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Didactic DRM
April 29, 2013 6:50 AM   Subscribe

Game Dev Tycoon was released yesterday; simultaneously, the makers Greenheart Games uploaded a slightly different version of the game to torrent sites.
posted by nicolas léonard sadi carnot (67 comments total) 10 users marked this as a favorite

 
Your second link may have been taken down.
posted by doctor_negative at 6:53 AM on April 29, 2013


Not to mention the first link.
posted by ceribus peribus at 6:54 AM on April 29, 2013


Hm, I think it's just getting slammed with traffic.
posted by nicolas léonard sadi carnot at 6:55 AM on April 29, 2013


Here's a different link that might be what the second link was supposed to be.
posted by johnstein at 6:55 AM on April 29, 2013 [1 favorite]


Replacement for second link.
posted by EndsOfInvention at 6:55 AM on April 29, 2013


Here's an article about it on IGN while we wait for Greenheart Games's servers to get unslammed.
posted by Jpfed at 6:56 AM on April 29, 2013


Just like login servers on game release day, AMIRITE? These guys think of everything.
posted by ceribus peribus at 6:58 AM on April 29, 2013 [2 favorites]


The second link as cached by Google.
posted by James Scott-Brown at 6:58 AM on April 29, 2013 [1 favorite]


Looks like the whole site is currently "temporarily unavailable".>
posted by boo_radley at 6:58 AM on April 29, 2013


It was put on Reddit earlier is why it's getting wrecked. Basically, the guy made a version of the game that had an Easter egg in it for the pirated version that was pretty much "this is what happens when *your* game is pirated, you twat", and then sat back and saw the tech support questions roll in from pirate users complaining how they can't get anywhere with virtual sales in the game.

As an object lesson, pretty cute. As an actual "convert pirates to paying users" exercise, he's failing with just over 6% of his user base being paying customers, so I don't see how this was anything other than an attention-grabbing stunt.
posted by Old'n'Busted at 7:08 AM on April 29, 2013 [3 favorites]


I think I prefer Serious Sam 3's anti-pirate methods.

Also, I don't know if I want to laugh or cry seeing the pirate users requesting an in-game DRM feature.
posted by fight or flight at 7:12 AM on April 29, 2013 [5 favorites]


With the pirated version so widespread, what if the word of mouth buzz about the game is dominated by "I heard there is a game breaking piracy mechanic about 5 hours into the game" and potential, actual customers are turned off? Probably not many, due to the dev publicizing his tactic, but it is interesting to think about.
posted by history_denier at 7:15 AM on April 29, 2013


Yeah, seeing the pirates cry out for fictional DRM was pretty hilarious.
posted by ThatFuzzyBastard at 7:18 AM on April 29, 2013 [2 favorites]


Forgive me since I haven't played it yet, but this game appears to be an exact ripoff of the hard work of Kairosoft, the creators of Game Dev Story. Re: theft and damaging someone's business, maybe they shouldn't throw glass stones at brick houses, or whatever that saying is. (Reminds me of the stuff I read about the Radical Fishing clone.)
posted by naju at 7:27 AM on April 29, 2013 [7 favorites]


Re: theft and ruining someone's business, maybe they shouldn't throw glass stones at brick houses, or whatever that saying is.

Yeah, it's a nifty stunt but you can hardly imagine the message is very sincere since the guy gives his super great excuse for his own pirating of games. ("because global game distribution was in its infancy")
posted by XMLicious at 7:35 AM on April 29, 2013 [1 favorite]


Forgive me since I haven't played it yet, but this game appears to be an exact ripoff of the hard work of Kairosoft, the creators of Game Dev Story.

When I saw the story I just assumed that this was made by the same people that made Game Dev Story. I don't know how I feel about that. That's a pretty low move by the developer, right there.

I mean, I'm not saying that the people behind Game Dev Story has a monopoly on this kind of game, but when even the names are that similar, that's not really ok.
posted by gkhan at 7:37 AM on April 29, 2013


The alternate in game strategy is to concoct a PR launch stunt instead of implementing DRM, in hopes that you can convert the buzz and increased visibility into enough sales to counteract the piracy losses. This also doesn't work.
posted by ceribus peribus at 7:38 AM on April 29, 2013 [5 favorites]


Can you really call it piracy if the developer is the one seeding the torrent?
posted by Mitheral at 7:47 AM on April 29, 2013 [4 favorites]


"Why are there so many people that pirate? It ruins me!"

Games are so over.
posted by mrgrimm at 7:59 AM on April 29, 2013 [1 favorite]


Can you really call it piracy if the developer is the one seeding the torrent?

Also, won't this effort fail once a clean version gets torrented?
posted by mrgrimm at 8:01 AM on April 29, 2013


Forgive me since I haven't played it yet, but this game appears to be an exact ripoff of the hard work of Kairosoft, the creators of Game Dev Story. Re: theft and damaging someone's business, maybe they shouldn't throw glass stones at brick houses, or whatever that saying is. (Reminds me of the stuff I read about the Radical Fishing clone.)

I haven't played either game, so you might want to write off my comment immediately, but on the surfice this seems like a kind of broad brush to apply.
First, there's a marketing difference. Game Dev Story is now only on the iPhone & Android, while this game seems to be limited to PCs/Macs/Linux.

Second,"Simulation of a game development company" is a pretty generic concept -certainly more so than Radical Fishing's quite distinctive style. PopCap didn't create the idea of match-3 games, but they certainly took it to the bank with Bejeweled; if you want to get me up in arms about a game cloning another, it needs to be sinfully overt. While the few screenshots I've seen have a passing similarity, it's to the degree that you'd assume that both SimCity and Anno 2070 were the same game; nobody gets to claim a monopoly on a third person view of an office.
posted by Going To Maine at 8:06 AM on April 29, 2013 [2 favorites]


I don't even play games, but I think I am going to have to give this guy $8. I'd also like to buy him beers.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 8:11 AM on April 29, 2013 [1 favorite]


I mean, I'm not saying that the people behind Game Dev Story has a monopoly on this kind of game, but when even the names are that similar, that's not really ok.

It's a game about game development. What else are you going to call it? ENTERTAINMENT PROGRAM CREATION AND MARKETING SIMULATOR 2000? Kairosoft specialises in mobile development- if another studio puts the work into launching a similar game for other platforms, it's no real loss to Kairosoft.

Can you really call it piracy if the developer is the one seeding the torrent?

When the torrent is labelled
FULL VERSION OF GAME DEV TYCOON for WINDOWS - CRACKED AND WORKING!
the intent of the downloader is clear. Call it intended piracy, if you like. This isn't going to end up in a courtroom, so we can put off worrying about actus reus.
posted by zamboni at 8:14 AM on April 29, 2013 [1 favorite]


Looks like developer considers Game Dev Story to be an inspiration. Here's an interview where he addresses the point & some others.
posted by Going To Maine at 8:15 AM on April 29, 2013


Also, won't this effort fail once a clean version gets torrented?

Not really, no. The effort succeeded as soon as people started talking about it. I don't think it was ever intended to be a mechanical solution to piracy, so much as start the particular conversation that it's started.
posted by FAMOUS MONSTER at 8:15 AM on April 29, 2013 [2 favorites]


Yeah, seeing the pirates cry out for fictional DRM was pretty hilarious.

No more so than seeing a libertarian raise taxes in a city sim. It's a game. You're trying to figure out the in-world rules.
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 8:26 AM on April 29, 2013 [2 favorites]


Who the hell pirates a game and then contacts tech support?!?

Kids these days. Srsly.
posted by Blue_Villain at 8:29 AM on April 29, 2013 [2 favorites]


I bought the game. Don't intend to play it, but that blog post alone was more entertaining than The Hobbit.
posted by ancillary at 8:35 AM on April 29, 2013 [1 favorite]


Most small market games don't really have what I'd call tech support. They instead offer to host a web forum where interested users can support each other and maybe if the problem is something an employee wants to field they'll take a shot at it. It's not surprising that pirates are going to use this free venue for support. Espcially game play support rather than a technical issue.
posted by Mitheral at 8:39 AM on April 29, 2013


A clever idea, but isn't this more a marketing ploy for the game itself than an actual and necessary piracy deterrent? Are the kids really flocking to the Pirate Bay to download a copy of a game simulating the inner workings of a game development company? They will be now, I guess.
But maybe a more popular title like Call of Duty should try the same approach: "Soap! We can't afford any more bullets! Pirates have cracked the SAS bank sorting codes and siphoned off the rearmament account!"
posted by Flashman at 8:54 AM on April 29, 2013


Wikipedia has a list of unusual piracy punishments. Batman: Arkham Asylum's protection got a post on the Blue.

One interesting case Wikipedia is missing (maybe because the actual method is so banal) is Titan Quest. It would deliberately crash at certain points early on if protection checks fail, which gave it a reputation for instability that one developer blamed for poor sales and the eventual shutdown of the studio.
posted by skymt at 8:58 AM on April 29, 2013 [7 favorites]


The kids play all kinds of strange stuff, seems like right now Cataclysm: DDA is incredibly popular with the kids. This is kind of funny, but sort of sadly futile since now that everyone knows about it someone will just patch it out.
posted by Ad hominem at 9:12 AM on April 29, 2013


I think one of the problems with Titan Quest was that the protection gave false positives, so legitimate users were also affected by the crashes.
posted by ymgve at 9:12 AM on April 29, 2013 [1 favorite]


Form the Titan Quest story.

About a week later, he realized that he'd forgotten to re-install his BIOS update after he wiped the machine. He fixed that, all his crashes went away. At least he was man enough to admit it.

I don't buy that story. Granted I am not up to date on how users, even power users use modern machines, but I do not believe people revert BIOS patches when they do a reinstall.

I also think games probably need to work on machines without the latest BIOS patches. How many people even patch their BIOS. So for a dev to say "You mean you tried to run our game with an old BIOS Rev? What a maroon" is kinda dumb.
posted by Ad hominem at 9:49 AM on April 29, 2013


This kind of thing just shows how the very idea of someone pirating their game makes some game devs too angry to think straight. These tactics only make sense if you assume:

1. Pirates are not potential customers (and so a pirated game is not a lost sale). Because no one is going to pirate a game, have serious problems with it ("The economic model is broken," "Batman's grappling hook doesn't work," "There's this unkillable scorpion that you can't get a way from," "The game crashes all the time.") and think, hey maybe the game will be better if I actually buy it! So obviously the game devs are just giving a middle finger to the freeloaders who they don't view as potential customers.

or

2. Piracy isn't very common (and therefore not actually a significant problem). Because this is funny if there's only a few people pirating the game and most people are playing legitimate, unbroken copies of your game. But if a significant percentage (or worse, a majority) of the people playing your game are playing a broken copy of it, then you're poisoning the word-of-mouth on your game. And unless you've got an enormous AAA advertising budget, word-of-mouth is probably the #1 way people find out about your game.
posted by straight at 10:17 AM on April 29, 2013 [2 favorites]


No more so than seeing a libertarian raise taxes in a city sim.

But I do find that hilarious too. Watching libertarians figure out that cities fail without taxation is always amusing.
posted by ThatFuzzyBastard at 10:20 AM on April 29, 2013


Watching libertarians figure out that cities fail without taxation is always amusing.

Watching libertarians figure out the artificial rules of a game they're playing? Less amusing.

It's like saying, "I always laugh when I see doctors drink health potions in Skyrim. Take that modern medicine!"
posted by straight at 10:22 AM on April 29, 2013 [6 favorites]


See also:

Game Maker Studio DRM Misfires; Permanently Replaces Created Game Resources With Pirate Symbols
App Developer Hijacks Customer Twitter Accounts In An Attempt To Shame Pirates

posted by straight at 10:27 AM on April 29, 2013 [1 favorite]


It's unfortunate if we're required to take the approach that unwanted piracy is somehow a net positive for independent developers. This seems like a moral failing on the part of society. Hate to put on my old man hat, but sometimes it's got to be done.
posted by Going To Maine at 10:57 AM on April 29, 2013 [1 favorite]


It's like saying, "I always laugh when I see doctors drink health potions in Skyrim. Take that modern medicine!"

The doctor/potion example doesn't seem like the same thing as Libertarians using taxation to win a sim city game. Perhaps the difference is one of science vs. ideology. In art we naturally suspend belief in science reality. Ideology is something else, people usually don't suspend their ideological belief in art, they take it with them and interpret art through that prism. At least, those with introspection. Those with no introspection we laugh at the irony. People laughed at George Bush reading The Stranger because it was so counter to his professed conservative ideals (French author, liberal, etc..). We may be wrong about Bush but that doesn't take away the contrast of the ideology embodied by him and the art he consumed.
posted by stbalbach at 11:30 AM on April 29, 2013


It's unfortunate if we're required to take the approach that unwanted piracy is somehow a net positive for independent developers.

It would be more unfortunate to just pretend it's not true if it is. Or to applaud these "stick it to the pirates" antics if they actually result in lower sales for the developer.

I can (maybe sort of) admire someone taking a principled, "I'd rather fail as a developer than see someone enjoy my game without paying me for it." But I'd much rather see developers succeed and continue making good games. I'd rather see them spend time and effort creating good things for and building a relationship with their customers than lashing out at people who aren't their customers.
posted by straight at 11:33 AM on April 29, 2013 [2 favorites]


Ideology is something else, people usually don't suspend their ideological belief in art, they take it with them and interpret art through that prism. At least, those with introspection.

I'm a pacifist, but I enjoy violent video games. I guess I lack introspection?
posted by straight at 11:34 AM on April 29, 2013


. I'd rather see them spend time and effort creating good things for and building a relationship with their customers than lashing out at people who aren't their customers.

Except that they're not lashing out at people who aren't their customers, they're teasing people who are consuming their labor without remuneration. Perfectly fair, and pretty funny too.
posted by ThatFuzzyBastard at 12:10 PM on April 29, 2013 [1 favorite]


A clever idea, but isn't this more a marketing ploy for the game itself than an actual and necessary piracy deterrent?

That's the entire point. They're not trying to deter piracy, they're acknowledging its existence in a hilarious way, which makes people want to support them. They are getting a shit ton of publicity and press at a time when there are 293468924 indie games coming out every day. I probably would not have heard of the game otherwise, much less bought it. Good on them for such a "ploy", we should all be so clever.

(Though to my credit, I was just part of a massively successful Kickstarter where we literally convinced people to PAY FOR DIRT. (semi-self-link but the campaign is long ended and the game development is well underway))
posted by jake at 12:44 PM on April 29, 2013


The game is DRM free, you can use it on up to three of your computers for your own use

Doesn't follow. I have migrated Starcraft to six of my computers or so.

jake, bagging Mega Man's composer was cool.
posted by ersatz at 12:46 PM on April 29, 2013


It's unfortunate if we're required to take the approach that unwanted piracy is somehow a net positive for independent developers.

We're not, and it's not. I'm betting it will be one for these guys, though, because they were smart enough to turn a shitty thing into positive buzz. This is not a sustainable tactic for future games, more of a one-time stunt, so I envy these guys for pulling it.

jake, bagging Mega Man's composer was cool.

Dude. I pee myself with excitement every time I think about it.


It's tough as hell to make it in indie games. It helps immensely to be really engaged with the fan community, and willing to ask for long-shot favors from strangers. Even then you still have to have an "angle" so people want to write / talk about you.
posted by jake at 12:56 PM on April 29, 2013


Those are good points, jake and ThatFuzzyBastard. Their potential customers are "people who buy video games" (or more exactly, people who might buy their video game). And I supposed if more of those people are entertained by this stunt and decide to buy then game than potential buyers who hear bad things about the game from pirates playing a broken copy and decide not to buy it, then the stunt is a win.

But as you say, it seems like a risky gamble, and even given all this publicity it's hard to know if they'll gain more sales than they lose. But then the whole point of indie game development is being able to make the game you want to make and hope it finds an audience. And if the game you want to make is one that thumbs it's nose at pirates, well you've gotta follow your dream. Choosing to make a niche sim game in the first place is probably going to limit your audience more than any backlash from a risky DRM scheme.
posted by straight at 1:12 PM on April 29, 2013


If he wanted people to play it, why the heck would he release it for Windows 8?
posted by sonic meat machine at 5:13 PM on April 29, 2013


ersatz they mean that the licence restricts you to three computers per purchase but there isn't any technical measures in place to try to enforce the limit. Lots of software works this way.
posted by Mitheral at 5:33 PM on April 29, 2013 [1 favorite]


Blue_Villain: Who the hell pirates a game and then contacts tech support?!?
It wasn't a game, but when I did telephone tech support for a commercial software package (1994 or so), a lot of the people who called for help had made an illegal copy of our stuff. Like, half of them. Many of them were outraged that we refused to help them until they paid up. And we only wanted something like $30, too, it wasn't a huge pile of money.

I don't mean to offer some sort of apologia for DRM. My only point is: yeah, some people will totally do that. Some of them would even refuse to pay but call again for help months or years later.
posted by Western Infidels at 5:36 PM on April 29, 2013


straight: " Their potential customers are "people who buy video games" (or more exactly, people who might buy their video game). And I supposed if more of those people are entertained by this stunt and decide to buy then game than potential buyers who hear bad things about the game from pirates playing a broken copy and decide not to buy it, then the stunt is a win. "

Count me as one of their potential customers who is turned off by this stunt.

Though, let's be honest, there's a fair chance I already own this game if it was in any sort of bundle recently. Oh god the indie bundles all such good deals when will I play these shut up brain don't ask questions
posted by graventy at 6:44 PM on April 29, 2013


I'm sorry, but if your game has 3300 users and only 214 paid for it, the market is telling you that $8 for a retail sim is too high. There is generally a price point where the convenience of having an official, supported game is worth the price compared to the extra steps and occasional unreliability of pirated copies. Compare with Humble Bundle's pay-what-you-want model, which lets the user input that point themselves - usually has around a 10% piracy rate, and still makes quite large sums of money. I know that doesn't translate 100%, but I think it's telling.
posted by Peevish at 7:30 PM on April 29, 2013


@Peevish: The humble bundles are very much the exception; I hadn't heard of this game at all until this DRM story broke. In contrast, the humble bundles get covered by every gaming website out there; they're curated collections with a large amount of cachet.. While you might be right that the developer has set too high a price point, looking at the ratio of pirates to buyers isn't necessarily helpful. Consider Demigod - it got pirated oodles & oodles of times relative to its legit sales, but still had a very successful launch. (See this post by the designer rejecting DRM.) But it's true - there might not be room in the market for a game development sim, especially given the lack of PR.

@graventy: Why does this stunt turn you off? Would any stunt off this sort turn you off? I'm curious for some elaboration.
posted by Going To Maine at 7:51 PM on April 29, 2013


Most Humble Bundle games have been for sale at higher prices for a while before they get into a bundle. A lot of the people willing to pirate those games have already done so long before they get into a bundle.

That financial post-mortem of Dustforce posted here recently makes it look like the best pricing strategy might be to launch at "full" price and then have a 1/2 price sale, and then do a pay-whatever-you-want sale (although your mileage will almost certainly differ if those aren't a 1/2 price Steam sale and a Humble Indie pay-what-you-want Bundle, respectively).

That seems like a much more rational system than trying to guess how low your price needs to be to convert pirates into customers. Gradually lowering the price can give you some data about how price-dependent sales of your game are among people who buy games. But I can't think of any real way to get good data on how the price of your game effects the number of people willing to pirate rather than buy it. Trying to set your game price in reaction to piracy numbers seems like a dumb idea to me.
posted by straight at 8:10 PM on April 29, 2013


Why does this stunt turn you off? Would any stunt off this sort turn you off? I'm curious for some elaboration.

Because it is spitting in the face of potential customers. I think that a not insignificant number of pirates can be converted to paying customers. But, probably not when they play your game and it doesn't work.

All of the "only affects pirates" stunts annoy me, as a paying customer. You are putting effort directly into something that will harm you. Pirates are nothing if not first adopters, and will be a vocal part of the initial community playing your game. It's not a great situation, sure, but that's how it is.
posted by graventy at 8:49 PM on April 29, 2013


Because it is spitting in the face of potential customers.

Lightyears better than spitting in the face of your actual existing customers though (see: terrible implementations of DRM).
posted by EndsOfInvention at 2:53 AM on April 30, 2013 [1 favorite]


Haha, instead of sleeping, I'm playing my copy of the game now. It really is fun (especially having come from a 14-hour workday in an actual game studio, the casualness with which you make huge feature decisions is really hilarious, and somewhat cathartic)
"It's okay.... 9.0, IGN"
I dropped the authors a line saying I'd gladly donate better-than-the-free-music-archive music to their next project, but they're probably too busy being all famous to see it
posted by jake at 5:06 AM on April 30, 2013 [1 favorite]


Because it is spitting in the face of potential customers.

I guess this framing just annoys me because it seems to come down to saying that the developer isn't allowed to do anything to impact piracy because, if they do, they're impacting the mystery percentage of pirates who might buy the game. But protecting those pirates provides a certain degree of legitimacy for those pirates. "Yeah, you're not supposed to pirate games, but developers will be sort of okay with it because maybe you'll buy it" boils down to "Developers must accept theft as a marketing opportunity." This makes me sad, and I would like a solution that doesn't involve legitimizing the roles of pirates.
posted by Going To Maine at 6:31 AM on April 30, 2013 [3 favorites]


I'm buying this game as soon as I get home tonight because of THIS LINE alone :
Less Social. Less Ville. More Game.
posted by DigDoug at 7:11 AM on April 30, 2013


Shame the game a) doesn't run on modern Macs (hello testing?) and b) is completely derivative of all the other Game Dev tycoon games.
posted by schwa at 8:46 AM on April 30, 2013


If the result of piracy in the cracked version always results in ruin for the developer, then we know the simulator is flawed.
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 10:58 AM on April 30, 2013


Shame the game a) doesn't run on modern Macs (hello testing?) and b) is completely derivative of all the other Game Dev tycoon games.

Cynical me says the the ENTIRE game was developed in order to pull off this stunt. I mean, who on Earth wants another game-development simulation game? (I suppose there are all those football managers ...)
posted by mrgrimm at 11:20 AM on April 30, 2013 [1 favorite]


I mean, who on Earth wants another game-development simulation game?

To be fair, you're referring to a second game development simulation game. The market is pretty wide open.
posted by Going To Maine at 12:40 PM on April 30, 2013


I wouldn't have thought that a street vendor sim would be one of the best games of the year.
posted by straight at 1:23 PM on April 30, 2013


I keep on meaning to play Cart Life, and then keep on not doing so.
posted by Going To Maine at 7:29 AM on May 1, 2013 [1 favorite]


That is to say, I am making a mistake by not allocating time to something I want to consume. Instead I keep going back to Super House Of Dead Ninjas, which is a little less substantial; the only thing it realistically simulates is an infinite dungeon full of things to stab. (Derail over.)
posted by Going To Maine at 7:31 AM on May 1, 2013


Ars Technica: Piracy or baiting? The thorny legal question of Game Dev Tycoon’s honeypot
posted by XMLicious at 6:13 PM on May 1, 2013


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