Cliffksi and the Pirates

Time for the monthly piracy thread! As pointed out on RPS, Cliff “cliffski” Harris recently asked pirates why they pirated his game, and then posted a summary of the results. In response to these results he decided to drop DRM, provide longer demos, and generally make his games better and cheaper.

While this is all fantastic news for people who actually intend to buy cliffski’s games I’m rather skeptical that the ratio of such people vs pirates will increase substantially because of these changes. People who have no problem stealing very likely also have no problem lying about the reasons, and “price is too high” or “quality is too poor” are the usual lame excuses that sound even less convincing when it comes to $20 games with demos, as in this case.

I should say that offering better games with better demos etc. might very well lead to increased sales – but to new customers who never intended to pirate in the first place. Existing pirates will just keep pirating, so while sales and piracy might both grow the ratio will stay more or less the same. That’s what I would expect.

Anyway, I wish him luck with his endeavour and I hope he keeps us updated about the sales effects of these changes.

I agree that he’s not likely to see piracy decrease for his games with this move. I’m surprised he’d see a significant amount of piracy to begin with given his market. No offense, but I can’t really see people who’d buy Kudos or Democracy as people who’d go out of their way to pirate. Hopefully it works out for him or he’ll be able to offer online only updates that require validation or something.

I don’t think his games have a high piracy rate, really. But i can say as a consumer that longer demos and no drm are good measures.

I think the biggest benefit of this exercise was that a lot (probably, more like A LOT) more people are now aware of his games, and the fact that their first contact with him led to a frankly positive result in terms of customer support will help quite a good percentage of those people give them a try.

Not that I’m saying this was a cynical marketing stunt. But the online world is quite sensitive to the piracy debate, and coming out on the side of the angels on this issue guarantees you a lot of exposure that will help your sales anyway. The same thing happened to Stardock, I think. I first found them because of the piracy argument over Galciv’s lack of DRM, not through §reviews.

I bought his “Kudos: Rock Legend” since it was the “” game of the day recently.
I got a link that enabled me to download the unprotected exe installation file (26 MB).
Since there is no need to enter any key etc. I could simply upload that file to some site and “release” it into the scene.
I assume this has been done ages ago already + I would never do that + I don’t have access to places that count as “official release sites” so chill and think about your blood pressure.

Now the important part:
I assume a lot of people would get it but not because they don’t want to save money but because it’s so small.
With broadband you have that file in a min or less.

90% of them would install it, play 5 min with it, decide it sucks, uninstall and delete the installation file or burn it to some dvd (collectors).
5% might decide it’s fun to try “later” and never return since other games are out.
5% might like it and play it.

So realistically we have 5-10% potential sales lost due to pirating it.
However even from those 10% some would not pay for it and only play it because it’s free.

I’m really quite shocked to find out how disconnected developers, publishers and for the most part the industry are with their customers. This shouldn’t be as much as a revelation as it is to developers right now. While I applaud Cliffski for actually taking that important step into the foray, I still wonder how any developer or publisher can logically look at the problem and say, “Well, lets just make it harder for them to play it” and not expect people to get pissed. I believe pirating has a direct disproportionate correlation to the way the industry treats its customers.
The only new concepts coming out of the gaming industry is how best to exploit the average gamer repeatedly and routinely. There are rarely any new groundbreaking game designs, concepts or genres and quite frankly a lot of people are pretty sick of playing the millionth clone with some sort of gimmick into getting people to pay the ridiculous price of $60 per game.

EA’s biggest accomplishment is finding enough advertisers to pay for the majority of development costs and then microtransacting the fuck out of anyone who wants to play on a level playing field. PC gaming isn’t about AAA game titles. Theres nothing less I want to play than another bloated-budget no-substance boring and underwhelming super-hyped piece of shit that is released en masse. If I wanted that, I’d put my 360 to use.

PC gaming is about niches and a free market of ideas and exploring new concepts. You wonder why people think PC gaming is dying? It’s because PC gamers like me don’t buy the crap they are trying to feed us. I buy games that explore and push the envelop of conventional game design. I enjoy games like Simcity, Sims, Darwinia, Uplink, Rome Total War, Superpowers 2, etc.

If the industry wants to get rid of pirates, then it’s time to start respecting the people who buy the games and to get back to the gaming roots where innovation and creativity laid the foundation for the modern gaming industry.

Cliffski is on the right path, and I commend him for his bravery. When I become a game designer I will do my best to uphold the traditions and values that the industry used to have.

I say PC gaming is dying because modern consoles cost less than a modern graphics card and users don’t have to worry about the compatibility bullshit that Direct-X was supposed to eliminate. And you can do it laying on the couch instead of sitting on that uncomfortable Ikea chair.

Pirates won’t care if you give them one more level in a demo. You could have a demo of a game where you gave them the whole game minus the end boss/level and people would still pirate it. They want the FULL game, for FREE.

Also, I think what we are experiencing is that everything has been done to death now, and people, as you said, won’t buy Quake 542545 because, in the end, it’s still Quake.

I don’t dare to predict how gaming will be in ten years, but I’m somehow thinking about Rock 'n Roll music now; for a few years, everybody aroud the world listened to it, morning noon evening and night, and suddenly it disappeared. No one gives a sh*t about it now. Because it was done to death.

What does that have to do with gaming? Maybe nothing, maybe we could see a comparable situation where suddenly one big part of culture gets abandoned. Who knows.

The new Realms of Arkania game Drakensang (which came out over here recently), which I picked up last Friday, uses a copy protection scheme which pissed me off to no end.
I use noCDs for most of my games, because I had troubles with my DVD drive ever so often and I don’t like playing DJ when switching games.
I can live with being forced to dig out the original disc to play with a new patch or because a crack causes problems somehow. Slightly annoying, but ok.
Anyway, so I was playing Drakensang with a noCD crack.
Game worked fine, and I played for many hours on saturday and sunday.
Sunday evening, I got to a point where a quest NPC didn’t spawn where it should. Expecting a bug, I went online and gathered it was a copy protection issue.
Fine, I thought, looks like I’ll have to dig out that original CD to play on.
WRONG. The developers saw fit to make using a noCD crack actually corrupting your savegame. I.e., even with the original disc in drive, the NPC STILL failed to spawn. Even loading an older game from a different chapter didn’t help. You’re expected to start again from scratch, as a punishment you pirated the game or even just (as in my case) tried to play without the original disc in drive - for whatever amount of time.

On Monday, I returned the game to the store. Surprisingly, they actually took it back for a store credit (this still isn’t always the case here).

Who comes up with such crap?


Well, wouldn’t a more fitting analogy be that, say FPS games would disappear?
Last time I checked, there still was mainstream music, and there also was still rock 'n roll (just not as mainstream as it used to be).


It’s nice to see a rational Cliffski when piracy is the topic, and nice he’s taking some steps, though I don’t think they’re terribly comprehensive. Stardock approach, still king. Don’t buy the game, you get the base package, maybe find out you love it and want more later. I won’t lie, that’s exactly what got me to buy GalCiv in high school. A friend gave me a copy, I found out it was the best thing ever, and wanted access to all the goodness. Not that I’m saying everyone should download games and maybe buy later if they like it or anything, but I think in terms of getting people to buy the game who might not otherwise, it’s the best.

How much piracy is out of “I don’t know if it’s any good” or “I don’t know if my system can play it” versus “I just don’t want to pay.” There’s also the “I can’t afford it now, but really plan to pay!” camp, but that’s separate.

I think those 24-48 hour windows might be a great solution there. The people who just want it free aren’t going to pay anyway, so why worry about them? This is a way to get people who are unsure of a purchase by letting them actually play the game. It’s a great way to sell MP games I think, or Steam wouldn’t likely do it as much as they do. And I think for RPGs and games with a real replay option, it’ll really sell more. Plus, people who get partway into it and really want to finish, they’re more likely to pay up.

Third option, the “buy it later” types, isn’t there some sort of “Bill me later” option that could be done? Hell, it works for all sorts of other industries. Maybe it’s not really practical, maybe the “I’ll buy it later” group is small (I know I fell into both myself). But it seems like if someone wants to buy it, it seems like giving them a way is always the better option than turning them away.

I think it fits. Gaming won’t go, but more and more people will lose interest because they feel they’ve seen it all. That’s how I feel about RnR, which FYI is DEAD in Europe, except for a few people in RnR dance groups.

Rock n’ Roll might be unpopular / near death but it served / serves as inspiration that founded other music styles like Rock.
Maybe Gaming will do the same to something we can’t imagine today.

This will gaming die discussion is ridiculous. Gaming as a past-time predates history. To say a computer would no longer be used to play games would be like saying nobody will use computers in the future.

Yes, more and more people will lose interest, but they will be replaced by the new generation. I think the trend is referred to as “getting old”.

To follow the more specific case, I don’t really see people getting tired of FPS, because it’s such a broad category. First person perspective – don’t see it going anywhere. Interest in shooting: seems to be a male fascination since its inception.

Sure, maybe if you’ve played quakes 1-34, you will be less interested in Quake 35, but not everyone is a bitter old man… as long as an audience exists, games will be produced and refined. The appeal of violence and first person perspective is too ingrained in human nature for the audience to disappear.

You’ve got some good points there.

No to mention we are beginning to see old games being refreshed and rejuvenated, as we’ve seen for years now in the DVD business. Quake Live is really nothing more than an attempt to bring Quake III to more casual players (I don’t care how leet the gameplay might be, playing Quake in a web browser is casual), and I think we’ll see a lot of this in the future - insert here previous examples that I totally forgot.

Funny that you would mention that here. I made the mistake of merely installing the demo of this thing, and it taught me the harsh lesson that SecuROM, which I remembered as a relatively benign CD check, had mutated into a repulsive monstrosity that attempts to install a hidden device level driver, insert registry keys made unmodifiable with null characters, and install hidden undeletable files with malformed filenames. It was the worst attack on my computer’s integrity I’ve ever experienced, and it happened because I foolishly regarded the games industry as a reputable and trustworthy source of software. I hope everyone associated with these practices goes bankrupt, including the developers who consent to such methods of distribution.

SecuROM on demos now ? What the hell.

Just out of curiosity, what damage did all this do to your computer? What’s the BFD about some hidden driver that doesn’t do anything besides making sure you use legit software? Do you complain about the chips inside your console that do nothing but checking if your discs are copies, too?

I wish I knew, but I’m certain illegal filenames are illegal for a reason.

What’s the BFD about some hidden driver that doesn’t do anything besides making sure you use legit software?

If it doesn’t do anything else, why hide it from me? It’s my computer. If you sneak files in there without my consent, forgive me for assuming that you have criminal intent.

Do you complain about the chips inside your console that do nothing but checking if your discs are copies, too?

Complain? No. I simply refuse to buy or use DRM-protected consoles for this very reason.

Well some games were released that used the unprotected demo *.exe file so probably it makes sense in some confused suit’s mind.


08/31/08 Das.Schwarze.Auge.Drakensang - Addonia

Way to piss of legitimate customers AGAIN with non-working protections.