Todd Hollenshead of ID Software just finished a talk on piracy that Flipkin and I attended. It was a bit of a call to arms about piracy but he also dispensed information that Quake Wars : Enemy Territory has been leaked, but they're not sure how.
Turns out that every single one of ID Software's games has been leaked before shipment. In fact, the leaking of pre-release versions is such a concern that they added a hardware dongle solution that the in-progress builds of Quake Wars need to run and they are guessing this is the only reason that it hasn't been rampantly distributed on the net.
Do you believe its wrong to download an illegitimate alpha or beta of a game? Is this different that illegally getting a final version? What other possible steps could or should companies take to secure their games?
The answer lies in your question really; If the version is regarded as an illegitimate alpha or beta, then it is illegal and therefore wrong to download it and even worse to distribute it without the consent of the issuing company.
The strong fact with piracy is, that it can destroy a whole gaming scene. Look what happened to the Amiga games. Eventually they stopped producing games for the Amiga because they got pirated and distributed all over the world (via conventional mail back then) the very day the games got released! And as the software died, the machine died with it too. Sad but true. I've been an Amiga gamer and I was really bitter watching house after house abandoning the Amiga.
Dongles, smartcoding etc etc... they all get cracked after a little while, there's too much brain out there that needs a good challenge to prove themselves nowadays, cause at the end of the day that's what it is.
In my opinion the way that would eliminate a huge amount of piracy is to bring the software prices down! Let's face it, software prices are ridiculously high nowadays, they always been, but back then the games were more original than nowadays. I mean, what is the reason to pay a huge amount of cash on a game that will last only a weekend on your system?
Very recently I bought NFS Carbon, I've paid 40 euros for it. I have played it and completed it over a weekend and boy! the game was so crap that I really felt so bad, like they have stolen those 40 euros from me! And it's not the only game that got me ripped off, it's the most recent I can think of now.
Bringing the prices down creates an issue with all the packaging and stuff, but with the high speeds on the web those days they could have downloadable full versions of the games and manuals for a fraction of the full package price. Yet without so much paper and plastic being wasted on packaging this might be good for the environment as well!
Still, I doubt that piracy will ever cease to exist, as I said, it is more like a challenge to the brain rather than anything else, but with low prices on games, more gamers will be attracted in buying the full version rather than a stupid crack.
(Edited by Xantheous (1296), Mar 11, 2007)Re: Game falls into Enemy Territory
Xantheous (1296), Mar 11, 2007
They had to add a hardware dongle to their beta versions to curb the piracy? Extreme times require extreme measures I guess. I wouldn't be surprised if final products shipped with hardware dongles in the near future.
They were a real pain back in the old times. I believe that if they added them, the customers would just get annoyed. If you play more than one or two games, you would have to keep switching back and forth between different dongles which would be quite annoying.
I could see someone envisioning a "Game Tag" system, where you would have to purchase an inexpensive peripheral with a multitude of different tag slots. These slots will be populated but tags that come in retail versions of games and would be similar in function the hardware dongle that was mentioned above. It could even be taken so far as to put your saved games in this tag as a sort of PC memory card, where you can bring it to a friends house to play your game there.
Collector's Edition games might have the bonus content on the tag instead of the CD, slightly lowering the manufacturing costs by including the same set of discs with both versions. Also, this would negate the need for "cd checks" and other copy protection methods. However, if you do happen to misplace or damage your discs, I would foreseeably be easy to simply send out replacement discs for a small fee as long as you still have your original tag.
Guess it was me that just envisioned that :P Opinions?
Nah, it's the Steam/Windows way that will be the future. No peripherals, you just have to verify that you have a legitimate copy from time to time.
It won't matter. Dongle protection gets cracked too. Just ask Steinberg in regards to their dongle-protected Cubase audio software. It may make it harder, but it doesn't stop anything.
I believe that piracy's impact on gaming is greatly overstated, but yes it is a big issue. Crackers are very smart people and no system of protection is 100% secure.
I don't see much difference between downloading a leaked alpha/beta and simply stealing the full game. But if you're distributing the pirated alphas/betas you're robbing the game of a lot of impact on launch day since you're ensuring many fans will already have the game. You're ripping off studios either way.
How big of an issue is it?
A company has the right to protect its intellectual property. But at the same time, it also has the right to state that alpha version is not representative of the final product. So if someone pirates an alpha version of a game, They'll be getting something that probably will be very different from the retail version and wouldn't be as fun to play.
I'd say the main threat posed by leaked alphas comes from an industrial espionage point of view, ie. its not the pirate gamers they are worried about but other developers.
...which is a waste of time because eventually such products can be unwrapped.
The real solution is public-private key encryption, which has been around for a long time but requires the client to contact the mothership to obtain game assets and/or decryption keys, etc. Which can also eventually be cracked, which means that the true future of 100% secure anti-piracy is a constantly morphing stream from a central server. Ie. all games will be STEAM (if STEAM eventually gets enhanced). No more local bits, ever.
In my youth I would only pirate stuff that 1. I could never afford EVER, or 2. would never spend money on anyway (like crap games). Most of the pirates I knew -- and I knew nearly a thousand -- felt the same way. We certainly purchased software, and I still have most of what I bought during that time period as proof.
People blame piracy and empirically link it to dwindling sales numbers to put the blame somewhere else. Piracy didn't kill the Amiga; lack of power and features killed the Amiga. The Amiga was crazy ahead of its time in 1985 but by 1995 it had barely moved, while the IBM scene -- which also had the same piracy issues, mind you -- was incredibly profitable due to constantly advancing power and standards.
On our GDC trip, Dave tried to convince me that piracy is *solely* responsible for the death of the PC gaming scene. Considering that nvidia continues to be profitable selling PC gaming cards, and that half of the tech we saw on the expo show floor was PC-based, I'm not buying that argument. I think that PC sales have dwindled as console sales have risen and as console games have risen in quality.
PCs are now considered common appliances, like TVs; you can pick one up at Walmart for $300 to do your basic stuff minus gaming. So most consumers with game-purchasing power nowadays buy simple PCs for simple work (or Macs) and they buy consoles for gaming. That is much more of a reason for the declining numbers of PC game sales. Blaming piracy is a cop-out, because every single console can be pirated with minimal effort (hell, you can pirate PS2 games with nothing more than a butter knife without any internal mods).
Well, you can hardly pirate a graphics card. Amiga developers had the problem that many games that very extremely popular and almost everyone played had very low sales. It's not quite as bad today with PC games but still a vast majority of games never make the money back.
What finally killed the Amiga was of course the hardware: lack of power compared to PCs, lacking back compatibility of the high end models etc. But in the early to mid 90s, the Amiga was still *huge* in Europe. Millions of computers in people's homes, and those just didn't go away all of a sudden. If you read some interviews with European developers of the time, they abandoned the Amiga market because of piracy (which in turn also contributed to the end of the platform, of course). Factor 5 says they sold a few thousand copies of Turrican 2. A game everyone had and played. When they made their first console game, they sold hundreds of thousands of copies. Thalion sold Lionheart without copy protection on purpose, as a test. It failed. Game got great reviews, everyone had it, everyone played it. A year later the company was gone.
Piracy wasn't the only reason for the Amiga's downfall, but a significant one, because it made the developers abandon the machine.
I don't think that leaking pre-release versions have a significant impact on the sales of the finished product. You either just look at something like that as something interesting, seeing a half-finished product, or even getting more interested in the game, but I doubt that anyone would have a lower opinion of a game because of an unfinished, illegally obtained version.
But distributing these things is something that you just don't do, because the developers don't want you to. I find it very interesting to look at early versions of games, like 3DRealms' "LameDuke" concept of Duke Nukem 3D, or stuff from other companies who decide to show their fans such material, but if they don't, they have their reasons. Their sourcecode is what pays their bills, and having other people (competitors) peeking at your work is never a good thing.
But there are other issues involved, too. For example, technology today has become so complex that many (most?) developers rely on external libraries and modules to do specific tasks (i.e. not having to reinvent the wheel). I remember hearing about that when some alpha of Half-Life 2 leaked. They were using the licensed "Havoc" physics system, and they were mostly worried about Havoc code having leaked together with the rest of the game. I don't know how that turned out, but it would have gotten Valve into big legal trouble.
Daniel Saner Wrote:
Unfortunately, history has proven otherwise:
During the beta stage in the fall of 1983, we delivered floppy disks of "Rescue" and our other game, "Ballblazer," to Atari so their marketing department could take a look. We were a bit nervous about releasing diskettes with no copy protection, but were assured they would be kept under lock and key. About a week later, we began hearing that both games had been distributed to all the pirate bulletin boards across the country! We were all devastated. It felt like all of our hard work had gone to waste! Atari denied any responsibility for the leak, and we were never able to prove who did it. The games had working titles, "Rescue Mission" and "Ballblaster," and to this day, I know when someone had a pirate copy by how they refer to these games! [Copies with the title "Behind Jaggi Lines" were also pirated, as revealed by a letter to Electronic Games.]
I guess there's no "one size fits all" judgement we can slap on this, as it varies from game to game. If the leak is a buggy, incomplete, barely-playable hack (like Lameduke), it probably wouldn't affect sales much. But if it was a 99.99% complete version (like the beta of Shadow Warrior) I think there's a strong possibility it would. What Jim posted below is a great example of the latter.
On a side-note, I've heard that there's a "LamePrey" out there, dating from the time when Prey was still using the Quake 2 engine. I wonder if they'll ever release it...
We didn't have many bugs back then in the good ol'days, Trixter.
300 MB for a patch. Bite me.
Indra was here Wrote:
Yeah, you just formatted over the diskette because it didn't work. No patch available.
I'll keep my response concise; I fail to see the problem in downloading the alpha or beta version of a game.
When one downloads either one of these builds, they are downloading an unpolished, unfinished, disjointed, and bug-ridden tripe...not the final version of the game as the developers intended. Even then, many games don't ever seem to make it out this stage these days, and it takes patch after bleedin' patch to actually receive the "final version" I already paid for two years previous (hence the reason I don't purchase any game nowadays until at least two patches have been released). Downloading the alpha/beta builds isn't an issue of morality to me, so much as it is wasting my time and bandwidth on an unfinished mess.
So yes, I do think that downloading the alpha/beta is quite different than the final version.
Downloading an alpha/beta PC game in this day and age? You got to be kidding me. The game will probably crash 3 minutes during or after installation :)
Ronald Diemicke Wrote:
Simple, most network security implementations are woefully inadequate today. So few implement "defense in depth" with multiple layers, host/network IDS (let alone IDS logs that actually get checked), etc... Every user wants to do everything from 1 system, not deal with multiple security levels, different privileges, etc...
Virtually all compromises are initiated a user on a corporate network themselves. Most of them come through non-technical users. It's beyond just phishing and other things, but well-known (among black/gray hat) holes in the automation of MS IE and Outlook -- things Microsoft can't (and won't) close because it would destroy the automation built into Windows. Things many security experts have been warning Microsoft about in the inherit design of the NT/Windows executive as well common Win32 libraries (especially all the DLLs now at the core of NT/Widnows thanx to MS IE, which wasn't designed for NT, but DOS-based Win9x) since the mid-'90s.
It's how Valve was hacked, not through a developer, but an executive.
And it was not merely that Valve was hacked, but they were hacked for months, and didn't know it. There is no greater liability than to be hacked and not know it, yet this is how companies have been compromised again and again for the last half-decade. Major financial and defense institutions are no exception -- and where I've professional made most of my consulting dollars over the last half-decade.
All it takes is but 1 remote access account and you're typically into 99% of most companies. Because they have users and -- worse yet -- executives who don't want to deal with multiple privilege levels and security processes. They want total control over their system, which means anyone who compromises their access has the same. So it doesn't surprise me. Much like the Valve hack didn't either -- especially when it was detailed that they had been compromised through an executive's system months earlier and didn't know it.