Just about everyone has an opinion about "digital rights management," better known by its acronym DRM. Most gamers don't like it, unless it's Steam, in which case they love it; CD Projekt and GOG have spoken out against it for years, while Square Enix recently said DRM is "essential for the foreseeable future." Now Paradox Interactive CEO Fredrik Wester has waded into the fray, saying he believes that the only effective way to prevent piracy is to make legal copies of games a better option.
Hacks! An investigation into aimbot dealers, wallhack users, and the million-dollar business of video game cheating
Zero is a customer service representative for one of the biggest video game cheat providers in the world. To him, at first, I was just another customer. He told me that the site earns approximately $1.25 million a year, which is how it can afford customer service representatives like him to answer questions over TeamSpeak. His estimate is based on the number of paying users online at any given time, the majority of whom, like me, paid for cheats for one game at $10.95 a month. Some pay more for a premium package with cheats for multiple games.
As long as there have been video games, there have been cheaters. For competitive games like Counter-Strike, battling cheaters is an eternal, Sisyphean task. In February, Reddit raised concerns about lines of code in Valve-Anti Cheat (VAC), used for Counter-Strike and dozens of other games on Steam, that looked into users’ DNS cache. In a statement, Gabe Newell admitted that Valve doesn't like talking about VAC because “it creates more opportunities for cheaters to attack the system." But since online surveillance has been a damning issue lately, he made an exception.
Newell explained that there are paid cheat providers that confirm players paid for their product by requiring them to check in with a digital rights management (DRM) server, similar to the way Steam itself has to check in with a server at least once every two weeks. For a limited time, VAC was looking for a partial match to those (non-web) cheat DRM servers in users’ DNS cache.
I knew that cheats existed, but I was shocked that enough people paid for them to warrant DRM. I wanted to find out how the cheating business worked, so I became a cheater myself.
In a new interview, an executive at Square Enix has doubled-down on the company’s DRM policy. The executive claims that DRM protects profits at the end of the day, and that’s the most important thing to any development studio, big or small.
GOG has reversed its decision to include regional pricing on some upcoming games, calling it a “mistake” after nearly 10,000 (mostly negative) comments poured into their forums. In a thorough apology, GOG co-founders Marcin Iwinski and Guillaume Rambourg write that they should never have made that call.
Games for Windows Live will soon be dead (hooray!), here's a list of devs removing it from their games
RIP Games for Windows Live, we hardly knew ye. On second thoughts, we knew ye pretty well, and we hated your malodorous guts - good riddance. Of course, with Microsoft's hated games service going the way of the passenger pigeon (I was going to say dodo, but a load of animals have sadly been made extinct since then), there's the little matter of what's going to happen to all the games infested with GFWL. Will they be playable after July 1st, when the service is being taken out to the woodshed to be shot in the head? It's still unclear, but it doesn't seem likely - unless developers take it upon themselves to patch their games.
So far, only Fallout 3, Bioshock 2, the Arkham games, Insanely Twisted Shadow Planet and Toy Soldiers have extracted the service, leaving a few dozen games with the sword of DRMacles hanging over their heads. Thanks to Joystiq, we now at least know which developers and games are aiming to follow suit.
In many ways, CD Projekt RED is the little developer that could. After hitting it big with The Witcher, CD Projekt has continued to grow and produce games with greater and greater ambition. After six years and six million games sold in the Witcher franchise, the studio is hard at work on the Witcher 3 and the much-anticipated Cyperpunk 2077. As its gotten bigger and struck distribution deals on a larger and larger scale, though, some rumors have gotten around that the developers’ famous anti-DRM stance might be changing. According to the company CEO, those rumors are false.
Indie hit Torchlight, the action RPG that pushed all of our kill-loot-kill buttons in the decade between Diablo 2 and Diablo 3, is now available for free from GOG. The DRM-Free Summer Sale launched early this morning, and it'll run for 17 days and feature over five hundred games on sale.
In a lengthy guest editorial at Kotaku, former EA CEO John Riccitiello wrote at length about what, in his view, the upcoming next generation of gaming consoles must deliver to succeed. The editorial was published before Microsoft's reveal of the Xbox One yesterday, which may require owners to check in to the Internet once every 24 hours.
DRM is a constantly tricky balancing act between deterring piracy, however briefly, and not upsetting every one of your legitimate customers. That's why it's always great to see copy-protection measures that specifically target, and hilariously mess with, inveterate torrenters. Whether it's Batman's uncontrollable cape in Arkham Asylum, or Serious Sam 3's immortal pink scorpion, pirate-specific hijinks provide the best kind of schadenfreude.
This specific example from Greenheart Games, creators of the Game Dev Story-like development sim Game Dev Tycoon, might be one of the best - if just for the hypocrisy at the heart of its piraception. The game's developers uploaded their game to "the number one torrent sharing site" with one key difference: As players built up their development studio, they are told that not enough people were buying legitimate copies of their games - leading to a slow and unavoidable financial collapse.
Digital distributor GOG.com has been letting younger games, with their modern engines and loud dubstep, run loose amongst the traditionally older residents of its catalogue. The problem for the store is that this newer generation are into all sorts of weird stuff - DLC, episodic releases, and even DRM. Rather than just give the youth free reign, they sent out a survey to customers, asking them to vote on what is and isn't acceptable to sell. They've now published the results, providing an interesting look at how these often controversial industry aspects are being received.
Not only did Harebrained Schemes crush its $400,000 Shadowrun ReturnsKickstarter campaign goal, raising over $1.8 million dollars as of last count, it has also released a torrent of new information for backers and interested players alike.
In an interview with GamesIndustry.biz, EA Labels president Frank Gibeau discusses the messy SimCity launch, batting away conspiratorial accusations about its always-online structure. He says that was a decision from the creative team at Maxis, who believed they were designing an MMO, and not some corporate directive to curtail piracy. In fact, he goes further, slamming the DRM as "a failed dead-end strategy; it's not a viable strategy for the gaming business."
Team Meat's take on piracy is just as blunt as its bloody platformer Super Meat Boy, with the two-man team stating in 2011 that it "doesn't #%)@$ care" about gamers stealing its game. Now, co-creator Tommy Refenes says in a tumblr post that a more worthwhile alternative to intrusive DRM systems is to forge trust with gamers and deliver a solid, reliable product. I know, that's just crazy talk.
On the week of SimCity's ill-fated launch, during which a lot more people wanted to play SimCity than SimCity's servers could handle, Maxis SVP Lucy Bradshaw promised us each a free EA game for our troubles. Today, EA announced that SimCity sold over 1.1 million units in its first two weeks (well, there's your problem), and Maxis announced the list of apology games for SimCity owners to choose from.
Maxis GM Lucy Bradshaw has responded to criticism that SimCity could have featured an offline mode, saying that yes, it could have, but Maxis "rejected that idea" for a different vision.
The connection problems of SimCity's botched launch may almost be behind us, but now that more players are actually playing, the critical bombardment has adjusted its aim to target the simulation itself. Players are reporting bugs, quirks, and mysterious behaviors, and discontent has swelled into accusations. Our review criticizes many of these problems, but is there a bigger story? Were we misled?
SimCity's server congestion was sneezing us out of the game all last week, but it may finally have kicked its launch cold. I've been in the NA West 1 server all morning without once seeing the words "connection" or "error"—just splines reticulating everywhere I look. SimCity's approval rating might be trending up elsewhere, too—its official site now displays the status of every server, and there are green lights from San Francisco to Antarctica. Wait, why is there a server in Antarctica? Don't penguins use Linux?
Following a leaked internal memo that said much the same thing, Maxis General Manager Lucy Bradshaw has released a statement addressing the Titanic-esque launch of their latest city-building title, SimError. The blog post stops just short of apologising for the whole mess, but Bradshaw does own up to the game's connection problems, stating that "we're not going to rest until we've fixed the remaining server issues." To try and mollify the outraged, Maxis are also offering SimCity players a free game. A free, um, EA game of course - but one you'll (probably) be able to actually play.
Requiring an Internet connection to play seems to be becoming the DRM du jour for high-profile, non-Steam games like SimCity and Diablo III. Why do developers consider a constant hand-hold with your ISP to be an acceptable requirement for playing an offline game? Even if it deters pirates, doesn't it simply inconvenience legitimate customers?
In this Face Off debate, Logan and Evan debate whether this form of DRM represents a fundamental attack on gamers' rights, or whether its effects are actually an overstated inconvenience that (gasp) might actually have benefits?
Oh, Ubisoft. Just when you thought it was safe to play one of the publisher's PC games - in this case, the delayed PC version of their delayed Rocksmith music game - they've only gone and 'pulled a Ubisoft' by forgetting to include activation codes in some copies of the game. Internet: now would be the perfect time to bust out that 'Picard facepalm' meme.