Building a Better Kind of DRM

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Building a Better Kind of DRM

Shamus Young switches sides and goes pro-DRM.

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You know deep down that it'll never work. The pirates will adapt. If you make it impossible to simply remove the check, the pirates will simply find better ways of fooling the check.

And besides, worst case scenario it takes longer to crack, and even batman was completely playable a week before release.

DRM can't win. It practically a fact of life.

Nimbus:
You know deep down that it'll never work. The pirates will adapt. If you make it impossible to simply remove the check, the pirates will simply find better ways of fooling the check.

And besides, worst case scenario it takes longer to crack, and even batman was completely playable a week before release.

DRM can't win. It practically a fact of life.

So you suggest we dont bother at all? Every time and advancment is made, It is bound to be made redundant at some point in the future, but this dosent stop people inventing. As long as we can stay ahead of the pirates for long enough to make ends meet any advance is welcome in my book. And if its unobtrusive as Shamus suggests, all the better.

There is a better solution...just ignore the pirates, they aren't your customers. The people who pay for your game are. Hurting pirates costs money, doesn't increase sales, and in the end doesn't stop piracy. Spending the same money/dev time making the game rock solid, bug free, and enjoyable does increase sales.

The equation is simple, if you make enough money from your game to stay in business you keep making games, if you don't then you find something else that pays you. Maybe there would be less multi-million dollar titles if everyone took that philosophy, but I don't think the world would be a worse place for it.

Oh and is your DRM/activation scheme going to stop me from lending the legit game to a friend, or reselling it? If so that is a deal breaker, because suddenly the legit purchaser has less control over their property than the pirate does.

You re-explained almost the exact business strategy that caused Iron Lore to go bankrupt.

Yes, you can make games behave like a buggy piece of shit for pirates(until they crack that too, often within hours, if they don't see through your ruse immediately). But those pirates will whine on the forums, and more often then not they will do it before release. And when a legitimate buyer who might have been interested in your game game sees the general discussion forum have 100 posts total and the technical support has 1500 unanswered threads in the last 24 hours, what will that person think? Will it be "Wow this drm is very effective, i need to support tis developer" or "This game looks like a broken mess, i better save my money"? History has shown us that it's most likely the latter.

DogofRaw:

So you suggest we dont bother at all? Every time and advancment is made, It is bound to be made redundant at some point in the future, but this dosent stop people inventing. As long as we can stay ahead of the pirates for long enough to make ends meet any advance is welcome in my book. And if its unobtrusive as Shamus suggests, all the better.

The problem is that "we" have never ever even been close to catching up with the pirates. "Staying ahead" is out of the question.

Also, how does hurting pirates help anyone "make ends meet"?

FADE (Which slowly removes features as you play.) checks for fake disc scratches, in which case a program like Nero doesn't copy. All you really need to do to trick it is find a way to keep those false scratches on the disc image. Which I am fairly sure they did that to Arma 2 (I am pretty sure they found a way to pirate that, I wouldn't know.)

DRM is just an impossible task, It is a waste of money and for the most part your Game or Music is already leaked out on the interwebs. That is a real problem that you can fix, people leaking your products before release. You will never win against pirates because they are not a single lifeform or organization... they are a collective hive mind. Sure, they are competing groups. But that really doesn't stop the fact I am presenting. Your just a company up against the most tenacious things in existence... The internet.
The single fact you can't just sue the groups "Pirates" is such a testament, You can sue individuals but you can't fight all these individuals at any time.

This is really more a problem routed in humanity and our civilization then anything else really... The money system is not a very humane thing...

Nimbus:
You know deep down that it'll never work. The pirates will adapt. If you make it impossible to simply remove the check, the pirates will simply find better ways of fooling the check.

And besides, worst case scenario it takes longer to crack, and even batman was completely playable a week before release.

DRM can't win. It practically a fact of life.

Reminds me of the times when they made a better weapon then they made a new armor. It won't stop, but lets laugh at the noob pirates who end up posting on the forums about how there controls aren't working.

Please For the love of God though, Publishers, Developers and game-makers(If you don't consider yourself on of the other options) listen to Shamus, he charges for the other answers, take the freebie, please.

Think most would accept that type of DRM, and yes could be cracked but would be a lot harder to do so, especially if technique varied from game to game built into the engine to begin with not added on later as be interwoven into the game. Add fact could randomise it a lot from game to game to keep pirates on their feet will eventually be too much effort for some to bother with as could never be sure got them all.

That and go on the offensive and spam the hell out of p2p sites what promote piracy with dud fake copies what do nothing so hard to find the ones what work. Get anti viruse software compines in on this and make those dud flag up as viruses when not what makes people doubt that p2p sites reliability.

rembrandtqeinstein:
There is a better solution...just ignore the pirates, they aren't your customers. The people who pay for your game are. Hurting pirates costs money, doesn't increase sales, and in the end doesn't stop piracy. Spending the same money/dev time making the game rock solid, bug free, and enjoyable does increase sales.

The equation is simple, if you make enough money from your game to stay in business you keep making games, if you don't then you find something else that pays you. Maybe there would be less multi-million dollar titles if everyone took that philosophy, but I don't think the world would be a worse place for it.

Oh and is your DRM/activation scheme going to stop me from lending the legit game to a friend, or reselling it? If so that is a deal breaker, because suddenly the legit purchaser has less control over their property than the pirate does.

That's a great idea really. We seriously can't stop piracy, no matter what. I'm not saying we should stop trying, but if we're going to do that, we'll need to simply go for alternative DRM that does not hurt the legitimate customer.

Or they can just make ridiculously great games so profits can be made even with the pirates. After all, you're spending money on something that is not working out for you. As any businesses would do, stop wasting money and use your resources on something that will gain you more profits.

At any rate, I agree with Shamus' ideas. I actually personally had those ideas in mind after reading about the Batman: AA thing. Sure, they'll be bypassed quickly, but its still a pain in the neck for a pirate and does not penalize actual buyers. It might even serve as good humour. That's what I'm really after - go ahead and punish pirates, as long as the buyers are unaffected.

One could argue that doing such a thing adds to the expenses of the developers. I say, it could cost less than getting conventional DRM.

rembrandtqeinstein:
Oh and is your DRM/activation scheme going to stop me from lending the legit game to a friend, or reselling it? If so that is a deal breaker, because suddenly the legit purchaser has less control over their property than the pirate does.

The activation+CD check should let people re-sell the game even after activation servers go down.

Nimbus:

DogofRaw:

So you suggest we dont bother at all? Every time and advancment is made, It is bound to be made redundant at some point in the future, but this dosent stop people inventing. As long as we can stay ahead of the pirates for long enough to make ends meet any advance is welcome in my book. And if its unobtrusive as Shamus suggests, all the better.

The problem is that "we" have never ever even been close to catching up with the pirates. "Staying ahead" is out of the question.

Also, how does hurting pirates help anyone "make ends meet"?

Dealing with pirates now is just like dealing with them when they had boats and swords. You're not aiming to eliminate it completely, just to slow it down enough to get your product to the market. You're not trying to stay ahead forever, just while you have a new product out. The advantage that the pirates have is that they have hundreds or thousands of more people working on a project than the creators, so tedious methods won't work since they have the manpower to deal with it. New methods need to be subtle and unobtrusive, but they have to keep evolving because that is the only way to really keep piracy levels low.

Another problem with this is companies like Direct 2 Drive, and Steam, since those don't require disk checks, it makes pirating a lot easier because there are more lax checks that are overwritten easily by pirates.

Asehujiko:
You re-explained almost the exact business strategy that caused Iron Lore to go bankrupt.

Yes, you can make games behave like a buggy piece of shit for pirates(until they crack that too, often within hours, if they don't see through your ruse immediately). But those pirates will whine on the forums, and more often then not they will do it before release. And when a legitimate buyer who might have been interested in your game game sees the general discussion forum have 100 posts total and the technical support has 1500 unanswered threads in the last 24 hours, what will that person think? Will it be "Wow this drm is very effective, i need to support tis developer" or "This game looks like a broken mess, i better save my money"? History has shown us that it's most likely the latter.

Hence why you tell the consumer. Not only will it help them know they're safe, but the pirate, if they know what they've done and have any intelligence at all, will be afraid to report it for fear of capture. In fact, if they DO report these problems, hopefully they will try to track down the poster and find out if indeed he is pirating. I think it's brilliant and has no downside to the customer.

rembrandtqeinstein:
Oh and is your DRM/activation scheme going to stop me from lending the legit game to a friend, or reselling it? If so that is a deal breaker, because suddenly the legit purchaser has less control over their property than the pirate does.

With a combination of activation and CD check you should have a system that lets people resell games without much hassle. You can even loan the disk to a friend, if you activvated your copy already, so that you can play multiplayer games.

roekenny:
Think most would accept that type of DRM, and yes could be cracked but would be a lot harder to do so, especially if technique varied from game to game built into the engine to begin with not added on later as be interwoven into the game. Add fact could randomise it a lot from game to game to keep pirates on their feet will eventually be too much effort for some to bother with as could never be sure got them all.

That and go on the offensive and spam the hell out of p2p sites what promote piracy with dud fake copies what do nothing so hard to find the ones what work. Get anti viruse software compines in on this and make those dud flag up as viruses when not what makes people doubt that p2p sites reliability.

Well, except for that last part, this seems like a really good idea. Having a game engine randomly dick with pirates would be hilarious and hard to stop without breaking the game in the process.

It does not solve the real problem. Making and maintaining copy-protection costs money and pirates can circumvent all of it for free forever. Galactic Civilizations 2 was the best selling PC game of its release year and it had no copy-protection. If developers want people to stop pirating their games, they should abandon copy-protection and include cloth-maps with the retail release. That way legitimate customers get a better deal than pirates, so more people will choose to buy the game rather than pirate it.

This is much more along the lines of how I've felt on the subject. I am really tired of hearing the waaaaaa I hate DRM, waaaaa.

Regardless, I like the CD or online activation check and I love what Batman did, perhaps this but to a greater extent would be the best part.

coldfrog:

Asehujiko:
You re-explained almost the exact business strategy that caused Iron Lore to go bankrupt.

Yes, you can make games behave like a buggy piece of shit for pirates(until they crack that too, often within hours, if they don't see through your ruse immediately). But those pirates will whine on the forums, and more often then not they will do it before release. And when a legitimate buyer who might have been interested in your game game sees the general discussion forum have 100 posts total and the technical support has 1500 unanswered threads in the last 24 hours, what will that person think? Will it be "Wow this drm is very effective, i need to support tis developer" or "This game looks like a broken mess, i better save my money"? History has shown us that it's most likely the latter.

Hence why you tell the consumer. Not only will it help them know they're safe, but the pirate, if they know what they've done and have any intelligence at all, will be afraid to report it for fear of capture. In fact, if they DO report these problems, hopefully they will try to track down the poster and find out if indeed he is pirating. I think it's brilliant and has no downside to the customer.

I agree. If someone looking on the forums on said game and finds lots of people complaining, that might mean loss of face of that game. On the other hand, when the same people read the critic reviews and review compilers who actually like the game, it will quickly become evident that the forums posters are showing the wrong picture.

Not to mention that anyone who's got eyes in their head will be able to find the critic reviews, forums, and DRM information with one or a few quick web searches.

GTA IV had it to where if you use a no cd crack, you wouldn't be able to use the brakes on any cars you drive.

Sewblon:
It does not solve the real problem. Making and maintaining copy-protection costs money and pirates can circumvent all of it for free forever. Galactic Civilizations 2 was the best selling PC game of its release year and it had no copy-protection. If developers want people to stop pirating their games, they should abandon copy-protection and include cloth-maps with the retail release. That way legitimate customers get a better deal than pirates, so more people will choose to buy the game rather than pirate it.

Cloth maps? Really? No offense to you collector types, but I can think of a lot of better ways to spend my money than on bonus gimmicks. Not to mention download purchases; let's see if Steam is ever going to give you a character statuette with your purchase.

What I think the main problem is, as the developers see it, that a lot of pirates are potential customers. If games get harder to pirate, less people on the soft end of the pirate spectrum will choose to go through the hassle of downloading and mirroring and cracking and instead just buy the game. But anyone can see why this is a flawed premise. Not only does the negative publicity about the DRM turn off other potential buyers to your game, but more pirates will start to think 'screw that -insert developer here- and their SecuROM, I'm gonna pirate this game'. Even though pirating a game of a developer whose sale strategy you disagree with is a completely jackass move, people still do it.

And I still haven't seen a DRM strategy that takes this into consideration, because game developers are a business, and businesses will always take the high profit road over the high moral ground.

ElArabDeMagnifico:
GTA IV had it to where if you use a no cd crack, you wouldn't be able to use the brakes on any cars you drive.

The cars had brakes?

Destal:
Regardless, I like the CD or online activation check and I love what Batman did, perhaps this but to a greater extent would be the best part.

What Batman did failed miserably. The pirates have working copies, and the game isn't even out yet, thus rendering it a waste of time and a pile of money down the crapper.

I have a few comments about this. Disclaimer: I pirate software on occasion.

1. Don't Do the Check at Startup
I don't actually have anything to say about this. I agree with everything.

2. Be Sneaky
While probably more effective at deceiving crackers (although if Arkham Asylum really was cracked before it was released, it may not be), it is absolutely imperative that everyone knows that the bad gameplay is due to DRM. Otherwise, you'll get pirates complaining about the game to potential customers.

3. Poison the Pirate Well
A good idea, and certainly preferable to non-free DLC. You probably should disclose where the DRM is, though, so no one confuses a bug for DRM or vice-versa.

4. Don't Forget the Customers
This would be better than current implementations, but it still reeks of the artificial restrictions that people hate about DRM. Stardock's approach is vastly superior, with no CD checks at all, ever. Your approach will screw over the folks who don't like carrying around their CD's after the activation servers are taken down, not to mention people who buy such a game second hand, which will have already been activated.

5. Keep it Simple
I pretty much agree with all this, too.

You'll probably also have problems from the corporate side. Given that DRM doesn't prevent much piracy and interferes with legitimate customers, I suspect modern DRM isn't meant to stop or curb piracy at all. It seems more likely that the goal is to shut down the second-hand game market, a goal your scheme does very little to advance.

Nimbus:

Destal:
Regardless, I like the CD or online activation check and I love what Batman did, perhaps this but to a greater extent would be the best part.

What Batman did failed miserably. The pirates have working copies, and the game isn't even out yet, thus rendering it a waste of time and a pile of money down the crapper.

That's why I said to a greater extent. It isn't that hard to change a bunch of coding that the pirates will spend hours digging away to find. Especially if it's buried later in the game.

It's not perfect, but it's a step in the right direction. If DRM is going to exist, and I have little doubt that it will continue to do so, it may as well exist in this form rather than its SecuROM incarnation.

The business sense of the game development industry is open to plenty of critique (some of which I have read), and one of the things least understandable to me is why developers/publishers choose to address an untrustworthy community - namely pirates - as a potential consumer base at the cost of discouraging existing customers. That's what DRM in its current form achieves.

I'm not gonna argue whether DRM should or should not exist, but rather that as long as it does exist: it's better if it will in a form similar to what Shamus suggests. The question of DRM's effectiveness should matter less than the question of how much hindrance it causes to legitimate customers.

I just have a image of a Doom style door demanding that you find the red key... now that would be awesome.

LTK_70:

I still haven't seen a DRM strategy that takes this into consideration, because game developers are a business, and businesses will always take the high profit road over the high moral ground.

But are they mutually exclusive? The performance of Spore and Crysis suggest that DRM is the low profit road.

Shamus I stand back in awe of your common sensical approach to combatting piracy. Oh and good writing stlye, arguing as one of the side you hate into another side. I like it.

This isn't a very good idea. In fact, it defeats itself. If drm is made to be shadowy and hard to spot, then pirates will just naturally assume that the game is a buggy piece of crap, and there are A LOT of pirates. There would be so many complaints filling up the forums and support lines. Of course admins could respond and claim that the game wasn't a piece of crap, but doesn't that reveal the drm in it of itself? And if they don't people will just assume the game is worthless.

It does seem, like a better form of DRM.

Bradfucius:
This isn't a very good idea. In fact, it defeats itself. If drm is made to be shadowy and hard to spot, then pirates will just naturally assume that the game is a buggy piece of crap, and there are A LOT of pirates. There would be so many complaints filling up the forums and support lines. Of course admins could respond and claim that the game wasn't a piece of crap, but doesn't that reveal the drm in it of itself? And if they don't people will just assume the game is worthless.

^^^^That however is my only nagging concern.

If I release a game that's specifically buggy for pirates, I will specifically make a copy and pasted message for the tech support forums that simply reads "It will work properly when you buy the damn game, now go and fuck the cabin boy."

PR was never my strong point, but pirates don't deserve common courtesy, the lousy fucks.

I'm no security expert but it has always seemed obvious to me that checking for a CD or contacting a server at the start of the game will point pirates right where they need to go.

The idea of messing with game mechanics for pirates is novel, I can imagine certain people would take it as a personal challenge to beat the game with the DRM trying to screw them over.

I'm still waiting for a company to sting pirates, there are plenty of ways to do it, and finding where that first leaked file comes from can help bring down the crackers. Its time companies actually started hunting the crackers and I actually hope they are ruthless about it.

Excellent ideas for DRM that'd actually work, but I doubt the fuckwits in these big publishers will listen and instead whine when people defend pirates if only to get DRM free games.

Resistance is futile.

So if the DRM makes the game buggy for pirates, what if a legitimate customer has actual bugs?! They may think that the game thinks their version is a pirated copy when it actually isn't. Which may make them think the DRM is just like any other DRM, extremely useless.

Two it may also stop people from reporting bugs, (More so with online games) Because they may think that they might be seen as a pirate and get banned from playing.

Three, what happens if there's a bug that cause the same problems with legit customers as it does with pirates, i.e jumping becomes unresponsive. Wouldn't that be a little difficult to tell whether it's a pirated version or an actual legit problem?!

You do not want to make pirated versions of the game broken! If someone who has pirated the game enjoys it, maybe he'll buy it later. If someone who has pirated the game hates it because it's broken, certainly he won't ever buy it.

For someone who wants to pirate a certain game, there are two possible outcomes: He pirates the game, or he doesn't play the game at all. No pirate is going to buy the game JUST BECAUSE there is effective DRM in it. People only buy games when they are convinced it's worth their money. If pirates were convinced of that without playing the game, they wouldn't be pirates.

So this kind of DRM (and in fact any kind of DRM) is not going to increase the amount of sales. It might even decrease the amount of sales, if there are indeed people who would buy the game if they enjoyed the pirated copy. What is the point of DRM if it doesn't actually increase the amount of sales?

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