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ZippyDSMlee's picture
Joined: 2006-09-30

[QUOTE]Game developer wants to learn from pirates, asks them "why"

By Frank Caron | Published: August 10, 2008 - 08:30PM CT

Whether PC gaming is dying or not, one thing is certain: piracy of PC games is a serious talking-point for developers on either side of the debate. A growing number of developers big and small have become increasingly vocal about piracy rates for PC games. One developer, though, has finally put aside the complaints, the indignant state of mind, and is asking the pirates directly a simple question: why?

Cliff Harris, an independent game developer with Positech Games, has put out a call to pirates asking for an explanation. Not seeking to turn around and refute the pirates' reasons or to simply oust the pirates and turn them over to the authorities, Harris is earnestly sincere about learning what drives pirates to steal his games. Harris is asking for pirates to send him e-mails detailing the reasons why they are pirating games.

"What I don't know is why people pirate my games," Harris wrote on his website, where he made the open call for e-mails. "I might be able to get a general idea as to why people pirate stuff *in general* from reading warez forums, and every other story on digg, but I'm not interested in the general case. I want to improve my business, and ensure I stay afloat, and to do that, it would be mad to sit in the corner and ignore the opinions of that section of the public who pirate my games."

Harris promises not to publicly out any pirates for the sake of trying to get to the bottom of the issue. "I won't publicise who e-mailed me, or even store the addresses, share them, tell anyone them, or make any use of them whatsoever. I'll just read them, nothing else. It will be entirely off-the-record and effectively anonymous. I won't hand any email addresses to the RIAA, MPAA, BSA or anyone at all under any circumstances ever." What he will do, however, is read every e-mail in an attempt to understand why pirates pirate and what developers can do to change the way that PC gaming is going.

Cliff Harris

Harris, who has worked on many PC-specific titles including Democracy and Kudos, was driven to act not only as a result of the increased publicity surrounding PC game piracy but more so from comments made on his blog. "I occasionally post about piracy on my blog, and I get a lot of comments from people who defend piracy, or think I am too strongly against it, or that I blow it out of proportion," Harris told Ars today. "The last few times I read these comments, I got to thinking about the other side of the fence, and wondering if there was something I just didn't get. Pirates never talk to the developers, so I thought I'd see if there was something I could learn from it if I asked them for their honest views."

The pricing controversy surrounding Braid, a recently-released Xbox Live Arcade game which has garnered positive response from critics but negative attention from some gamers not willing to cover its $15 price tag, was a particular sore spot for Harris. "I think it's crazy for people to resent such a small price for a game. I don't feel like the world has ended, though. We all routinely spend more than $10 or $15 on things that don't last as long as a decent PC game," he said. Referencing a recent Penny Arcade comic, Harris continued. "A $15 t-shirt can be a spur-of-the-moment buy, but a game for the same cost needs to be a work of genius. I don't get why that is."
"Because I can"

Harris' plight has already drawn a significant response from visitors to his website and others on the web. In the first 24 hours after he made the call, Harris notes that he has received "tons, hundreds, if not more" responses. "Most of them have been generic piracy points, which is interesting, although not the original request," said Harris. "I have got a few sarcastic ones, but a lot of very long, well-thought-out explanations, mainly from people who don't pirate games now, but used to in the past."

Responses for piracy have been wildly varied. Some responders parrot popular reasons for piracy. Some pirate so that they can try the game before they buy, as though a pirated copy of the game were a free demo. Some do it to spit in the face of publishers who use copy-protection methods. And for others, it's as simple as "because I can." One response reads, almost mercilessly, "pirates deliver a more convenient product at a better price." Harris anticipated exactly these remarks. "There are lots [of reasons why piracy exists]," said Harris. "The ones that bug me are the people who are just trying to save money but could afford it, or the ones with some 'intellectual' justification for believing it's their human rights to get free stuff."

In spite of Harris' continued interest in developing for the PC, though, he does concede that he's being pushed towards closed console development. "I have considered console gaming, and also online gaming," said Harris. "The thing is, I personally prefer single-player games, so that's the style of game I design. I do think a lot about the best way to set up my game demos, the website, and what after sales support, content and patches to provide in order to reduce the extent of piracy for my games."

Piracy has long been a maddening reality for game developers—and, for that matter, all software developers and media companies in general. It's not a new phenomenon for gaming, to be sure, but as the business grows and more money is pumped in to projects big and small, the risk-to-reward ratio is a cause for concern for developers. Perfect solutions do not yet exist: developers have to find them. And while the stop-gap measure for now may be DRM or some kind of one-use reward for players who actually purchase games, developers continue to hunt for new ways to get move the majority of gamers in the direction of being patrons rather than pirates. Harris, frustrated with the balance tipping the wrong way, has found a new avenue to search for answers. Hopefully the answers that he finds help the industry at large.

"I honestly think I might learn something. IP owners characterize all pirates as freeloading scum," said Harris in closing. "Pirates characterize all IP owners as fat-cat billionaires in gold-plated Ferraris. It's about time we both listened to each other more." To other developers, he offered his support. "Don't be afraid to talk about [piracy]. A lot of big-name developers have blamed piracy for disappointing sales, and there is a perception that the minute you mention it, everyone will kick you in the face, because it's happened a lot recently.

"The problem is, devs need to be really honest about the topic. Blaming piracy for a move to the consoles is fine if it's really true, but if it's just an excuse to cover up a really badly made game, or one that nobody had machines that ran, that's just silly. It's easy to discount everything [pirates] say as justifications for theft, but if someone tells you your game's over-priced, buggy and the DRM is a nightmare, then it's madness not to listen to them."

I be you look at 360 "piracy" and it will show to be no "better" than PC "piracy", but I digress, its simple Hardware price goes up game quality goes down and there just has to be a valve to release the presser from the nightmare since returns are a no no and you can not properly track bad game return..


Ah modern gaming its like modern film only the watering down of fiction and characters is replaced with shallow and watered down mechanics, gimmicks and shiny-er "people".
Incoherence is my friend and grammar my bane, which is the fulcrum of suffering I place upon others!:ZippyDSMlee

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