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Brad Wardell's Plan To Save PC Gaming 250

Posted by Soulskill
from the he'll-cure-cancer-after-lunch dept.
A few weeks ago, we discussed Stardock CEO Brad Wardell's "Gamer's Bill of Rights," a proposal for removing some of the PC gaming industry's more obnoxious characteristics, such as annoying DRM and no-return policies. Shacknews sat down with Wardell for a lengthy interview in which he discussed his reasons for starting the project, how it's being received by game companies, and how he wants the gaming community to help. Quoting: "I've already gotten calls from Microsoft, from Take 2, and other publishers who are interested in moving forward on this. Obviously the first step is we have to really define these items. And I've had other developers and publishers who have come back and said, 'No, because it's not flexible enough.' For example, what happens if someone wants to do a policy where there's CD copy protection, but after the first month [consumers] can download a patch that gets rid of it. So obviously that's a perfectly good solution too, but our thing eliminates the ability to do that."
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Brad Wardell's Plan To Save PC Gaming

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  • by PC and Sony Fanboy (1248258) on Monday September 08, 2008 @10:49PM (#24928569) Journal
    I wasn't aware that PC gaming needed saving.

    At least, not any more than console gaming needed saving...
    • by Sycraft-fu (314770) on Tuesday September 09, 2008 @07:54AM (#24931091)

      But I think it is heading in a dangerous direction. No big deal yet, but if it continues it could be headed down a bad path.

      Basically there are three somewhat related problems right now:

      1) Console first releases. Many games are coming out for consoles first, and then only later being ported to PC. Now while there are PC gamers who only own a PC (I'm one of them) there are people who own consoles and PCs. This leads to artificially lower PC sales on a given title. Someone may prefer playing a given kind of game on their PC, but if they have to wait, they may elect not to and get the console version instead. They are then unlikely to buy the PC version as well. For example I have a friend who owns a 360, a PS3 and a gaming PC (yes he has too much money). When Mass Effect came out, he wanted it right away and got the 360 version. He'd rather have the PC version, PC controls are nicer for a game like that not to mention the ability to hack around with it for more replayability, however he isn't going to buy it twice. Thus the PC version sees lower sales than it might otherwise.

      2) Poor PC ports. Consoles and PCs work real different in terms of controls, as anyone who's messed with both can tell you. So if you want to do a game for both, and do it right, you have to spend time making two versions. You need to customize it to work well on it's various platforms. Same deal with multiple consoles, actually. However, there are an increasing number of games developed for the console, and then kinda half-ass ported to the PC. They don't play well, they don't feel like a PC game, and they often don't work very well. Leads to a situation where you are getting an inferior experience playing on the PC. This again leads to lower PC game sales. If a game comes out for PC and 360 and you've got both, you'll get the 360 version if the PC version sucks, even if you much prefer PC gaming.

      3) DRM/copyprotection problems. The DRM on PC games is getting more and more problematic. Time was, you really had next to zero problems with it. All that it was is some areas of the disc not normally used (like subchannels and stuff) messed with and a little wrapper around the executable. Worked on essentially every system since everything was within the CD standards, and there wasn't any system level trickery. Now this was, of course, easy for pros to defeat. Well the DRM companies can't seem to understand that his is a fight you can't win, you can't give someone an encrypted file, the decryption key, and expect that they can't use that to their own ends, so they keep upping the ante to counter new tools. Thus now we have extremely complicated DRM that causes lots of problems on lots of systems. It is quite possible to buy a retail game and have it say your disc isn't valid (happened to be with Civ 4 BTS). Hell in some cases the DRM can even fuck up your system. Well this also leads to lower sales.

      So what is happening is that various publishers are seeing lower PC sales, especially as compared to the console market. So they then get this "Well fuck the PC, let's do console only," idea, especially since they incorrectly seem to believe consoles are immune from game copying (someone should point them to the Games > XBOX360 category on TPB). Now that could spell a problem for PC gaming, since it becomes a self fulfilling prophecy. They do stupid things that reduce PC sales, so they see lower sales, so they don't want to work at making PC games, which leads to lower PC sales, etc.

      So no, PC gaming isn't in dire straits or anything, and hell it'll be alive and well in some form so long as casual games and MMOs continue to find their stronghold on the PC market. However, the direction it is heading isn't a good one. Better to notice this and deal with it while things are still healthy, than to wait until it's a crisis (see the current mortgage problems).

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by apoc.famine (621563)
        Well said. The biggest issue really is the self-fulfilling prophecy of low PC game sales. A bunch of us waited anxiously for the next UT version from Epic. When it came out, it was riddled with bugs which had been well reported in the beta, the menus were still coded for console use only, and the it lacked a non-windows port, even though leading up to it there had been good talk about both a Mac port and a Linux port. And there was no Linux server port, meaning almost no good servers for the first few month
  • by DragonTHC (208439) <Dragon@NoSPAM.gamerslastwill.com> on Monday September 08, 2008 @10:51PM (#24928599) Homepage Journal

    what happens if someone wants to do a policy where there's CD copy protection, but after the first month [consumers] can download a patch that gets rid of it. So obviously that's a perfectly good solution too, but our thing eliminates the ability to do that."

    That CD copy protection doesn't even work. The game gets pirated before it's released!

    These companies are just fucking stupid. SOMEONE IN YOUR SUPPLY CHAIN IS STEALING FROM YOU! Why punish us?

    Where do games go after they get mastered? Keep a closer eye on that.

    • Dangerous. (Score:5, Insightful)

      by SanityInAnarchy (655584) <ninja@slaphack.com> on Monday September 08, 2008 @11:34PM (#24928897) Journal

      I think that policy is a fine policy, assuming that the copy protection was at least risk-free -- that is, assuming that if you bought the game legitimately, if it didn't work, you could just upgrade with a patch in a month, and the protection is gone.

      Well, it's not risk-free.

      Some of these CD schemes, in particular, have actually installed drivers which screw up things like DVD burning. Some have installed rootkits. There's really no way for a gamer to know that it's completely gone -- and if there was a bug in it, there's no way to know that we could completely remove it.

      Parent has a point, though:

      The reason you should remove CD copy protection from your game is that it doesn't work -- at all, ever, the game's cracked before release, and people can make perfect copies.

      The second reason is that CD copy protection can be so intrusive as to drive legitimate customers to piracy -- which means that it has to have a significant benefit to justify that risk. It doesn't.

      So, if CD copy protection is such a clear net loss, what's the point? Why would you want to only shoot yourself in the foot for a month, instead of, say, not shooting yourself in the fucking foot?

      • by KGIII (973947) *

        I guess I'm the oddball here but the thinking that I had was that they'd have to maintain some sort of CD copy protection. If they did that then they *might* be able to justify getting rid of the no return policy. The percentage of people who would buy a game, copy it, and then return it for a refund or an exchange is probably so high that they are afraid to do these things.

        The reality is that there are plenty of tools out there that will enable you to copy most any disc on the market. Easily.

        So I see both

        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          The percentage of people who would buy a game, copy it, and then return it for a refund or an exchange is probably so high that they are afraid to do these things.

          RTFA. Bascially: Stardock measured an increase in sales when they added refunds, and not that many people bothered to return it.

          I suppose there would have to be a point at which you start dealing with abuse, but keep in mind -- most people who want to pirate the game know about BitTorrent. The people who actually bought the game are, mostly, legitimate customers.

          I'm thinking a compromise would be in order...

          Well, I believe it does allow for the scheme Greenhouse [playgreenhouse.com] (Penny Arcade) uses -- interestingly, also the scheme Windows XP uses, which was so controv

          • by KGIII (973947) *

            Just for the record, I always RTFA. ;) I know, I know... You cite one example that doesn't counter the perception of the people who drive the larger companies. To me, really, I think it is going to take a compromise - a lot like the latter portion of your post. Sort of, "Well, I'm okay with this much DRM but no more and it had better be easy to deal with."

    • by MaineCoon (12585)

      There was a study done by a major publisher that tracked sales vs when a functional crack was released.

      The first week is key; after first week/two weeks of sales, they drop off in general. Additionally, it was proven that when a crack is released, sales will drop off right away.

      Games that did not have working cracked versions in the first week or so, saw more overall sales than those that got cracked quickly.

      The prevalance of the cracked version on torrents would also correspond to drops in sales - the mor

    • That CD copy protection doesn't even work. The game gets pirated before it's released!

      That's exactly why stardock doesn't use this approach;)

      Stardock's games don't require the CD in the drive, have a one-time serial number to enter, and, like steam, if you want to log into your account, you can download any game you've ever bought -- but unlike steam, you don't have to be online to play or even have the online component installed if you don't want. And you can just copy any CD they've ever released with t

  • My suggestion (Score:5, Insightful)

    by FoolsGold (1139759) on Monday September 08, 2008 @10:55PM (#24928633)

    Ideally? Get rid of DRM. It NEVER benefits the consumer, and the pirate copies have it removed anyway.

    If you HAVE to use DRM because the old farts who run these companies insist on it, have the game hosted on something like Steam or GameTap.

    If you do decide to go the Steam route, don't incorporate further DRM on top of the Steam version of the game (I'm looking at you, BioShock).

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      What happens when Steam or GameTap go out of business?

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by Atriqus (826899)
        Well, Valve has already announced their contingency plan: if they're on the way out, they'll release a final patch to steam that disables the phoning home.
        • Re:My suggestion (Score:5, Insightful)

          by Jafafa Hots (580169) on Monday September 08, 2008 @11:47PM (#24928969) Homepage Journal

          Well, Valve has already announced their contingency plan: if they're on the way out, they'll release a final patch to steam that disables the phoning home.

          Yeah, and companies that are going out of business are always able to see it ahead of time, wrap things up neatly and wind the business down gracefully. They're always able to implement their "going out of business scenario."

          It never happens that things just spiral out of control and one day they find that their creditors have locked the doors.

          • Re:My suggestion (Score:5, Insightful)

            by SanityInAnarchy (655584) <ninja@slaphack.com> on Tuesday September 09, 2008 @12:00AM (#24929047) Journal

            I'd feel a lot better if that patch existed, somewhere in escrow, in case that happened.

            But honestly, it's a compromise I can live with. Steam doesn't force me to keep track of a CD, doesn't fuck up my computer, and does let me re-download the game as often as I like, on as many computers as I like.

          • What about Troika? Even after they went out of business the developers kept releasing patches for VTM.

            It's very easy to beat the drum of 'ZOMFG we're all fucked', but there have been examples where even in dire circumstances a company (or rather, it's staff) did the honourable thing.

            • by mcvos (645701)

              What about Troika? Even after they went out of business the developers kept releasing patches for VTM.

              They did? I'm aware of only one official patch, and tons of fan-made bugfix patches.

        • Read the ToS!!! (Score:2, Insightful)

          by Nick Ives (317)

          The Steam Terms of Service say no such thing. You buy a one off payment subscription to games on Steam, you don't own them. I'd link but I'm late for work so just google for the Steam ToS.

          If Valve went into receivership them I doubt the bankruptcy courts would look favourably on their directors nuking their most important asset!

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      If you do decide to go the Steam route

      That's exactly the route Stardock is taking [impulsedriven.com].

      Which is why I wont be buying any more Stardock games.

      They pulled a nice bait-and-switch with Sins. If you want the latest patches, they make you install Impulse.

      • by mcvos (645701)

        That's exactly the route Stardock is taking [impulsedriven.com].

        I can't find anything about a change in direction with Impulse. As far as I can tell, it's just their old Stardock Central under a new name, which means it's only needed to install updates, not to actually run the game. Basically it does stuff for you without getting in your way. At least, that's what it sounds like to me. I've never used Impulse, only Stardock Central.

        They pulled a nice bait-and-switch with Sins. If you want the latest patches, they make you install Impulse.

        If you want patches, yes. Not to play the game itself. How exactly is that a problem?

    • Wait a second... I've argued this MANY MANY times. If you buy a Stardock game, you NEED Stardock to run it. They keep telling people that that's not DRM, but it won't run without it. You can ask for a CD copy of the game without this restriction, but I was told you had to pay more for it. In my case it was Galactic Civ 4. I don't remember the exact details, but I remember if you didn't have a specific license file generated from the hardware of your machine, it had to contact Stardock to create a new k

  • by unity100 (970058) on Monday September 08, 2008 @10:56PM (#24928641) Homepage Journal
    Get the annoying f@cktards we call 'publishers' out of the way
  • Whatever. (Score:2, Interesting)

    1. Gamers shall have the right to return games that don't work with their computers for a full refund.

    Try taking the box store to court for not providing basic fitness. Guess what? The business is willing to "deal with you".

    2. Gamers shall have the right to demand that games be released in a finished state.

    Definition of finished? Perhaps they want mathematically proven code? I'd rather have a continual ladder of bugfixes and more content.

    3. Gamers shall have th

    • The main problem I see is with companies advertising software for the "PC" or just plain "Home computer"

      And by PC they don't mean the standard definition of PC such as

      A) Uses an x86 CPU
      B) Is an IBM compatible computer that runs DOS
      or even C) A computer used by 1 person at a time.

      But rather it becomes A computer running Windows XP or higher with 512 MB of RAM, and a good graphics card.
      • by hedwards (940851)

        Umm, that's been a reasonable expectation for quite a while now. My current rig is capable of running Win XP and has 2gb of ram. If I were to add the DVD burner, hard disk cost and license for Win XP, I'd still have spent less than $400 on the whole thing.

        And it's going to be more than enough for any game with that level of requirements. You're not going to have too much trouble doing the same thing with an out of the box name brand PC either.

    • Try taking the box store to court for not providing basic fitness.

      Isn't that in the shrink-wrap license, though? I know just about every piece of software I've ever used disclaims itself from fitness for a purpose.

      Definition of finished?

      Might be better to give an example of "not finished" -- I believe the Unreal Tournament 2003 Linux installer had a blatant bug where it would ask for the wrong disc.

      So, maybe "finished" as in "at least one actual test by an actual person". Or "contains no game-breaking bugs" -- nothing sucks more than a game which autosaves yours in an unwinnable state. (Jak II

      • ---Isn't that in the shrink-wrap license, though? I know just about every piece of software I've ever used disclaims itself from fitness for a purpose.

        I dont care what some stuffy license says. Try telling a judge that.

        User: "Yer honor, I bought this game, and it wont even run right. I took it to Geek Squad and they said it put some spyware called Secure Rom on it. I want my money back, my time, and court fees."

        Game Company: "Judge, our contract stipulates that our software is not guaranteed fitness"

        Judge:

      • Shrink wrap licenses don't hold any weight. They fail at pretty much everything required of a contract (ex post facto, no exchange, no negotiation, etc). What's more, even if they are considered to be contracts, they still can have unenforceable sections. There are plenty of things that a contract can't do. You can't sign yourself in to slavery, for example. Well, you'll find that in basically all countries, you can't disclaim basic fitness of a product. If you sell something as, say, a flashlight and it th

  • Lets see... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Darkness404 (1287218) on Monday September 08, 2008 @10:59PM (#24928669)
    Develop

    A) Cross-platform games
    B) Get rid of the insane DRM, if you want a CD serial key thats fine as they are easily cracked later in its lifetime, but don't activate it online (with the exception of say, a MMORPG)
    C) Develop for a generation before, don't develop a game for quad-core CPUs and dual video cards, develop for a generation before the current generation. Optimize for multiple CPUs and video cards all you want, but I won't upgrade my graphics card/RAM just to play a game.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      Cross-platform games

      Yes, please. Double-win for the gamer -- I can play it on Linux, and more platforms means more ways for it to break, so it should have fewer bugs even on its main platform by release. With the state of the industry now, just about any reduction in bugs is a win.

      if you want a CD serial key thats fine as they are easily cracked later in its lifetime, but don't activate it online

      I can live with activation online, as long as it's not constant. I'm going to be online when I install, since I need patches then, and since I'm probably downloading it anyway. I'm not going to be online every time I play.

      Develop for a generation before,

      No, no, a thousand times no.

      • by hedwards (940851)

        Yes, please. Double-win for the gamer -- I can play it on Linux, and more platforms means more ways for it to break, so it should have fewer bugs even on its main platform by release. With the state of the industry now, just about any reduction in bugs is a win.

        Unlikely, the most likely way to do that would be to develop a set of cross platform libraries and then just use those to develop the games in.

        While, it's not an easy task to write libraries that work properly and efficiently across multiple platforms it's a hell of a lot easier than doing it a huge number of times for each new game that comes along.

        It would probably end up being something like either the JavaVM or possibly Winelib. Definitely not going to find more bugs by doing it, just add cost to the pr

        • Unlikely, the most likely way to do that would be to develop a set of cross platform libraries and then just use those to develop the games in.

          Which promotes proper abstraction in the game engine, and still has a chance to expose assumptions you've made (unknowingly) about the way a certain compiler, OS, or CPU architecture operates -- assumptions that might change.

          And those are just the obvious ones. Sometimes, there's a real bug which simply occurs more often on another platform.

          It would probably end up being something like either the JavaVM or possibly Winelib.

          Already exists, somewhat, in the form of OpenGL and SDL -- and that's a hell of a lot better than Winelib, at least.

          Of course, the JVM would be a more thorough approach.

      • by SirSlud (67381)

        Saying Starcraft is a counter example is silly. People *still* play it in droves, and it still looks good. With the DS still trucking on with tons of essentially 2d games and even consoles having some (Metal Slug 7, Megaman), the game may not get better looking with newer hardware, but if it looks good to start with, who cares?

        And Crysis didn't scale that poorly. Introversion games may never look better but still looks awesome .. now that is a great example of art direction working with limited work resourc

        • Re:Lets see... (Score:4, Insightful)

          by SanityInAnarchy (655584) <ninja@slaphack.com> on Tuesday September 09, 2008 @04:51AM (#24930337) Journal

          Saying Starcraft is a counter example is silly. People *still* play it in droves,

          Yes. People also play Doom, Pong, and Solitaire, in droves. What's your point?

          and it still looks good.

          Respectfully, no it doesn't. It looks no better than it did at the time.

          the game may not get better looking with newer hardware, but if it looks good to start with, who cares?

          Well, you're right -- it looks exactly as good as it did to start with.

          I cite it as a counterexample, because you know what? No game can look worse now than when it started. But because Starcraft looks exactly the same, it also means that other games look better.

          As for cross platform, Linux is still going to be last on the list for reasonable reasons.

          Fair enough -- yet for most games which would bother to make a Mac port, I don't see Linux as a major hurdle. They already had to make it OpenGL to make it play well on the Mac -- that's most of the work right there. Unless they somehow made it stupidly dependent on Cocoa, Linux would barely be a recompile from that.

          DirectX stomps OpenGL in current day form, and that buys you 90% of the cross-platform that is PC and XBox

          It doesn't buy you the 360, not entirely. If it does, I count the PS3 and the Wii for OpenGL.

          And you're not comparing apples to apples. I don't think Direct3D is any better than OpenGL. DirectX is better, because it does more than just graphics -- so the fair comparison would be DirectX vs SDL.

          And given how well UT2004 does, I think a good game engine should be able to switch between the two, without too much trouble.

          Visual Studio and DirectX arn't quite the utter pieces of shit that the OS is,

          True enough. But having used both Visual Studio and Eclipse, I'm not sure I would want Visual Studio back.

          I don't see Windows being threatened anytime soon in the gaming market.

          True. But it doesn't make a Linux/BSD port any less cool. (That's most of the reason I impulse-bought the Penny Arcade game.)

          And remember Doom 3? Pushed GL ahead by at least a year from where it was, I imagine. Most developers insist on DirectX, true, but it only takes one big game to make the manufacturers start to get their shit together.

          Lastly:

          if you wanna program a generation into the future, OpenGL is trailing developer expectations while MS has been much more consistent with regards to their announcements of whats coming up.

          If you wanna program a generation into the future, it doesn't matter -- you need both, and more. You need your engine to be so rock solid and agile that if Intel suddenly makes a cheap 500-core card that speaks x86, you'll be able to render on it before GL or DirectX.

          Granted, that's a bit aggressive, but I know how poorly game engines have done, traditionally -- game development in particular tends to lag years behind the rest of the world, mostly because of performance hacks to squeeze out another couple frames per second.

          I'm not entirely sure if the modern GL ports of Doom even use less CPU than the purely-software renderer Doom came with. But that kind of shows the endgame of an overly-optimized engine -- how many modern features could we actually add to the original Doom? Ramps, even? We have enough CPU now to run probably hundreds of instances of Doom on a single machine, so the optimizations no longer matter, but the lack of features and portability does -- I imagine much of the "porting" is taking old assembly routines and rewriting them in C.

          Blech. I'm rambling, and it's 4 AM. Sorry to be so abrupt... Let me know what you think.

          • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

            by geminidomino (614729) *

            I cite it as a counterexample, because you know what? No game can look worse now than when it started.

            Not true, actually. See Final Fantasy VIII PC port on Nvidia GPUs. Apparently at released, it used an "undocumented feature" of the GPUs which was fixed in later versions of the drivers, including the current set for current cards (that the old drivers do not support and cannot be used for).

            Completely unplayable now. :(

      • by Aladrin (926209)

        I think Introversion is a bad counterexample. The graphics were never the draw of their games, the gameplay was. They all scale as much as they need to: Not at all.

        The rest is not as simple as you make it sound. The limits for graphics quality aren't just set by what the hardware can handle. Most people know a game from 2000 (or before) won't look great (compared to today's games) because of the hardware upgrades. But you also have to take other things into consideration, such as the size of the media

      • by Tim C (15259)


        Doom 3 (required damned good hardware for the time to even play, but you could tweak it to run on a Voodoo3 -- and came with modes which crawled, due to sheer lack of video RAM, even on the biggest card at the time.)
        Crysis (need I say more? Barely ran on top-of-the-line hardware at the time. Didn't scale down well at all.)

        Both of those games - and especially Crysis - are essentially tech demos for the engine. Same goes for UT3; they're designed to get people licencing the engine. Given that games take time

  • by blahplusplus (757119) * on Monday September 08, 2008 @11:03PM (#24928697)

    It's about time business's (and customers) re-established good will over mindless abuse of one another.

  • by Awptimus Prime (695459) on Monday September 08, 2008 @11:27PM (#24928855)

    If anyone wander's on over to Stardock's website, you will find they have a return policy, but it's got all kinds of ugly exceptions.

    I think they should really consider having the same policies as he is demanding of the gaming industry.

    Pot.. Kettle.. Black..

    Honestly, I really do not like to say it, but I am thinking if any anti-DRM movement sprung up effective enough to get traction, companies would likely consider console-only release, rather than face the "risk" associated with releasing for a PC-- no matter the real costs vs unreasonable fear.. Regardless of who says they are "interested" in front of the press.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by kfx (603703)

      Where are you getting that from?

      We've offered to buy back *retail* copies of Political Machine 2008 if it didn't run on someone's machine, since it was released early this summer.

      Got an issue with a direct-download game that's keeping you from playing it and support can't get you fixed up? Full refund. Yes, that's right, a refund on a download, and you've got three months to figure out if you need one. That part's not a new policy at all.

      That there is right #1, already in action well before the gamer's bill

    • Link, please? (Score:3, Informative)

      The policy in question [stardock.com]:

      Please note that most Stardock programs have demo versions available for preview prior to buying... full refunds will not be issued for functional software that doesnâ(TM)t live up to your expectations.

      Makes sense, doesn't it? And it fits that bill of rights -- that's specifically about games that don't work with your computer.

      We do not give refunds on beta software.

      Kind of a "duh" moment there.

      We do not give full or partial refunds for any subscription renewals.

      Might help if they allowed it for a single renewal, but consider the asshat who subscribes for a year, then it stops working, or he wants to stop playing -- so he tries to get his entire year's subscription payments back.

      If you are not willing to work with technical support on any problems you are having, or request a refund even if you are not having problems using the software, we will issue a partial refund only.

      Also makes sense, given that the refund is for actual problems, not just because you didn't like it. You'll find

      • by thermian (1267986)

        You'd think Steam could afford that -- just disable the game on that account, then you know they're actually no longer playing it.

        Eh? That's retarded. By that logic you could buy a steam game, play it through then ask for your money back because you've played it now.

      • by crossmr (957846)
        if I don't like my toaster I can take it back..
        • by Aladrin (926209)

          If you don't like your toaster and take it back, you don't end up with a copy of the toaster.

          Combined with his 'no drm' policy, there's no way for him to guarantee you didn't just steal the game via this method.

          I think he should offer refunds if you "don't like it", but your logic doesn't support anything. Personally, I would be more willing to buy games if I knew I could get my money back for the bad ones. If I get bad food at a restaurant, I can get my money back. Even if I've eaten part of it! (Well,

          • I think he should offer refunds if you "don't like it", but your logic doesn't support anything. Personally, I would be more willing to buy games if I knew I could get my money back for the bad ones. If I get bad food at a restaurant, I can get my money back. Even if I've eaten part of it! (Well, the decent ones. The rest aren't worth eating at anyhow.)

            Bingo. Clothing stores take 'no questions asked' returns knowing a percentage of people bought an outfit simply to wear it once and return it.

            Books sometimes (depending on retailer) get read, then returned.

            And let's face it, anyone who wants to burn a non-DRM company can do it simply by posting a copy of their software on usenet or seeding a torrent.

          • by kfx (603703)

            I think he should offer refunds if you "don't like it", but your logic doesn't support anything.

            We do. It's just that in that case, since it's your fault for not playing the demo first, etc., rather than any fault of ours, you're only going to get 75% back. Still, that's a heck of a lot better than the 0% you'll get elsewhere.

            And yeah, even without DRM. If someone wanted pirated the stuff, they'd just download it anyway. Allowing refunds or not isn't going to make a difference with those people, but it does

      • Kind of a "duh" moment there.

        I disagree. See, I've worked at a company which often sold their "retail" product, then would offer enrollment into a "beta" plan if the retail package was giving them trouble. We intentionally kept "beta" status on a particular project to ensure nobody would ever be able to hold us responsible for the package, but had glorious websites, heavy pressure from sales people, etc all urging paying clients this direction.

        I find it more "duh" for people to actively market and sell "beta" status software.

        But in either case, it helps to know that if it's completely DOA, I can return it.

        But only i

  • hmm (Score:3, Insightful)

    by nomadic (141991) <nomadicworldNO@SPAMgmail.com> on Monday September 08, 2008 @11:37PM (#24928915) Homepage
    While I applaud every item on the list, I don't really think those things will "save" PC gaming simply because they're not the reason PC gaming was weakened so much.

    The problem with PC gaming is that a lot of the smaller companies were driven out of business, while the bigger companies obsessively followed each other. How many WW2 FPSes have we had to endure over the past decade? How many futuristic and ancient world RTSes? At first that works. If someone loved starcraft, then there's a good chance they'll buy the next two clones, but after a while it just gets tedious.

    I mean, look at CRPGs; the neverending AD&D gold box RPGs killed the CRPG market until Baldur's Gate. Doom was a great game, but we had to spend the next several years getting forcefed Doom clones (half of them produced by Id themselves). Starcraft cloned countless futuristic FPSes, and Starcraft itself originally copied off of Dune (via Warcraft maybe). I lost track of all the Age of Empire (itself not an especially original game) clones.
    • And this is different than consoles, how?

      • by nomadic (141991)
        And this is different than consoles, how?

        It's not, really. Consoles will hit the same problem eventually. Might take a little longer because console gamers tend to be a little less sophisticated than computer gamers.
    • by Aladrin (926209)

      Hm, sounds like everything else in the world. That's how it works: Someone produces something really great, and a bunch of copycats make things almost like them in order to make some money on someone else's idea. I don't know if you've tried, but coming up with original -good- ideas for video games is -not- easy.

      There's nothing stopping small companies from making good games except their own skill. Most innovation right now is in the 'casual' gaming market because that's where the money is. There are a

  • What's the difference in gaming between consoles and PCs for multi-player games?

    For the PC, one person per computer. Want to play with another person, they need another computer. The Wii has 1/2 the power of the typical home computer yet you can have multiplayer games with the people in the same room. PC gaming is individuals sitting at individual computers, looking at tiny monitors (not your 60" TV) Multiplayer on the PC shouldn't be two people sharing the same keyboard.

    Consoles while inflexible serve a

    • by CSMatt (1175471)

      Which brings up another difference: PC games are inherently antisocial. Is the Wii popular because the games are unique? No. It's because you can have parties with your friends. PC gaming? Usually played with strangers, or at the very least people you don't necessarily know in the real world. Even if you did, the gameplay isn't the same because everybody is in different rooms in different places on the planet. Even with voice chat features it isn't the same as needing the person in the room with you

      • by Zardus (464755)

        This generation we're seeing more and more games on consoles that are multiplayer only. Want a good split-screen shooter on the Wii? You're fucked. Closest thing is online-only Metal of Honor Heroes 2. Want to play Halo 3 co-op with three friends? I hope you have another console somewhere. Found that one out after buying two controllers. I bought Battalion Wars 2 a while back to play with my wife and to my great shock found out that multiplayer was online-only. Hadn't even bothered to check the box because

    • PC gaming is individuals sitting at individual computers, looking at tiny monitors (not your 60" TV)

      The smallest monitor I have anymore is a 17" laptop monitor. Mostly, I use a 20" desktop monitor -- or both, at work.

      Given that it's a diagonal measurement, that's a third the size of that 60" TV. (Not that it would stop me from using that TV anyway -- I have a DVI->HDMI adapter, and my laptop has DVI out.) But it's difficult to split it into thirds -- mostly, it's split into halves or fourths.

      Not all games use split-screen, and for those that don't, the console makes sense. But for those that do, sudden

  • ... then start by making games that can run on the vast majority of hardware that's sold... boxes off the shelf from a Wal Mart or Target that have a Celeron or Sempron, and low-end onboard video.

    That means sacrificing graphics, but so what? Games like Wolfenstien: Enemy Territory, will play fine with newer off the shelf boxes. And that standard of graphics is good enough for a lot of people. Many people would take an ET-caliber graphics game with superior gameplay and story over a Gee-Wiz supergraphical ar

    • by Zardus (464755)

      For the most part, I agree with you. I used to preach the whole graphics-are-irrelevant thing as well until I found Dwarf Fortress. While it's a great game and I personally love the graphics, NONE of my friends will give it so much as a chance because of them. They all concede that it's probably an amazing game but all of them pass it off with "the graphics aren't for me". I'd normally just figure they're all retarded, but this is a lot of people, most of whom are also bored with the status quo in gaming, r

  • by MarkvW (1037596) on Tuesday September 09, 2008 @12:42AM (#24929281)

    Back in the '80s when things were fresh and new, I remember the eagerness with which I went to Egghead/Babbage's to look at the computer games.

    There was so much variety in the games. People were trying all sorts of different things. These games were not hundred-megabyte heavyweight games, they were much lighter--but they were more interesting.

    Now everything is so similar. The gaming mags freak out over frame rate and animation quality. I could care less. I value freshness and cleverness much more.

    My wife plays, and loves, the popcap kind of games on the internet. They are nothing special at all, but she likes them because they are novel and fun.

    I think I had more fun playing the original ASCII empire game and CIV II than I get playing later, overwrought, Sid Meier games (and he designs among the best).

    The massive multiplayer games could be tons of fun, but there's no way I'm putting down a subscription to play.

    All the damn game publishers are trying to hit home runs all the time, like the movie industry. That sucks. I'd rather see a lot more variety out there, like in the '80s.

    Anyway--that's my gripe.

  • "... if someone wants to do a policy where there's CD copy protection, but after the first month [consumers] can download a patch that gets rid of it [...] that's a perfectly good solution too."

    No, it's not. You're selling me a crippled game on the promise that you'll fix it in the future. A month may as well turn into a century for all a promise is worth.

    • by mcvos (645701)

      "... if someone wants to do a policy where there's CD copy protection, but after the first month [consumers] can download a patch that gets rid of it [...] that's a perfectly good solution too."

      No, it's not. You're selling me a crippled game on the promise that you'll fix it in the future. A month may as well turn into a century for all a promise is worth.

      The solution is easy: Wait a month before buying the game. If the patch isn't availlable, wait another month. There are plenty of other games to play in the mean time.

  • by clickclickdrone (964164) on Tuesday September 09, 2008 @05:31AM (#24930487)
    I know an fair few PC gamers - a dozen or so. All but 1 wouldn't even know what DRM is. They don't hang out on slashdot, gamer sites etc or get involved in the Internet Zeitgeist of people wrining their hands about how terrible the DRM in game x is. They but their PC 'What PC Game' magazine, go to their fav. bricks and morter shops and buy the game - sometimes they'll use Amazon.
    Maybe I know a very skewed demographic but I'd suggest that the % of gamers who care about such things as DRM is actually quite small.
    • What "DRM" in games means is what we used to call "copy protection". And players do care about it, when they get a scratched CD, or steam screws up, or anything else that results from them not being able to make a backup of their games whacks them upside the head.

      They're just used to it. It's "that sucks, but what can you do about it".

      And for game companies, the attitude is generally "it sucks, but what can you do about it" too.

      I've been whacked upside the head by copy protection from both sides. As a playe

  • What's the point of "For example, what happens if someone wants to do a policy where there's CD copy protection, but after the first month [consumers] can download a patch that gets rid of it."?

    I don't understand what the company would imagine they would get out of that. The logic would be "If you can disable the copy protection, then as soon as the first consumer can do so, what's to stop that person from sharing the patch, or the patched copy." The only way that would work would be if they're not actually

  • Stop coding exclusively for Windows.
    • How about Live CD game distros for the ultimate optimised console-like gaming experience?

      Insert and boot

      Quick loading (X/graphical libraries trimmed to requirements

      No conflicts with installed software.

      Linux live gaming CDs FTW!

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