Concerning Piracy

Does anyone know of any good articles concerning piracy in the games industry, paricularly in oz? I know its bad as hell in Asia and Europe, even in the U.S, but has anyone looked at how badly it effects the oz gaming industry?

If anyone has information about how companies have defended against piracy, or stats and figures, even laws protecting games, it would be appreciated.

Souri, this post probably points your way the most, seeing as how ur a good source for just about everything.

Cheers

Daemin's picture

the Australian IT section on news.com has an article now on piracy I believe, noting that it's increased in Australia relative to other "similar" countried.

Gaffer's picture

pfffft

Blitz's picture

Good to see you making healthy comments on this discussion gaffer :)
CYer, Blitz

Gaffer's picture

my personal opinion is a very liberal one, and i dislike the labelling of 'piracy' on copyright infringement by people who recieve no commercial gain for it (ie. sharing)

in my opinion, the industry would do well to adapt a model that works with the natural action of making copies over the internet (a system actually built for, wait for it, sharing information), ie. subscription based models with freely downloadable clients, micropayments and other newish ways of doing business

of course, it should be noted that my personal opinions likely do not match the official stance of irrational games, and that i do not really have a solution for this whole problem, but it just irks me when what can legally be defined as fair use in some cases is flatout labelled as 'piracy' =p

Blitz's picture

I pretty much agree with you gaffer. My particular irk is with distributors etc. who complain about the "piracy" of people downloading the game or whatever as costing them billions of dollars, however, the percentage of people who would actually buy the game if they couldn't get an illegal version is probably very small.
However, i would have to say that from reading sho-nuff's post he seems to be more talking about those who actually do pirate games on a large scale (and sell them) rather than the casual downloading by individuals.
This form of piracy IS a big problem IMO, particularly when the pirated product is sold as a legitimate legal copy of the product and the consumer can't even use their good judgement to decide not to buy the illegal product...
CYer, Blitz

Maitrek's picture

Yeah I agree...
The only problem I have with I guess weaker forms of piracy (and it technically still is piracy - that is to say - sharing) is that it does hurt the industry - a little, not so much financially. We (gamers) vote for products by buying them, and if developers/publishers/distributors don't make cash out of products because everyone pirates them, then that kind of product doesn't get produced more often.

Technically speaking, no one actually "owns" a game (except for the publisher/developer relationship), they merely have a license (usually restricted) to use the software. When people breach that license it's technically piracy (ie duplicating the software and hence creating your own "license" for someone else to use, although it's usually much less formal).

I'm pretty much as guilty as most people, when I was young (ie sub 16) I used to pirate alot of stuff, but anything that I enjoyed I went out and bought the full product because I felt I owed it to the people who made it. Nowadays I tend to buy 90% of the games I play.

Oh another pet peeve of mine concerning piracy is when I go to some guys place and ask what games they've got and they give me one of those CD pouches and I have to look through a whole bunch of gold CDs with black texta on them. I'm quite proud of the 60+ collection of legal games (with boxes/manuals etc) that me (and my bro) have managed over the years.

There's probably about 15 of those 'classics' style boxes though - I'm not that loaded to buy games when they come out all the time :)
I'm still waiting for Diablo 2 to drop in price a bit. :)

souri's picture

quote:


Originally posted by sho-nuff

If anyone has information about how companies have defended against piracy

I can't point to any particular articles, but I remember back in the Amiga days when Ocean spent the MOST amount of money on copy protection for a game at that time with Robocop 3 (the game came complete with a dongle!!). And the people who cracked it boasted they did it in a matter of hours. (I just did a search on the web, and found that they managed to released it before the actual game was shipped as well).. some old ways games used to provide protection inlude
uhm.. if you meant "defended against piracy" to mean through legislation... - sorry.. ;) I felt like tell that story.. hehe..

quote:

Originally posted by Blitz

My particular irk is with distributors etc. who complain about the "piracy" of people downloading the game or whatever as costing them billions of dollars, however, the percentage of people who would actually buy the game if they couldn't get an illegal version is probably very small.

I wonder how they come up with the numbers actually.. and I agree, totally.

sho nuff's picture

Great to hear your guys input on the subject, but does anyone know of how companies protect against copying there games? Or have they all just given up and accepted that it will happen no matter how cautious they are?

Blitz's picture

There are a few ways companies use to try and reduce the amount of "copying" or piracy. Off the top of my head...

CD Copy protection. Comes in various forms, this protection aims to prevent the CD being able to be successfully copied to another CD. This prevents "casual" users (eg. your average joe who doesn't know a whole lot about computers) from copying an original cd to give to their buddy, but is fairly useless as far as reasonably moderate computer users are concerned.

CD Keys. A unique key that you receive with a copy of the game, this key usually must be entered when installing the game otherwise the game won't install itself. For single-player (ie. offline) games, this is also relatively useless, as a single key can be used to install the game many times. CD Keys are more powerful in the online domain, as they can be checked for uniquness by the companies before they allow you to play. For instance WON.net, MicroSofts Zone, and Battle.net (i assume?) will only allow one instance of a key to be used in online play at a time (or something similar).
Similarly, online subscription-based games will usually only allow one account to be created per unique key (not totally sure on this one).

Specifically for consoles, their hardware and media may be manufactured in a certain way so that media that is not produced by them (ie. a burned CD/DVD) won't be able to be played on their hardware. This is semi-effective, although mod-chips don't help :P.
Also, using a non-common form of media, such as a cartridge or gamecubes mini-dvd thingy are used as not many people have access to blank media or devices to write to them.

Of course the problem is most of these protection mechanisms, with the pssible exception of online key checking, are useless in the face of mass-production piracy, which is where the problem lies.
CYer, Blitz

rezn0r's picture

There was FADE in Operation Flashpoint which detected if the game data had been tampered with and then degraded performance (shittier graphics and poor framerate) before crashing. That slowed crackers (honkey mofos) down a little, but it was eventually beaten.

I've also heard of another arcade game that removed a gem on the second or third level so it was impossible for cracked players to advance beyond that level. If the crack team can't tell immediately if they've successfully cracked the game, it becomes a lot more difficult and time consuming to crack. The problem is, games will always be cracked.

By adding things like cd checks and cd keys, you're just annoying people. Pirates will be able to play your game anyway, and in some cases legitimate players will be stung. Personally, I don't want to put a cd in the drive every time I want to play my own games, so I crack them. And what if a key generator gives a pirate the key I paid for?

The model is currently broken and limiting the rights and resources of the public won't solve that. The model has to evolve to meet the new technology. User accounts are a step in the right direction. The problem is also closely tied to the publisher driven "boxopoly", and I have a feeling that both problems will be solved at once. *looks to the internet*

Btw, pirates that mass produce "RoMex games" are the scum of the earth and should be paper cut to death.

Scott.

souri's picture

quote:


Originally posted by rezn0r

By adding things like cd checks and cd keys, you're just annoying people. Pirates will be able to play your game anyway, and in some cases legitimate players will be stung.

That's definately true with a lot of cases when something like Safedisc copy protection is used. Problems include certain CD drives not even recognizing the CD, slow loading times, and I've read somewhere that some games actually run slower (since the cd checks periodically? or needs to load while the game is playing?). Disabling Safedisc (using cracks) actually makes the game run faster, and better - which is not what you'd want to hear if you're a legitimate owner of the game [:P]
I thought CD keys just couldn't be generated from keys successfully? I think I read a John Carmack .plan that the chances of generating a valid Quake 3 key were astronomically rare..

Blitz's picture

Depends if you can figure out the algorithm used to generate the keys. These days most cd key algorithms are complex enough as to make it near impossible...it also depends on how well you can hide the algorithm in the checking code for when crackers reverse-engineer it to get at the algo...
CYer, Blitz

Gaffer's picture

the only way to make it secure in my opinion, is to have a user account (pay to play), and you can only play if you have a valid account

charge the user for the account, not for the software itself which is, and always will be, freely copyable...

Daemin's picture

Gaffer: That's probably the way to go for the future, probably even for all software.

I think the general idea is to get people to pay for using the software, not for just having the software. Then hopefully there would be some incentive to get people to make longer games (especially in the fps department) since the one's now last less than 15 hours... :-(

Gaffer's picture

the problem then becomes one of content building, because let me tell you, that 15 hours of you just played probably took 50 man years to produce ;)

Daemin's picture

Yeah, well technically all gamedevelopment will turn into is content development, since there are many tools out there for programming, but the art assets will take a long time to make. I personally think that an episodic game would work best, since a personm could make an episode, say that plays for several hours, sell that, then make more episodes etc. It kind of works like shareware and kind of like an online game where you pay per play so to speak.

Gaffer's picture

Games always need new technology, thinking that you can innovate on content alone is flawed, and is the biggest downfall of those people who always argue that games should follow the hollywood model.

The bottom line is that design + content + code = game, you need all parts there, and you'll never EVER find a system that will just make the game for you, you will always have to write some code - it may tend more towards middleware + game specific code, but thats great imo

but there will always be the technical innovations that drive gameplay as well, and if you just make content, you will not be a part of that.

Echo's picture

quote:


Originally posted by Gaffer

the only way to make it secure in my opinion, is to have a user account (pay to play), and you can only play if you have a valid account

charge the user for the account, not for the software itself which is, and always will be, freely copyable...


There is a few issues with that theory.

Currently it is possible to go back to an older game, load it up and play again for no more money than the first time (does anyone other than me replay games?), even if this valid account system was a pay-once thing, it still requires that someone (developer, publisher) maintain the database of accounts. Perhaps this could be done by a third party, a company that does nothing but maintain these online databases. It also means that a user must keep track of yet another username/password. The internet itself is not stable enough for this, I know I would not tollerate a single-player game that I could not play becasue the accounts server is down. Then there is the issue that some users still do not have internet access, or if they do it is very limited. Finally, it would still be possible to 'crack' the game, all you need is to remove or 'dupe' the checks for the account, ie; all you need is time.

The only reason this system works for MMORPGs and other subscription games is that someone is being paid to maintain a database anyway, and that the essance of the game is to play it online on an offical server with updates and new content etc. Even these servers can be 'crack'able in a way, there are free servers out there now for both Ultima Online and EverQuest (others?) which are run by other users or can be run locally for a solo experiance.

David.

Gaffer's picture

I'm only advocating that specific model for native online games, tacking it in that form onto what is actually a single player game is retarded.

Echo's picture

Sorry, my reply was more directed to this comment:

quote:


Originally posted by Daemin

Gaffer: That's probably the way to go for the future, probably even for all software.

I think the general idea is to get people to pay for using the software, not for just having the software. Then hopefully there would be some incentive to get people to make longer games (especially in the fps department) since the one's now last less than 15 hours... :-(


(Note the "all software" and about length of FPSs)
I should probally have included it in my original post, but I was too sleepy to realise.

Gaffer's picture

Yeah, i ok, you've got me ;)

I acknowledge that its retarded, but that doesnt mean it wont happen - or at least people will try ;)

personally, the only solution that i can see is if you have a truly online game that requires a server, if you maintain a high quality community, it doesnt even matter if people rip your server off - you should be able to compete against a totally free similar server, based on the strength of your community alone.

a good example of where i think piracy is no problem at all is for online chess games:

take www.chessclub.com, its commercial, but it survives on having a good community and slightly modified software from the free chess playing stuff - http://www.freechess.org/, which again, survives and goes well - but it hasnt killed its commercial competition.

i guess what i'm saying is, i sure dont have all the answers, but if you game fits into a genre like that above (and yes, very few mainstream games out now really do), then piracy is no problem

the question is, can this sort of model be applied to more mainstream games, even ones without a natural online component

probably not, but i'm willing to bet that stuff like "steam" coming up from valve is going to move in a direction where users have free software downloading content for a price, and piracy is less of an issue

that can be cracked of course... but user account tracking can work against that

no answers, just questions, but there has to be a solution out there, the current system just does not work and its not going to get any better ;)

Daemin's picture

I think the key to everything is eternal vigilence / maintanance...

Gaffer's picture

ie. money :)

Daemin's picture

Yep...

Maitrek's picture

To me the obvious solution is just to make games that people feel are good enough to fork out the cash for, make people comfortable with spending money on it. Make consumers think they are getting really good value - and preferably they *actually get* good value for money.

It's not about the longevity either - that's a bit of a misonception. People buy DVDs and they have maybe 5 or 6 hours of content in total - less than half of some of the shorter games. They do cost a bit less, that's for sure, but people value it more than they do computer games. Some DVDs only have about 4 hours of stuff and cost $30 and people still dish out the cash.

I think alot of people don't see pirated games as illegitimate...there doesn't seem to be any 'shame' in having a pirated game - it's very accepted. It's more about changing people's attitudes than it is about forcing people to accept the publisher's point of view.

redwyre's picture

Perhaps releaseing a free version of the game, with low quality content and less options (maybe fixed max frame rate too). Then have the real version for sale with high quality content and all the options. The free version would be competing with any cracked versions, it would be smaller so distributed more easily, and if it has things like fixed frame rate crackers will try and crack that, and maybe not spend as much time cracking the real thing.

That way users will have the crap version and can play it freely, but they have a good reason to go buy the real thing. Maybe that could create shame when people have the choice between a working free version and a cracked real version.

Just a thought anyway

Gaffer's picture

They do, its called a game demo.

;)

Daemin's picture

Yeah, Well I think it stems from the fact that you can get a DVD for about $30, sometimes less, and you can watch it several times without getting bored if it's your favourite movie etc. That's about 6-12 hours of entertainment for that $30 really. Going to the movies is similar, and even if you fork out $12 for the full price ticket that's 2-3 hours of entertainment. Games on the other hand cost $80-100 in Australia, which is a huge amount considering some of the newest FPS's (and some RTS's like C&C Generals) last for 10 hours total. Also nothing really new is being done with those games, the FPS's are the same old types of games, with interesting plots, better graphics etc, and some of the newest strategy titles are also same old same old (Warcraft 3 is excluded from here, as it is fun to play and has innovated a fair bit in terms of gameplay). It just doesn't seem to be good value really to spend a lot of money for potentially little entertainment value. However I have to point out that some games last for far longer - Neverwinter Nights, Dungeon Siege, Morrowind, well, mainly RPG games. I guess either the price drops for certain games here in Australia, or they improve in quality so that the money that people fork out for a game is worth it.

That's why I think new models of selling games should be explored, since then the consumer will more likely pay for a cheaper game, and then once they have it and they like it they are more likely to pay for any expansion packs or additional contents that's released. Also I think that the box that MMORPG's come in should be almost free, as you still pay the subscription fee to the publisher for running the damn game, so there's no real reason for you to have to fork out $90 for what is effectively a "demo" of the full game (only allowing you to play for 30 days for free).

Enough ranting for me I think...

Blitz's picture

Buying the box = development costs.
Subscription = running costs + more development costs (new *free* content) + some profit
Publishers could give away the game for free, but it takes them a looong time to recoup the development costs...say 10-12 months before they start turning an actual profit, and if the game is crap and half the people leave after 6 months then the publisher and/or developer is left with a large debt.
CYer, Blitz

Daemin's picture

Well I don't mean totally free, more like the first month's subscription fee, plus a bit more, say $30-40 for the box, since all ti would contain would be the CD. Even better, just distribute the game online!