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The State of Piracy and DRM In PC Gaming 387

Posted by Soulskill
from the some-of-the-people-some-of-the-time dept.
VideoGamer sat down with Randy Stude, president of the PC Gaming Alliance, to talk about the state of piracy and DRM in today's gaming industry. He suggests that many game studios have themselves to blame for leaks and pre-launch piracy by not integrating their protection measures earlier in the development process. He mentions that some companies, such as Blizzard and Valve, have worked out anti-piracy schemes that generate much less of a backlash than occurred for Spore . Stude also has harsh words for companies who decline to create PC versions of their games, LucasArts in particular, saying, "LucasArts hasn't made a good PC game in a long time. That's my opinion. ... It's ridiculous to say that there's not enough audience for that game ... and that it falls into this enthusiast extreme category when ported over to the PC. That's an uneducated response." Finally, Stude discusses what the PCGA would like to see out of Vista and the next version of Windows.
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The State of Piracy and DRM In PC Gaming

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  • If a game is good, charge a nominal fee which includes patches, etc and ability to play online. Those who dont want to pay can play the local version (and may get hooked and end up paying)
    • by JazzyMusicMan (1012801) on Monday October 20, 2008 @11:46PM (#25449733)
      I don't know why the parent was modded -1. Creative business models around video games like this have succeeded. If I remember correctly, Guild Wars charged for the game and subsequent upgrades but online play was free, which often negated the cost of the game as many would attest to after months and years of playing other games such as WoW (look up the guy that plays 36 characters and spends ~$5700 yearly on subscriptions). Forcing game companies to become more competitive and creative is a good thing.
      • The problem is that it's encouraging "creativity" in the wrong places. If the industry abandoned traditional business models, we'd never have Portal or Ico. These games would not have been improved with online-play.

        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by Zironic (1112127)

          I could imagine some badass coop with portal with one person having a blue gun and the other person having the orange one.

        • by somersault (912633) on Tuesday October 21, 2008 @08:00AM (#25452181) Homepage Journal

          Considering Portal is based on Narbacular Drop [wikipedia.org] which was actually University project, we already got the creativity without going through the standard games industry business model. Narbacular Drop was free and apparently had a decent community creating maps for it (I never tried it myself). Admittedly Portal has shinier graphics and a story, but IMO the current business models pushed by publishers are more likely to stifle innovation than encourage it - which is why Bungie left Microsoft [nwsource.com] for example. They were fed up churning out sequels to Halo, because they know they are capable of much more.

          I don't mind publishers and developers releasing sequels - as long as the original game was good and the sequel is just as good or better, of course - but using recent business models it is difficult for developers with original ideas to get their foot in the door. We still get original games occasionally, but there is pressure from the publishers to produce more of the same recipes rather than try out new concepts - see DeathSpank [wikipedia.org] for another example. Ron Gilbert tried pushing the ideas to publishers for years before he found one that was willing to take the risk on it, even though he's got some great games under his belt. We will always have developers/designers with interesting ideas, it's currently up to the publishers who gets through though.

          I have no idea why nobody is still making good ol' point and click adventures. We have plenty of point and click cruft like the Sims and WoW, but for some reason point and click adventures are 'outdated'. I'd choose playing a Ron Gilbert Monkey Island sequel over the Sims any day (though if you said Half-Life 3 I'd have to think about it)! I'm definitely getting DeathSpank when it comes out anyway.

          The current generation of consoles are starting to have channels for homebrew type games, and things like Steam on the PC are good ways for developers to be able to release their games without going via the traditional publisher route. I'd never heard of Ico - apparently it was a bit of a flop - but if it was released as a cheap WiiWare game or PS3 store download right now it would do very well. I'd buy it now that I've heard about it. Of course if you threw in every other PS2 game ever, I probably wouldn't notice it at all. It all comes down to marketing and a bit of luck in the end as to which games get noticed - but then that's just life (and damn statistics).

          PS - I actually thought Portal would be rather spectacular with online multiplayer. It would be pretty cool playing in a deathmatch arena with traps everywhere, trying to drop objects on people's heads, send them into a spiky pit/whatever. Or perhaps they could have some kind of capture the flag variant. It would be a bit messy and hectic, but could be good fun. As it is, it's "just" a puzzle game to me and I probably will never play it again. I hope they include portals and multiplayer in Episode 3 anyway :)

          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            Admittedly Portal has shinier graphics and a story

            Princess No-Knees would argue that Narbacular DID have a story...

      • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday October 21, 2008 @12:02AM (#25449829)

        Indeed. I'm a habitual software pirate. I know it's wrong, but I simply don't want to pay more for less.

        Games with significant online content (MP mostly) I buy or skip entirely. I have bought, and not even at a discount, the entire Guild Wars series, as well as a great number of the optional addon content (extra character slots, skill unlock packs). I have spent more on GW than any one other game series in PC history. Why? It's good, it's fairly priced, has effectively no copy protection, and I can freely download the client. I have several times set it down for months and then picked up again. A subscription MMO would have lapsed, and I would likely have lost my characters or their gear.

        This is why I don't play WoW. GW is better in all the ways I care about. Steam is also a leader in the Right Way to do things. I have probably bought more titles on Steam than via physical purchase over the last 4 or 5 years. Physical media is dying.

        • by vitalyb (752663) on Tuesday October 21, 2008 @06:17AM (#25451457) Homepage

          I find it quite curious how people that stand firm against DRM are so positive about Steam.

          Doesn't Steam suffer from everything DRM does? It isn't portable, you need Steam to be ON to play and worse of all, what happens when Steam goes offline one day? Wouldn't all our games just stop playing?

          I buy quite a lot of titles on Steam, however, I can't say I feel too good about it. I merely do it because it is comfortable, but it still doesn't seem to me like the Right Way to do things.

          What do you guys think?

          • I find it quite curious how people that stand firm against DRM are so positive about Steam.

            Because despite all of the errors you can (and will eventually) get with Steam, they don't make it annoying.

            Doesn't Steam suffer from everything DRM does?

            Not really? One of the core tenets of anti-DRM is that it just screws over the user who paid for stuff. I don't think Steam really does for the most part IMO.

            It isn't portable, you need Steam to be ON to play and worse of all, what happens when Steam goes offline one day? Wouldn't all our games just stop playing?

            It depends on your definition of "portable". To me, Steam is actually highly portable.

            Let's say I go to a buddy's house and I want to show him what Portal is like. I can download Steam, log into my account, and show him the game. Installing on a new format is easy as pie. Hell, even backing up files is easy - just copy and paste. It always works. Steam keeps 99.9% of their files in the Steam folder, so backing it up just consists of copying it elsewhere.

            You don't need Steam to be ON to play, just to play online. If you want to play only single player games, you just need to verify the games *once* on the current install of Windows (which happens automatically in the background - you just load it up, I believe). Then you can set the games to "Offline Mode" and play without having to log into Steam.

            As for playing online, well... it's a compromise worth making. You're going to be online anyway, and the conveniences (able to pull down my games from their servers at 1.7 MB/s, anywhere, anytime, the friends network, easy to backup, etc.) are more than worth it.

            If Steam ever went down, I believe that someone at Valve (I think it was Gabe Newell) stated that it wouldn't be too hard for them to write up a "killswitch" patch. Considering that there already are shadow Steam networks running for people who pirate the games, somebody else would write up a patch on the off chance Valve *didn't* write such a patch themselves.

            I buy quite a lot of titles on Steam, however, I can't say I feel too good about it. I merely do it because it is comfortable, but it still doesn't seem to me like the Right Way to do things.

            So you're saying you keep building up this collection of games that could disappear at any moment - you're aware of this, but you do it anyway? I don't know whether it's subconscious or conscious, but it's because Steam is probably the best compromise when it comes to DRM out there. That's a Hell of a statement for me to make, yes, but it wouldn't be so successful if it weren't so damned convenient.

            I do have my gripes, though. One of my mates lost his Steam account. Why? Someone re-registered his original Hotmail account that expired and used password recovery to get his account. Nevermind the fact that he bought many games under a credit card in his name - they tie the account to the e-mail. He was basically shit outta luck.

            The Steam API is also a huge resource hog. Playing Steam on a low-end system with in-game friends enabled will *hurt* your system - some games will flat-out just not run, and many will run slow. It's coded very sloppily and is in need of many efficiency improvements.

            I'd like to be able to "sell" games, using Steam as a payment system. While you can sell your account (which is against the TOS), you can't really sell one game off of it because it is tied to your account. However, the Steam Store lets you buy games as a "gift" that you can give to another account. I don't see why it would be so hard to say "transfer X game to this account when I receive the money over Steam". Hell, use the money as credit in the Steam store or something - even that would be better than not being able to sell it at all.

            Steam customer service leaves a lot to be desired and there's still a good lot of bugs, but it's a big improvement over previous DRM schemes and previous iterations of Steam.

            • by canajin56 (660655) on Tuesday October 21, 2008 @09:22AM (#25453165)

              Unfortunately, just because it's on Steam doesn't also mean there isn't atrocious DRM. I downloaded Assassin's Creed from them. It worked fine for a bit but then suddenly it would freeze solid for about 5 seconds every time you killed somebody, or were spotted by guards, or got a flag. I checked out their forums. Lots of people had this issue. UBISoft told us all that nobody was reporting such a thing (EXCEPT US???) but they'd look into it. Somebody who isn't UBISOFT found the solution though: Disconnect your network cable. Because the issue is, Assassin's Creed connects to a UBISOFT server every 3 SECONDS while you are playing, and the lockups happen if it can't for some reason, or if there is a delay. If it detects not network though, it doesn't try.

              In fact, Assassin's Creed is a shining example of piracy doing exactly what the pirates say: establishing word of mouth. On PS3 and 360 it sold like 1.5 million copies. They released the PC port. BUT, about a month before it came out, there was a pirate version "leaked", that intentionally locked up randomly, and was also designed to crash to desktop about half way through, to frustrate pirates and make them buy the real deal I guess. But what happened is by the time it was out, most people on the Internet had heard it was slow and unstable and crashed about half way through so you could never beat it. It sold very very few copies, and they blamed this on piracy!

          • by Xphile101361 (1017774) on Tuesday October 21, 2008 @07:49AM (#25452105)

            Steam has its good and bad points.

            The good comes from the fact that once you buy the game, it automatically installs and updates the game for you. There has never been any work required for any steam game I have ever played. It warns me if it believes my computer isn't good enough (good and bad, a quad core 2.6 Ghz apparently throws a warning for a game requiring 2.7 Ghz). Steam makes PC gaming easy

            The other side of the good debate comes from how the company is viewed. Look at Microsoft vs Google. One is viewed as trustworthy for the most part, as their slogan is "do no evil" while the other is seen as the evil empire. We both give up personal information to their vast data mining, but we don't mind it as much when it goes to google.

            DRM is the same way. I don't mind Valve/Steam doing what it does, because I've transferred games between computers, I almost always have an internet connection, and I enjoy the features it offers. SecureROM and EAs Download manager make me cringe, especially at the fact that it acts like spyware on your computer (doesn't uninstall when its supposed to). For most people, it is a matter of trust. I trust Valve's steam to work correctly and do what it is supposed to, I trust EA to be the Evil Empire of gaming.

            The bad parts of steam have only come from the fact that it is hard for me to share a game with friends. I'm not talking about illegally sharing, but where I would hand them my CDs and CD key's before, I'd have to now allow them to login as me

      • by mlts (1038732) * on Tuesday October 21, 2008 @12:24AM (#25449929)

        Even games that don't charge still can make money this way. For example, Neverwinter Nights 1 patched out its CD copy protection, but piracy remained low on the game because a big part of the game was automatic updates (which requires unique serial numbers), online persistent worlds, and the sheer numbers of player made modules available which equaled or surpassed the single player campaign of the game.

        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by Greyor (714722)
          If we're going to talk about MMORPGs, PlaneShift [planeshift.it] is often overlooked IMHO, and it's very much free-to-play, as well as in beer and (mostly) libre (although note the proprietary licence for art and game rules, more about protecting the quality and consistency of the game than anything else).

          It's not as popular as WoW by any means, but it's certainly a lot of fun, even given the fact that it's pre-1.0 in terms of status.
      • by poetmatt (793785) on Tuesday October 21, 2008 @12:53AM (#25450039) Journal

        I'd hardly call free but a fee to play online a creative business model. We usually call that a scam.

        The difference is that Guild Wars gives people something, and there is never a fee you'll ever have to pay again to play the same thing, even if you lose the CD's. That is not the case with Wow, or Warhammer or any other mmo. The difference is those games (wow,warhammer, any pay or subscription mmo) are subsidizing their users to pay for the privilege to play an inevitable grind at the cost of the company's bandwidth. It's comparable to taxing people for air usage.

        A real creative business model would be something you can embrace that doesn't have infinite fuckups (drm, subscription fees), and uses common sense. Such as, I don't know, paying for a game and not having subscription fees, drm, or cd keys or any forced "linkage" of any sort? Go back to requiring a cd in virtual CD or physical form, and we'll all be happy. Will it sell more copies in reality? You bet you it will. Is it cheaper to not have to pay a company to DRM your software (or engineers to do it)? Absolutely.

    • by jlarocco (851450) on Tuesday October 21, 2008 @12:26AM (#25449933) Homepage

      You're not really explaining why you're entitled to other people's work. Video games don't just write themselves. If I spend hours and hours writing a game, why should I just give you a copy for free?

      That's cool if people want to volunteer their time and do that, but I really don't see why you think you're entitled to it.

      • by poetmatt (793785) on Tuesday October 21, 2008 @12:56AM (#25450051) Journal

        On the flip side, why are you magically entitled to anyone's money just because you spent effort on anything (let alone programming a game)? Trade for something, sure. Reality of the currency barter is that setting a specific price is not respective of people's perception of value. What you think is worth 500$ and maybe is to one or two people, might be worth 0$ to the rest of the world. This is why letting people pick their own prices works. However, the simple answer is that you're not entitled to other people's money.

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by jlarocco (851450)

          This is why letting people pick their own prices works.

          But it's not your decision to make. If I build a car and decide to sell it for $5000, your only options are to buy it for $5000 or not buy it for $5000. You can't just steal it from me and give me $1000 because that's all you think it's worth. That's just not how trading works. If it were, I could kick you out of your house, toss you a $5 bill and claim I bought it from you.

          However, the simple answer is that you're not entitled to other people's

          • by meringuoid (568297) on Tuesday October 21, 2008 @07:37AM (#25451999)
            If I build a car and decide to sell it for $5000, your only options are to buy it for $5000 or not buy it for $5000. You can't just steal it from me and give me $1000 because that's all you think it's worth.

            But if I build my own car to the same design as yours, and I feel generous enough to give you $1000 in thanks for coming up with such a cool design, I think you should be grateful.

          • by Hatta (162192) on Tuesday October 21, 2008 @08:39AM (#25452599) Journal

            But it's not your decision to make.

            Except that it is. You may not like it, but all the lawsuits and czars in the world can't change that.

            • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

              by bigstrat2003 (1058574) *
              Yes, it's your decision to make. As long as you accept the consequences that go with it. I can decide to steal a car. It's my decision. But no one will listen to me whine if I go to jail for it.
        • by shmlco (594907) on Tuesday October 21, 2008 @02:01AM (#25450269) Homepage

          "However, the simple answer is that you're not entitled to other people's money."

          And you're not entitled to the game. See how easy that was? But the simple answer is that he's not entitled to your money, and you're not entitled to his work.

          He created a product and set a price for it. You get to determine if that product has sufficient value to you and, if so, to pay the price. Quid pro quo. If, however, you DON'T think it has value, then you're free not to pay, and he is not "magically entitled" to anything. He invested his time and money, rolled the dice, and lost.

          "...setting a specific price is not respective of people's perception of value."

          Actually it is. As said, you're free to make the judgement call on your own.

          "What you think is worth 500$ and maybe is to one or two people, might be worth 0$ to the rest of the world."

          Again, don't pay. If enough people fail to do so, maybe he'll adjust his price accordingly. Or maybe he's happy with one or two $500 sales. His creation, his choice.

          The problem with letting you decide what, if anything, you're willing to pay is that it always devolves into people not paying their share, or what game theorists call the "free rider" problem.

          Me, I just call 'em parasites.

          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by Durzel (137902)

            The problem with letting you decide what, if anything, you're willing to pay is that it always devolves into people not paying their share, or what game theorists call the "free rider" problem.

            Me, I just call 'em parasites.

            A point that was conveniently proven by a real World example when Radiohead launched their album "In Rainbows" online, inviting people to "pay what they consider it's worth" for it. As it transpired (and wasn't particularly surprising) most people didn't bother paying anything at all [breitbart.com].

            Either they thought it was worthless (then why bother getting it?) or the mere fact that they could get it for free meant they jumped on the chance. It doesn't take a genius to work out which is the more likely scenario.

            Whils

            • by oracle128 (899787) on Tuesday October 21, 2008 @07:18AM (#25451851)
              No. WRONG, WRONG, WRONG.
              I completely agree with your point, but I believe the much more troubling lesson learned from the Radiohead example was that even when people could get it for free 100% legally, they still chose to download it illegally [paidcontent.org], which leads to the natural conclusion that people aren't even bothering to consider the price offered in the first place, going directly to P2P as their first port of call.
              Going to your TV example, it would be like Store A offering free TVs to anybody who wants one, but people still going to Store B and stealing the same model TV. As I said, much more troubling that this is the society we live in.
              • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

                by stewbacca (1033764)
                One thing to consider is the difficulty of downloading the song legally vs. illegally. I went to the Radiohead site to check it out (was gonna pay $0, since I'm not a fan) and I couldn't get the site to display correctly and/or I couldn't figure out what to do (can't remember the details). I found it on bittorrent about 2 minutes later. Now that it is also available on iTunes, I would have just gone there first, knowing I could sample the songs there and buy it if I liked what I heard. This logic also wor
              • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

                by PitaBred (632671)

                The problem is that the media companies have exerted market pressures by making it hard to use things legally. In doing so, they prop up the P2P systems. The problem isn't that people don't want to get Radiohead legally... the problem is that they want a Wal-Mart for media online. They aren't going to try to remember 15 different sites to get all the different media they want. They're going to go to the pirate bay and search for Radiohead because that's where they get all their media.

                It's not a sorry st

            • by jedidiah (1196) on Tuesday October 21, 2008 @08:12AM (#25452279) Homepage

              In the real world, MOST people already didn't think that a
              Radiohead album was worth paying for and they never would
              have bought one. This fact is not altered by computing
              technology. The easy ability to download and copy things
              just give content creators a false impression of the value
              of their work.

              Pirates create a false impression of value. All of those
              zero dollar value transactions are much like the funny
              business that was going on with junk bonds, energy trading
              or the recent mortgage resale shenanigans.

              • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

                Pirates create a false impression of value. All of those zero dollar value transactions are much like the funny business that was going on with junk bonds, energy trading or the recent mortgage resale shenanigans.

                I think the flaw in that argument is that while no money changed hands in a pirate "transaction", it is self-evident that the pirated material does have some value to the pirate, because the pirate bothered to spend the time and effort to download and play/listen to/watch the ripped content. Unless someone wants to claim that pirates only ever download material to try, and immediately obtain a legal copy of everything they actually like, of course... (Traditionally on Slashdot, someone now pops up and repli

    • by William Baric (256345) on Tuesday October 21, 2008 @12:57AM (#25450057)

      I play almost exclusively single player games. I have no interest for on-line gaming. The only exception was with a game called Trackmania and some PBeM I played in the 80s and early 90s. I never played an RTS on-line (although I did play Warcraft 2 on a local network), I never played an FPS on-line (again, only on a local network) and I never played any on-line RPG. I just don't see what's fun with on-line gaming.

      I'm not saying your idea is not good for a few games, but the truth is a lot of people never play on-line. Most people I know play video games, but very few play on-line. For the game Trackmania, the only one I played on-line, it was only a small percentage of people owning the game who ended up trying the on-line mode. I really don't think it would be a good idea for most game to use this business model.

    • If a game is good, charge a nominal fee which includes patches, etc and ability to play online.

      Those who dont want to pay can play the local version (and may get hooked and end up paying)

      That's a solution for those few games that are a balance between single player and multiplayer. WOW would be what without the online? Wouldn't be a draw at all to run around an empty world. Conversely, how many people would pay for online of half life?

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Ephemeriis (315124)

      If a game is good, charge a nominal fee which includes patches, etc and ability to play online.

      Those who dont want to pay can play the local version (and may get hooked and end up paying)

      Hellgate did this exact thing, but unintentionally.

      I downloaded a cracked copy of Hellgate and started playing through the single-player. I enjoyed it. Threw a copy of it on my wife's computer, she enjoyed it. Threw a copy on my kid's computer, he enjoyed it. Reminded us all a lot of Diablo II, and we used to have a ton of fun playing Diablo II on-line. Of course the on-line play wasn't going to work with the cracked copy...

      So we ran out and bought three copies of Hellgate at the local GameStop. We pl

  • by crowtc (633533) on Monday October 20, 2008 @11:41PM (#25449707)
    If the publishers would spend more time pushing out innovative games (not the most recent installment of the flavor of the month) and provide a reason to purchase a genuine copy, then maybe they wouldn't need to be in the business of criminalizing their own customers.

    Spore is at least innovative and provides some value to the original owner of the game, in spite of the stupid DRM. IMO, it would be nice if they could transfer those rights to the secondary market though.
    • by daver00 (1336845) on Tuesday October 21, 2008 @12:01AM (#25449821)

      The way I see it there is one genuine and absolute way to give a reason to purchase a game: Online play. Xbox live and err PS3 online something are basically the ONLY reason why people seem to have stopped mod chipping and pirating. Time was PS2 and Xbox games were pirated so fiercely that the PC pirate industry would blush, thats just not the case anymore.

      Hell I'll fess up: I've started buying PC games again (or just started). I'm fairly old for a gamer at 26 and I'll be honest, the last thing I bought before this year was the Warcraft 2 expansion pack. Yes thats right (to be honest I didn't buy WC2 either, I used my mates disk to install it then the expansion pack disk was a cheap alternative to legitimate play). The only reason things have changed is that I want online play. Now the thing is that this feature has built in online verification and it doesn't get in your way!

      All this limiting installs business, Securom rootkits, internet requirements and so on blows my mind it is so morally corrupt. The whole notion fundamentally defies market principles, any other industry would belaughed out of the room if they suggested to government they needed this kind of regulation. And most of all it DOESNT WORK. Hear this game developers, none of your methods, none of them, ever have ever worked and never will. Not even on consoles! Barring one: Online play.

      Its criminal how utterly STUPID these people are that they do not realise this and do something about it, something other than swimming against the tide.

      • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday October 21, 2008 @12:36AM (#25449981)
        I'm fairly old for a gamer at 26

        No, you're fairly young for a gamer at 26, unless you're British. The average American gamer is 7 years older than you.

        http://www.theaveragegamer.com/averagegamers/ [theaveragegamer.com]

        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by daver00 (1336845)

          Wow.

          Ok so I'm a young gamer (Aussie by the way).

          But just to put an addendum on my previous post, I'll quickly mention a story. Month ago I bought Crysis warhead, legitimately bought it, installed it on the two computers I have that run Crysis, this is fine they say, 5 installs they say. Two weeks ago the game wouldn't load and all I got was a message saying if I wanted to play to "purchase another copy" because I had exceeded my 5 installs. This was utter bullshit, I played their game (money game) and they

      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by JerkBoB (7130)

        I'm fairly old for a gamer at 26

        Uh... What? No, junior, you're not old for a gamer. Computer games have been around since the 60s.

        Popular computer games have been around since the late 70s. REALLY popular games have been around since the 80s. Ever hear of Atari? Colecovision? C=64? Amiga? etc. etc.

        Sheesh. Now get off my lawn.

    • by GFree678 (1363845) on Tuesday October 21, 2008 @12:13AM (#25449875)

      Innovation is overrated. I prefer playing games that are fun. It is possible to create a game that's innovative and yet not that much fun, Spore being a good example. It is also possible to make a game that's innovative AND fun, Portal being a good example.

      Innovation is a nice concept, but all in all, I'd prefer a game that's just plain fun, innovative or not. Believe it or not, some formulas aren't "tired" and can be done again and again with a few changes between iterations. The GTA and Civilization games come to mind.

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by jonaskoelker (922170)

        some formulas aren't "tired" and can be done again and again with a few changes between iterations. The GTA and Civilization games come to mind.

        Some additions to that list:

        The Zelda series [I've played OoT a little some years ago, and completed TP, now and in april/may]. I don't know the franchise that well, but I hear most of the time you know you're going to be riding around in Hyrule solving puzzles in dungeons to collect items that'll help you save the princess from Ganondorf's clutches. Tried and true; my knowledge of what was going to happen based on OoT didn't do a damn thing to detract from the value of TP, it was great fun.

        The Guitar Her

    • by msormune (808119)
      If the publishers would spend more time pushing out innovative games (not the most recent installment of the flavor of the month) and provide a reason to purchase a genuine copy, then maybe they wouldn't need to be in the business of criminalizing their own customers.

      That's a great theory, but it didn't work even in the early 90's when there was no internetz. Innovative games got pirated and great game companies like Origin and Looking Glass went under, or got bought by bigger companies.
    • by arth1 (260657)

      If the publishers would spend more time pushing out innovative games (not the most recent installment of the flavor of the month) and provide a reason to purchase a genuine copy, then maybe they wouldn't need to be in the business of criminalizing their own customers.

      To be cynical, games companies don't want to reduce piracy too much. It's the best excuse they have for when the investors ask why the revenue isn't coming in as promised. Choosing a mediocre DRM system that hackers can circumvent lets them s

  • by isBandGeek() (1369017) on Monday October 20, 2008 @11:45PM (#25449727)

    Not because there isn't an audience, but because the audience is too diverse. From the $4000 liquid cooled (or even oil cooled [slashdot.org]) systems to the Pentium IVs, it's hard to find settings that work across the board, or scale well.

    Console games all play on machines with roughly the same processing power. That makes things a lot easier.

    • by Chandon Seldon (43083) on Monday October 20, 2008 @11:57PM (#25449797) Homepage

      Do you have any basis for making this claim, or is this just a good sounding excuse that you heard once and are now repeating?

      It could be that what you claim is what developers are thinking, but we'd have to find some game company executive in charge of that sort of decision and ask them if we wanted to find out. It's not obvious enough that we can come to a conclusion by guessing - if you declare a PC platform like "Windows XP, Direct X 9 Dedicated Graphics" that's a relatively large install base. People with older PCs are no more relevant than PS2s are if you're considering developing a PS3 game.

      • by Fluffeh (1273756) on Tuesday October 21, 2008 @12:28AM (#25449945)
        Okay, to back up the original post, I used to contract for Epicgames on the Unreal series. When developing for the main PC market, we were constantly rolling our specs and expectations forward and backwards, gain some here, lose some there, roll up with this new tech etc. When porting to consoles everything was set in lovely stone. This is the amount of memory you have, this is how much transfer you have. It is amazingly much easier to do development work when you have limits like "Your textures for this level/environment cannot be more than xxx megs total" or "your level has to be under xxx megs in file size to load properly". This is black and white. You know the performance you will get, you won't see a shift here or there. On the other hand, working with the PC development, it's not black and white, it's all a shifting gradient.

        Let me use a slashdot friendly car analogy.

        Working with a console is like buying a little hatchback and keeping it factory standard. You know how fast it goes, you know how much you can pop into the back before it gets too much. Working with PC's is like going to a custom car show. Each one is different, you don't know how fast they go and you don't even know if there is space beside the subs in the back to fit any luggage.

        Which one can potentially be better is a no brainer, but which one is easier to plan around is just as plain.
        • by poetmatt (793785) on Tuesday October 21, 2008 @01:00AM (#25450071) Journal

          Or there's that "minimum specs" idea, or using common sense to program for the lowest common denominator in a similar fashion to a console, no?

          Isn't that how blizzard, warhammer, all sorts of games do well? By programming for the lowest common denominator as a console does?

          Sounds like sales has their hands steering way too much of the developer pot, in general.

          • by Fluffeh (1273756)
            Yes, minimum specs is what you go for, but minimum specs is not how the majority of people play, and it's that problem of finding out how things scale past that point that is the difficulty.

            Example: "Some Game" has min specs at a P4 with 1gig ram and a 128meg graphics card with hardware T&L. That makes it play at an acceptable 25 frames at 800x600 res on low detail textures (256x256) and with low shadows and no AA.

            The hard thing is to work out how well it will play on PC's when you bump it up to s
          • by n dot l (1099033) on Tuesday October 21, 2008 @02:31AM (#25450393)

            Or there's that "minimum specs" idea, or using common sense to program for the lowest common denominator in a similar fashion to a console, no?

            No. Programming for the lowest common denominator means making a game that looks five years old. Publishers will publish those games, but they will not market and sell them along with all the other big name titles. Blizzard gets away with low (though ever rising) min-specs on WoW because the game's art is cartoonish - it doesn't look like it should be ultra-realistic or anything. Most games, however, won't have art direction that allows similarly low min specs without giving the impression that the game belongs in the $10 bin. The only way to support a low min spec while pleasing publishers is to make content that scales, and that opens a whole new set of problems (unless you're huge and can throw your weight around like Blizzard). Now the physics engine needs to work in "low end" and "high end" mode (tons of testing and hunting for subtle bugs - who remembers the little bugs in Quake3's movement code that only show up when the server runs at certain multiples of some frequency?), and the graphics code ends up with separate code paths for "Intel Integrated", "old NVIDIA", "not-so-old NVIDIA", "recent NVIDIA", "bleeding-edge NVIDIA", "old ATI", the list goes on - all which the artists and designers then have to work around. The fact that all you see is a neat little "Graphics Quality" slider is a testament to some graphics programmer's hard work and his company's amazing QA team.

            And it's never as simple as typing if( uber_shadows_supported ) here and there, as most of the "this game doesn't do much, it should run on my machine, this developer sucks for not supporting my machine!" crowd likes to scream. The available set of GL extensions and D3D capability flags varies hugely and in unpredictable ways across hardware, and even driver revisions, leading to many subtle bugs where features are half-implemented (*cough* ATI *cough*) or missing for no good reason (*cough* Apple) or implemented three times in three ways because the vendors couldn't agree on what to call a function (most any recent GL extension), and all sorts of crap like that. The amount of testing and bug-fixing even a single "enable shadows" option adds is massive. Also, once you have a moving target you lose the ability to fine-tune the art for the system. Suddenly you have to add things like low/medium/high-detail texture support (because you don't know what the target resolution is so you have no idea of knowing what resolution the game will ultimately run at), which means the artists have to do tons of extra work, which must be tested and reviewed, etc. Oh yes, resolution and aspect ratio. Because those can now be anything and the HUD has to do something intelligent about it instead of just throwing up the perfectly hand-tweaked 4:3 or the lovingly crafted 16:9 version, as you can do with a console.

            And then, on top of that, every now and then the hardware companies will ship a driver that has a bug in it, or some malware will eat a critical file, or some other small catastrophe will befall one of your customers, and you'll have to hire a support department to tell people "upgrade your drivers", or "downgrade your drivers", and the all-time favorite, "You can get the latest drivers from your video card manufacturer's web site. What do you mean, 'What's a video card?'".

            Gah. It's late and I'm ranting. I'll stop.

            With a console, on the other hand, you know you have X CPU cycles, a GPU that can push Y triangles and shade Z pixels, and a memory buss that will transfer W bytes each frame. You decide what effects you want to see, you tell the artists "you have X triangles and Y MB of texture space - textures should have such and such dimensions per game unit", you tell the designers "X square meters of destructible wall, Y throwable objects, no more than Z players at a time", and then spend the time you used to spend dealing with o

    • by cjb658 (1235986)

      Could it be that there are more console gamers because nobody makes PC games?

      I mean Microsoft was actively involved in trying to move people from PCs to consoles. (Why?)

      • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

        I hate playing on a console. It's a pain in the ass. I'd much rather play on a PC, be able to switch to a browser when I want, use a keyboard and mouse (it's so much easier to play a game with a kb and mouse imo).

        Certainly consoles have provided a less expensive way to get quality graphics and gameplay. It has nothing to do with "finding the right level of PC but rather the fact that ANY PC that can play games of console caliber will cost more than the console itself. That's a fact.

        Consoles are a necess

    • "Console games all play on machines with roughly the same processing power. That makes things a lot easier."

      I used to believe that too, until I had to get my Xbox 360 replaced two times within a year. I've move my slider back to a 70/30 split now between PC and Console. If there's a PC version, 9 times out of 10, that's what I'm going with. Otherwise, I'll keep the console around to play the occasional console exclusive. So for me that means, in the last 6 months and ahead in the next 6:

      Things I actively ch

  • RS: "Piracy is an issue for some publishers, but if you sat down and you talk to Blizzard or Funcom or the guys at EA about Warhammer, about all the noise that was made about Spore and the reaction to the DRM, but they're still selling games and they're selling them well."

    Despite the cryptic grammar, the key words 'selling' and 'games' are clear... When/if that process is put at risk, then there'll be an issue over piracy. As it stands now, piracy is most likely helping to simply sell more games.
  • Gee. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday October 20, 2008 @11:49PM (#25449763)

    I went out and bought Sins of a Solar Empire recently.

    First game purchase in years. I'll be honest, it's mostly because the market has degenerated into crap of late. But it's at least partially because - get this - I can play Sins without needing the disc. Without shitware being installed on my system. Without a company that knows better treating me like a goddamned thief.

    There's no excuse for DRM, unless you put out crap games.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by mlts (1038732) *

      I think that is the exact problem with the gaming industry. Games seem to be for the most part stagnant, and companies are relying on either sequels or expansions to generate new sales.

      The one game company I miss is Origin. Their games were buggy at times, but they almost always had an interesting story to tell and were unique and engaging, from the Ultima fantasy world to unique games like Privateer.

      Those new games seem to be gone. I'd rather see a new game with a unique plot as opposed to the same old

    • Same here - I bought Galactic Civilization I and II from these guys.

      Reasons, in order of importance for me:

      * Very good, personal and friendly support, both email and forums.
      * Not too high prices for a very good game.
      * Needs to be registered to be updated - and they update quite a lot, making a buy definitively worth it.
      * Complete lack of any DRM nonsense.
      * Great game.

      Compare this to the 'normal' games you see on the shelf... would explain why I haven't bought a shelf game in years, and I used to buy a LOT.

    • Re:Gee. (Score:4, Insightful)

      by p0tat03 (985078) on Tuesday October 21, 2008 @02:37AM (#25450423)

      Sadly, the model that has worked for Stardock won't work for mainstream games. Sins is a success, and Stardock's lack of DRM is working because they appeal to a hardcore gamer niche market that is keenly aware of the issues around piracy; mostly, anyways.

      Move this model out into the mainstream market, where little kids with Pokemon, boozed up frat boys with Halo, or just immature idiots with too much bandwidth, and that whole thing falls apart.

      If your market is small, has a traditionally tight-knit community that has existing rapport with the major developers in that field (Stardock is one), keeping people honest is a lot easier than if you're dealing with a market with a much lower moral standard. Expecting the average Joe to go by the honor system is a little much.

      • Re:Gee. (Score:4, Insightful)

        by Morkano (786068) on Tuesday October 21, 2008 @12:40PM (#25456429)

        But they don't really have a choice. PC games are already on the honour system. If you don't want to pay for a game, it's already been cracked and you can just download it for free, regardless of DRM.

        The only difference is the paying customers aren't treated like crooks.

  • You could always try sending a message to the gaming industry by playing Game! - The Witty Online RPG [wittyrpg.com]. It's DRM free and you don't need to pirate it.

  • by syousef (465911) on Tuesday October 21, 2008 @12:04AM (#25449839) Journal

    For the most part games are HARDER to pirate on a console almost always requiring hardware mods, so if piracy were such a primary motivator, people would never buy consoles. They don't put draconian anti-piracy measures into most console games (yet) so by doing so on the PC they're pushing people further away. Consoles are fine for shoot them ups - platformers, FPS and the like, and they're even good for some interesting additions with peripherals like eyetoy, guitar sims, golf sims, fishing sims etc. but for certain games they're awful.

    Any serious flight simulation for instance is best done on a PC, with a keyboard and multiple screens. I'm not talking about flight games, I'm talking about realistic simulation. Flight simulation isn't a potential mass market so any peripheral made for it tends to be pricy...and people do go to extremes. Flight sims also tend to need more power than consoles provide.

    So what we're missing by going to the consoles is the flexibility. The other thing we're missing is the ability for a hobbiest to dive in and write their own software, although the games are complex enough now that there are only a handful of open games without a proprietary heritage. That's what the push is about - shutting out any remaining competition and innovation by hobby projects. The less competition and the harder it is for people to pirate, the more they can charge for 3rd rate games.

    • by Ostracus (1354233) on Tuesday October 21, 2008 @01:14AM (#25450117) Journal

      "Consoles are fine for shoot them ups - platformers, FPS and the like, and they're even good for some interesting additions with peripherals like eyetoy, guitar sims, golf sims, fishing sims etc. but for certain games they're awful."

      So basically the difference between one kind of computer vs another is external devices.

      "The other thing we're missing is the ability for a hobbiest to dive in and write their own software, although the games are complex enough now that there are only a handful of open games without a proprietary heritage. "

      XNA,Xbox live.

      • by dunezone (899268)
        I understand what you're getting to and the parent post but he has a point.

        XNA is fairly new so we haven't seen the full results behind it. And the peripheral market was there but is just really starting to grow now with the introduction of two games, dance dance revolution and guitar hero.

        We haven't seen the long term results of these two markets. Personally, I got four guitars, a drum set, a microphone, and a dance pad that are just sitting around and I don't feel like getting burned buying another
      • by eulernet (1132389) on Tuesday October 21, 2008 @03:57AM (#25450797)

        XNA,Xbox live.

        Frankly, I was a game developer (during 18 years !) and I will never touch XNA, even with a ten-foot pole.

        There are several reasons:
          1) being tied to XBox. Nowadays, you have to be able to port your game on all the consoles. You don't have the luxury to write a game for only one platform, and being forced to rewrite your code for the other ones.

          2) C#. I now code a web application in VB.NET, and it's great for this kind of task. But if you want to write a game, it's doomed from the beginning if you work in C#. Sure, it's great to use, but how can you trust a garbage collected language during in game ? Slowdowns may appear anywhere during a game, and such bugs are impossible to reproduce.

          3) XBox: XBox is perhaps a success in US, but in the rest of the world, it's largely unknown.

        If you want to make money, think: Wii, PS3 then XBox 360.

    • by shmlco (594907)

      When you put it that way, I'd say what MS needs to do is KEEP the HD DVD player in the XBOX, and only publish games in that format. That way they'd have a locked-in format that essentially couldn't be copied.

  • I have multiple high end computers, ranging from an 8-core Mac Pro with an 8800GT, to a Quad Core SLI system running Vista with 8GB of ram. I have never owned a console. I previously never wanted a console. However, since games are now "console only" (like "The Force Unleashed") I am seriously considering buying a 360 or a PS3. I much prefer the Keyboard+Mouse controls, but when there are minimal good games come out.... they don't do much good. (Crysis + Crysis Warhead looked good, but the gameplay was real
  • Backlash is right (Score:2, Interesting)

    by drinkypoo (153816)

    I don't know about anyone else, but I will NEVER be buying a call-home-during-install game again. I can't play Half-Life 2 because I can't make the updates over a modem, and I can't just play the damned game (even from my Steam backups!) Valve, pay attention - I will NOT be paying for Half-Life 3 if you keep this shit up, and I know you will. I have all but given up on PC gaming (At this point I play only Free/OpenSource games and classic games on the PC, and occasionally buy a console game title) because,

    • by Scott Kevill (1080991) on Tuesday October 21, 2008 @12:31AM (#25449959) Homepage

      I don't know about anyone else, but I will NEVER be buying a call-home-during-install game again. I can't play Half-Life 2 because I can't make the updates over a modem, and I can't just play the damned game (even from my Steam backups!) Valve, pay attention - I will NOT be paying for Half-Life 3 if you keep this shit up, and I know you will.

      Sadly, your threats don't carry any weight -- Valve doesn't want you as a customer. They would ideally like to get out of retail and move entirely to digital distribution. They cut out the middlemen and have far greater margins that way.

      As dialup user, you don't fit with their plans.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Fallen Seraph (808728)
      If my memory serves me correctly, once the game is updated at least once, set it to "Offline Mode" and disable auto-updating for both Steam and the game. Voila! No more updates and you can play offline. I believe they implemented this when a massive lightning storm blacked out the Seattle area and brought down all of their servers. People complained about not being able to play offline games, so they added that ability. You still can't play games online without updating (for obvious reasons), but you'd be a
  • by cyberpear (1291384) on Tuesday October 21, 2008 @12:08AM (#25449853) Homepage
    It sounds like this Randy Stude guy is strongly advocating more and better DRM on games to me. It will always end up broken, and will only truly inconvenience those who have obtained the game legally.
    • If you read more carefully, he doesn't want DRM, he wants Trusted Computing. His talk about encryption on the PC, that isn't DRM. The only way encryption after all work is if the system is a black box with no way to intercept the signals. Trusted Computing, making DRM seem like childs play.

  • With Internet multiplay, multiple models in a product line, and installs for many games, the line between the PC and consoles as a game platform is becoming less distinct with each generation. As a member of the occasionally rabid fandoms created by good LucasArts games, it's hard (and disappointing) to see a game like Force Unleashed justify a release that doesn't include the PC. One of the main holdouts of the PC as a platform is a modding culture (and its evil goateed brother, piracy and cracks). Playi
  • by darkvizier (703808) on Tuesday October 21, 2008 @12:16AM (#25449897)
    With such stunning insights as:

    ...don't leave anything to chance and keep it protected all the way through the production pipeline.

    I can't see why those idiots in the video game industry aren't listening to Randy Stude. Obviously we're dealing with someone who's seen the issues and thought out detailed solutions to them. And when confronted with this biting criticism from the interviewer:

    VideoGamer.com: It doesn't sound like rocket science to me. I don't understand why publishers don't shore up the production line.

    Randy fires back a steadfast conclusion:

    Yeah. And that doesn't even mean that at the end of the day someone's not going to hack the game and put it up on a torrent network ... We in the PCGA believe than an industry group such as ours and others out there should be the ones that tackle it from a standards perspective, provide guidance ... We don't have the answer yet today but we would invite anyone who believes piracy is a problem to join our organisation ...

    Amazing! This nearly tops the genius and wisdom of a self referential slashdot post. Hats off to you, Randy! I'm going to join the PC Gaming Alliance right now!

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward

      I read TFA, And I gotta say, it looks like nothing more than a self aggrandizing attempt to justify the use of DRM and the adding of more of it.

      It'd doesn't look like news, it looks like a press release.

      In an interview about DRM with the PCGA they didn't ask ask the cost of DRM (in both development, real money, and alienated customers) vs its actual effectiveness at its goal (next to nothing.)

      They didn't bring up the effectiveness of studios like stardock to still sell million plus copies of games, with NO

  • Just use Steam... (Score:2, Informative)

    by Zurpanik (1390029)

    I think the obvious answer to this problem is to distribute all games from here on out through Steam.

    (not really)

    But honestly, Steam's a great platform for game distribution. You have your own account and once your purchased game is installed you can re-install it as you like through said account.

  • by Jane Q. Public (1010737) on Tuesday October 21, 2008 @12:31AM (#25449961)
    ... about getting more companies to make games for our computers, as opposed to dedicated game consoles. THEN they say the system they want to see it on is Vista.

    Aaaaaaaaarrrrrggghh!!!

    Next, we'll read that we want to see all cars get hybrid-like mileage...

    and that the system we want to see it on is the Edsel.
  • by RichPowers (998637) on Tuesday October 21, 2008 @01:27AM (#25450155)

    The latest trend in annoying DRM: publishers using SecuROM and install limits on games sold through Steam. Crysis Warhead, Far Cry 2, and X3 have a 5 install limit, crippling one of Steam's greatest features: unlimited installs on any PC. The former two games also use SecuROM. Why on earth would you add third-party DRM on top of Steam? Maybe because these publishers are run by dicks? Who knows. What I do know is that my PC game purchases have gone down solely because of DRM. I'd love to play Red Alert 3 or Far Cry 2, but I won't until EA gives up on installation limits and SecuROM. Shame, too, since I don't own any consoles.

    (I know that Steam is a form of DRM with its own share of problems, but I rather enjoy the service. Unlike SecuROM or similar schemes, Steam at least provides some side benefits to gamers.)

    • by Sibko (1036168)

      one of Steam's greatest features: unlimited installs on any PC.

      Since when was this a feature? I mean, It's almost like saying "One of Steam's greatest features: Getting the game when you buy it."

      Personally, I won't buy a game that limits the number of installs I can make.

      • Okay, you're right. Unlimited installs are not a "feature" of Steam, since all other models inherently have that feature already.
        You have fun digging around for and swapping out install discs while I go play any game I want on this newly built PC.

  • I'm beginning to think that if I "sat down with" myself to talk about "DRM and the state of the game industry"* it'd be a featured article on here, and probably get duped to boot. I know the flamebait articles get all the traffic, but I just keep hoping people are going to get sick of trotting out the same arguments when there aren't any new developments.

    *Readers will note that the only game I've ever made was one of those origami diamonds you slip over your thumbs. It didn't have DRM. It was a financial fa

  • by MikeDirnt69 (1105185) on Tuesday October 21, 2008 @06:57AM (#25451687) Homepage
    Since ever in the computer history, people are used to copy softwares from each other. It became a habit to do such thing, and it doesn't fell like that you're stealing something. We may be on the 3rd generation of 'copiers', and we keep doing it. The same thing explain the illegal mp3 downloads and creation.

    I started buying games when I met Steam, and HAD to buy the game or I wouldn't be able to play online (with good, fast servers); last year I bought WoW, and since that 'I keep buying it', if I can say that.

    The answer is: change the games or change the gamers. I bet they will keep picking the 3rd and bad choice.
  • Designed to Fail (Score:4, Interesting)

    by IndustrialComplex (975015) on Tuesday October 21, 2008 @07:33AM (#25451951)

    Unfortunately, the PC gaming industry seems to be designing itself for failure. In a time when companies are taking losses on hardware to increase their userbase (consoles) the PC gaming industry seems to be going to extra efforts to actually limit the growth of their market.

    What has been the single most revolutionary improvement to console gaming? Multiplayer. The console industry has realized this and games that only offer single player are so rare that when something lacks multiplayer it can be seen as a black mark by critics. We are a social species, and gaming originated as a social activity. It is only for a brief period when transitioning into the electronic world that gaming became a single player activity. Improvements in hardware and data connections are bringing gaming back into the 'coffee table' world of board and card games.

    Back to my topic. When you brought over your copy of monopoly, it was a game that was designed, and infact required, multiple players. Yet it is rare that you come across any PC game that isn't designed in such a way that you are expected to pay an additional fee to enjoy it with your friends. It may be a throwback to the per-chair licensing that is still utilized by many software producers, but it is detrimental to the growth of the PC gaming industry. It is an intentional speedbump that is thrown in the path of growth. If the PC gaming industry wants to continue with the concept of DRM, then they have to do so in a manner that allows people to socialize with the friends the know in the real world. Online 'lobbies' and forums don't completely fill that gap.

  • DRM in gaming (Score:3, Insightful)

    by log0n (18224) on Tuesday October 21, 2008 @12:46PM (#25456499)

    Thought about it a bit (may have been obvious.. i don't keep track of the gaming sites though).. DRM has nothing to do with preventing piracy. DRM in gaming was designed to 1) prevent selling used games - we've all seen the topics here about the ire over the used console game market.. and 2) prevent renting of games through the netflix-style mailing services. If you can't reuse or recycle something, your only option (in the 'I gotta have' consumer mindset) is to buy new. Which is more money in the publishers pocket.

    DRM = new sale

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