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And now, back to your regularly scheduled ranting.

Posted by ApochPiQ, 16 March 2006 · 219 views

For those who are getting linked here from who knows where - please read the follow-up post after this one. It makes things much more clear I think.


I've been reading up on the StarForce/Galactic Civilization II scandal this afternoon. I find the whole thing disgusting on several fronts. First and foremost, what StarForce did is obviously reprehensible and someone deserves to bleed (as in literal physical blood) for that kind of scummy behavior.

However, the more important issue here is that these calls for StarForce boycotts need to stop.


Now, lest I give the wrong impression, let me be clear about why this bugs me: as I read through dozens of pages of blogs, blog comments, news articles (to use the term loosely), and various forum postings, I see a lot of mention of boycotting StarForce and StarForce-protected games. One of the games that comes up quite often is X3. I literally can no longer count the number of people I've seen claiming to have not bought games like X3 simply because of StarForce's involvement. So, up-front, let me be perfectly clear that I'm pissed about this because it affects me, personally.


So I hope you understand me perfectly when I say that that kind of attitude is only slightly less scummy than StarForce's. That's a strong statement for me to make, so let me explain my position.

Most boycott activists whine about StarForce supposedly being invasive, incompatible, unstable, and so on. That was true - at one point in time. However, the current generation of their software is vastly improved from what it once was. It properly cleans up after itself (in most cases), does not have severe effects on performance (I've run protected and unprotected builds of X3 side by side, with a negligible difference in performance, and only a slight increase in load times), is far more compatible (based on technical support queries in the Egosoft forums), and I've yet to see any evidence whatsoever that the current generation is unstable.

The bottom line is that, in the current generation, there's vanishingly little reason to "hate" StarForce except on a purely philosophical level. I'm a professional game developer, for Bob's sake, and I hate the notion of copy protection. But I also realize that it is, more or less, a necessary evil these days.

The boycotters seem to believe that, by not buying protected games, they directly "injure" the protection companies like StarForce. It doesn't take much common sense to figure out that this is entirely ludicrous. They still get a very healthy cut. They're probably going to use reduced sales as "proof" of piracy, not as evidence that people hate their protection schemes. And they're certainly not going to shut themselves down and go out of business just because some people don't think they should exist. Wake up and join reality, folks - boycott activism rarely makes a real, positive difference.


It does make a real, negative difference, though. The most dangerous are the people who buy the games, and then crack them to bypass the protection schemes. I won't argue whether or not it is "acceptable" for someone to do this - but it is an idiotic behavior. It seems unfashionable in this day and age to consider the consequences of one's actions. Most of these "legit crackers" are serving only to escalate an arms race. Sure, the pirates themselves contribute to the escalation, but it would go a lot slower if the users would quit using cracks.

Arguably, at this point, it's too late. The activists have created a self-fulfilling prophecy. "I crack this game because protection schemes are too invasive." So the companies have to go and create more invasive, more "effective" schemes to retaliate. Can't you guys see you're digging your own graves deeper here?


All that is gravy, though. What really bugs me is how short-sighted and ignorant most of the activists are. At Egosoft, we use StarForce primarily at our publishers' insistence. Anyone with even passing familiarity with the game industry knows that publishers hold the power. We sell a niche game, one that struggles to even get shelf space next to more "famous" and money-laden publishers - even when their games are bilge. We had to fight hard to get a publishing deal at all. We either make some concessions to sell the game, or we don't sell it at all.

Most importantly, though, is what the hot-headed, ignorant, short-sighted boycott weenies do to sales. Every time you refuse to buy a game, you're not hurting StarForce. StarForce is going to make a boatload of money no matter what you do. You would literally have to boycott the entire games industry into nonexistence, and rebuild the entire industry from the ground up, to get them to go away - and you know what? Another one is just going to spring up to take their place. It's stupid - patently moronic - to believe that a boycott movement will ever really change things for the better.

You're not hurting StarForce. You're hurting the game developers. You're hurting us, on our small and relatively unknown team. Suppose the anti-StarForce mob successfully "prevents," say, 10,000 sales of X3. The publishers then compare us to other titles, which (maybe on merit, and maybe just on publicity) have sold better. Guess whose contract gets the axe? Guess who still sells copy protection by the boatload, blissfully unaffected? Guess who really goes out of business?

You may think you're pissing all over The Evil Greedy Corporations, but they're smarter than you are. They know how to duck. You're not getting your urine all over them, you're hosing us.

This lunacy isn't fixing the problem of rampant, excessive copy-protection. It's killing the small guys, the underdogs. Your religious fanatical war is slaughtering innocent bystanders by the millions while the real enemy laughs at you from inside their impenetrable bunkers - and just sits back and escalates the carnage still further when you refuse to back down.


The whole issue of piracy really comes down to respecting developers enough to support them for making a game. Yes, there are peripheral issues and other things that get lumped under the same banner, but that's really what it's all about, in the end. And yet people have gone so far that they're missing the forest for the trees. You may claim, on the surface, to be fighting for the rights of developers and consumers to live in a world free of ridiculous copy-protection schemes.

But when it all adds up, you're screwing the developers, too - and maybe even contributing to the death of the small-time studios out there. You're not even making the consumer's side of things better, either, because it just sparks an escalation that shows no signs of slowing down.



All of this craziness is supposed to keep pirates from destroying the creators of legitimate works like games. But, in the end, I don't think pirates are anywhere near as much of a threat as the supposedly upstanding consumers that are fuelling this war.




Can't say I disagree with you... but the sad truth is that consumers will probably always think that they're "Sticking It To The Man" by boycotting things [rolleyes]

This sort of thing usually make me want to go and beat some sense into customers. But I've been warned that beating up customers isn't much better for sales...

Jack
[opinion follows]

I certainly don't agree with the boycott bandwagon, I certainly don't expect people to sit idly while their ability to actually use their computers is taken from them. I certainly wouldn't expect people to trust Starforce after being bitten once.

Copy protection mechanisms have never worked. We've 20+ years of data to show it. Blame your publishers for making a boneheaded decision, not consumers for making a reasonable one.
The question is, does your publisher know whether StarForce is "evil" and will cost them sales alone? If not, any drop in sales will just look like "Hey, that ApochPIQ made a shitty game and there are no sales coming out of it".

FYI: StarForce (the company) does tons of scummy things. They have a deal where they'll pay you $10 000 if you can prove that it breaks things, but the only problem is that you have to fly out (on your own dime) to Russia to prove it, and they make you do it on a bare-skeleton install of Windows.

There's this GalCivII thing, which is just slightly close to extortion, and facilitating theft (and showing that they're willing to encourage as much illegal behaviour as possible so they can sell more products -- I doubt it was localized to this single moderator).

I completely respect your need to be paid, that's why I bought the game. However, if customers don't buy your game because of StarForce, and hurt you, the developer, that's a tragedy -- and you need to let your publisher know that. They need to know that because of one of their decisions, the software they are financing (in whole or part) is losing potential sales because of a product they have installed to prevent the loss of potential sales.

Now, if people are pirating the game to get around StarForce and just not buying it period, then I have an absolute problem with that -- they're pirating cunts and deserve the chair.

However, if the consumer is looking at two games on the shelf, and one has StarForce and one does not, and the consumer goes "StarForce is bullshit" and buys the other game, that's fully within his rights as a consumer, because honestly StarForce is bullshit. It's not up front about what it does at all, and while I'm sure it is getting improved all the time, it's not perfect, nor will it ever be. Consumers are starting to balk at user-hostile content-protection systems like StarForce and the SonyBMG garbage, and unfortunately the content providers are getting caught in the middle by clueless dumbshit middlemen and newly-hostile consumers.

Regarding the boycott witch-hunt, I don't know if it's the right thing to do. I do like providing public information so we now know which games contain StarForce: at least four of the games on the Boycott StarForce page have been purchased by me without any knowledge of what StarForce would do to my computer, or even that StarForce was inside the product, or even that there was copy protection software in the first place. Naturally, if it destroys my computer, I'm going to assume it was the game.

Boycotting all games with StarForce is rather extreme: knowing which ones have it or not is a much better solution.
I don't agree with this at all, and frankly I find it extremely short-sighted.

First of all I'd like to state that I know full well where you're coming from. I'm a game developer myself (albeit for handheld consoles, so this issue doesn't really crop up) and I do agree with your sentiments.

Pirating and boycotting both effect your bottom line. Less games will be sold, which will also effect your future business at whichever publisher you are now (and probably future publishers as well). As such it has a direct negative effect on your income now (and possibly the future).

However, take a look at the game you mentioned, Galactic Civilisations II. It has no protection. Yet it seems to be selling extremely well for a niche game. So the loop you mention (consumers pirating games -> copy protection schemes become more draconian -> consumers pirate more games -> ...) can certainly be broken.

Obviously in the short term a boycott will not effect Starforce in any way (I'm assuming they get a lump sum pay for the protection scheme, and not a percentage of every sale made). It may indeed hurt the publisher and thus you. For this game you may have had no choice on the copy-protection scheme, but this does not necessarily apply to the next game. Nor should you stand by idly. You should make your publisher aware of the issues with Starforce and forcibly show them that by using that copy-protection they are affecting their sales.

I'd like to reiterate what Ravuya said: if there's two games I like, X3 being one, and another space game not using Starforce, and I choose to buy the other one because of the Starforce protection on X3, then it is not the boycott effecting that sale, nor the pirates. It is the choice of your publisher to use a copy-protection that might not be entirely user-friendly.

Why should I buy a game which uses a copy-protection I don't trust, just to support the developer? I'll also be supporting a publisher who foists some ugly piece of software on me (the copy-protection, not the game), and a developer of crappy copy-protection.

About that fact that Starforce is better now that it used to be. I wouldn't know about that, so it's certainly possible. But do remember that anyone who was burnt by them before isn't buying your game now. So their past practices have also cost you sales.

As a final note, I do totally agree that pirating is not allowed in any case either, and I'm not argueing that at all.
I'm sorry, but as a developer too, and although i can really feel the pain for you, your company and your loss of sales, i agree with the other posters.

To me it doesn't matter if Starforce is a copy protection system or something else. It could be some other middleware. Let's say a networking library. If that networking library was not stable and disconnected some users randomly, the customers would be angry at the poor networking performance and decide not to buy the game. The fact that you haven't developped that third-party library doesn't prevent the fact that it's been included in the game and that it negatively affected the player's experience. If they choose not to buy the game, can you blame them ? They see it as a "whole", and they're probably not even remotely interested (nor should they) in who developped what.

Y.
Anonymous Poster
Mar 18 2006 03:30 AM
Simply it is yours and your publishers fault!

When you use StarForce, than you must life with the loose in sells.
It's your (developer and publisher) decision to use this protection, so it's the customers decision to buy it or not.

With your text here, I don't understand that you shit on the customers. That's a real bad behavior.

When you think that boycotts are not the right way, it's their right. And when you think that they can not change it, you can do more than they! You are at the source, so stop this crying and do something.
Anonymous Poster
Apr 20 2006 11:41 AM
"You're not hurting StarForce. You're hurting the game developers. You're hurting us, on our small and relatively unknown team."

Oh really? Ubisoft have cut Starforce and boycotters played a major part in tht decision. You think that didn't hurt Starforce?

You cannot simply dump all this on the publishers. Are you seriously telling me that every single publisher interested in your game INSISTED on Starforce? If so, then you clearly did not produce a sufficiently impressive title to either a) attract enough interest or b) force them to listen to your concerns. That is YOUR problem. Don't try and blame us end users who don't want to install some POS copy protection that might damage our systems (it might not too, but why the hell should we take that risk just because you're too weak to find a publisher that won't use it?)

Also, if you'd produced a game which was really, genuinely a sequel rather than just a VERY NEARLY IDENTICAL game with (admittedly much) prettier graphics, you'd have found an awful lot of the "semi-serious" boycotters would have let go of their anti stance for the new "must have" title.
Anonymous Poster
Apr 20 2006 01:39 PM
I own X2 and X3, but alas X3 is sitting on my shelf waiting for the day that a "official" patch is released by Egosoft that lets me play it without Starforce..

I have lost a DVD writer due to Starforce, and will NEVER put another game on my system that contains it..

I bought X3 because I wanted to support Egosoft since they are only a small group of developers, but it disappoints me greatly that Egosoft let the publishers demand they use Starforce..

Hopefully with the Law Suit being filed against UBIsoft and now the announcement by UBISoft themselves they are dropping Starforce all-together, along with Aspyr Media, who have stated that they will no longer be using Starforce, as well as other publishers/developers maybe Egosofts publishers will see that continuing to insist on Starforce is NOT a good way to go..
Anonymous Poster
Apr 20 2006 02:14 PM
Copy protection only hurt the honest people. People who pirate the games and crack them are not effected. Copy protection is usually gone before the games ever gets to their hard drive. Honest people suffer with the incompatibility, instability, 25 digit keys they have to enter, and the rest of the crap the 'publishers' want to throw at them. I dont support StarForce from a privacy and security standpoint as much as a computer software/hardware incompatibility point of view. If you dont like us boycotting your games, sending you out of business, force your publisher to drop StarForce.
Ubisoft dropped it, so you have precidence. I have had many games I have purchesed not work until I 'cracked' them. I dont know why that is, but bugger off if you expect me to pay $AU100 and not play the game because it tells me the disk is not inserted when it is quite clearly there.
If you want people to stop pirating games, games need to sell for cheaper. 1/4 of someones pay is to much for a game. If games sold for $AU50 (about $30 US) people would be a lot more likly to just buy games, but at $AU100 its far to prohibitive. But you blame pirates for the high cost, well guess what, keeping the price high is no incentive to buy it and stop piracey, and the further you raise the price the higher the piracey rate will climb.
I dont pirate my games, I own all of about 6, and play games I have purchsed against people online (I only buy games that have a possible long term multiplayer aspect, why pay all that money for 7 or 8 hours game time?).
I do however use a no-cd patch on some of them, because they flat out will not run unless you do. Also I travel a lot, who wants to lug all their cds with them? Risking breakage, scratches and theft.
Anonymous Poster
Apr 20 2006 05:43 PM
So you're saying that what StarForce does is wrong, yet you're ranking on customers because they choose not to buy products that are "protected" with StarForce? Make up your mind already!

And telling potential customers that they're "pissing you off" because they don't want a copy protection like StarForce on their system isn't exactly the best PR move in the book. It reminds me of something a certain "Dr." Smart would do, actually...
Anonymous Poster
Apr 20 2006 06:11 PM
"The whole issue of piracy really comes down to respecting developers enough to support them for making a game."

And what about YOU (developpers) respecting your CUSTOMERS first, in refusing to implement things like StarForce in your game? Look at StarDock, they respect consumers, and they get a lot of respect for that.


And, let's assume that indeed the boycott does nothing to StarForce, and nothing for consumers: now, consumers then have two choices:
- stop buying SF protected title, and don't compromise their computer
- keep buying SF protected title and put their computer at risk, in the end paying to have their computer screwed, and hope that one day publishers will stop using that crap or other intrusive things?

In saying people keep buying SF protected games and shit on them because they don't, you cleary show that you don't deserve any of the respect you ask for. Do you really expect consumers to respect you when you cleary have no respect for them at all? You need to deserve respect to be respected, and shitting on those who you want respect from is the best way not to get it.

And as someone said earlier, maybe the boycott by the consumers have next to no effect on SF. You, as a developper, can have a much greater impact, as long as you want to do something and not only expect your consumers keep paying for your game when it forces dangerous unwanted crap on their computer.

Oh, and as for your difficulty to find a publisher: any developper can have a contract with StarDock to release their game via TotalGaming.net, so the only thing you might need in fact, is an editor (the one who will pay for the game development), as you can choose TotalGaming.net as a publisher, see http://totalgaming.stardock.com/developers.aspx

Sorry for the agressivity, but this is how I feel after reading this, as a consumer who cares for the computer he spent lots of money in and don't want it to be screwed.
Anonymous Poster
Apr 20 2006 07:23 PM
Ok, some points here for ApochPiq.

"Most boycott activists whine about StarForce supposedly being invasive, incompatible, unstable, and so on. That was true - at one point in time"

WRONG. Look at all the messages on games forums and you will see that NEWER versions of SF cause problems. The NEWER versions of SF (installed and updated when GT Legends demo was installed) are the ones which caused my DVD drive failure and possibly have caused a problem with my IDE card.

"boycott activism rarely makes a real, positive difference."

Really? Seems to have worked with Ubisoft/Aspyr. No doubt others will follow.

"The most dangerous are the people who buy the games, and then crack them to bypass the protection schemes"

How many people can do that. Your average gamer cannot. Since many games have cracks out soon after their release, or even BEFORE the release, then surely that means that the code must have been leaked or given to the cracking groups since I doubt that sort of thing can be done in a few hours after they BUY a game.

"We had to fight hard to get a publishing deal at all. We either make some concessions to sell the game, or we don't sell it at all.

Make decent games that will sell quickly then. Come to think of it, isn't X3 pretty popular because of X2? If it is popular, then you can say NO to starfarce and go somewhere else if they refuse.

"The whole issue of piracy really comes down to respecting developers enough to support them for making a game"

We, the gaming community, do that. We'll buy any game which is good. If it isn't, then that is your fault. But what about some respect for US, by not using a so-called copyright protection scheme which can "break" our PC's?

"All of this craziness is supposed to keep pirates from destroying the creators of legitimate works like games. But, in the end, I don't think pirates are anywhere near as much of a threat as the supposedly upstanding consumers that are fuelling this war."

Well done, you have just realised that the consumer has a voice. You see, there is a problem here. People with a little technical knowledge can cure SF problems. But most cannot. They have to take their PC to a repair shop, spend a hundred bucks or more, just because of YOUR GAME. THAT is why people vote with their wallets and refuse to buy SF protected games, there is too much of a risk to them. Drop SF for a SAFER copyright protection scheme, and you will have no complaints whatsoever. Doesn't take a computer programmer to figure that one out.

Your comments here are the ones that disgust me. The failures of yourselves and your publishers are the real issue here. You have failed to listen to the people who matter the most, your CUSTOMERS. We pay your wages, you would be nothing without us. Your software causes many, documented issues on PC's because of the inclusion of starforce. Despite the complaints, you continue using it and therefore tell us to "Piss Off". A nice attitude to your "fans". That attitude only does one thing, it makes us do the same to you. Well, done, you've managed to fire another bullet into your foot here.
Anonymous Poster
Apr 21 2006 01:32 AM
I bought X3, I used it and didn't affect my machine. My son loves it so much he eneded damaging the DVD (ran over it in chair on tiles). I don't have the receipt (long gone in the trash). Cannot get a new disc without purchasing a full copy.

Now if I was allowed to backup the disc (by the way the law here in Australia allows me to do this)I could still continue to play this wonderful game but with Starforce it sucks.

I will not buy another game with Starforce included and frankly it is my decision and don't give a damn what developers feel as it is my right to choose.

Just like is was the developers and publishers right to CHOOSE starforce protection.

Dave
Anonymous Poster
Apr 21 2006 06:00 AM
It’s all about greed. I might be showing my age when I remember…

Buying PC Gamer and it was the size of a telephone book and had a CD packed with about 10+ demos.

Games came out with lots of patches and upgrades for FREE.

After about 5 months or so a game dropped to $20 (now it’s 3 and a year or so later down to $20).

Expansion packs came out at $20 (now its $30 with less features then when they were $20).

When games were actually good and replay able (not so focused on graphics).

I will mention Galactic Civilization 2 and the publisher Paradox as exemptions. These points listed above bother me on top of those changes now I have to worry about a game being compatible because of copy protection and upgrading that. I just purchased a brand new computer and I want to avoid all the problems with my other computers (viruses, CP, and their ilk).

Most publishers seem to be stuck in the 90's when you could exchange or refund PC Games at EB Games (or any store for that matter)without a second thought. The real problem is the countries like Brazil, China, and Russia where pirating is not looked at like a crime. Not the punk teenages that couldn't buy the game anyway. The only people you hurt with CP is the people that go out and spend $50 on a game like me.
Anonymous Poster
Apr 22 2006 01:34 AM
First of all thank you for shering your thoughts on the subject. Im sad to say you are looking at it the wrong way:) But all the other have pointed that out to you. Im boycotting sf becuse its stupidety for you to use it. And well i support boycotting and im sad to say so i hope egsoft gose broke. And here is the realy nice thing i realy was planing on buying x3 but becuse of sf i realy dont care if you made the best game in the world.

You seem to forget whos boss her mister developer:) Its us not you or youre publiseher, its the market and we dont want sf so learn to live withe it!
Anonymous Poster
Apr 22 2006 04:36 AM
You article made me so angry that I decided to put a video of a PC rebooting because of the X3 Starforce protection on the boycott page.

I make money, and even with a 20Mbps DSL, I buy games. You really have a low estime of your customers...

Check out the video on glop.org/starforce not too far from the broken trackmania CD ;)
Anonymous Poster
Apr 22 2006 04:38 AM
"The boycotters seem to believe that, by not buying protected games, they directly "injure" the protection companies like StarForce. It doesn't take much common sense to figure out that this is entirely ludicrous."

Guy, I understand that you're saying you're a developer, so such an action would take money out of your pocket, but wow, you cannot be so biased as to really believe what you're saying, can you? Yes it DOES 'injure' Starforce. No fan is out here to, e.g., destroy Ubisoft. We're out here to stop the use of Starforce.

If you can't handle that a "necessary evil" (nonsense) in your line of work pisses buyers off and they therefore boycott your product and you lose money... find a new line of work. There are plenty of options out there.

"What really bugs me is how short-sighted and ignorant most of the activists are. At Egosoft, we use StarForce primarily at our publishers' insistence."

Frankly, you are ignorant, for thinking we give a damn. We target the product - we don't care if boo-hoo, your publisher is making you do it. Find a new publisher, dick. And if it's so hard to find one, perhaps try revising your product so it is actually attractive to investors. Don't go blaming us if your product is shit and so no publisher wants it.

"Suppose the anti-StarForce mob successfully "prevents," say, 10,000 sales of X3. The publishers then compare us to other titles, which (maybe on merit, and maybe just on publicity) have sold better. Guess whose contract gets the axe? Guess who still sells copy protection by the boatload, blissfully unaffected? Guess who really goes out of business?"

You; no one eventually; and you?

To summarize:

1. make a product that's worth a damn
2. sell it to a publisher who doesn't force SF on you (there are plenty)
3. count your profits

-or-

1. whine like a little pussy because the world isn't all roses and cookies and hands you a happy life for nothing

Read the news dopey and get with the times.
I'm not sure where this got linked from, but if you're here from wherever that was, be sure to read the followup post as well - it clarifies quite a few things.

I appreciate all the comments - but suffice it to say most of you clearly have no comprehension whatsoever of how the game industry works. That's very unfortunate, because it leads to precisely the kind of situation that we're in now. I wish there was more publicity over how the industry is run, because I honestly think that if most people realized just how skewed the power is towards the publishers, you might understand the predicament of niche developers such as myself.

Hopefully the Ubisoft drop of StarForce will start generating good effects in the rest of the publishing land. We'll have to see. I honestly wish it were so black and white, but it isn't.

In any case, all we can really do is keep working, and hope that we can continue to deliver our work to people in an effective and productive way.

But definitely check out the follow-up post.
Anonymous Poster
Apr 22 2006 11:57 AM
Noone has the right to manipulate MY hardware configuration in a questionable way, unless i choose to do so.

When i buy a game i want to be able to make any modifications to it necessary for me to enjoy it as i choose to. For this reason i'm boycotting Starforce protected games along with thousand other gamers in hope that companies will follow UBIsoft in dropping Starforce.

I do not support selling or trading pirate versions of games and i'm strongly opposed to anyone who is profiting from the hard work of others, but enough is enough.

No matter how many protection schemes you come up with, noone can stop evolution and bypassing them within a short period. Starforce may be a hard protection to bypass, but it still is just a protection that will be broken.

As for now we shall go with the "Alexandrian solution". If we cant "untie" your protection we shall "cut" it.
Anonymous Poster
Apr 23 2006 02:34 AM
I can see where the frustration comes from, but I am actively boycotting Starforce none the less.

This protection software has caused my DVD writer to fail in such a way that it still appeared to burn correctly but actually corrupted the files.

So when I bought a new PC and archived off valuable photographs of my new son and a family pet which had just died only to find that some of the files were fine and others have CRC errors, you can imagine how miffed I was.

Even though SF's tech support have got X3 running for me with no CD, I still am not prepared to take the risk of having that P.o.S. on my PC and I am still angry about the problems it causes.

The latest versions of SF still cause problems and regularly put my DVD drives into PIO mode which is what causes the burning problems that I have had.

I know that the drive failure is due to SF, because I can replicate it on 2 machines, Intel and Athlon in my house and once this was reported to SF, they didn't deny it all but instead had me trying several versions of their software to stop it checking the DVD drive.

I appreciate it's frustrating that your title isn't selling, however it's driven by your publishers insistence on using SF.

You have the potential to influence the protection system used on your products, especially if you can demonstrate the negative impact it's having on sales, I however am unable to retrieve valuable family photographs lost through the installation of intrusive copy protection software which doesn't work.

Until SF is sorted, X3 can stay on my shelf and I'm taking great care to not purchase SF protected games given the amount of frustration it has caused me.

If you're basing the success of the latest SF protection through your tech support and lack of calls made to them, then I would also give it a while, they appear to work on a geological timescale, having not received any correspondence from them since my contact with them logging the above problems 2 weeks ago.
Anonymous Poster
Apr 23 2006 03:54 PM
"I appreciate all the comments - but suffice it to say most of you clearly have no comprehension whatsoever of how the game industry works. That's very unfortunate, because it leads to precisely the kind of situation that we're in now. I wish there was more publicity over how the industry is run, because I honestly think that if most people realized just how skewed the power is towards the publishers, you might understand the predicament of niche developers such as myself."

that's a load of BS. i hope you agree that the market of "serious" racing simulations is a niche. but non of the contestants of high esteem like ISI (rFactor), the developers of Live for Speed (basically three guys) or netKarPro (also very small development team, long time freeware project first developed by only one guy) wanted to compromise their ideas and hard work (and maybe ideals) just to being told by a publisher to make their stuff more flashy/arcardey/put in whatever you want/different to what they had in mind. hence they went/stayed indie, selling their products directly via net.
the point here is, whatever the environment looks like, you DO have a choice, wether you like it or not. the question here is: do you have the guts to make a decision at all, or do you stay on your lazy ass doing nothing (like most of the people do, me included). cmon dood, do you really want to make us believe, that you're sooo a slave to the "almighty" industry you're talking about. if so, i'm sorry.
Anonymous Poster
Apr 23 2006 05:50 PM
Maybe if you made a game that didn't suck you'd have a legitimate reason to complain about low sales. As it stands, your game sucks. Badly. You have no one to blame but yourself.

Reap what you sow.
Anonymous Poster
Apr 23 2006 05:52 PM
P.S. I want my money back. If I knew how bad your game was going to be I wouldn't have bought it in the first place, but then it's my fault for not waiting for the reviews.
Anonymous Poster
Apr 24 2006 08:57 AM
(Poster : IvanT)
There are a great number of points you make which are both valid and coherent. From the point of someone who is a) a writer and not a coder b) understands enough about computers to build one, the whole Starforce debacle is something that has hit home on some basic level.

All I know is that when an application, or driver, or any segment of code behaves in such a manner that its operation causes degradation or failure of a component through its interaction with it, logic would suggest that its removal would be of primary concern.

My own personal experience revolves around Splinter Cell 1, Starforce, and two sadly very dead Plextor drives (both read but no longer write). That they were damaged by SF is a moot point. That my system was able to return to being able to use Nero and burn media essential to my job as a writer, after having removed SF, is however, not a moot point. For me, I took the path, and perhaps an extreme one, of completely eradicating the component that caused me issues, SF.

This doesn't mean I am boycotting SF games, I still am and have bought SF games, X3 included. I'd love to see MS work with SF to perhaps WHQL certify their dlls. My personal opinion precludes me from not playing them however until the publisher releases a no-cd patch. If they do, great, if not, well I have a very expensive coaster. I'd be more inclined to allow a WHQL certified SF onto my system than a driver which wasn't. Either way, the choice is mine. Perhaps not the smartest one, but mine nonetheless. Isn't that what this is all about, choice?
-IvanT
Anonymous Poster
Apr 24 2006 11:17 PM
as we boycotters know
SF sux !!!
SF wreak our machine !!!
SF totally a pile of shit !!!

u stupid developers who use SF in your games
and u expect us to pay to wreak our machine ???


Anonymous Poster
Apr 27 2006 02:05 PM
Treating paying customers like criminals while the pirates get around the so called protection system by the time the game hits the store shelves is deplorable.

Making it difficult for a paying customer to play multiple games by requiring a CD to be inserted is ridiculous.

Inconviencing a paying customer is not acceptable no matter the perceived benefit to the publisher.

Now, I bought X3 knowing that starforce was on it. And I detest starforce. But I wanted to play the game more. And as buggy as it was I did enjoy it for a time. But I am much happier to pay Stardock directly for 10 tokens to play one of their games. And I am much happier and I can play it, CoD2 and America's Army (though that is free...) at whim whenever I want to.

I am the one paying for your dinner! (And your publisher) Not the person that pirated the game. Respect ME!!! Fail to do so when I respected you with my dollar and you only have yourself to blame when I do not respect you... with my next dollar.
Anonymous Poster
Apr 27 2006 05:14 PM
Hey Apoch?

Whatever happened to The Customer Is Always Right? Remember that saying?

Quote : "I literally can no longer count the number of people I've seen claiming to have not bought games like X3 simply because of StarForce's involvement. So I hope you understand me perfectly when I say that that kind of attitude is only slightly less scummy than StarForce's" /Quote.

Really? Someone deciding not to spend THEIR money on your game for whatever reason whatsoever, and you call it scummy? You have some extremely peculiar issues with entitlement. The world doesn't OWE you anything, no matter how much you seem to think it does. If people don't want to buy your game because your damn box is black, that's their prerogative. It's CERTAINLY their prerogative to not buy your game because it uses a draconian copy protection measure. Your opening statement already shoots holes in the rest of your entire argument, because you obviously believe that YOUR opinion and YOUR desires are far more important than those of the people who actually pay your rent. You know, your CUSTOMERS.


Now, you can play the "we don't have a choice, Deep Silver forced this upon us" card, but you had a choice to go to a different publisher. After the sales of X2, you wouldn't have had that much trouble finding one, despite your boohoo tales of how small you are and how tough it was to get a publisher. All I heard on your forums after X2 was how many copies you sold, and how well the game had done etc. I seriously doubt that NO publisher wanted to talk to you. Instead you chose to go with Deep Silver, who chose to use Starforce, even though every publisher KNOWS there is a giant negative backlash against it, precisely BECAUSE of those problems that you conveniently ignore. Everyone who was once burned by Starforce is NEVER touching it again, no matter how often you bleat that "it's perfectly fine NOW, it won't hurt your system!"

And that choice is now hurting your pocket. Instead of crying about it like a little girl, accept the fact you made a dumb decision, and learn from it. Ditch Deep Silver (and Enlight for that matter, since those idiots obviously just CAN'T release a game properly) and find someone slightly more decent next time.


Quote "The boycotters seem to believe that, by not buying protected games, they directly 'injure' the protection companies like StarForce. It doesn't take much common sense to figure out that this is entirely ludicrous." /Quote

Apparently it does take a lot of common sense to figure out what boycotters are trying to achieve. NOBODY gives a flying crap about hurting Starforce. People care about hurting the PUBLISHER who uses it. And guess what, Apoch, Ubisoft doesn't seem to feel it is so ludicrous after all. (Though you could argue that they only stopped using it because of the lawsuit hanging over their asses.)
Score one for the paying consumer. You know, the people you so casually dismiss as scumbags.

"The whole issue of piracy really comes down to respecting developers enough to support them for making a game. "

Hey, you know what? That damn door swings both ways! I respect devs enough to buy their games. I've bought X:BTF, X2 AND X3. (and don't make me take pictures of the damn box and disc to prove myself.)
Where is YOUR respect for us? Because it's not here Apoch.

By insisting that you need to use copy protection measures as draconian as starforce, you automatically accuse every customer of being a pirate. That's the only reason there is such a thing as copy protection in the first place. It's not to stop the hardcore pirates. They will crack the game no matter WHAT kind of protection you put on there.
Copy protection is merely there to stop "casual piracy", because obviously every paying customer is AUTOMATICALLY a pirate, right? What kind of respect does that show to the gamer who spends fifty dollars on your game?

But ofcourse, our rights and wants don't matter, do they? We're just here to shut up and give you, the poor niche dev, our money, no matter WHAT you do, right?

You know what I wonder? I wonder if the sales you lost due to the Starforce boycotts are more numerous than the sales you lost due to piracy? Because if so, that would be truly ironic.

DVDs are protected by copy protection measures too. But not a single one of them ever interferes with me watching them. Why do I, and every gamer with me, have to put up with GAMES that I bought, but whose copy protection measure prevents me from running the game?


For your next game, you have a choice. Ditch the publisher with Starforce. Or stick with them, and keep ranting and raving on this board that the apocalypse is coming and all you poor devs are going down. You know what, Apoch? Devs have been going down since the mid 80s. A new one always comes back. Some of them are even smart enough to not AUTOMATICALLY label their paying customers as pirates and will try to be customer friendly to them.
What will you and Egosoft be?

Maybe, eventually, you will wake up too, like Stardock did. Sure, their game is being pirated. So what? It's also SOLD a total crapload. Everyone at Stardock is raving about their sales. They figure that if they sell 300,000 copies, the 20,000 that get pirated really don't matter. Because you still sold 300,000 copies. And you made 300,000 PAYING customers happy by NOT treating them as pirates.

Think about that for awhile, how your attitude affects YOUR customers, and remember that yes, really, it IS about your customers. Just because the game industry has been getting away with truly HORRENDOUSLY shitty support, no refund policies and absurd EULAs, doesn't mean that in the end, you don't answer to your clientele, same as every other corporate entity in existence on this planet. I know you think you don't, but you really do. Think about it for awhile. Talk with Steel and CBJ about it. When you do your expansion, how's it going to be protected? How many sales are you willing to lose because of your publisher's lunatic desire to weed out all pirates, even though they know just as well as you and I that it's a completely useless battle.

Perhaps you'll be here ranting and raving again in a year's time. Or perhaps you'll wake up, see Galciv2 and Oblivion and realise that MAYBE, copy protection has become a self defeating tool. A tool that hurts more sales than it protects.

There will ALWAYS be pirates. You will NEVER get rid of them, no matter what you do. They are like mutant cockroaches. Nothing will kill them.
But there will NOT always be paying customers, especially not if you keep spewing idiot attitudes such as this, and keep signing up with publishers who treat them as scum right out of the bag. Think about it.

Creston

Anonymous Poster
Apr 27 2006 05:29 PM
"I appreciate all the comments - but suffice it to say most of you clearly have no comprehension whatsoever of how the game industry works. That's very unfortunate, because it leads to precisely the kind of situation that we're in now. I wish there was more publicity over how the industry is run, because I honestly think that if most people realized just how skewed the power is towards the publishers, you might understand the predicament of niche developers such as myself."

No. This was true in the past, without a doubt. But it isn't anymore. No matter how much you complain that it is, it simply isn't.

Stardock's Galactic Civilizations 2, Bethesda's Oblivion AND Ubisoft's decision to stop using Starforce are PROVING US RIGHT. Us, the paying customer. The customers who no longer WANT to put up with this kind of crap.

If you honestly cannot find a publisher, then do it yourself. Or sign up with Steam. Or talk to Stardock. Why are you going back to a publisher who takes the lion's share of the profit, AND inflicts your game with a damn virus?
I'm sure your margins would be better on Steam (though you'll get people to boycott you for using that as well), or on Totalgaming.net.

There isn't even that much of a difference between Stardock and you guys. Both of you made a niche game, both of you are EXCELLENT in supporting it after the fact, both of you have an extremely loyal fanbase because of it.
But YOU chose to stick with a publisher who PISSES on your fanbase, while Stardock chose to reward their fanbase.

Gee, it's really weird that YOU get the bad publicity from being inflicted with Starforce, while Stardock gets nothing but glowing love everywhere, huh?

You can stick to your old ideas that publishers hold the reigns and can force you to do whatever they want you to do, and as such, you will have to accept the consequences that more and more people will simply STOP buying your game because of it.
And let's face it, X3 still sold a crapload. So what are you even whining about?
Instead of crying about 10.000 people boycotting you, or 20.000 people pirating you, be glad you sold xxx thousand copies.

Alternatively you can take a chance, tell the publisher to go f*ck themselves, and get with the program. Maybe next time, everyone will be going "OMFG!!1! I HEART EG0S0FT!!!11!" too.



Anonymous Poster
Apr 27 2006 05:51 PM
I'm gonna make one final comment.

Quote "Arguably, at this point, it's too late. The activists have created a self-fulfilling prophecy. "I crack this game because protection schemes are too invasive." So the companies have to go and create more invasive, more "effective" schemes to retaliate. Can't you guys see you're digging your own graves deeper here?" /Quote

It's funny you should say that, because WE are not digging any graves. YOU are. And by you I mean the game devs and publishers.

Only YOU can stop this cycle. We can't, and won't. There will ALWAYS be piracy. There always has been piracy. It won't stop.
As long as you keep forcing more and more draconian copy protection measures down our throats, the customers WILL keep using cracks to circumvent them. You can bitch and whine about this all you want, but this is a simple truth. Want us to stop using cracks? Then STOP FORCING US TO.

What you need to decide is to what extent you're going to let piracy, and the FEAR of piracy, affect your business and more importantly, your relationship with your customers. Twenty some years ago, games came with no copy protection. I could buy a game for my C64 tape, and make a copy of it for my friend, if I so wanted. Games sold well. Well enough to drive an entire industry out of infancy and into serious business.

Eventually the industry became annoyed with piracy, and started taking steps against it. Cartwheel things that you needed to line up to provide answers. Put in words from manuals. Discs that couldn't be copied. And now Starforce.
And guess what? Throughout these twenty or so years, it has NEVER made any difference in piracy. The only thing it has done is piss off more and more customers. And drive them from the PC to the console.

One thing you need to remember is that the MARKET eventually decides your product. You can keep insisting on providing a product that nobody wants, but you WILL go out of business. This has been true since the earliest days of civilization. The gaming industry likes to think it can exist outside this logic, but it can't.

You can easily compare this to the music business / mp3 broohaha of several years ago. The market was tired of buying CDs for 15-20 bucks only to have 2 songs they liked. They wanted something different, the choice to buy individual songs through digital media. MP3 piracy became rampant.
The RIAA kept whining that it wouldn't matter if they provided songs legitimately via MP3, because "nobody would buy them if they can download them for free."

iTunes came, and is an insane success. Sony Direct is an insane success. There are more music websites that are an insane success. Guess what? People are BUYING music. By the damn trainloads. RIAA=Morons.

This entire idea that "Everyone is a pirate" is f*cking disgusting, and nowhere more so than in the gaming industry. People WILL buy your games. Same as they BUY music. There is a large majority of people out there who appreciate your efforts in making it, and will reward you financially for it. Oblivion and Galciv2 are shining examples of this.

How long will you keep pissing them off? How long will you keep providing a product they are interested in, but bundle it with something they don't want? How long before you realise that your customers want games WITHOUT copy protection? Long enough to put you out of business?

Creston

Anonymous Poster
Apr 27 2006 09:37 PM
"Twenty some years ago, games came with no copy protection. I could buy a game for my C64 tape, and make a copy of it for my friend, if I so wanted. Games sold well. Well enough to drive an entire industry out of infancy and into serious business."

Hmm well not entirely true, copy protections existed back then too, and were causing problems as well. Like causing floppy drive heads to go out of aligments. I´ve had problems with this as well. I remember one particular game called "Skate or Die" by Electronic Arts (EA) If I remember correctly. It would never run on my C64 it would always hangup on that EA logo that shifted in colors as it was loading. I later figured out I could make a copy of the floppy with a program called Fast Hack'em which allowed me to copy it with a option "parameter copy". It copied just fine and I think it removed or patched the protection in the process cause I could suddenly load the game just fine off the backup.

Returning the games for replacements at the time was out of the question since they were ordered out of game magazines from UK, zzap64 and others, and I at the time lived overseas (Saudi Arabia). They have censory laws where they would censor magazine covers, inside magazines as well as gameboxes by painting them over with black alcohol marker if they showed something inappropriate, I suspect they even opened and read personal mail, not that I mailed anything. Copyprotection laws didn't have any direct effect in the middle east as well as in asia. And I guess many other countries as well like USSR, since you could go into a computer store point at, write down, make a check in a list of what PC software you wanted, come back a couple hours later and they would already have copied the programs for you, as well as cheap color printed manuals in flimsy paper were available... They had racks of floppy stations where they put the floppy in one of the drives and the blank floppy in the other flipped a switch and it would copy it. Then SELL the copy I guess this is what bootlegging is.

I´m all for stopping this type of "piracy" but I guess it really has no effect since the tactics of making bootleg copies advances as well now they are now almost indistinguishable from originals. You can buy a game or 3000$ CAD software in a shady street corner somewhere for 10 singaporian $$ pressed with protection and all. Starforce really have no effect and there are ways to "patch" and burn/press a fully working copy anyway with protection and all.

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