Today is the official announcement for the first in a 3 part series of books on my observations and outlook on the games industry and how it effects the lives of gamers. The book is Random Battles: A Gamer’s Guide to What the Crap is Happening in the Games Industry and can be purchased at Amazon for the Kindle. In keeping with my philosophy on the issues, the book is available worldwide without DRM or installation restrictions.
For a sample of what the book is about, I am including the introduction and a snippet of one of the chapters.
Introduction: The Games We Love
Ever since my mom brought home the TI-99, I have been a gamer. I have played games on that, the Atari 2600, the Apple IIe, the NES, SNES, Genesis, Atari Jaguar, Gameboy, Gameboy Color, Gameboy Advance, DS, PS1, PS2, GameCube, Wii, PS3 and various forms of the PC. I have gamed all my life. Ever since playing my first game, I knew I wanted to work in the industry as well. Gaming has changed my life.
Ever since the introduction of the internet I have immersed myself in gaming culture. I follow the changes in the industry, follow trends in game design, distribution and monetization. These changes have fascinated me on several levels. However, throughout the whole of it, I have retained what I think is a unique mindset. I still consider myself a gamer first and a game developer second. This means that any decision I make or position I take is most often leans on the side of the gamer.
This mindset has often put me at heads with those in the games industry. Many of them have forgotten what it means to be a gamer and make many decisions that negatively impact gamers world wide. Luckily, not everyone in the industry is like that and these people are working to change gaming for the better.
Within these pages, you will find many of my observations, thoughts, opinions and predictions regarding many issues with gaming. While it is not a comprehensive look at gaming, It covers many of the broader and more pertinent topics I have observed. Within these pages you will read about Piracy, Used Game Sales, DRM, Accessibility and many other issues.
I hope that those who read this book will look at the topics with an open mind and try to understand just what makes a gamer tick when it comes to these issues. I would also hope that those gamers who read this will take the advice I give in these chapters to better influence gaming for everyone in the world. That is my goal at least.
Chapter 3: Digital Rights Management
No discussion about piracy can be complete without bringing up Digital Rights Management or DRM. DRM is a tool used to prevent the widespread pirating of digital goods such as games.
It has a long and sordid history and has had varying levels of non-success and failure. It has taken such forms as the disk check, dongles, codes from manuals and even online verification. The worst offenses have caused damage to gamers’ computers and have caused all kinds of ill will amongst gamers.
Let’s take a bit of look at various forms of DRM.
Dread Forms of DRM
Like any good Mimic, DRM takes the form of a “benefit” to the gamer, and like all Mimics, ends with the player barely surviving the encounter.
In the early days of gaming, DRM was often found as secret codes that one had to enter into the game at various intervals. For instance, in the original Warcraft the player had to enter a seemingly random word from the game’s manual in order to play the game for the first time. This is fine for the original owners of the game, but as manuals became lost or damaged, it would cause all kinds of problems.
Other games relied on dongles that needed to be plugged into certain ports on the gamer’s PC. Again, these were okay until the dongle became lost or broken. This isn’t widely used any more due to its impracticality.
The next evolution of the dongle is the modern video game console. Proprietary hardware that is required for a game to run. This has allowed game developers many protections as it is often more difficult, though not impossible, to stop piracy when the hardware is locked down.
We also have the disk check. Most older PC games will install everything except a few bits of executable code, or assets and such onto the hard drive. This leaves a few things for the game that need to be pulled off the disk. However, as hard drive space grew it became more practical for everything to be stored on the faster hard drive. So the only thing left on the disk was a signature for the game to check against. If the game couldn’t detect the disk, it wouldn’t run.
With the internet age, developers were able to create a new kind of DRM. This one uses a process to ping a server and validate the game with the mother server. There have been varying levels of this starting with a simple one time registration to an “always on” connection.
Those are just a few kinds of DRM that gamers have encountered over the years. Some of it was okay and others were far more horrible.
The Purpose of DRM
So what is the purpose of DRM? Well, if you ask most any publisher, they will tell you that it is to protect their investment from theft through piracy. If you ask any gamer though you get a different story. They will tell you the purpose of DRM is to annoy us into ever more complicated hoop jumps, or to fight the used games market.
From my observation, DRM is nothing more than a way to avoid blame when a game is a failure. They claim it is to stop piracy, but when a game fails they can point to piracy and declare, “No matter how hard we try we just can’t win.” Then they stop making games for PCs and move to consoles.
So if DRM is not effective, why do they continue to use it? For the most part, it is because of investor pressure. Most DRM advocates are from publicly traded game companies such as EA, Activision or Ubisoft. They are pressured by their shareholders and investors to protect their investments from loss. With this pressure they have to put out measures that make it look like they are trying to stop piracy of their games. In reality, these moves are fruitless and the people being forced to implement them, the developers, know it. They recognize that trying to stop piracy is like trying to stop the tide from rolling in.