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 Jul 25, 2004 - 04:11 PM - by Michael
* Joe User: Game companies are worse than Pirates

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PC Games/Hardware/Microsoft
Joe User's got an interesting rant up today on the subject of what causes video game piracy, and who's ripping off game designers worse - game pirates, or the publishing companies themselves.

So yea, tell me again how I need to put some dongle or whatever on my game to keep 15 year olds from pirating? When our contract with publishers forces them to wear a shock collar that I can press a button to shock them if royalties aren't paid on time then we'll talk about forcing customers to deal with massive copy protection. But it's not the pirates I worry about.

I'm sure that Galactic Civilizations is pirated somewhere. But I highly doubt it's pirated in significant quantities. I know it sold over 100,000 copies out there. But people didn't pirate it much. Why? Because we didn't force them to pirate it. We didn't make someone have to create a CD crack so that they could play it on their laptop on the plane where the CD drive is replaced with an extra battery. We didn't make them have to download "patches" to get the game working. The version of Galactic Civilizations that won Editor's Choice Awards from most of the major PC game publications was the 1.0 version out of the box. And we encouraged people to pay their hard earned dollars for the game by giving them value by putting out updates after release. We put out a bunch of free updates that added tons of features. A BonusPak, a free expansion pack. Heck, GalCiv 1.21 is due out this week! You want to fight piracy, don't give people a reason to pirate.

It's a well-made point; many users started down the road to piracy, not because they're naturally drawn to it, but because something sent them off to hunt the "forbidden" tools, like no-cd patches.

As far as the bugs, however... console games have bugs, too. Some of them are nearly game-breaking. I've seen console games that had savegame-wiping bugs, console RPGs that were designed to be "open ended" but could be rendered unfinishable by killing the wrong person.

Chronicles of Riddick had a HORRID bug trying to cope with 480p graphics modes - it got pixelated at the oddest times, while being just fine and perfectly crisp in 480i. Nothing to do but shut that off in your adapter if you had it... a waste of a perfectly good HDTV, then.

Ultimately, the trick with console games isn't so much that they don't have bugs. It's partly that the designers and publishers KNOW they have to hunt out all the game-killing bugs, so they spend more effort on it (oftentimes cutting off funding to the PC side of a game developed for both platforms while doing so). And it's partly that PC developers get somewhat lazy - "oh, if something comes up, we'll patch it" becomes the mantra.


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