? (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday June 24, 2008 @08:23PM (#23926841)

    If you don't want to pay for copyprotection.... how about contributing to and playing some OPEN SOURCE GAMES.
    Vegastrike, Racer, Tileracer, Open Transport Tycoon, Planeshift.it. The list is huge. Closed source PC gaming doesn't have that much over a lot of the open source games. The open source stuff is made without a corporation backing it, made by gamers for gamers. If more people played/developed them the games would get better and surpass the closed stuff.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday June 24, 2008 @08:34PM (#23926945)

    Dear Mr. Simms,

    We aren't looking for a crack if we know how to use our property to the fullest extent possible without any further intervention. If you didn't want to sell software to us, then you are required by law to give us notice persuant to the Misleading Titles Act under Negotiable Instruments Law that the sale is actually a limited-time rent of the property and at most a DEMO that is quite shy of the full use of the title (that is assumptively reserved by its true owners). Did you get me, or is it for sale now?

    Sincerily,
      Crusader (Linuxgames.com admin)

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