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Zuhon

Would DRM be bad for this game?

10 posts in this topic

I am creating a massive space-exploration game.

 

After the SimCity fiasco, and other fiasco's related to people hating DRM games, such as Diablo III, is any form of dedicated servers/DRM for a game considered bad? If my game is entirely multiplayer, and that's how the game will always be played; it's not a single player game at all, is it really bad? For example, the previous SimCity games WERE single player and it is the type of game that COULD be single player and work fine but it's not. But a game like World of Warcraft couldn't really be played without advanced player economy, interactions, etc. You don't see anybody freaking out about that games DRM.

 

For a game like mine which the entire game revolves around multiplayer mechanics, would I receive hate for having dedicated servers which you must be on to play?

 

Basically what I'm trying to ask is if DRM is ALWAYS a terrible thing in the eyes of gamers, or if there are variables involved, and a game like SimCity or Diablo III has no excuse for being DRM?

 

Thanks.

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The problem with D3 and Sim City isn't that they use DRM. The problem is that the servers were unable to cope with the number of players, so thousands of people who paid for the game were unable to play it.

 

Steam has millions of users playing DRM-ed games, who don't complain as long as there are no server outages.

For a decade before Steam, millions of gamers played games where the DRM system was entering a CD-Key printed on the disc/manual, and that was just normal.

 

 

Then there's a second issue, D3 doesn't just use DRM, but the game logic is hosted on a server. This isn't DRM, this is turning a single-player game into a server-hosted game. This caused anyone who wanted to play LAN games to legitimately complain, and people without fast internet to legitimately complain.

e.g. For me, the closes D3 server is across the entire pacific ocean, meaning that even when I play single-player, I have several hundred milliseconds of lag, which is enough to make the game's "hardcore mode" unplayable.

 

DRM makes sure that only authorized people get to play the game -- forced server-side-hosting of the game-logic makes sure that no-one gets to host a game, not even people who bought it. Under this system, the DRM makes sure that only authorized people can be clients of a game, and then the private server system makes sure that no-one but Blizzard can be a host of a game.

Edited by Hodgman
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Isn't the term DRM a little fuzzy? 

 

If by DRM, you mean restricting the number of machines on which the game can be installed, it seems a little pointless for a fully multiplayer game  like WoW or League of Legends, or any such game. 

 

wouldn't it be better to just have an "accounts" based solution? I'm kind of confused as to what you're trying to accomplish by adding DRM to a fully multiplayer game.

 

If you're game is something like Starcraft 2(with both offline and multiplayer options), I suggest you take the route blizzard has taken. games can still be played offline v/s AI, but to access all of the cool features, you need to be online. Again, there are no limits on the number of machines you can have Starcraft 2 installed on. What matters is that with each purchase, you only get a single account

 

Just my 2 cents :)

~Bollu 

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If your game is entirely multiplayer, the DRM question does not arise. Multiplayer without network is hardly possible, and apart from peer-to-peer LAN games, how would one implement such a thing without a server?

Other than in the case of the games you mentioned, this is necessary.

The problem with the forementioned games was not that there were server problems, even though one should probably say "shame, shame on you" considering that these are not 1-man-shows but presumably multi-million dollar companies with at least a dozen (probably more) server administrators who are presumably experienced craftsmen that aren't setting up a server for the first time in their lives.

You would also normally expect that a multi-million company does a reasonable estimate of necessary resources based both on marketing research, pre-order sales, shop sales, and beta-launch metrics, and is able to afford more than a single $4.99/month server to handle the requests of a million customers.

The real problem is that they rendered the game entirely unplayable with their DRM solely because they can't get their shit straight, even though the game could be perfectly playable (for single player mode only, obviously). The server connection is strictly not necessary, except for enforcing restrictions on users.

Technical excuses for some missing functionality (online community, cloud store, whatever) aside, it is hard for a user who paid some real money to understand why he cannot use what he paid for at all when there is no obvious reason for that. Solely because some server doesn't work, which frankly, he couldn't care about less.

And then of course, there's the legitimate "what if they decide to turn off servers next year?" thought. It is very conceivable that the game publisher decides from one day to another that they don't want people to play D3 any more, but rather buy the new, expensive D4 (which is exactly identical, except for marginally better graphics, and you must pay for it again). So what do they do? They shut down the D3 servers, and the game stops working.

Bang. Now, the customer still paid real money for something that doesn't work at all, ever again.
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If your game is entirely multiplayer, the DRM question does not arise. Multiplayer without network is hardly possible, and apart from peer-to-peer LAN games, how would one implement such a thing without a server?

Other than in the case of the games you mentioned, this is necessary.

The problem with the forementioned games was not that there were server problems, even though one should probably say "shame, shame on you" considering that these are not 1-man-shows but presumably multi-million dollar companies with at least a dozen (probably more) server administrators who are presumably experienced craftsmen that aren't setting up a server for the first time in their lives.

You would also normally expect that a multi-million company does a reasonable estimate of necessary resources based both on marketing research, pre-order sales, shop sales, and beta-launch metrics, and is able to afford more than a single $4.99/month server to handle the requests of a million customers.

The real problem is that they rendered the game entirely unplayable with their DRM solely because they can't get their shit straight, even though the game could be perfectly playable (for single player mode only, obviously). The server connection is strictly not necessary, except for enforcing restrictions on users.

Technical excuses for some missing functionality (online community, cloud store, whatever) aside, it is hard for a user who paid some real money to understand why he cannot use what he paid for at all when there is no obvious reason for that. Solely because some server doesn't work, which frankly, he couldn't care about less.

And then of course, there's the legitimate "what if they decide to turn off servers next year?" thought. It is very conceivable that the game publisher decides from one day to another that they don't want people to play D3 any more, but rather buy the new, expensive D4 (which is exactly identical, except for marginally better graphics, and you must pay for it again). So what do they do? They shut down the D3 servers, and the game stops working.

Bang. Now, the customer still paid real money for something that doesn't work at all, ever again.

 

The most common reason for shutting down multiplayer services (or DRM services since that happens as well (i can't think of an example where the developer didn't patch out the DRM before pulling the plug on the servers though)) is not really to push people to buy new games, its to save money, a DRM server costs money to host and for games that are only paid for once this will eventually become a loss affair for the developer/publisher and thus it will be shut down and the customers will be left with a broken product. (most have the good sense to release a patch that removes the DRM but if the company goes bankrupt there are no guarantees that that will happen).

 

To make me accept some form of always online DRM scheme for a game i pretty much require the developer/publisher to have either:

a solid trackrecord of keeping gameservers up and running with few interruptions for 10+ years. (Blizzard and Valve are the only two i trust in this area (Blizzard might fail miserably every time they launch a new game but their original Diablo battle.net servers are still up and running despite a very low number of players actually using them, and that game was released in 1996/1997)

or

server binaries(and preferably sourcecode under a reasonably liberal license) and a client patch that they can push out to remove the restrictions and/or allow players to host their own servers if/when they become unable or unwilling to provide the service the game requires. (They need to be able to legally push these out in case of a bankruptcy or takeover)

 

I want to feel confident that i can dust off the game 10+ years from now and still play it if i want to, even if the developer and/or publisher goes bankrupt, or worse: gets bought by Ubisoft.

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It's funny how this works with software, and only software, too. Imagine this:

  • You pay 25,000 for a new car, turn on the engine, and drive home.
  • A pedestrian crosses the street, you step onto the brake, and nothing happens.
  • Pedestrian is dead. You find yourself in court.
  • Your lawyer calls in the car manufacturer, and they say "Yeah, that was release day, you have to expect problems if you drive on release day. Next week your brakes will work reliably. Oh, and besides, don't worry -- your brakes are fully functional, we only didn't enable them yet, because we haven't verified that you own the car yet".

You really couldn't imagine such a thing happening (well, maybe in Bizarro World). Only with software, this is entirely possible and almost "normal".

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There's a difference between being required to be connected to the server because it's a multiplayer game, and being required to be connected to the server if it's a single player game.

 

If your game is multiplayer, it's fine for you to require people to be connected to your server (and then it's easy to do authentication, which is a very non-intrusive form of DRM). That makes sense. You can't do multiplayer networking if they aren't connected to the server in the first place, so that's fine.

 

If your game is single player, it makes little sense for you to require people to be connected to your server (which is a form of intrusive DRM).

 

Generally, people don't mind non-intrusive DRM that works. If your DRM is intrusive, or if it doesn't work*, people typically have issues with that.

 

So what should you do? Whatever makes sense. Just be logical and realistic in your decision making. Too many people/companies aren't.

 

*by works/doesn't work, I mean your DRM works if it lets legal customers play the game, and it doesn't work if it doesn't let legal customers play the game.

Edited by Cornstalks
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If you have to log in to play, that is, effectively, DRM -- you don't need to expend effort elsewhere, just concentrate on making your login system secure. Like WOW, or other MMOs, if your game is multi-player only, then no, there's no reason to hate that you have to login--but, like I said, there's no reason to apply additional DRM.

 

MMOs and such aren't really selling a game -- they sell a service, and the fact that it happens to be a game is largely inconsequntial--it operates the same as any other subscription-based service, essentially, like Netflix, or any site with a paywall.

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The common complaint I see with always-online connectivity is that adds another potentially major single point of failure. If a game contains a game-breaking bug, that will happen intermittently and its occurrence is player-dependent, based on how someone is playing the game. If a game is rendered unplayable because of a server failure, that effect is widespread and affects a lot of players at once.

Cornstalks makes a good point about DRM that's intrusive. DRM should be practically invisible to a user that plays within the rules of the service agreement.

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I personally consider all forms of copy protection bad. All hail copyleft and Humblebundle.com!

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My view on the subject is a little different, but I think probably mirrors a lot of people's out there (or maybe I'm just self absorbed).

Anyways, I really could care less about DRM itself. It's extremely rare that I ever go back and play games (other than the few that my wife enjoys like Super Mario 3), even ones that I consider my personal favourites I never touch again (I probably have 8 versions of Chrono Trigger lying around, and I've never actually played any of them except the original SNES copy, which I played through 18 times in one summer).

What I hate is being inconvenienced. DRM has the potential to inconvenience me. If I can't connect to servers, or if an install fails (although I don't generally play PC games), or any other problem, I probably will never play that game again, which poses a problem to games that build their business plan around continued service (i.e. selling DLC). I won't cry about the game, I won't bitch and moan on forums about the game, I just won't play it anymore unless I don't have something else to play (which is rarely the case).

It's a company's prerogative on whether or not to incorporate DRM, and it's my prerogative to either buy the game or continue to play it. I don't base my purchases on DRM, but I won't sit patiently for them to fix issues. I likely would just put the game down, never pick it back up, and not have any fond memories when the sequel comes out that would entice me to pick it up. Something that they should consider.

"Single Player" games that make use of cloud computing don't bother me. It's actually a cool way to give a new single player experience that might be impossible on a single machine. Again though, for me it's all down to convenience. I won't wait to log onto servers, and I might not come back to the game if it takes a week to get it operational.

I'm sure a lot of people disagree with my views, but at the end of the day I just want great game experiences, even with DRM or requirements to connect to a server. It's when these become problematic to delivering a great game experience that it starts to affect my spending habits in the future.
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It would still seem a limitation if it's a multiplayer game that could conceivably be played on any server, but requires specific servers purely for attempting to limit piracy. (So, it's not really a limitation for games like massively-multiplayer, but many commercial multiplayer games could be played say over a LAN, or with people setting up their own servers.) I agree with the points made about ping times, and still being able to play it after the "official" servers are switched off.

It's funny how this works with software, and only software, too. Imagine this: [car analogy]

Actually I'd argue it would and does work that way, it's just that most software isn't put into life and death situations.

Cars are becoming increasingly complex - suppose the action between the brake pedal and enabling it was done by software. (Indeed, this may already be the case - http://www.pcworld.com/article/196293/car_hackers_can_kill_brakes_engine_and_more.html .) Are you saying that because it's done by software, they'd be allowed to get away with it? No, they're still liable.

But most software that people typically buy isn't intended to be put into life and death situations. Most licences clearly state that. If you use it in that situation anyway, you're on the own - it's like buying a car and driving it into a lake - you don't get to sue anyone when it sinks.

Perhaps we could complain that so much software is sold with the licences limiting them so much, but that's basically down to the complexity of software, and the cost that people expect to pay. If you want those guarantees, you can have them if you pay far more for it. (A new car can easily cost £20,000 - why should a £100 software package have the same guarantees?)

The fun will come soon with AI-driven cars, but you can bet that "being software" isn't going to stop manufacturers being liable just because it's software, when it's sold as a system to drive people on roads.
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