Safe guarding your game

Discussion in 'Indie Basics' started by thegamedesigner, Oct 1, 2007.

  1. dma

    dma New Member

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    That's just speculation at this point, as no hard data has been released. But then again, even if it's 20% of that, they still did good. But we'll have to wait and see if they ever release real numbers.

    Stephen King did the donation thing with an online novel a number of years back... if I remember right, he netted 500K before expenses, basically making it a "failure." (At least to him.)
     
  2. cliffski

    Moderator Original Member

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    so much bullshit is spread around the web about the radiohead thing it is laughable. radiohead are a private company AFAIK. the only people who know how it went are them and their accountant, and the general public will NEVER know for sure, just what PR spin they release.
    How much money does BigFish Games make?
    nobody knows, except them. Same for Positech games. I made 1.2 million pounds last year. See.. its easy!

    Its in radioheads interest to announce high figures to get more press, and all the people who are into file trading and obsessed about 'teh evil RIAA' are keen to ramp up the profits of it to encourage other bands to let them take their music for free as well.

    If in 2 years time every major band does this, then it was more profitable than setting a price, but I'd be very very surprised if that happens.
     
  3. dma

    dma New Member

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    That would be nice, if it could happen. I think over time though, people will just be so used to downloading everything, and there will be so much of it, that they will simply "forget" to pay. I often wish we as game developers could just do that... release a game, don't worry about protection, taking orders, etc, and just rely on people paying what they think it's worth. It's much more of a hassle to have to protect the program, deal with lost registration codes, and all of the other "fun" business stuff that goes along with that.
     
  4. Spore Man

    Indie Author

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    There was an article that stated that they had 1.2 million album downloads, but they didn't state the revenues (you have to assume a portion of that 1.2 mill was for 'free').
     
  5. princec

    Indie Author

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    Assume commodity conversion rate of maybe 1% and that's 120,000 sales.

    Cas :)
     
  6. tolworthy

    tolworthy New Member

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    Another method is to build piracy-awareness into the business model. My game will a major new story added every six months. And the homepage is prominently linked on the menu screen. So every pirate version acts as an advertisement to get the latest, bigger, improved version from the legit site.
     
  7. cliffski

    Moderator Original Member

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    every six months the warez sites will just post updated links. that won't stop them taking it.
     
  8. GolfHacker

    GolfHacker Member

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    I use #1, for several reasons. First, there is no commercial DRM available for Linux - so separate demo and full versions is the typical way to go. You could do some kind of server-side validation, but I haven't seen this used for any Linux games that I'm aware of (at least, not single-player games like I make).

    Second, as a part-time indie, I prefer to deal with a single code base across all platforms, and similarly a single protection/distribution solution for all three platforms keeps it simple and easy. This keeps my workload nice and small. With #1, I don't have to maintain any server-side databases, deal with support issues when unlock keys won't work (usually due to customer error), worry about cracks, etc. This minimizes the amount of work I have to do and frustration I have to deal with. I check once a week for illegal distribution of the full version of my games via torrents, but so far I haven't found any such abuses. If I did find any such abuses, I would just report them to StampOutPiracy.com and get the links taken down ASAP. This nice, simple system works very well for me.

    @mot: I haven't found it harder with #1 to distribute updates than I did when I used #2 and #3. In all cases, I send an e-mail to all customers to notify them of the update and where they can download it, and then I rely on them to go and get it. Not sure what you think makes it harder. Granted, I have to update twice as many builds (3 demo, 3 full), but that's all automated as part of the build system and doesn't require any effort at all. The only thing it costs me is a little time to test out the full version installs and upload them. No big deal.
     
  9. tolworthy

    tolworthy New Member

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    Good! More publicity for me. As a complete beginner, my biggest problem is invisibility. I should also add that my game is a little more serious than most - it deals with issues of poverty and justice. The kind of person who frequents warez sites would not buy my game anyway. But if thousands of pirate versions are floating around the ether than my target buyer may randomly see an old copy, and the easiest way to find a newer version is via the prominent link on the main menu. I see it as a cost effective way to promote my game, though it probably wouldn't work for every kind of game.
     
  10. cliffski

    Moderator Original Member

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    make sure you tell stampoutpiracy.com, so they can make sure they ignore any warez copies of your game then. I'm sure the 400,000 registered members of the largest warez site will enjoy your game, as will their friends.
    If they won't buy it anyway, why do you care if they hear about it? you really think they will say to their mates "you will love this game, its great, I stole it. you better buy a copy".
    Make your game donationware if you are seriously convinced this would work.
     
  11. mot

    mot
    Indie Author

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    @GolfHacker:
    Do they actually go and get the update? Any stats? How do you supply the full version? A password-protected download, from your site or your payment processor's? At Plimus it's either a one-time download or you need to sign up to be able to re-download your purchased software.

    I'm really curious about your approach - I've actually tried both, mind you, even with the same game. Started with a simple serial number, then switched to separate demo/full for various reasons that go beyond this issue. Even created a custom password-protected download area on my site to get full version updates to customers. Now for my next game I'm switching again, to online activation.

    It's much easier for me to tell people "to get latest version, download the game from our public website, it will update both demo and full versions".
     
  12. tolworthy

    tolworthy New Member

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    On the contrary, I am happy for pirates' lives to be made as difficult as possible. That is what makes it convenient for most people (non-pirates) to pay me instead of searching for a warez copy.
    Pirates like to share stuff with non-pirates. At least, that's been my experience. For example, well meaning workmates give pirate movies to friends, one-man computer sellers often put pirate software on the systems they sell, and some pirates sell their stolen goods on eBay. I'm not saying it's good, I'm just saying that it happens.
     
    #32 tolworthy, Oct 25, 2007
    Last edited: Oct 25, 2007
  13. GolfHacker

    GolfHacker Member

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    No stats, but to me, there's no difference telling a customer to download a new combined trial/full version from the public site versus telling the customer to download the new full version from a non-public site. I'm just sending them an e-mail to tell them it's available, and they can choose to get it or not. I personally don't care if they want the new version (with bug fixes and new features) or whether they want to keep the old version as-is.

    No problem, I don't mind sharing. I have found that trying to deliver updates through a payment system doesn't work very well. So here's what I do: first, I upload the new version to the payment system, so new customers always get the latest version - that's a no-brainer. Second, for prior customers, I upload the new version to a hidden URL on some web site (either my own site or another non-publicized site) - there are no published links to the URL on my web site or any other, nor is it picked up by spiders. So there's little chance of anyone accidentally finding it. I then send an e-mail to previous customers to inform them of where they can obtain the update, and I give them a limited time frame in which to obtain it before I remove the file and the URL becomes invalid - maybe a week or so. Occasionally there are stragglers who miss it (because they were on vacation or whatever), so I may upload it to a temporary URL again for a very brief time to allow them to obtain it. Third, and perhaps most importantly, I don't issue a press release or post any notice about the new version on my web site until I remove the full version from the hidden URL. That way, by the time the general public is aware that an update is available, my customers already have it and it is safely protected from unscrupulous folks who might go crawling around on my web site looking for it. Customers also like the fact that they get the new version earlier than anybody else, so this is an added benefit. Of course, any customer who places a fraudulent order, issues a chargeback, or cancels their order is removed from the e-mail list so they don't get the updates. Oh, and I don't require customers to login to get to the URL, otherwise I would have to maintain user accounts, access privileges, and other administrator stuff I don't have time for. The fact that the URL is not publicized, not picked up by spiders, and only temporary seems to be sufficient.

    For add-on content, like the fashion packs for Fashion Cents, I used to provide password-protected downloads for each add-on, which I delivered via the mechanism above. But I've had the same support issues as generated unlock codes for the game, like users not entering the passwords correctly, etc. Plus the fact that with ten add-on packs, users have to go through 11 installers to install everything. So I'm currently experimenting with an auto-update mechanism for the upcoming Fashion Cents Deluxe. I'm thinking of posting the new files in a hidden URL on my web site, and providing a button in the game (full version only) that will go and fetch any new files from the web site and download them to the player's computer. I'm using very simple commands in libcURL to build this auto-update mechanism. To protect against customers who buy the game and then cancel their order (it's only happened once in four years), I'll change the URL every time I release an update to the game itself - so they may screw me by getting a free copy of the game, but they won't be getting any of the fun new content. As for where I put the downloaded files on the end user's system, I'm planning to just put them in the user's home directory, which is the only guaranteed writeable directory on all platforms - each user will have to download their own files, but that's about all I can do without getting into user privileges, access restrictions, and other complicated stuff.

    Hope that helps. Of course, if anyone sees any gaping holes in my approach, feel free to comment. But I've been doing this for over a year with Dirk Dashing, and so far it seems to be working well for me.
     
  14. DoomedUser

    DoomedUser New Member

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    Hi.

    First of all, I'd like to thank everyone who contributes to this great community, I've learnt alot in the short space i've been around this forum.

    Back to the thread topic:

    There is a Chinese Proverb; "When the winds of change are blowing, some people build shelters and some people build windmills."

    File-sharing and digital networking is an inevitabillity, your game will be broken down, hacked, reverse-engineered, decompiled and distributed elsewhere (If it is worth the time :p ). The tools and middleware we use to create our works are also from the same generation of tools that will "steal" them.

    I know this is quite disheartening, but there are alot of forces and issues at work here.

    The most common factors have already been disscussed; Would these people who play your game for free, buy your game if they couldn't? Are they really lost customers at all?
    But the fact is, it doesn't matter. It will happen anyway. Do we really want to look like corporate Hollywood and bitch about our estimated loss of potential revenue? Anti-piracy and draconion DRM makes us look like dinosaurs who refuse to accept that our mediums are evolving.

    We are indie. We are meant to be small and agile enough to take risks, creatively and commercialy. To evolve quicker then our large corporate counterparts.

    I believe that some of us here have already worked this out, and just like GolfHacker, and are experimenting with ways to add value to the customers who purchase our games in the traditional way.

    I always thought that the biggest problem we face is that of consumer awareness, achieving critical mass, getting recognized. Whatever you want to call it. Surely people sharing your games is a cloaked blessing, like some sort of free viral ad campaign.

    My favourtie idea is to weave small revenue streams into traditionally single-player experiences. For example;

    *A paying-customer closed community is a no-brainer, but it is boring and easily replicable, how about having customers that are on your database experience something more in your games, say, im playing your 3D single-player game, but on the hour suddenly I see ghosts of everyone else whos playing that game at the same time, but all these ghosts are in different locations in the level representing where everyone is on the level on that hour. (not actually moving, just the location and the single frame of animation that was playing on the hour)

    Some people have got the protagonist on rooftops of houses, I can see someones fleeing from that difficult boss battle, whilst other paying customers who've seen this before decide to all be at the beach on the hour, so there is a huge flock of white ghostly figures (of all the same protagonist) before they disappear after a moment or two.

    This ingame event, crosses the borders between single and multiplayer without needing to make MMOs or such, it can build a strong community and thus customer base, which cannot be replicated by any third party forum.

    I believe we should be creative in every aspect of our games, from the game-mechanics to the business side.

    Thank you for reading.
     
  15. lee

    lee New Member

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    I seen tons of indie games on warez.bb

    Diplomacy was on there plus i seen others. The site is just links to downloads hosted on rapid share mostly and normally i couldn't care less if i saw a AAA title on there as they have teams to tackle this sort of thing. But for you indie devs you gotta keep an eye on sites like this. Once you know your game is on there you can report it to rapid share and they have to take it down and you would be surprised how often indie games end up on there.

    The longer you take to report the file the more money it's gonna cost you so don't be lazy, hunt these types of sites down and search them for your games...
     
  16. Sharpfish

    Original Member

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    Thanks for this post GolfHacker. I will be going the seperate demo/full version way so it was interesting/helpful to read your approach to updates.
     
  17. GolfHacker

    GolfHacker Member

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    Thanks, Sharpfish! Just a quick update: the new auto-update mechanism for delivering add-on content in Fashion Cents Deluxe is working very well. It took me less than a day to write the code for it (and that's with no prior experience using libcURL), but it is paying off big-time. The previous customers (who had to run through 11 installers to install the game and all add-ons in the past) absolutely love it!
     

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