MSNBC looks at the effect of Demigod piracy

There has been quite a bit of discussion in the past couple of weeks about piracy, Demigod, and the possible effect on the industry as a whole. In reading various blogs, community forums, and talking with gaming 'experts', there has been a wide range of responses from both ends of the spectrum on this.

Demigod was officially released two weeks ago but as we covered here last week, it had its street date broken by Gamestop, which led to pirates around the world to slam Stardock servers with illegal copies of the game. At one point, there were over 100,000 more players than anticipated on their servers, and only around 18,000 legitimate copies of the game sold at that time.

MSNBC.com has a video about gaming piracy, in which Stardock CEO Brad Wardell comments and adds his thoughts about how it affected Demigod, and possibly the industry.

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so there was a validity check that they could monitor, but they didn't build in a mechanism that just boots people who don't complete the validation?

lolwut?

The pirates where not the actual problem and im not a fan of marketing with excuses,
driving even more devs into bad DRM schemas and driving the politicians to filter and censor the net.

The problem lies somewhere else brad and scott, so please don't follow this route any longer.
It was ok in the beginning, but you should not overdo this topic.

Stick to your initial drive with the gamers rights and try to look at the real problems.

I think we have been very straightforward with the problems, and the ongoing resolutions since. This video from MSNBC outlines the issues with PC piracy. It's not a 'marketing' ploy.


No marketing at all, other than the whole video being a lovely trailer of Demigod. I mean, not even a second away from the gameplay...

Island Dog said,
I think we have been very straightforward with the problems, and the ongoing resolutions since. This video from MSNBC outlines the issues with PC piracy. It's not a 'marketing' ploy.


Then it is ok.

Installer Check + Steam + InGame/EngineIntegrated Server/Client Checks = No Pirates. I mean, it is easy to rips something that is on top of the game engine, but something integrated within the game engine?

Gamestop should take a chunk of the blame. I don't think the problem here is how many real copies have been sold, but the problem is that illegal users killed the servers, and legal users could not play online, even if it was just 18,000 of them. And I'm sure they sold far more copies than 18,000, lol. I honestly don't think Stardock lost any money, but made a profit, and continue to make a profit on the game. How much more they would have made without pirates, I don't know. You guys think a huge %?

iamwhoiam said,
And if all those people had been legal users the servers would have still been hit.

well, I guess they where not ready server side.

How are these people (who purchased the game legally from Gamestop) considered to be 'pirates' ? That has a bad connotation to it ...

They didnt do anything wrong.. blame Gamestop...

este said,
How are these people (who purchased the game legally from Gamestop) considered to be 'pirates' ? That has a bad connotation to it ...

They didnt do anything wrong.. blame Gamestop...


I think maybe you're misunderstanding what was being said. Gamestop released the game early. So people who had the game early were putting torrents out for the game so people who were waiting to buy it online could then get it before it was available (through impulse). Which is the problem..as far as I know. So yeah, part of the problem is Gamestops early release. I think I got that right?

I buy it if I can afford it. It makes me sad when I hear that many people pirated the game compared to that many that bought it. I know I am tight financially, I got laid off and when I was working most of my money went to child support. I think it will get worse now that the unemployment rate is so high.

Ok i pirate things myself. But i dont try to make excuses. I am stealing. It is not right. It is wrong. I do not sit here and try to defend bull-****.

This is one of those games that isn't good enough to be bought, but still manages to make us want to play it.

m.keeley said,
You could say the same about software doesn't stop it being pirate though.


Office 2007 did quite well. As did Sins of A Solar Empire, Orange Box, Call of Duty 4.....

Good Software sells.

It's really unfortunate when a company that's against DRM gets hurt. It's even more unfortunate for the game developers. They put their heart and soul into the game only for it to get bad reviews because of piracy. The whole reason developers incorporate DRM into their games is to avoid something like this. Honestly, PC gaming would be much better without rampant piracy. It's just more reason for developers to avoid the PC platform completely.

+dead.cell: You raise a good point but it's really about trust. It wasn't that big of an issue with Sins of a Solar Empire, another Stardock game. Actually, the game sold many copies within its first couple of months. It even sold more in its first month than Call of Duty 4 did in 2 months. All without any copy protection and minimal media coverage. Imagine that!

All in all, I'm sure piracy would die down if developers and publishers would cut-down on the DRM. Also, appealing to the needs of everyone instead of the hardcore PC gamers with state-of-the-art gaming PCs would go a long way in improving sales and decreasing piracy. Unfortunately, that's unlikely to happen.

I'm sorry, but that really is their own fault. It's like having a sports car sitting there on the street, doors unlocked, no alarm, hell, you don't even need a key to start it! Just turn the switch and go!

Sure, stealing a car surely isn't as easy as downloading a file, but when you add no sort of protection at all, you're really shooting yourself in the foot. Anyone willing to spend a dedicated amount of time on something should really do more to protect their investment.

I believe the general consensus from the community is that, look: protect your game, but don't start installing bullsh-- on our computers that can really screw with our system. Other games have protection built in them, but you don't see people avoiding those games, do you? So long as you're not jumping out doing what EA did with Spore or anything, we're okay.

As much as want to, I simply cannot offer any bit of sympathy for Brad, Stardock, or the developers at Gas Powered Games.

I do feel for any developer loosing money to piracy, hey I'm a developer...

But I agree with some of what you said. They don't need DRM per say to add protections to online play. Just doing a simple hash check to verify that the same user is loading the game online could help them out quite a bit.

You end up saying "I'll keep the DRM out and the pirate can play offline, but can't enjoy the added value of multiplayer" which is fair. That leaves added value that the pirated version can't match and an incentive for those who like the downloaded game to purchase the legal copy.

After all, DRM is a failure. The pirates yank it out anyway so adding it doesn't do you any good. It is seeing where you can add value for those who do legally pay without stabbing those customers at the same time.

Yes, simple online verification of online play covers the bases. Steam is very effective, for example, and I've stopped buying physical discs because of Steam.

+1 for steam, it works very well for me. If Stardock implemented the same kind of anti-copy protection that steam uses, it would reduce piracy with no effect on the end user at all.

Game makers have the right to protect their games, but a compromise is needed. IMO steam is good at that compromise.

I'm sorry but is this video really from MSNBC? The narrator sounds like a high school kid trying to be cool with a fake voice with unnatural pauses.

Seriously, it is painful to listen to.

+1, this is blog level at best. And where's the accompanying ARTICLE from MSNBC, etc? What is this, just "hosted" there or something?

Daz_wood said,
Next time they might add DRM!

It's their own fault.

I'm sure they thought of adding DRM before they launched it. Problem with DRM is that it can still bypassed with cracks while legitimate users suffer of problems because of DRM.

The best way to deal with piracy is to have CDKEY verified by the server while completely eliminating cd checks. See Diablo2/Warcraft 3 as examples. If you want single player you're welcome to get your pirated copy but if you want to enjoy battle.net goodness then you need your valid cd-key.

Obiously this cannot effectively be done for single-player only games. And requiring an internet connection to play offline single-player is retarded.

I'm still not on the DRM bandwagon just yet. I think sensible practices can render them a moot point.

Realistically DRM hurts those who actually buy the game as the pirates usually rip all that stuff out pretty easily and pretty fast.

Some people seem to forget that DRM and CD-keys are two different things.

I agree with Harbinger, that companies should only seek to restrict online multiplayer access, while leaving other things untouched.

Daz_wood said,
Next time they might add DRM!

It's their own fault.


No, they should have had a better network infrastructure to begin with. If all those people had been paying customers the situation would have still been the same...Poor planning.

iamwhoiam said,

No, they should have had a better network infrastructure to begin with. If all those people had been paying customers the situation would have still been the same...Poor planning.

If those were legitimate sales, they could at least justify upgrading their infrastructure with the revenue.

I totally agree that piracy is really frustrating. As a developer myself, I which there was a simple solution to it. For now, we will be "cross-checking" the CD-KEY with the server, and we will verify that only one IP address use the same CD-KEY at the same time. Even for single player mode. Too bad for those who don't have internet connexion.

If there is more than one IP address using the same CD-KEY at the same time. The CD-KEY will be considered as hacked and will become unsuseable until the original owner can prove he got a legitimate copy.

I hope your thinking this through fully. As a 1 IP address limit seems a bit low. You could end up hurting a lot of legitimate users. Most ISPs have dynamic IP connections so if the users router restarts or crashes he would end up causing your flag to raise until his previous IP times out...

Then you he has to contact support and wait on a reset? That sounds a bit extreme and would put me off your game.

But upping the limit to something higher. Say, 5 or 10 should cure that problem as the user should really only be using 1. Then if he has a problem and ends up throwing a second or third IP at you it won't cause an alarm or the user any problems.

The Pirated stuff will def. hit a limit of 5 easily so no worries there. The only piracy you end up letting through is casual "borrow my game" piracy, but that isn't what you have to worry about as much, I imagine (I don't do game software).

metallithrax said,
You only need 1 IP address to play at any time, that is why he said "only one IP address use the same CD-KEY at the same time".


Of course, but there would be a lag period from when the connection is dropped via something like a router reboot and the server notices it. The connection would usually have to timeout on the server side as it notices that it hasn't recieved any data in X seconds. That is the "edge case" that I was explaining as possibly happening.

As a developer you have to always think about these edge cases whenever your write software.

Now if his system is able to detect that edge case and handle it internally in a time window of a few miliseconds then he probably doesn't need to care about it. But he would still have to think about any other edge cases his customers might encounter.

His system is going to alienate users who do not have internet access. As a result, they will be forced to resort to 'piracy' in order to play the game, even if they are paying customers. It's a sad state of affairs when legitimate software owners are driven to 'piracy' by heavy-handed protection.

rheostat said,
His system is going to alienate users who do not have internet access. As a result, they will be forced to resort to 'piracy' in order to play the game, even if they are paying customers. It's a sad state of affairs when legitimate software owners are driven to 'piracy' by heavy-handed protection.

Why would you be trying to play multiplayer when you don't have internet access?

Pirated copys strip/circumvent DRM anyway. For games played offline the fact that nearly every game can be downloaded from torrents or download sites shows they have failed.

The only real protection you can do is online, such as multiplayer. Like the server will only allow the user to connect if their serial is not being used elsewhere. When a thef connects chances are someone is already connected so they get refused.

Don Matteo said,
Why would you be trying to play multiplayer when you don't have internet access?

um maybe he has a lan party goin on

I'll give it a watch when home, but after that crap they spit out about Apple costing less than a PC and etc. from an NBC station (CNBC) I'm a little leery of trusting anything they have to say.

Or, you know, you could actually watch it and perhaps judge the interview on its merits instead of judging an entire network/brand by the action of one dumb ass contributor.

Marshalus said,
Or, you know, you could actually watch it and perhaps judge the interview on its merits instead of judging an entire network/brand by the action of one dumb ass contributor.


As I said, I will watch it when home. I'm just being more sceptical based on the previous stuff I've seen come out of their network. I am not sure if I worded my response bad or not, but it was intended to clearly say I'm not judging yet.

yeah but you shouldn't judge something unless you actually watched it... terrell owens is a attention whore for the dallas cowboys, does that mean that all of the members of the cowboys are attention whores?

So now Stardock knows how it feels to release a poor game, and not have anti-piracy technology. They may not express it directly enough, but it's very easy to hear that they are infact not as "anti-copy protection" as they claim to be.

Game reviews are not usually not done after the game release, the review might be published after the game release, but that has absolutely nothing to do when they actually play the game.

The game will either have been judged from a pre-release beta version, or the final retail copy when it goes gold.

So obviously the game failed on it's poor out of the box balancing, it failed on the poor interface(Especially with the 4 weakest demigods, the generals) and it just simply failed because it didn't deliver.

It's a shame they blame pirates on not properly revolutionizing a community-made game, making this alienate all the DoTA players, and leaving new players with a shoddy game.