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A Picture-Perfect Quandary

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Gunsmith 13th May 2008, 08:14 Quote
good read, information and data are so easy to pass around these days that we often take without thinking. however from the past 15 years ive been online I think its more a case mutual respect for one another's work. if respect is due then respect is often given, however the more you fight to claim what is yours (which you are perfectly entitled to) then the more the net seems to fight back. I dont know if what im trying to say is coming across here clearly, someone help me out.
Krazeh 13th May 2008, 08:49 Quote
I think the major problem a lot of people have with DRM is that, in most cases, it limits your ability to use items you have purchased and only allows you to perform actions that the content/rights owner have deemed acceptable. Unfortunately what the content/rights owner deems acceptable is often very different to what consumers and the concept of fair use would normally deem acceptable.
mmorgue 13th May 2008, 09:34 Quote
Quote:
Top crackers are looked at as heroes – just look at DVD-Jon, for example.

I wouldn't necessarily say 'heroes' but maybe people who sometimes perform a necessary evil. I don't condone piracy, but at the very least they force software companies to constantly come up with better forms of CP.

That said, I'm not against people or companies protecting their intellectual property through CP -- I mean why not? They work long and hard on producing software, they have every right to.

But like Krazeh says above, it's the types if CP that, for example, limit your ability to use what you have purchased, or so long as it conforms to what the publisher stipulates. Or in worse cases, extra protection software (read SecuROM) that doesn't *just* affect the purchased game/app -- it also affects various other legitimate tools or games you purchased.

And that's what I disagree with and will always choose a hacked/stripped piece of software over the store bought version. I'll happily donate to the publisher the same amount of money, but I refuse to have a CP system that installs software onto my home PC that is preventing me from using my other legal purchases.
badders 13th May 2008, 09:36 Quote
Great article Brett, extremely eloquent and well thought out.
I think the Main Problem with some of these copy-protection solutions is that sometimes they're as bad and as buggy as the software they're protecting. The game gets a patch to fix the bugs, but does the copy protection? It's supposed to be incognito, so we'll never know.

If it worked as it was supposed to, and just stopped people copying the games, I wouldn't have any problem with it phoning home or limiting my installs - as long as it doesn't use ALL my bandwidth, and reinstates one of my installs when the game is uninstalled.

It's just a pity that copy protection seems to be an add-on that can be stripped out.
banshee256 13th May 2008, 09:55 Quote
I think part of the problem also lies in, that when you buy any other product, like a car, stereo, table etc. etc. it's yours. You own it. You bought it. But when you pay up to £40 for a game, it's not yours. You pay for the right to use it, for the manual, box and CDs/DVD. That's it. And, at least in my mind, that just doesn't feel right. When you pay for something, with your hard-earned money, it should be yours and you should be able to do with it what you damn well please. But you can't...

My suggestion is to change the current license-model completely. Take a look at the one thing that's almost immune to piracy: MMO's. You can pirate the game all you want, but you don't really get anything out of it, unless you create an account at the company that made the game and that requires a CD-key. And you have to log in every time you want to play. This isn't much different from the diabolical way EA had planned the copy protection for Spore and Mass Effect, I know... But here's the kicker:

Make the game completely free to download. But then let people a very small fee monthly or weekly, to be able to continue playing. I'm not talking about the £10 a month fee that MMO's usually demand. More like £1 a week, or something like that. Even though that's pretty far from what the companies currently make per game sold, it's so cheap, that more people would buy the games, instead of pirate them. The companies themselves say that prices are so high due to piracy. And, as a bonus, with a download model, there wouldn't be any boxes to make, manuals to print or anything else for that matter. Everything would be 1's and 0's and thus much cheaper to produce.

"But I don't want to log in to play a single player or LAN game!" Who said you had to? Every game comes with a unique CD-key anyways. And your NIC has a unique MAC-address, has it not? Then all the game needs to do is to gather that information during the installation phase, use those two numbers as identification and log in automatically. You wouldn't have to do a thing.

Now, MAC-addresses can be tampered with or you could simply get a new computer. In that case I suggest that when you download the game the first time, you create an account with the developer and then had to log in to confirm your new MAC-address.

If you feel that MAC-addresses aren't safe enough, there are other ways of identifying your computer. A compilation of some of the hardware serial numbers, a key-file on your computer and a whole host of other options.

This would also have a very positive side effect; games would have to be good, to make any kind of money. The longer you can keep people playing the game, the more money you make.

Example: I recently re-installed Freelancer. Great game, but it only took me 16 hours to complete (I know this, because there's an in-game timer). £40 for 16 hours of entertainment? Come on. You can do better than that. Baldur's Gate II robbed me of at least 200 hours if not more.

This of course requires a great deal more planning and thought. But unlike the current anti-piracy measures currently being taken, I actually think that this could work?

Agree or disagree?
Malfrex 13th May 2008, 10:37 Quote
I'm sure this will be a rather busy topic as DRM is always a hot topic, but I figured I'll add in my 2 cents.

First off, banshee in response to your weekly/monthly fee for a game. This is already implemented as a viable method of game distribution through Gametap. Admittedly they don't have a lot of titles considered anything near to "new release" but they have a decent selection, along with unique titles like the Sam & Max serials. Although I think that it's a good method in and of itself it only appeals to a certain aspect of the market. Namely those who feel comfortable purchasing titles online (surprisingly quite a few still don't feel comfortable with the concept) and those who are able to find benefit of the cost/entertainment dollar. Personally I enjoy playing a great variety of games however I also work a full time job in the games industry and more often then not that means you'll have overtime to work. A subscription system where I have to pay weekly/monthly wouldn't be of benefit to me - the same applies to MMOs. I've tried out a few but never go much beyond the trial period due to not having the time to invest in them. The alternative to that is a pay-to-play time-based system but then people might as well be going through an old arcade-style system, dropping quarters until their allowance is gone.

Personally, I would have to say that Valve's system is currently the best out there. You can purchase a game in a brick-and-mortar store or online, you have to register online once with your paid account, and from then on you can play offline. You want to get updates? I verify your account again, download the updates, it's all clear. As well, there are other benefits to the system - the massive collection of games, no more hunting for updates, and now the built-in tools to find friends for multi-player games. You realized the issue with using hardware to validate software (Microsoft still has not... make's system re-installs/upgrades a pain) and I would strongly oppose it being used as a method of prevention by anyone.

In truth, my strongest argument against DRM isn't about it being annoying and cumbersome, although it is getting to the point where you can't ignore the elephant in the room. My main argument is actually that all this DRM is going to eventually kill off the history of gaming. I have a partition on my system with all my old DOS games and run them through DOS-Box. I can't do similar with games designed for 95 or 98 as they're hit or miss as to whether they will run in compatibility mode. DRM is just going to add yet another layer to the puzzle and make it virtually impossible to go back in time. Let's say a game you purchased requires the online validation to play however the company has since gone under? How will it be possible to validate the game to play? You will have to find a crack, if possible, to be able to do so. As for the argument that DRM is required, I find it flimsy at best. Look at "Sins of a Solar Empire" - solid, well-rounded game. Released at a sane price ($40), no DRM, and it rose to the top of the sales charts. So is PC gaming really dying due to piracy? No, it isn't. However, casual piracy is a habit that needs to be broken (I admit I have done it due to the cracked version actually working...) and publishers need to realize that spending that extra money on making a solid product sans DRM is more likely to sell then a buggy one with buggy DRM. Then those who pirate it are no longer disgruntled possible purchasers, they are then just people who wouldn't purchase your product, regardless. You can't count them as customers.
Jordan Wise 13th May 2008, 14:10 Quote
good article
i think the best solution to it all is if all developers join steam, the dodgy stuff from going gold to hitting retail dosappears, and your games are all paid for, updated when necessary and have anti-cheat stuff built in. Yes, this would give valve a bit of a monopoly, but if you wanted any company to have a monopoly it'd be valve, as they only make very high quality games and never rush anything to make a quick buck (cough EA).
donnie 13th May 2008, 15:08 Quote
This article should be emailed to every developer just to illustrate the kind of things we as gamers have to contend with in "The war on piracy", although like various examples of the "war on whatever!" we find ourselves watching a never ending battle played out without conclusion. Will we never resolve issues like these, i mean piracy has existed for like forever and peoples intellectual property is not always in fact there's but as history dictates that when people what something they either buy it or take it by force and i don't see an end to that instinctual reaction.
rtrski 13th May 2008, 15:54 Quote
Great article. I admit I'm falling in the category of "justifying my actions as response to the other camp's" but frankly I never even looked into any 'piracy' options until DVD makers started using the user control prohibition flag - originally created for the FBI screen or 'legal' disclaimers - to prevent you jumping straight to the menu over their damn commercials and previews. I think Shrek 2 was the first one. Sure, you could still fast-forward, but the thought of being FORCED to watch a commercial when I'd bought the DVD just plain pissed me off, and I went out and found a copy of DVDshrink to rip it to my hard drive instead (which takes way more time, so here I was going out of my way, spending more of my time, just out of outrage that they spent a few minutes of mine).

Regarding gaming, I've never really had a problem with any DRM scheme so far aside from slightly slow authentication sometimes, but if I had experienced bugs or issues as a result I could understand similar anger. I tend to agree that the Steam model seems like the only real 'compromise' out there. I don't own the media, just a license to use it, but I can download it to whatever computer(s) I want. I can only play on one at a time, and can play offline on the last one I authenticated on without reconnecting. Seems like reasonable freedom in exchange for reasonable restrictions....the games follow me as I upgrade, or go from home to travel (for those my laptop can support, at least), in exchange for me not disseminating my login. Of course if the account gets hijacked that all falls apart, but that's neither the fault of the DRM or of the consumer, but that of the identity thieving criminal, same as if your bank account and credit rating get hosed by identity theft.

With pure 'media' its a little harder, since media is becoming much more platform-agnostic (movies on DVD, your iPod, streamed online, etc...). Media can't really use a Steam-like model....I wouldn't want to only be able to use an image as 'one' background, and not also have it on my wall, or have to log into my cellphone/ipod/home computer/DVD player to watch 'my content'. The infrastructure will likely never exist for that kind of shared authentication across media 'platforms'. At least not until we hit the Charles Stross-like future of distributed computing, where any screen, eyeglasses, phone display, etc are all simply the I/O front ends to the same interconnected network. At that point traditional 'media' will likely no longer exist, replaced by overlays or interactive relationship with our entire 'reality'. (Stross is quite a good SF author, BTW...highly recommended.)

Enough rambling. Thanks again for a thought provoking and quite balanced article.
MrMonroe 13th May 2008, 16:39 Quote
I don't really see the comparison... the poster was asked for wallpaper-sized versions and he posted several. His intent to distribute free of charge really isn't in question. That said, you did distribute the photo without really giving reference to the original creator. In so much as his rights to income ($0 per download?) were violated there, what kind of CP would it have justified? What if, every ten days, your wallpaper sent him an e-mail saying that it was still up on your desktop? It would prevent casual distribution by you, as your friends would not have been able to use it on their desktops... unless they visited bit-tech and downloaded it themselves for $0. (like I did) If the photo had cost something (say $5 per wallpaper), surely there would be folks out there who either pony up the money or keep their old wallpaper, and there will be people who find a way of getting it without paying. You only find out the difference between those two groups once there is money being charged, because the money is the <i>only</i> thing that motivates piracy.

Now, I hate intrusive CP... almost as much as I hate pirates. You say this is a chicken-and-the-egg scenario, but we all know it's not. Developers didn't suddenly sit down one day and say to themselves, "hey, we should load up our software with CD-Keys and online registration just in case people start stealing our stuff." CP is a reaction to piracy. Claiming that it goes the other way is just a way of rationalizing the piracy. If you don't like the software as it is being sold, <i>don't buy it.</i> Buying it and then cracking it to strip out the CP is only marginally better, and refusing to support the developer and then pirating the software is just plain hypocrisy. (not to mention it encourages software developers to add in more restrictive CP that only paying customers like me will every have to deal with)

"I wonder if we on the other side ever stop to think, “Did I cross a line, too? I really could have bought this...why didn't I?”"

^^ This. Even those intent on viewing this as a vicious cycle in which one side provokes the other and then the other provokes the first (as opposed to a cycle in which one side does what it wants to avoid paying for entertainment and the other desperately tries to protect it's income), should be able to see that there is something that no one studio or consumer can do alone. It is, however, something that will be have to done one-by-one, with individual consumers making a commitment to avoid piracy and individual studios realizing that their CP does not save them any money and abandoning the intrusive schemes that harm their legitimate customers' gaming experiences.
Xir 13th May 2008, 17:35 Quote
...I'm with you.

...but have a problem with the picked examples.

Someone who takes your (published) text and put his/her name on it isn't the same as someone using a pic that is posted on a forum, the photographer freely providing wallpapers when requested.

One is going into a gallery and running out with a picture on diplay, while the other is the artist standing on the street saying "hey you like this? take it, it's for you".
maha_x 13th May 2008, 17:53 Quote
Games cp should be integrated to DirectX. Then M$ would keep upgrading it trough windows update and it would be more compatible than anything else out there since M$ would test it on windows. And it has the facilities to do so. Yes, this would drive out other companies producing these sollutions but I feel it would be a better exprience for the end user this way. Cracks that come out could be disabled via windows update. Calling home would still be a necesity, but checking for CP updates doesn't sound as bad as these "call home" methods.
CJ145 13th May 2008, 19:06 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by maha_x
Games cp should be integrated to DirectX. Then M$ would keep upgrading it trough windows update and it would be more compatible than anything else out there since M$ would test it on windows. And it has the facilities to do so. Yes, this would drive out other companies producing these sollutions but I feel it would be a better exprience for the end user this way. Cracks that come out could be disabled via windows update. Calling home would still be a necesity, but checking for CP updates doesn't sound as bad as these "call home" methods.

Yes, because we all know how good Windows Genuine Advantage is at stopping piracy.
supermonkey 13th May 2008, 19:42 Quote
Good article. I'm totally printing it out and hanging it on my wall. ;)

-monkey
yodasarmpit 13th May 2008, 20:05 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by supermonkey
Good article. I'm totally printing it out and hanging it on my wall. ;)

-monkey
LOL, awesome.

PS, that shot was beautiful and got my vote in December.
TGImages 13th May 2008, 20:29 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by banshee256
I think part of the problem also lies in, that when you buy any other product, like a car, stereo, table etc. etc. it's yours. You own it. You bought it. But when you pay up to £40 for a game, it's not yours. You pay for the right to use it, for the manual, box and CDs/DVD.


When you buy a car you can't give a copy to someone else. You can't get a copy from someone else. Same with a table, stereo, etc. Only a digitial item (computer game), can you give a copy to someone else...or get a copy from someone else. In the physical world, the impracticallity of duplicating something is what keeps copying/pirating/etc. to a relatively minimum level. In the digital world almost anyone can make unlimited copies. In the physical world you have minimal need for PRM (physical rights management? Ok, I made that up). But DRM is an attempt to apply the same limitations to digital that exist in the physical arena.

It's difficult to compare the two realms because of this... and perhaps unfair to have the same expectations for both.



BTW, great article Brett.

I'm a serious amateur photographer myself but have never entered the contest or posted images as I am concerned over exactly the actions you took. In fact I keep almost all of my work off the internet as once it's out there I can't get it back and it now looses it's value when/if I try to sell it. I very much appreciate the realization that you came to and your willingness to start the conversation with the rest of us about it.

-Gary
MrMonroe 13th May 2008, 20:44 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by TGImages

When you buy a car you can't give a copy to someone else. You can't get a copy from someone else. Same with a table, stereo, etc. Only a digitial item (computer game), can you give a copy to someone else...or get a copy from someone else. In the physical world, the impracticallity of duplicating something is what keeps copying/pirating/etc. to a relatively minimum level.

-Gary

People sell counterfeit designer clothing all the time. Of course, there's nothing you can build into clothing that would stop people counterfeiting it except for a hard-to-duplicate stitch or trademark somewhere in a hidden place so you could know when you were looking at a real one.

Oh wait, that's all you can do for digital software, either. SecuROM can tell you when someone is using a legitimate item. It can't tell you when someone has made a cracked version that doesn't have SecuROM installed unless you look closely at their installation, making it, well, useless.
metarinka 13th May 2008, 21:13 Quote
we are at a major war in pc gaming and I think people on both sides are suffering, users for having even more limited access to their software and developers who are getting a smaller piece of the pie. My school hosts lan parties once every month or so, and they have the biggest problem with liscencing. They own 20 legitimate copies of all the software but have a nightmare trying to install them on every machine match the cd-key to the identical disks, etc etc. I don't know why people exclude console games either xbox 360 hacks etc are quite prevalent. I'm not sure about ps3 but I think that's due to the unavailability of cheap blue ray burners yet
TGImages 13th May 2008, 23:17 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by MrMonroe

People sell counterfeit designer clothing all the time. Of course, there's nothing you can build into clothing that would stop people counterfeiting it except for a hard-to-duplicate stitch or trademark somewhere in a hidden place so you could know when you were looking at a real one.

Absolutely true... if you have a clothing production facility. This limits the conterfeiting to a relatively small group of people with the resources to do this. While a computer game can be copied by anyone with a computer. Bit Torrent, or pirate boards, for example, only require one upload to make unlimited copies. A clothing conterfeitter needs to buy raw materials, weaving looms (or whatever they're called! ) and if they make one copy, then there is one shirt to sell. Make 10 copies, 10 shirts to sell. One copy of a game to a pirate site could result in millions of copies out there.

It is the difference in amount of effort and means to the amount of copies and the ability of almost anyone vs only those with a warehouse that makes it difficult to find a solution that doesn't limit the purchaser unduly.
DXR_13KE 14th May 2008, 02:38 Quote
nice article, good read.
Dreaming 14th May 2008, 02:49 Quote
Have to say Brett, you're completely right. I'll be honest here and hope I don't get banned (on some forums they do ban for even admission of downloading :(), but I have downloaded games from wherever. I like you said saw them as free, and the money I've spent on games over the years that really shouldn't have been released or were only worth a quarter of what I paid only gave me some sort of sense of entitlement - that I have to download games to check they're actually worth the money, because otherwise I will get ripped off. I observe the same with Hollywood films - how many films coming out these days are new, original, and worth the £6 we pay to see them once? I am not completely devoid of morals, and will happily buy software or games or movies I feel are worth the money, I own a legitimate operating system, office tools, and everything I play day-to-day.

If there was some kind of 'subscription' service (I'm thinking abstractly here, bear with me) where you pay per day to play games, for the quality of games I've paid for in the past, I am still probably in net deficit. Only a few weeks ago I excitedly installed Kane's Wrath after waiting an agonising 5 days to get it through the post, completed the single player by staying up until some godawful hour, then tried to get into multiplayer only to realise that it's still broken. Whilst I think the community managers are trying their best, it's been over a month and multiplayer play is still worse than Tiberium Wars that is supposedly supercedes.

Having said that, for me owning a C&C product is similar to a music fan blindly buying the artists music, I love the franchise and will continue to do so.

So what do I do? Some games I've been bitterly disappointed with and played only a handful of times - like ArmA, yet I still paid £30 or thereabouts for it, being an faithful Operation Flashpoint fanatic. They hadn't even removed the typos from the ludicrous campaign story, and whilst I'm sure it cost them a lot to develop, these games are mass marketed across the globe so the returns are seldom small. (At least for big releases, I read somewhere 80% of games don't actually break even...)

I want to pay for really nice products, but with the move away from quality towards raping a franchise for all it's worth without the proper quality controls in place (I had a friend who worked for Rare on Perfect Dark 2 [an established franchise], when it got taken over they basically shelved all the nice plans and just said 'get it ready to ship' - this is the mindset of large developers, minimum investment maximum revenue) - am I only ripping myself off if I happily pay full whack for every game (that seldom come with demos these days) when a lot of them are just cash cows.

It's a bizarre event though, because some games are truly wonderful, look at Team Fortress 2 - I paid £25 or thereabouts for 3 games including TF2 (so effectively what, £8?) and they're bringing out new content free of charge. No premium content, none of these ways of worming more money out of customers. They even had a free weekend so everyone could play the game as it is supposed to be played. Bugs are typically fixed as and when they come up as opposed to waiting over a month for a desync bug that means you can't play online :( (sorry, C&C again!). So when companies get it right, of course they deserve money. Valve, definitely popular, cater for their customers a lot (although I'm still scared one day that they have the right to stop me playing all my steam bought games ... it's in the T&C that they provide a service, you don't own the games!). Blizzard are a mixed bag, they do cater for their customers, but they expect the customers to pay. Many have speculated (perhaps correctly) that a sequel to starcraft was delayed because they wanted to extract more money out of WoW, and who can blame them really... but is it customer focussed or getting the best return on their investment? THQ I personally like because although sometimes the netcode isn't perfect, the games are a class act, often do something unique and try very hard to do it very well and beat the opposition with new and better ways of doing things (look at the cover system in CoH, unmatched in any modern RTS as far as I know). EA games... now from my gaming circle they're not very popular, because mainly they're seen as a profiteering company that looks for good established brands, buys them out then gets the devs to produce game after game after game with support as an afterthought and first and foremost it's all about the money.

However, it's ironic that I should have a go at EA, because most of my games are by EA. Again though, most of their games have bugs that were just left or abandoned when the next game came out - don't worry about fixing this game because the sequel is out. I hope this doesn't sound like a complete dig at EA, it's far from it. You need big companies like EA in a big globalised world in order to provide the sheer scale of investment, marketing etc. to make a great game. But if you look at the different companies, the way they nurture or discard their games, and then look at what the people think of these companies... you see an interesting pattern - and maybe that is the clue for what the solution is to 'casual' piracy (there are some who will always pirate, regardless, shame on them).
Bursar 14th May 2008, 10:33 Quote
I don't think anyone is saying that the developers and publishers don't deserve money for their efforts, but when companies are putting out the same old sports games with just a minor make over and team updates, when they put out games with protection systems so secure they prevent you running the game, when they bundle up a poor selection of mini games and call it the must have party game of the year, they only have themselves to blame for poor sales.

The Mass Effect/Spore protection would have been equivalent to Brett sorting out a copyright deal for his article, and then forcing the licensee to phone him up every few days, otherwise he would forfeit the right to use the article he's paid for.
impar 14th May 2008, 10:56 Quote
Greetings!

A more balanced and mature opinion than your previous "The sky is falling" piece, Brett Thomas.
Sark.inc 14th May 2008, 12:31 Quote
games are to big for me to download on my 10gb cap, all of my games that i play on a day to day basis are paid for, crysis on the other hand after playing that on a friends computer i could not bring my self to spend that 100$ on such a buggy game..

Personally, i think the way to go is steam! no bs advertising money spent, retail markups etc etc.

If i do pirate a game, it's normally off a friend and, had no real intention of buying.

Bought around £200 worth of games off steam <3

Personally, when i bought company of heros: opposing fronts i felt rather ripped off due to the copy right crap, having to update to play?!?!? what if i am capped ffs?? then i can't play, unless i spend the next hour downloading a 6 mb patch..
cjmUK 14th May 2008, 15:46 Quote
I'm sure it was only last week when I said this in another thread, but Steam in not the panacea that many claim. Steam would be great for both producers and consumers if only you can seel or transfer games between steam accounts. They don't allow it so as to drive up sales, but that kind of attitude is precisely got some of the pirates starting in the first place.

I do believe that if producers produced cheaper and better quality games (largely bug-free) without any restrictive DRM kludges, then piracy would be substantially reduced. Most people are fundamentally honest and if treating with respect would respond accordingly.

I'm not advocating piracy for one minute; I'm just saying that the situation is worse than it is due to the attitude of the producers.
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