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Popular retail and copy protection solutions for PC indie?

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I am working on my first computer game. T-17 Tanky. There is an early demo. It is reaching a stage where I want to think about retail and copy protection. I am paralyzed by choice, and humbly request your opinion on the subject.

The game will likely be released as a beta, with features and content fulfilled over about a year. It may be a feature limited demo unlocked by registration. The site moved about 400 demos last month, and feedback is promising (not that you can tell from the tumbleweeds in the forum).
[url="http://closedchamber.com"]T-17 Tanky Website[/url]

I've seen BMT Micro and other online retailers recommended, and they integrate with commonly used registration key systems. But then, reg keys are pretty useless for preventing piracy, and can be a hassle to the user. The FAQ also lists many online retailers.

There's the login-to-play system, like in Minecraft, in some new indie games. Player buys with Paypal form, and stores 'ThisGuy = BoughtThis' in a database. Player enters login info in the game to play (unless offline), possibly just once, and it's saved. Server ensures no two people are playing on the same account, at the same time. This is attractive, but no payment support like with an online retailer.

Or, no copy protection at all. Plz donate, my gramma needs her medicine. This could work initially.

I am wondering if someone can give me some insight on successful solutions. Admittedly, I know very little about web programming or databases, and I'm looking for a place to start.

This certainly sounds like a 'do my homework for me' post (it is). I could negotiate profit share for anyone who could consult on a turnkey solution. The game's not done and I have no money, but hey, at least it's not an MMO.

Thanks guys


preen@closedchamber.com

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I think you'd need somebody who knows assembly to write you a separate program and/or an assembly block in your program associated with a key. You'd then have the separate program automatically alter and generate keys everytime a processed transaction came through. Not sure if that's how it really works.

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[quote name='Preen' timestamp='1313103511' post='4847986']
I am working on my first computer game. T-17 Tanky. There is an early demo. It is reaching a stage where I want to think about retail and copy protection. I am paralyzed by choice, and humbly request your opinion on the subject. The game will likely be released as a beta, with features and content fulfilled over about a year. The site moved about 400 demos last month, and feedback is promising (not that you can tell from the tumbleweeds in the forum).
[url="http://closedchamber.com"]T-17 Tanky Website[/url]

I've seen BMT Micro and other online retailers recommended, and they integrate with commonly used registration key systems. But then, reg keys are pretty useless for preventing piracy, and can be a hassle to the user. The FAQ also lists many online retailers.

There's the login-to-play system, like in Minecraft, in some new indie games. Player buys with Paypal form, and stores 'ThisGuy = BoughtThis' in a database. Player enters login info in the game to play (unless offline), possibly just once, and it's saved. Server ensures no two people are playing on the same account, at the same time. This is attractive, but no payment support like with an online retailer.

Or, no copy protection at all. Plz donate, my gramma needs her medicine. This could work.

I am wondering if someone can give me some insight on successful solutions. Admittedly, I know very little about web programming or databases, and I'm looking for a place to start.
This certainly sounds like a 'do my homework for me' post. I could negotiate profit share for anyone who could consult on a turnkey solution. The game's not done and I have no money, but hey, at least it's not an MMO.

Thanks guys


preen@closedchamber.com
[/quote]

If you don't have any significant multiplayer features then the amount of copyprotection you throw on it will be mostly irrelevant (Since it will be removed and a cracked copy will be available on all major filesharing networks/sites within a few days), if you do have multiplayer features then a simple key check is all you need. (If 2 players use the same key you just block the last one to connect from playing online). (This is especially true for indies as it will take longer for your game to become reasonably well known than it will take for your copyprotection to get cracked)

Lack of copyprotection does not mean that you have to ask for donations, Quite alot of people do follow the law aswell.

If however you plan on updating the game regularly you could keep updating the copyprotection with each major game update, (Thus the pirates would be forced to wait for the new updates which might be enough to convince some of them to pay for your game), its alot of extra work though and might not pay off.

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[quote name='Preen' timestamp='1313103511' post='4847986']
It is reaching a stage where I want to think about retail and copy protection.

I've seen BMT Micro and other online retailers recommended, and they integrate with commonly used registration key systems. But then, reg keys are pretty useless for preventing piracy, and can be a hassle to the user.

There's the login-to-play system,

Or, no copy protection at all.

I am wondering if someone can give me some insight on successful solutions.
[/quote]



What exactly is your purpose?

Who specifically are you attempting to restrict?

Any system can be broken given sufficient time and resources. For many hobby games being hacked is actually a sign of success that they have increased in popularity enough to become a target.

For personal preference I like the honesty policy with nag screen. Make it mildly annoying, but not so much that pirates will disable it. Let anyone use it so at least you get some popularity.

Also, one of your costs will be support. If they want access to support forums they need an account, which they get by paying. This has been a successful model for several companies.

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You could have a one-time activation connection to a server during install. After the activation, the user with the associated key wouldn't be able to activate it on any other computer or would have to register it and you'd have a maximum limit on the number of computers or something.

The program could alter itself so that it only works on that computer and copying the files won't work.

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Personally, I'm pretty firmly in the camp of "There's no point copy-protecting a disconnected (eg -- offline) game."

For offline games, I believe the most effective strategy is to eliminate any form of copy protection, make your game as compelling as possible (using the time you're not spending to implement copy protection that will be broken sooner than later), and market the lack of copy protection as a feature -- "we care about our customers, and don't want to hassle them".

For connected games -- generally one's with a full online-component such as co-op or competitive play -- then I would recommend doing a check to ensure licenses are not shared. Implement features which compel users to keep their licenses and accounts to themselves -- things like friends lists, achievements, global high score lists. The best way to protect a license is to invest its owner in protecting it.

I'm actually a proponent of selling a game for say, the usual market price, and then including as a pack-in a registration card or two of some kind which enables online play -- as long as they will continue to sell additional cards in the future. Its a nice middle-ground between implementing draconian DRM that would prevent second-sale, which also compensates the publisher and/or developer for the cost of maintaining the online ecosystem.

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The game would be downloaded as a demo, with some levels and vehicles locked until registration. Typical shareware; Mount and Blade, Live For Speed etc. The license must work on any PC, and I don't care if it's cracked or even shared between a couple of people, so long as it can't be casually pirated on my own forum by sharing keys. The game will be finished in installments, so updating copy protection is an option.

I agree you can't beat piracy, and having no protection at all would certainly save work. But at the same time, I don't want to just have nothing. To use Minecraft as example again, I wouldn't have bought it if was a free download. A username and password doesn't seem too intrusive to the user. Login or online activations are my favorite choice, but hard (unless finding a retailer to do the hard work).

But failing a solution, I like the idea of passing off the lack of protection as a feature. That would really just be a suggested donation, wouldn't it? I don't know much about the conversion rates for that type of thing.

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[quote name='Preen' timestamp='1313105894' post='4848010']
The game would be downloaded as a demo, with some levels and vehicles locked until registration. Typical shareware; Mount and Blade, Live For Speed etc. The license must work on any PC, and I don't care if it's cracked or even shared between a couple of people, so long as it can't be casually pirated on my own forum by sharing keys. The game will be finished in installments, so updating copy protection is an option.

I agree you can't beat piracy, and having no protection at all would certainly save work. But at the same time, I don't want to just have nothing. To use Minecraft as example again, I wouldn't have bought it if was a free download. A username and password doesn't seem too intrusive to the user. Login or online activations are my favorite choice, but hard (unless finding a retailer to do the hard work).

But failing a solution, I like the idea of passing off the lack of protection as a feature. That would really just be a suggested donation, wouldn't it? I don't know much about the conversion rates for that type of thing.
[/quote]


In the age of internet, online activation is the way to go. Why do you say it's hard? If you want to do it automatically, Paypal has an instant notification system. Each time someone buys a copy paypal warns you by email or HTTP, I am not sure. You have to code a script to receive the notification and update a mysql database in your server. Just ask in any paypal developers forum and you will see is easy.
You can also do it manually, just warn your customers that it takes some time to process payments.
Keep the levels on the server. The game connects to the server and downloads levels as needed. This has the advantage that if you change a level, all the users will pick up the update automatically.

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That is very helpful, Hiigara. Well, it's hard for me, for now. To me a database is a magical place where forums keep data, free of human intervention.
Automatic updates are a good idea too.

I will go to that place you said, and also find education for creating and maintaining a database. I wonder if you have any recommendations?

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[quote name='Preen' timestamp='1313112633' post='4848051']
That is very helpful, Hiigara. Well, it's hard for me, for now. To me a database is a magical place where forums keep data, free of human intervention.
Automatic updates are a good idea too.

I will go to that place you said, and also find education for creating and maintaining a database. I wonder if you have any recommendations?
[/quote]

Mysql instalation depends on the hosting you sign for. If you have hosting with control panel, then creating a database is just clicking a button. These control panels come with phpmyadmin installed by default, which allows you to see the tables, add and delete records.
If sign for plain VPS, then it requires more expert knowledge. But learning mysql administration is definitely a good investment, specially if you plan to make an online version of your game in the future.
If you are keen on this online activation idea the next step is download mysql for windows and learn how to use it. I did not use any tutorial in particular, I learned reading the manual and by trial and error.
Once you master mysql on windows then sign for a hosting plan. These hosting companies normally have tutorials and forums that will help you install mysql on your server.

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Thanks Hiigara, I think my hosting supports that. I will hit the mysql/php tutorials.

Tom, I think I've reached a conclusion on my copy protection scheme. Anything more would be technical.

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