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The C modest god

Making your game a shareware.

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When I sell my shareware Palm OS games, I have two versions. The demo version and then when they buy the game they get the full version. That way I don''t have to worry about anyone breaking the code to get the full version.

-Sam.

http://waltsgames.iwarp.com

RTS3D: a 3D real time strategy game:
http://waltsgames.iwarp.com/rts3d.html

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I dont understand why so many people chose to make their games shareware instead of just releasing a demo. It isnt that more convient for the customer and it seems alittle unprofessional/unsecure...
But shareware still seems to be booming

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What is inconvienent about having to enter "ald948ak5918" and suddenly having the full version of the game, the exact same game you''ve been playing and want to buy.

Its inconvienent to make them download something new.

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I said that it wasnt _that much more_ convienent for shareware keycode.

I think that shareware usually gives the customer way to much of the application (like a 30 day trial)...usually after 30 days of shareware game, ive had my fill and dont want anymore. While if I just had a single level (demo) then I would be more interested in more.
1) The download size is bigger, especially if I dont even want to purchase the game after I try the shareware
2) It usually offers to much to the customer
3) Not very secure

With a demo, theres nothing to crack, it keeps the file size down, and it offers the player just a hint of what the full game is like.

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The problem with having a demo and a full version that you download after the fact is that once someone pays for the full version, what''s to stop them from posting it to a server for everyone to download? It would be fairly easy to simply have four people chip in $5, buy the full version, and then have four full copies of the game, having paid for only one.

The advantage of having a shareware registration is the fact that you can sort of prevent this. Using a code that is based upon a registration name, you can have software that is registered for one person not work for another person if the name is different. If I register it as ''Mike Taber'' and I get the registration code of ''ABCDEFG'', if I give it to my friend, unless he registers the game with the name ''Mike Taber'', it won''t work for him. Most people don''t like to put other peoples'' names on software that is installed on their computer. At that point, it is obviously stolen.

There are other things you can do with shareware registration codes as well. You can embed dates into the registration key, assuming that you use a more advanced key generation methodology. Upon install, you get the current date and store it somewhere. If the game has been installed for more than 30 days, you can make it unplayable. For the registration key, with the embedded date, if more than 30 days has passed since the software was purchased, disallow the registration/unlocking mechanisms.

There are other things you can do as well with a date embedded in the software key. You can release beta software that expires after a certain date and will delete itself. Then, people can''t play beta versions with the real product (assuming it is networked). You can validate keys against a central database upon registration.

To go over all of the different scenarios would take quite a while. Suffice it to say, that for the added benefit of up to five times the number of product registrations, you would be wise to consider a method that can''t be easily pirated. Ambrosia Software has a good article on this that I think you should read. Read Article

Let me just state for the record though, that YOU WILL NOT STOP A DEDICATED HACKER!!! If someone is absolutely 100 percent determined to crack your software, they eventually will, and there''s nothing that you can do about it. Even the largest and most economically stable game companies have trouble with piracy. How many copies of Diablo were illegally pirated? What about StarCraft, Red Alert, Tribes 2, etc. They have backing from major corporations with a lot of money and they can''t stop it. Sony released a CD copying technology that they spent millions of dollars developing, only to have it broken within months by anyone with an 89 cent Sharpie Marker. All you do is mark out the outside track of the disk, the CD-ROM will ignore the garbled data track and you can copy to your hearts content.

The use of these keys is to stop the casual hacker. The guy who if he has a way to not pay for it right in front of him, he''s not going to pay for it. If you make it a thorn in his side to pirate the software, he will just pay for it to avoid the hassle.

If I told you a method to make a code like this over a public forum, it would be essentially useless. Anyone who read it could duplicate it and unlock any of your software. If you''re releasing a small program yourself, look around for pre-built key generation methods, like RegSoft I think it is. They will sell you source code that you can customize to build registration keys for shareware. If you go through a publisher, they should be able to provide you with that kind of thing.


Looking for an honest video game publisher? Visit www.gamethoughts.com

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quote:
Original post by mtaber
The problem with having a demo and a full version that you download after the fact is that once someone pays for the full version, what''s to stop them from posting it to a server for everyone to download? The advantage of having a shareware registration is the fact that you can sort of prevent this. Using a code...


Ummm, you do realize that you can put a registration key in a full version of a program too, right? The way you talk makes it sound like you either release:
1)separate demo and full versions, full version is unprotected
2)combined demo/full version with registration key for full version features





Ron Frazier
Kronos Software
www.kronos-software.com
Miko & Molly - Coming July 2002

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quote:
Original post by Ibuku
I think that shareware usually gives the customer way to much of the application (like a 30 day trial)...usually after 30 days of shareware game, ive had my fill and dont want anymore. While if I just had a single level (demo) then I would be more interested in more.
1) The download size is bigger, especially if I dont even want to purchase the game after I try the shareware
2) It usually offers to much to the customer
3) Not very secure

With a demo, theres nothing to crack, it keeps the file size down, and it offers the player just a hint of what the full game is like.



Who says you have to give the player everything in shareware? The best thing to do is limit the amount of levels the player can play in the shareware version, and unlock the rest with a key. Many games do this. This also doesn''t add a lot to the size of the download because levels are usually take up very little space. It does make it easier to crack of course, since the levels are all there already but like the others have said, there''s nothing you can do about it anyway.

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Right...
What Mike was saying was that you would distrubute the demo and full version seperately. Basically if a developer did this, the customer who bought the full version can release that same copy to hundreds of his friends or post it online...while shareware on the other requires a key w/ matching name.

That is definately a good point, but the flipside is that low budget/internet released products often do not have as big of a following or demand as Warcraft 3 or T2, therefore you rarely ever see them on warez sites. Not many people who buy lower end software get there friends together to buy a game that costs $10-20, and many who buy these priced products are normally casual gamers (hence also another reason budget products are not usually warezed)

Both have their pros and cons, but it completely depends on the product and how it is developed.

Also agree that you dont have to release everything with your shareware. That was simply a trend that I notice with alot of products that follow a shareware distrubution plan. I often see large trials or only a simple nag screen. As for file size, sure if you have a game with minimal graphics then your levels would stay small, but for games with alot of larger graphics (such as detailed prerendered backgrounds) then the file size can increase dramatically.

By the way, I sent you an email abit ago Mike, did you happen to recieve it? My mail server is sometimes funny so Im just confirming that it was recieved.

-Alex
weaponstudios.com

[edited by - Ibuku on July 17, 2002 1:49:55 PM]

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Yes, you do have a point with the size. Although demos mainly make sense for those large AAA titles because they're the ones who take up a whole CD (or more than one CD) and the demo is like 20-30 megs maybe. It's really a matter of how big the demo would be compared to the full game. If the game is 20 megs and the demo is 5 then it makes sense. If the game is 10 megs and the demo is 7 then it's almost pointless.

[edited by - FenixDown on July 17, 2002 2:03:46 PM]

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To keep people from downloading your game off the net try this: I''m assuming it''s on a cd sent to the person. Even if your game only uses about 10MB, fill up a couple 100 MB with junk files that look important, like "data/level0023.cab" and stuff. That way if somebody zips up the whole cd to post on a server, a lot less people will download a 100 MB game than a 10 MB game. And even if you do, you''re hogging up their resources, which serves them right. It was just an idea I had.

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quote:
Original post by FenixDown
If the game is 10 megs and the demo is 7 then it's almost pointless.


Depends on your defition of almost. First of all, If you can save your user 15 minutes from a 60 minute download, I would say that it is considerable savings.

More importantly, the one advantage I see about releasing separate demo and full version is leverage against pirates. If you release your full game, then all the pirates have to release is a key or keygen. Either way its a very small download and its not going to cost much in terms of harddrive space or bandwidth to distribute. Additionally, there is a lot of grey area around whether or not distributing a key or keygen is illegal. It's going to be a more difficult convincing a web host to shut down a site that is distibuting material of questionable legality.

On the other hand, if you distribute separate demo and full versions, the pirates have to distribute all of the missing data, whether its 1MB or 15MB. That eats more storage and bandwidth (assuming the extra size isnt just movies the pirates can rip out), and might make the pirates a little more reluctant to put them up for download. Additionally, if they distribute all of the missing content, there is absolutely no question that they are distributing illegal copies of copyrighted data. There is no grey area, the distribution is blatently illegal. Because of this, you will have a somewhat better chance of convincing a webhost to shut down a distribution site.

So that's how I personally see a separate version...leverage against pirates. Sure it doesn't stop everyone. However, just take a look around and compare the number of warez sites with the number of serialz sites. You will probably find a lot more of the latter.

There is another additional advantage is this. Consider how you go about getting warez software. Occasionally you can find it through a search engine, but usually the results that come up have broken links or they are already shut down. In order to find a good warez site, you usually have to know one of the warez site lists or get an IP from someone else. Then you usually have to FTP to a site, browse through some directories, and then download what you want (if there isnt a ratio, requiring you to upload first). A lot of average user's aren't going to be able to handle this. It isn't practical for them to get their hands on it. However, consider the case of serial numbers. Give me any even-only-slightly-popular program that requires a serial number, and I bet you within 5 minutes I can pull up a couple of serial numbers or keygens using google, hotbot, yahoo, or your other favorite search engine. With this way, it is almost trivial for any user to get ahold of the serial number (as long as they can get themselves through the porn popup windows). It has been said many times that you aren't going to stop a dedicated pirate, but an average user is mostly honest as long as you help them to stay honest. If you dangle a serial number in front of a mostly-honest user, there is a decent chance they will use it. However, make them go to the effort of finding an entire warez copy and they will likely decide its just easier to buy it.

Still think it's almost pointless?

Ron Frazier
Kronos Software
www.kronos-software.com
Miko & Molly - Coming July 2002


[edited by - LordKronos on July 17, 2002 2:52:59 PM]

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quote:
Original post by LordKronos
In order to find a good warez site, you usually have to know one of the warez site lists or get an IP from someone else. Then you usually have to FTP to a site, browse through some directories, and then download what you want (if there isnt a ratio, requiring you to upload first).


Or so you''ve heard.

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quote:
Original post by Sneftel
Or so you've heard.

OK, or else you use hotline and know a hotline server. Or you have some other special technique or a group you are associated with. Or you know something else special that the average user does not. The simple fact is you don't find this stuff easily from a common search engine, and it is therefore (for all practical intents and purposes) inaccessible to the average user.

Ron Frazier
Kronos Software
www.kronos-software.com
Miko & Molly - Coming July 2002


[edited by - LordKronos on July 17, 2002 3:21:04 PM]

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Seems to be some confusion over the definition of the word "shareware." Shareware isn''t a type of product; it''s a marketing method. Shareware simply refers to software that''s marketed using any try-before-you-buy method. Demos, time-limited versions, feature-limited versions, etc. are all just different applications of shareware marketing.

On the subject of using registration codes vs. having separate downloads, I''ve used both, and I prefer the latter in general. For one, keeping a small file size is extremely important for encouraging downloads. It''s been my experience that a 1MB demo can easily generate 10-100 times more downloads than a 10MB demo for similar games in the same genre. From talking the people who run the major download sites, there seems to be a consensus that you see a steep decline in downloads once you pass 7-9MB. So if you can reduce the size of your demo by having separate versions, the extra downloads and sales should more than justify the effort.

Many games can be virtually the same size for the demo and full version, but I prefer the additional protection of keeping some content exclusively in the full version. If you have a time-limited demo, for instance, those are easily crackable, but if the code for certain features is simply not present in the demo, the crackers are out of luck unless they can get their hands on the full version first.

I also find that cracks and crack sites are far more prevalent and easily accessible to casual pirates than warez sites. A 2K crack also chews up much less bandwidth than even a small 1MB game.

As a publisher we don''t do much about piracy because it doesn''t generate sufficient results to justify the effort. I''ve seen many developers spend months of hard work trying to fight piracy. The result is usually that they end up with flat sales while they miss other more lucrative opportunites, and in the end the results are usually disappointing. Some developers turn piracy into a personal/emotional issue and lose sight of the big picture. I respect everyone''s freedom to make their own choices, but personally I haven''t found it to be a good business decision to wage on all-out war on piracy.

When I look at the big picture, fighting piracy just isn''t the best way for us to increase sales. We get far better results by investing our time and resources in additional marketing, distribution, acquiring products, etc. I''d rather suffer a bit of piracy for every game we sell and be able to write bigger royalty checks to developers each month than to stamp out all piracy but have to cut smaller checks.

If/when we reach the point that fighting piracy is our best option for increasing sales and growing the business, I''ll put our best people and resources on the task. But I don''t see that day coming anytime in the near future. Piracy may be costing us some sales, but it certainly isn''t holding us back from having our best year ever.


Steve Pavlina
Dexterity Software
www.dexterity.com

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The problem with the actual defination of ''shareware'' is that the meaning has been transformed.
Do you consider a game like Soldier of Fortune II ''shareware''? Dungeon Siege? Jedi Knight II? etc. because they all supplied a demo. By the offical defination of shareware, these are all try-before-you-buy.

When I think shareware...I think of smaller products, usually time-trial or limited in features. I dont see big name games as being shareware, so this defination should be brought up to date.

Now your points on piracy were good, but that basically is left up to the developer. Do you want to secure your product so much that you spend months on it? Or do you want to take that time to market it more heavily so you can make up for lost sales from piracy?

-Alex
weaponstudios.com

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quote:
Original post by LordKronos
Ummm, you do realize that you can put a registration key in a full version of a program too, right? The way you talk makes it sound like you either release:
1)separate demo and full versions, full version is unprotected
2)combined demo/full version with registration key for full version features

Ron Frazier
Kronos Software
www.kronos-software.com
Miko & Molly - Coming July 2002


Yes, I do realize that, but the implication of a previous statement was that you wouldn''t put a registration key in a full version because it would look ''unprofessional''. Dexterity has a lot of very good points about piracyand downloads, but I was addressing the implication that you wouldn''t be using a registration code with the full version. I believe the combination of separate downloads and a registration key would by far be the best solution.

Alex: No, I didn''t get it. Please send it again. I''ll keep an eye out for it. ' Target=_Blank>Link


Looking for an honest video game publisher? Visit www.gamethoughts.com

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quote:
Original post by Ibuku
The problem with the actual defination of ''shareware'' is that the meaning has been transformed.
Do you consider a game like Soldier of Fortune II ''shareware''? Dungeon Siege? Jedi Knight II? etc. because they all supplied a demo. By the offical defination of shareware, these are all try-before-you-buy.



Remember that shareware is not a type of product; it''s a form of marketing. So to say that Soldier of Fortune II is a "shareware game" wouldn''t be quite accurate. I don''t consider any of the games we publish to be "shareware games" either. It''s more accurate to say that such games employ "shareware marketing" as just one of many marketing methods.

For instance, we also do many forms of non-shareware marketing, such as sending out press releases, buying online advertising, promoting new games in our newsletter, and otherwise directing people to our web site to encourage them to buy right away. One game we recently published doesn''t even have a free demo version -- we generate sales with a detailed sales page that gets people to buy right away. This approach has actually been quite successful, but it has nothing to do with shareware.

I served as President of the Association of Shareware Professionals in 2000 and 2001, and they have a pretty good definition of "shareware" on their web site here. The first sentence on that page is: "Shareware is a method of software distribution and marketing, and not a type of program."

However, if you define "shareware games" as games that employ shareware marketing, then I would agree that all the games you mentioned above would be considered "shareware games." But again, this isn''t the most accurate phrasing.


Steve Pavlina
Dexterity Software
www.dexterity.com

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quote:
Original post by mtaber
Yes, I do realize that, but the implication of a previous statement was that you wouldn''t put a registration key in a full version because it would look ''unprofessional''.

OK, I can see where you got that from. That''s not how I took that statement. I took it as saying that giving away your whole product for free and then only selling the registration code seemed unprofessional (of course, thats not all your selling, but it could seem like it). I certainly didn''t take it as saying that using a registration code was unprofessional. After all, most major professional products use registration codes/serial numbers (Windows, Office, Photoshop, etc). However, I can see where you could have interpreted it that way.



Ron Frazier
Kronos Software
www.kronos-software.com
Miko & Molly - Coming July 2002

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quote:
Original post by Dexterity
One game we recently published doesn''t even have a free demo version -- we generate sales with a detailed sales page that gets people to buy right away. This approach has actually been quite successful, but it has nothing to do with shareware


Yes, I have been meaning to ask you how Aargon was selling without a demo. If you don''t mind talking about it, have you noticed any differences in return rates this way? On one hand, I could see it being higher because people could realize it''s not what they think. On the other hand, I could see it being lower because the people that immediately hand over the money must really want it.




Ron Frazier
Kronos Software
www.kronos-software.com
Miko & Molly - Coming July 2002

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Hmmm this topic is very interesting to me. I''ve been thinking about it quite a bit as my product gets closer and closer to release.

I''m using quite a different slant to the shareware/demo approach.

Let me give you a little history. I originally started this project as a freeware game that I was hoping just to use to showcase my skills and indeed I''ve already posted versions on CNET and other download sites (and they are doing quite well).

The fact that there is already a freeware version available and the extra effort required to set up a shareware system makes it very appealing for me to try something a little different.

Ever noticed how commercial products often include trailers to future games? That is basically my idea with dreamstars. I will release another freeware version (Dreamstars 2) that contains slightly more features and a much nicer interface as well as better game play than the previous freeware version but at the same time I will also be releasing version 3, this is my commersial version and contains a heap of new features, things like multi player, new weapons ect...

Then I will liberally include alot of "trailer" type information in version 2. For instance my default page when the user enters the user interface is my help topic titled "Features of version 3" also on exit it reminds the user that there is a version 3 that has heaps of better featurs and is much more fun.

However I don''t think I can really plug the game to the extent that a "real" shareware game does, ie nag screens before and after and constant "buy now" buttons. It''s a fine line because version 2 should still be a full game in it''s own right...

As for piracy, well I''m thinking of a number of low maintance plans. For instance offing a substantial discount on future products for anyone that purchases Dreamstars before I finish producing my next product (this also helps in marketing) and also providing free upgrades to new versions (I have huge lists of features that I could add to future versions and the game isn''t even finished yet!).

I will send the user a registration code (just a GUID) and keep a list of each customer, name, email and registartion code.

Now my idea was that it should be fairly easy to varify (mostly) a real customer that requests a replacment copy or the new version because they would need to identify themselves by the reg code or the email address they registered under...

I was planning to use a simple dely method where I thought lots of people where using the same registration code/email:

My name is xxx@abc.net and I registered under ppp@lome.net....
My name is cpa@tym.net and I registered under ppp@lome.net....
My name is tim@bob.net and I registered under ppp@lome.net....
My name is gidgit@gadget.net and I registered under ppp@lome.net....

If I get a list of requests for the new version that looks something like this then I know something fishy is going on and I just begin delaying a responce, by say a week, two weeks...

Now if someone wants a new version sent to the email address they registed under, that''s a different story and it''s pretty obvious they are a genuine customer.

Also you would only get one dicount for any registration, I think this is probably the strongest incentive for not pirating

I will put a simple registration scheme in the game, similar to big commercial products. Bascially if the game is run without registration then it will ask the user to enter some... Name, email and reg number. Then this information will the displayed on the title screen.

That will be the extent of my "protection" the game just won''t run unless you fill out these fields... Though there is no checking there, as long as they put some value it it will all work.

Actually I like this idea and may take it a step further... by doing some limited check of the system (computer name??) and using that to validate the copy. So basically if it''s moved(copied) it will ask again for the reg code. Just as a friendly reminder to pirates

Jai Shaw

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Guest Anonymous Poster
Just to throw something into the whole shareware discussion.


If you want your game to be large (ie. you want to unload more than a few hundred copies) then making unique unlock codes for each app is a major headache. The alternative is to use unlock codes that are based on a formula of some kind... which, as I can testify from my experience with playing other people''s locked games a week before they are released, is a bad choice because someone with a few codes and a few hours can crack the formula.

It is because of this that I personally am not a fan of unlock codes. In reality, and mostly due to the vastness of the internet, there is no good way to copy-proof games (or anything for that matter).

Of course, it is virtual suicide to try and market a game without demos or previews. I know that I''ve bought MANY games because I enjoyed the demo; I also know that I''ve rejected many more games because all I could find was screenshots. The most recent example was Jedi Outcast. Had it not been for the demo, I wouldn''t have bought the game, as cool as the screenshots are.

Shareware is a good concept, but as people get less honest (esp. this latest generation growing up with Morpheus, Napster, et al) shareware is less viable because people have less of a problem with ripping off your game.

Just some thoughts.

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quote:
Original post by LordKronos
Yes, I have been meaning to ask you how Aargon was selling without a demo. If you don''t mind talking about it, have you noticed any differences in return rates this way? On one hand, I could see it being higher because people could realize it''s not what they think. On the other hand, I could see it being lower because the people that immediately hand over the money must really want it.



I can''t give out any specific sales figures because that would violate our confidentiality agreement with the developer (although if the developer wants to do so, he certainly can).

As for the return rate, it''s a bit too soon to tell (the game hasn''t even been out for 30 days yet, and we offer a 60-day unconditional money-back guarantee). But so far the outlook appears excellent.

One of the nice things about attempting to sell a game with no demo is that you get the potential customer to make an immediate decision when they visit the web site. The downside of offering a free demo is that people may get as much fun as they need from the demo and have no reason to buy more.


Steve Pavlina
Dexterity Software
www.dexterity.com

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Thanks for the usefull information.
To tell you the truth, I don''t think that hackers and warez sites are interested in hacking games that are not from the industry or of the big boys.
In my opinion the best solution is to use a demo, and to sell the full version via downloading from the internet.
The purchaser''s information will be encoded into one of the game''s vital files, and will be displayed in the game.
Maybe also a warnning against copying the game(next to the customer details) and the anti-piracy assosiation symbol.

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