Does any portal do *Anything* about piracy

Discussion in 'Development & Distribution' started by cliffski, Feb 18, 2007.

  1. James C. Smith

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    I also wanted to clarify that the Reflexive DRM never writes the unencrypted EXE to disk (and obviously it is not installed what way either). I understand that some people are upset and amazed by how poorly implemented some DRMs are, and at the same time you are cautious about naming names. But it is frustrating when your vague comments can be misconstrued to imply the wrong portal is the one doing stupid things like shipping an unencrypted EXE or writing that unencrypted EXE to disk each time the game is run.

    Any DRM can be cracked. If a user is willing to run an EXE he downloads from a crack site then there is nothing we can do about that other then try to shut down the crack site.

    But I personally am way to cautious to ever execute code I get from a crack site. I suspect many users have the same fears. That is why my goal is to have DRM that can’t be cracked without running code. In other words, if someone could post instructions on what file to rename to crack the game or what serial number to enter then that is a bad DRM. But if cracking the game requires downloading a crack and running it on the users system (or downloading a cracked version of the game and running it) then that is just the real world. No DRM can avoid that. And any user doing that is putting themselves at great risk of malware.
     
  2. Nikster

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    DRM from reflexive site may not, but anything with a reflexive logo on real does, unless it's two tier, however 48k must have some serious DRM packed in ;). I agree with the downloading from torrents etc ,not much you can do apart from what cliffski already has, however, and what worries me more, is that you don't have to fanny around with torrents or any crack sites and is basically what I mentioned in my original post, they don't give a shit. and this isn't aimed at all portals just the two mentioned with problems (until more are discovered), like I said before, when I saw what real were doing, I thought that just plain sucked, when I saw what MSN was doing, I just pissed my pants.

    I normally don't go on about this stuff, but until today I never even knew those two portals were so weak, and if it wasn't for this thread I'd probably be still under the illusion that the only way my stuff would get spread would be via torrents/crack sites and the like and when I see cliffski fighting his way to get the dodgy downloads closed and then you see what's happening at source, I really feel for him, thinking why is he bothering.

    It all sucks :)
     
  3. Thorbrian

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    Hey all,
    I'm one of the programmers who works on the Reflexive Arcade DRM. I've been involved in all the anti-piracy stuff we've done one way or another.

    With respect to shutting down links to cracks and keygens and launchers and full versions and all that - I completely agree with Cliffski that it is trivially easy to get a lot of those links shutdown. For a brief while we paid a guy to find links and get the posted files taken down. He shut down hundreds of links to anonymous file sharing services, but within a week a whole new line-up was up and the various search engines reindexed those new links. It seemed to me that the activity wasn't effective so I stopped it. Since then we've worked some on writing a web spider to automatically find links to sites that are responsive to removing the illegal content, but the vast majority of links the web spider found were to either torrents or to domains which had "crack" or "keygen" in them and the pages content was hosted in a country that was not responsive to copyright violations. We may still activate an anti-crack spider soon, but given the results I've seen so far I can't see it being able to take down more than a single digit percentage of all links.
     
  4. Tom Gilleland

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    Okay, I copied that quote from one of Cliffski's older posts, but I think it is still valid. ;)

    Tom
     
  5. DrWilloughby

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    Could someone describe in detail what MSN is doing and if it is really their DRM or just a bad implementation of a DRM (theirs or someone else's) by the developer? I just downloaded Jewel of Atlantis, and while I CAN just run the exe to bypass the intro DRM window, the exe is still aware that it is unregistered and thus content-limited.
     
  6. Indiepath

    Indiepath New Member

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    I can only comment on the research that I have done and have paid to be done.

    ** Reflexive do not write the unencrypted (unprotected) .exe back to disk.
     
    #46 Indiepath, Feb 20, 2007
    Last edited: Feb 20, 2007
  7. James C. Smith

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    I have no idea what that means. What research did you do? What were the results? Which company was researched? You posted something about "the culprits as far as I have seen are RA (both companies with the same initials) " but you didn't say who they are or what they are cuprites of. You posted it immediately after a reference to saving unencrypted EXEs to disk but it wasn't clear if that is what you were replying to of if you were making a more general comment about often cracked DRMs.

    [Edit: It looks like you have edited you last message to clear some of this up. Thank you]
     
  8. arcadetown

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    When things have come to our attention, we notify the appropriate people and lodge appropriate complaints however there's also a few other complications...

    A) Does Portal A want to spend time policing which mostly turns out to be from the activities of Portals B through Z?

    B) When it's not an obvious crack/pirate site it gets murky when a portal tries to lodge a complaint. Sometimes when we've tried the hosting service comes back with a DCMA complaint form that is designed on for the legal copyright holder (the game developer, not the portal) to lodge a complaint with.

    I can't speak about various DRMs in use. If they truely are so easily hacked, I suspect if a few key developers spoke up they'd fix them. Of course there's the "build a better mousetrap" battle where the hardcore pirates will always win. You just need to make it hard on the normal casual pirate.
     
  9. Tertsi

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    How about download Diner Dash's newest version from there and see if it is different. It could be that MSN uses more than one wrapper or that some developers have custom DRM in their full version exe.

    Edit: Just to keep the testing conditions the same, avoid executing Launch.exe.
     
    #49 Tertsi, Feb 20, 2007
    Last edited: Feb 20, 2007
  10. cliffski

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    Some very interesting posts.

    It's true that hardcore offshore-hosted crack websites can be very hard to break, but those sites normally fire off more spyware,virus alerts and klaxxons than world war three, I doubt any 'casual pirates' are going there.
    A greater concern is the fairly safe, accessible forums that may not even be dedicated to piracy, where someone posts about a cool new game, and includes a rapidshare.com link to the full copy.
    I think cracking down on these is very easy, and the idea of a webspider that locates and maybe even auto-reports them is a very good idea, and (IMHO) well worth the effort.

    I would disagree that portal X is wasting it's time to report a game that's from portal Y. I certainly don't take that attitude. maybe I'm gullible, but I take the attitude that we are all in this together in terms of making a living from digital entertainment. Cute Knight and Lux are great games that in some ways, compete with me, but do I report any cracks and keygens for them? of course I do. I see it as important to help change (in any way I can) the mindset that 'games are free' as I do to prevent individual cases that affect me.

    Since yesterday 137 people have downloaded my latest fake keygen. This won't stop all of them, but it sure will frustrate them, and if it helps push these people towards realising that, at the end of the day, they could just buy the darned thing, then I think it was worth the 15 mins it took (maximum) to arrange it. there's at least 100 active members on this forum. Imagine 100 of us uploading fake keygens once a month, and posting them to warez forums. 101 keygens on the site, and no way (except experimentation) to work out which is real.
    A fake keygen can be anything. I recommend a picture of a fluffy kitten renamed as an exe file.
     
  11. zoombapup

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    I think these sort of guerilla campaigns can have the most success.

    The spoilers we did definitely slowed the spread of Worms 2 and WA. I'm sure that if we release a SP game, we'll be doing this a lot.

    I'm also happy to try and spread any fakes too, although to be honest, I never frequent anywhere that I could think of spreading them :)
     
  12. Bad Sector

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    Fake keygens? Dunno. I'm not sure i want a mob of tech-savvy, high skilled, extremely focused cracking geeks with a lot of time in their hands against me for breaking in their "scene" :). If there is anything i fear in the net world, is to upset these people.

    Possibly MSN did the right thing. These people crack games not to pirate them, but for the sake of cracking. It's a challenge to them. MSN poses no challenge - it may even be seen as a lame thing to even say that you cracked an MSN game because of that "simplistic" scheme.

    And i think that this may be the case: in these boards i hear all the time about pirated games from reflexive, real, etc but this is the only thread that i heard about MSN. Although my only source for that is the discussions made here, i don't know what's happening in the world outside :p.

    As a side note, a few minutes ago i went to the AppleGeeks webcomic page and at the bottom there was a link to an essay from Steve Jobs saying that he's against DRM systems because they do nothing to prevent piracy and probably they will never do. He's mostly talking about music, but IMHO this applies to anything. He said that the big record labels forced Apple to put DRM in iTunes Store and it was nothing but a problem to them.

    Anyway, my $.02 to this conversation. Feel free to say i'm an alien :).
     
  13. Chris Evans

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    Personally I think casual piracy has a real affect on sales. Not every pirated copy == $20 in lost sales, but I'm willing to bet 100-300 casually pirated games could cause a couple of lost sales. If you let casual piracy get out of hand then those lost sales add up pretty quickly. So having zero DRM is rather silly I think.

    IMO, there's two main ways to marginalized piracy.
    1). A solid but unintruisive DRM system to reduce casual piracy and make it difficult for the average user to obtain free/unlicensed software or music.
    2). Add value to your product that can't easily be distributed on a file-sharing network. With games this can be streamable updates, multiplayer features, and etc. It's a shame that the music industry has been so busy arresting 12 year-olds that they've neglected to improve their product with the changing times. If they made CDs cheaper and more appealing maybe they would see better sales of their physical media. But of course they never want to talk about this part of fighting piracy.
     
  14. princec

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    The tactic that appears to be working great for me is also to specifically encourage people to give their games to friends and family. We allow every registration to be used three times without asking any questions. Still haven't found a cracked version of my games out on the net yet despite the source code being available and the protection minimal. Perhaps this is because we have such an enlightened policy towards "licensing"?

    Cas :)
     
  15. Bad Sector

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    @princec:
    You know, that was exactly what i was thinking some time ago towards licensing :). I had my doubts on the technical side, though (i don't really like idea of keys, i prefer two versions - one demo/shareware and one full).
     
  16. NielsK

    NielsK New Member

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    At Zylom our DRM is taken very seriously. Of course nothing is uncrackable and our DRM has also been cracked at times but usually the person responsible for our DRM comes up with something new quite quickly.

    It's almost impossible to target all sites that put links to cracks up, those that get shut down almost instantly get replaced by others. What we usually try to target are those sites that try to make money of of our games by selling illegal versions. Sometimes these are actual sites, more often we encounter people who try to make money by selling cracked versions on sites like Ebay.
     
  17. Thorbrian

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    While I would agree with the statement that you can never know the impact piracy has on sales, we have been in the position at Reflexive to get some sample points showing exactly how much effect certain types of anti-piracy activites have had on sales & our business. I figured I'd share some of that data with the developers here, because obviously there is a lot of interest in all this.

    ---
    At one point we made a major upgrade to our sales system. Basically we redeployed every game (at that time maybe 350 or so) with all the latest improvements at once, over a span of 2 days. The improvements included a redesigned sales system UI, a move to asymmetric encryption for licensing, and 3 wrapper tech improvements which stopped every known exploit that could be done without finding and downloading any external file off the net (basically what we call "casual piracy"). We deployed them not knowing what the effect would be. Reviewing the data a few months later though, we could see that there was an immediate and significant change in sales and downloads that started the day we deployed the update, and built up to full amount in about a week. The effect was strongest on the reflexive.com site, compared to the entire affiliate network. I believe that's the case partially because our site uses direct downloads (so the new deployed games were used immediately) and partially because when piracy in the system was posted about, reflexive.com was almost always what was referred to. Both for those reasons and because it's our own site, that's the data I'm going to share.

    So the week after the redeployment, weekly sales were about 40% higher than sales the week before the deployment on our site. On average, That boost was sustained for the 4 months following. At the same time, weekly downloads from our site dropped by about 45% (although over the 4 month period following downloads had picked back up most of that change, while sales had stayed higher). Possibly 15% of the boost came from increased paypal use (the new system promoted it more). Immediately following the change, our weekly sales from customers who had previously bought from our site increased by almost 30%, while the sales from new customers (Who had never bought from our site previously) went up by about 70%. Over the following 4 month period however, the weekly new customer sales had declined somewhat, while existing customer sales increased by roughly the same amounts.

    So looking at that boost from the perspective of security, we saw that the current state of our DRM was that we had no known "casual piracy" problems (i.e. without downloading and running a crack, people weren't getting free time). For the "hardcore piracy" (people downloading and running stuff) we could see that all cracks and keygens and things had stopped working with the update - but that within a few months new working cracks and keygens had made it back into the wild (downloads did seem to pick up fairly quickly the same time we started seeing new working cracks being distributed). Based on the data, it seemed hard to deny that the security improvements had stopped a lot of pirate downloads, and more importantly had made a very significant boost to sales.

    So naturally, we planned further security improvements - we worked on tech to kill all the new cracks and keygens that had came out, hoping to get another good sales boost and see if it would kick down the downloads like before. We ended up deploying it about 7 months after the previous security improvements. In this update, there were no "casual piracy" security improvements, and no usability or visual improvements either, just "hardcore piracy" security boosts and some infrastructure for some feature improvements. The security boosts worked in that all existed cracks stopped working. Just like before, there was an immediate and dramatic decrease in weekly downloads, to the tune of about 40%. Just like before, the downloads picked up again - but this time in only 2 months (about when we saw new working cracks). Weekly Sales, however, had no significant change (a small decrease well below the weekly std.dev).

    So in the end, our data showed that killing hardcore piracy (i.e. downloading and running cracks) was consistently correlated with an instant, dramatic but temporary drop in downloads, while killing hardcore piracy was not correlated with sales boosts. At the same time, usability improvements and stopping casual piracy (i.e. stuff you can do without downloading and running stuff) were together correlated with instant, dramatic and sustained increases in sales. (as a side note, the sales effects could also be seen to lesser degree on the affiliate network as a whole, while the download effect did not seem to translate to the affiliate network as a whole)

    ---
    I'd also like to say that I would expect nearly every portal and DRM developer applies similar types of analysis and planning to their business. The idea that portal people wouldn't care about lost sales due to piracy seems ridiculous to me. I think Dan said it right when he said "If the portals were suffering from a lack of real DRM, they would do a better job." People may be at different points in development, but any portal and DRM tech that is in active development is going to be testing, analyzing and planning to get the wins that they can reach.
     
  18. Dan MacDonald

    Moderator Original Member Indie Author

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  19. arcadetown

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    Interesting info and yes the changes made in Reflexive's DRM system in July was significant and should have easily helped sales. Note the update was shortly followed by Virtual Villagers which also may have been part of that sales boost.
     
  20. Thorbrian

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    That's a good point to bring up - New hit games can certainly play a significant part of sales data, so whenever I do event correlated sales analysis, I run it both with all games included and with the top 3 selling games for the week removed. The % changes that we saw correlated with the 2 updates I mentioned were very close to each other regardless of whether the top selling games were included - meaning no hit game caused any significant portion of the results I quoted.
     

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