School Survival

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Copy protection is disrespectful - pirates are heroes!

Annoying your customers does not make them want to buy your stuff.
by SoulRiser

I bought Quake 2 by iD quite a few years ago. I used to hang out in discussion newsgroups for the game. Every time some guy would post there and ask for a crack to disable the CD check, most of the other people there would jump on this person and berate them for being a filthy pirate who is evil and immoral and should pay for games because that's the right thing to do. This pissed me off immensely. These idiots obviously all take the time and effort to put the disc in the drive every time they play it, wait for it to spin up and check some files, and then play the game. They also obviously swap the disc with other game discs every time they want to play something else. Really? Who does that? Who DOESN'T want a crack to disable all this pointless disc swapping? After patching the game a few times, iD released a patch to disable the CD check, effectively disabling all the copy protection. I gained a lot of respect for them because of that.

I don't get why people bother to put disc checks on games in the first place. If you expect people to put the disc in every time just to play the game, you're wasting their time and yours, because if it hasn't already been cracked, it soon will be. And then where has all your copy protection gone? Poof.

But they're not that dumb. They came up with other ways to prevent people from copying things easily. Let's take Microsoft Windows as an example here. Yes, I know it's not a game. You can install XP and it will run fine for 30 days, and then you have to phone Microsoft and activate your copy. That works in theory. But it's just another hoop for people who actually want to pay for things to jump through. To make things even better, they limited the amount of times you can activate it. Also, if you change enough of your hardware, XP will think you're using it on a different computer and will insist that you activate it again. Guess what? The pirated version of Windows is better - it doesn't do any of this crap. Microsoft is just ripping off the people who are actually willing to pay them for something. And there are suprisingly few people who are WILLING to pay Microsoft for anything. Care to guess why?

Let's take EA Games as another fine example. They decided to go and encode NFS Carbon's CDkey into your savegame, making you unable to load other people's savegames. What for, I have no idea. All this achieves is to annoy the crap out of anyone who wants to let someone else check out their cars. People did eventually find a way to crack that too. EA games also doesn't seem to like fixing bugs much, because NFS Carbon STILL crashes a lot. Especially in the last few races of the game where you CANNOT save. Thanks EA, maybe now you understand why so many people hate your guts? No? Ah what the hell, you're not even reading this. If you're making it hard for people to do simple things like trade savegames with each other, that's just pointless and disrespectful.

How about Valve. I actually like them. I don't blame them for making Steam, because getting games published onto CD/DVD and all that costs a lot of money, and the actual developers don't get paid much (the publisher takes between 70% and 90% of the profits - more on that later). But if Steam wasn't as annoying as it is, this paragraph would not be here and I'd have absolutely no gripes with Valve whatsoever. If you bought the DVD version of HL2 or CSS... guess what? You can't just install it and play it (not even by yourself, offline and all alone). You have to update everything over Steam first. I know of one guy who bought the DVD and ended up downloading another DVD's worth of updates before he could play. And this was over a 56k modem! The cracked version doesn't require any of that updating nonsense.

And let's not forget the wonderful idea someone came up with to force people to authorize their CDkey over the internet when they want to play over a LAN. Like, hello? Not everyone on a LAN has internet access you know. People come from far and wide carrying their computers to large halls with NO internet access whatsoever. But hey, people cracked that too... mostly. But in some cases it causes people to waste immense amounts of disk space keeping seperate copies of games for online and offline play. Counter-Strike Source comes to mind, and that would be due to Steam's lovely idea of making sure the game can't run without it and it's updates. But hey, at least Counter-Strike Source HAS a LAN feature. EA can't seem to be bothered to include that in their games anymore, and sadly nobody managed to make a LAN patch for Carbon, because the game had too many server authenticating things coded into it.

I don't blame game developers for being angry about being cheated out of their money. But their anger is misplaced. The biggest factor preventing them from making more money is the fact that the publishers take such a high percentage of the profits. If you're a relatively well known developer, you might get 30% of the profits if you're lucky. If you're just starting out, you'll probably only get 10%. This is why new ideas in games are so rare, and it's mostly just the same bunch of developers making sequels to games that sell well, and then blaming pirates for their lack of fortune. I think developers should get AT LEAST 50%. Sure, the publishers do all the marketing and packaging, and that costs money too, but if it wasn't for the developer, they'd have nothing to market or package in the first place. Instead of being grateful for the opportunity to help a developer get their game out there, they just use and abuse them for profit.

The more I think about this whole scenario, the more I can't help but think of crackers as heroes. Crackers see all these pointless and annoying "protections" and simply disable them. They're the ones helping out the end user the most. And what do they get for their efforts? Nothing, except arrested if they are caught.

It's all about respect, really. I'll make a bold statement here, and this goes for both publishers and developers: If you're screwing someone over for the sake of profit, you don't deserve that profit, and I hope the pirates sink your ship.


Written by: SoulRiser
28 October 2007

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