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The Internet Entertainment Games

How Piracy Affected the Launch of Demigod 613

Posted by Soulskill
from the might-need-more-than-three-bullets-this-time dept.
Demigod is an RTS/RPG hybrid developed by Gas Powered Games and published by Stardock, a company notable for their progressive and lenient stance on DRM. The game was set to be released on April 14th, and shipped without any form of copy protection. Unfortunately, retailer Gamestop broke the street date and released it earlier in the week. A day after pointing this out, Gas Powered Games posted some numbers about the players hitting their servers. Roughly 18,000 connections were made from legitimately purchased copies; over 100,000 were made from pirated copies. Meanwhile, the servers, which were not yet ready for that level of traffic, buckled under the strain, resulting in poor experiences for people trying to participate in multiplayer. While some reviews were positive, others criticized the game for the connectivity issues. After another day, they were able to stabilize the servers to the point they'd planned on for the original launch.
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How Piracy Affected the Launch of Demigod

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  • by dr_wheel (671305) on Saturday April 18, 2009 @05:46AM (#27624917)

    You can't play multiplayer without a valid one. Just like most other online games these days. The problem with Demigod is that it runs some other http requests (checking for updates, querying system info, etc.). This is why the launch was borked. Not because there are tons of players with pirated copies trying to play on legit servers, but because their servers were effectively getting DDoS'ed by a level of traffic that they were not expecting or ready to serve.

  • by sonicmerlin (1505111) on Saturday April 18, 2009 @06:10AM (#27625009)
    From arstechnica: Correction: Stardock contacted us to say that the 18,000 number referred to concurrent users, not sales. We have corrected the sentence accordingly. Brad Wardell also released some new information that clarifies the issue. On Day 0 there were around 140,000 concurrent users, with 18,000 validated users. The pirates couldn't update their game or play online, but they could still "touch the servers." "So over the first 24 hours, we had to essentially scrap together a doppleganger of the infrastructure dedicated to Demigod's multiplayer network needs, release an update to legitimate users to point them to it..." he wrote. "Now today, day 3, it's pretty much taken care of. Users are connecting in multiplayer, the servers are pretty responsive and we're adding more in preparation for the weekend."
  • Re:Patriotism (Score:1, Informative)

    by sonicmerlin (1505111) on Saturday April 18, 2009 @06:15AM (#27625047)
    Here: http://multiplayerblog.mtv.com/2008/10/13/bethesda-deals-with-pirates/ [mtv.com] Last week, âoeFallout 3âproduct manager Pete Hines told me that some development studios now calculate that up to half of their customer support calls involve dealing with people who have pirated copies of the game.
  • by Ma8thew (861741) on Saturday April 18, 2009 @06:41AM (#27625193)
    If you'd RTFS you'd see that the developer was hurt, by the huge number of bootleggers using their servers, deteriorating the experience for paying users.
  • by jabithew (1340853) on Saturday April 18, 2009 @06:54AM (#27625265)

    I'll be lenient, because of your sig and I've been caught out by odd word usage before.

    Piracy is on the high seas, it is also copyright infringement, a usage that dates back to Daniel Defoe in 1703 [wikipedia.org].

  • by SWCommand (983311) on Saturday April 18, 2009 @06:59AM (#27625289)

    Well they didn't let them play online. From my understanding what happened is that the pirated copies all sent a request to the servers asking if there was an update. There was one but the pirated copies couldn't get it, nor play online. So while they could play single player it still dropped the servers to their knees just due to the shear number of update check requests the servers got. They only planed for ~50,000 on release and they had only planned on the beta testers to have access on Monday but Gamestop destroyed that plan.

  • So much for ethics (Score:5, Informative)

    by Ostracus (1354233) on Saturday April 18, 2009 @07:38AM (#27625507) Journal

    http://forums.demigodthegame.com/347467 [demigodthegame.com]

    Well, what a dramatic week it's been. The teams at Stardock and GPG have been burning the midnight oil this week.

    As those of you who have the game can already see, the server issues are gone. We've recreated a duplicate of the server infrastructure we had but dedicated to users who have the most recent version of the game and a valid CD key (serial #).

    Based on the logs, we are seeing lots of games being played on-line now. Yay. Average game has approximately 4.7 humans in it which is a good sign.

    Some clarifications

    I've seen a lot of news articles this week and a lot of confusion about what occurred this week. The issue isn't terribly complicated.

    Ars Technica had a good article that describes what happened. But still, a lot of people seem to think warez users are able to play multiplayer games. No, they can't. Even the retail box has a serial # in it that users have to use and be validated to play online. What brought down servers was a lot more benign than that. It was the HTTPS requests to inform users if there was a new version along with checking the community features for info (friends lists, chat channels, etc.) and things like that. Things like that are pretty piddly. It's only when you get a ton of users doing that at the same time that it becomes a problem as we saw.

    But here's the thing: While piracy is annoying, you can't blame piracy for this problem. Let's face it, there's plenty of data out there about how many pirated games are being played. We should have looked at that. We assumed since Sins of a Solar Empire and Galactic Civilizations, both of which sold extremely well and got great reviews, that the # of pirated copies of Demigod in use would probably be in the same ballpark, maybe twice as much. But had we looked at what other publishers have said, we would have known that it's not unusual for there to be hundreds of thousands of warez copies in use. And if we had, we could have simply had the retail version not have any HTTP calls in it and instead just had an update button on the main menu to check for updates and voila, problem solved.

    The second misconception is the argument that because Demigod's retail version is heavily pirated that it costs massive sales. But that, again, puts the blame on the wrong parties. If you want to talk about the horrible multiplayer experience on launch day, well, that's our fault because of what I said above. If you want to say that the horrible day 1 multiplayer experience resulted in negative game reviews which will seriously damage the game's sales then I say again, that's our fault too because of what I said above OR we could have just sent out the review copies on release day (Tuesday) and reviewers wouldn't have had it until Thursday by which point the problem had largely been resolved and the review scores would have been fine. But in either case, it's still our fault.

    So now what?

    Now that the servers are working fine we're moving away from the "#$R@#@# Demigod sux!" posts and into the regular new game release issues.

    So what issues are we seeing and working on? Here are a few at the top of our lists:

    1. Players getting disconnected during games. Demigod's lag tolerance is fairly low resulting in disconnects if a player lags out a bit. This is fairly easy to fix. You get a player in Australia playing a user in Europe and there will be times when there's a hicup in their connection and POW, disconnect and it's extremely frustrating. I played all day today and it happened to me. This is a very high priority.

    2. NAT negotiation. For users outside the United States in particular using DSL, this is a problem. This is a case where player A can't see player B and thus they can't play together. This is something we will be aggressively looking at next week. If we hadn't had the server overload, we likely would have this addressed already.

    3. Panthe

  • Re:Hypocrisy.. (Score:4, Informative)

    by xouumalperxe (815707) on Saturday April 18, 2009 @07:40AM (#27625513)

    Copyright is an artificial construct designed to benefit the few at the expense of the many..

    Let me fix that for you: Copyright is an artificial construct designed to benefit the few at the expense of the many on the short term, in a gambit to maximize the many's benefits in the long term. Of course, at this point in time short term means "life of author plus however many years", but that's a problem with the implementation, not the concept.

  • by Fumus (1258966) on Saturday April 18, 2009 @07:41AM (#27625517)
    You can buy the game online via StarDock's Impulse system. Works just like Steam and accepts the same payment forms from what I know.
  • by Ma8thew (861741) on Saturday April 18, 2009 @07:44AM (#27625535)
    Or wait for the game to go on sale, at the date they originally thought it would? And additionally, Stardock offered it for sale online, after the sale embargo was broken. There's not really an ethical excuse.
  • by Narpak (961733) on Saturday April 18, 2009 @07:50AM (#27625563)

    Wrong. They have legitimate access. The server did not ask for any unique account or identification. It just lets anyone in.

    That's obviously wrong since Demigod asks for my Impulse logon name and password then I select Mulitplayer/Internet play.

  • by TheRaven64 (641858) on Saturday April 18, 2009 @08:21AM (#27625685) Journal
    Yes it does. That's how the English language has evolved. You may have a point about French, where the language is governed by L'Académie franÃaise (Slashdot will no doubt mangle those accents), but English has no such guiding authority. English is governed entirely by how it is used. The only case you may have against a particular use is if it harms comprehension, for example the recent American use of 'I could care less' instead of the more accepted 'I couldn't care less.' In the case of a term that has been used for three hundred years, and which is unlikely to cause any confusion, the only people who complain are those who dislike English for the exact reason that has made it so popular; its ability to evolve and adopt neologisms.
  • by PopeRatzo (965947) * on Saturday April 18, 2009 @09:15AM (#27625971) Homepage Journal

    English is governed entirely by how it is used.

    An argument mainly put forth by people who don't know how to use It.

    The important point that SmallFurryCreature makes is that language is political, and has often been used as tool of tyrants. Notice the use of the language of the American Right: "The Patriot Act" for a set of laws that run counter to the Constitution. "Right to Life" for people who would deny the rights of women. "Defense of Marriage Act" which would deny the rights of a significant portion of the population to marry.

    Calling someone who downloads a copy of Skip Spence's Oar from 1969 using a TPB torrent a "pirate" at a time when there are real pirates doing violence and holding human hostages is purely propaganda and a misuse of La Lingua. It was thus in Daniel Defoe's day and it is thus today. If the RIAA wants to use the term "pirate" that's fine, because they are engaged in a propaganda campaign. We don't have to accept their usage however, and we certainly don't have to adopt it.

    BTW, there may also be examples of the American Left using English in a way that bends meaning, but since I'm one of them, I'm not going to go out of my way to cite examples, although George Bush was Hitler.

  • by anothy (83176) on Saturday April 18, 2009 @09:54AM (#27626211) Homepage

    Use occam's razor and...

    ...try not to cut yourself. occam's razor is a prohibition against needlessly multiplying entities. your version of explanation does nothing to remove any entities from the parent's explanation. instead, you simply substitute one set of motivations for another.

    i actually agree with your argument. but it's more compelling because the motivation is more base, not because the explanation is less complex.

    i wish people would stop abusing poor old occam. his razor's getting dull from misuse. i blame Contact.

  • by Hurricane78 (562437) <deleted&slashdot,org> on Saturday April 18, 2009 @10:49AM (#27626619)

    Now tell me. How can they use the server that much, without having an account on the server? Hm? Was it a login DDOS? Or did they just not check if the person bought the game? Hm? I think it was the second. And if it was the first, it definitely was underpowered even for the legitimate users.

    By the way. As a sibling post quoted, there is no such thing in the article.

  • by Walkingshark (711886) on Saturday April 18, 2009 @12:20PM (#27627441) Homepage

    The vast majority of people who wanted to play this game had no alternative but to download it.

    Or, you know, maybe they could have waited for the fucking release date?

    This is the voice of America: "Me, me, me! Now, now, now!" Makes you proud, doesn't it?

    Not just the voice of America. Thats the voice of humanity.

  • by _Sprocket_ (42527) on Saturday April 18, 2009 @03:17PM (#27629011)

    So, if Stardock doesn't think the problem was piracy, why are so many people here using this opportunity to bash people who tried warez versions of the game?

    There's a meme that shows up quite often whenever we discuss copyright reform, DRM, or other related topics. It goes along the lines of when so many /. readers make their livings from "intellectual property", how could we possibly support any concept that challenges it? Now before we get caught up in the debate of the meme, keep in mind that the fact that it surfaces shows that there are (trolls aside) people who do believe in the idea. There are undoubtedly those who see these issues as linchpins to their industry and livelihood.

  • by ThousandStars (556222) on Saturday April 18, 2009 @05:29PM (#27630195) Homepage
    No, not because of piracy which was there since day one. But because of many many good games were already released are all are still playable. New games and ideas have to compete with huge existing catalog.

    Incidentally, what you're describing here is the book market: in English, virtually everything published since 1800 is still readable. Granted, most 19th Century books aren't of much interest to anyone, but a few are, and many, many used copies of books wander about the globe. (Gabriel Zaid wrote some about the literary plenitude/plethora in So Many Books: Reading and Publishing in an Age of Abundance [wordpress.com], which I describe in the post at the link).

    You can see more on the subject at the bottom of this post [wordpress.com], which links here [mhpbooks.com]:

    Exact data on how the used book market is eroding the market for new books is hard to come by but the consensus is -- it ain't helping.

    The Wall Street Journal predicted in 2005: "While the market's size is still modest -- about $600 million, or 2.8% of the $21 billion that readers spent on consumer books in 2004 -- it is growing at 25% annually. Jeff Hayes, group director for InfoTrends Research Group, suggests that it could reach $2.25 billion in U.S. sales by 2010, or 9.4% of a projected $23.9 billion in consumer book sales."

    Amazon, Abe Books, and the like make buying and selling used books easier than ever. Many good books have been released and are still readable. The internet makes coordinating the exchange of them easy. Hence, part of the problem the publishing industry faces today: competition from its old stock. Computer games, welcome to the world of books.

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