Experienced Points

Experienced Points
Building a Better Kind of DRM

Shamus Young | 11 Sep 2009 21:00
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3. Poison the Pirate Well

We should tell gamers we're doing this to the game, because we want everyone to know that the real game is better than the pirated version. We don't have to reveal where the DRM kicks in or how it works, but we do want people to know that the pirated version of the game is broken and they should buy the real deal if they really want to enjoy it. Right now, people buy the game and then worry that perhaps they're not getting the full experience because of the DRM. We want that line of thought to go in the opposite direction. We want the pirate to play the game with the nagging suspicion that he's missing out.

4. Don't Forget the Customers

No matter what sort of DRM we use, at some point we need a check to make sure the user is running the original game. I'm going to assume we don't want to go back to the days of game manual or code-wheel protection. That stuff was cute, but expensive.

So we need to either make the user ask a server for permission to run the game, or make sure they have the disc in the drive. Some people don't have always-on internet. Some people are on the road a lot and don't like dragging discs around with them just so they can have access to their game library. The common approach is to screw one group in favor of the other. But why? Can't we get money out of both groups? How about the game will only check for the disc until it's been activated online? This means users need either the disc or the internet to run the game.

It also means we can take down the activation servers later without generating a bunch of negative publicity from people crying about their game no longer working.

5. Keep it Simple

SecuROM is the wrong way to go. It's expensive and it doesn't pay to have a system that will bypass system drivers, write secret or non-readable / removable data to the Windows registry, hide itself from the user, run in the background when the game isn't running, attempt to interfere with basic system operations, or be interfacing with the operating system in unexpected ways. This sort of behavior is unethical, and it makes our DRM system less stable and less future-proof. We don't want the bad publicity that comes from creating security holes and crashes, and we don't want to deal with the support headaches. A lot of pirates cite this sort of thing as the reason they pirate in the first place. Some customers actually pay for the game, but then download the cracked version so they won't have this stuff running on their computer. While not pirates themselves, that's another big group of people helping out by seeding torrents. If we can encourage customers to play the game out of the box, the torrents will have less seeds and piracy will be a little slower, making the whole thing that much less attractive to people who have the means to legitimately buy our game.

So, dump SecuROM. The system I proposed should be way cheaper to develop and will take longer to crack.

It's really great to be working with you folks on the pro-DRM side of things. I have a good feeling about this.

Incidentally, what kind of health plan do you offer?

Shamus Young is the guy behind this movie, this website, this book, these two webcomics, and this program. He's also got an AWESOME idea for an FPS game starring a wisecracking space marine with regenerating health.

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