DRM vs. DRM-Free?

GaryCXJk

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Making stuff to make stuff and commercial products aren't exactly mutually exclusive, though. If you're purely making games to make money, then you should get out of the biz.


Also don't forget that you're not a special snowflake. There are a ton of people who are in the same market.
 
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Shaz

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That is your opinion, and you are entitled to it. But please refrain from passing judgment on others who do not share your opinion, in an area of the forum specifically set up for people who do not share your opinion.


People who ask questions here want answers from people who have a commercial interest in games, not from people who are going to tell them they're wrong to look at games as a source of income.


Do you think any of the AAA companies are not making games to make money?
 
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Celianna

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GaryCXJk I've removed your small line in your post advertizing your own novel. Advertizing isn't allowed here, and certainly not in this manner, so it's been removed and you've been warned.


Also, refrain from insulting our members here with terms such as "special snowflake".
 

Galenmereth

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I dislike the tone GaryCXJk took on this, but I think what he's trying to say is this:

If you're making games purely for profit, then you're in the wrong business. As in, you can make bottlecaps purely for profit because bottlecaps have an objective function: To be put onto bottles. If they do this, it doesn't matter what makes you produce them; your bottlecaps work.

Games, however, can be art. They can also be completely "objective" products, like a clone of a popular game, where the developer only thinks of profits and has no artistic integrity. There's nothing (capitalistically speaking) wrong with either, and there are markets for any kind. But I get the feeling that everyone who makes commercial games and have commented in this thread falls into the camp of an artist with business sensibilities; their motive is driven both by artistic vision and a wish to use their artistic prowess to earn a living. And DRM is seen by many as the only way to make that work.

I disagree. But then again, I have yet to make a commercial game. I probably never want to require people to pay, because I prefer as many people to play my games as possible. And that's my own personal thing. I want to see how things go if I release a full, proper game (I've only made shorter games so far) for free, and let people donate if they enjoy it. No DRM. I want my work to be spread as far and wide as possible, because that increases the chance that someone will love it and want to support me. I'm financing it by working as a freelance system developer, so I don't need any donations for it. But the project takes a lot of my time and energy; if I end up getting no money out of it, the chance of me taking on a similarly ambitious project again is very low, simply because I can't keep up a job and do game development of this scale on the side for too long. I have a girlfriend and a life that I have to live outside of work and game development as well. For as long as my current project is ongoing, it is felt by everyone around me. There's no avoiding that.

I like to think that if someone truly enjoys something they got for free, they want to thank the person that made it. I'm like that. We'll see how many others I can find who feel like I do, when I get there and release my game :)
 
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Andar

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What it all comes down to is getting food on the table.

If someone has another way to get that food, he/she can afford to give away their art.

If someone has to use his art to pay for the food, then there needs to be a way to guarantee that the payment arrives in one form or another.

DRM is one method that has been proven to work - with a lot of disadvantages depending on implementation and execution.

But I would really like to hear some alternatives from those people that declare DRM a bad idea. I even agree with them to a point - but unfortunately I haven't heard a better idea yet that works in most cases instead of just a few special cases.
 

Shaz

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I would LOVE it if you could release a game for free and say "hey, if you liked this, how about throwing me a couple of bucks" and have people actually DO that. But we live in a world where people just want, and expect stuff for free. My first game was released for free, with a donation button. It got several thousand downloads and a few reviews, and only ONE person ever made a donation, and that person was someone I already knew on a forum, who wanted to get into game development too.


The sad fact is, if you rely on people to donate out of the goodness of their heart, you better have another job and be doing games on the side, because it won't pay for anything. Despite how much they enjoyed the game, if people have the choice, they will keep their money for things they HAVE to pay for.
 
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BigEd781

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If you're purely making games to make money, then you should get out of the biz.
Yes, I completely agree; what sort of person would create a product solely to make money from it? Lunacy!
 
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monkeynohito

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Galenmereth, I think the issue gets clouded by potential in both directions. Many of the examples against DRM or in support of donations or even piracy assume that those options can pay off in the long run, but I think it's a really, really harsh gamble. The number of sales you can assume are gained through free distribution or tolerance of piracy are equal to the number of sales you can assume are lost when someone pirates a game, there's really no way to know for sure (though I go ahead and assume that 5,000 people pirating the latest AAA flavor-of-the-week is going to hurt much less than 5,000 people pirating one of Shaz's games.)

You can account for actual sales though and non-intrusive DRM supports that model. Demos support that model. Other options may sound good, even more altruistic, but if they don't support sales in some way, I just don't think it's something you can count on. Pouring your resources, time, energy, even soul into making a game shouldn't be a heart-breaking gamble, it should be a craft with a strong community supporting great artists. Until something better than DRM comes along that doesn't rely solely on ifs and maybes I see it as a necessary evil for smaller developers.

Seriously, you and I have argued quite a bit over DRM and piracy, but I really just don't want that Situation B to happen to you where it turns out future games can't be supported. I'd rather you take a less risky route. AAA developpers can sit and spin for all I care, but when it comes to an indie developer like you, I'll fight, tooth and nail, to try and see that you get what you deserve for the experiences you share with people.
 
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Galenmereth

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This is purely my own subjective opinion coming up: I'm among those that do not think capitalism and the profit motive works. It doesn't work for healthcare, for societal stability, for personal happiness or, well, anything. Not in the long run. The cracks can be seen everywhere. Sure it kind of works for me personally because I'm living quite comfortably with what I earn through my one-man business. But I don't like many of the core principle problems with capitalism and the profit motive, which these days are always intertwined. Letting people pay me what they feel is right for them is one way for me to feel like I'm changing things up a bit. As naive as that might sound. I won't go into this topic anymore than this; I know the flames it usually fan...

Let's take another problem: There's a tremendous difference in currency and poverty around the world. If I charge 5$ for my game, that'd be fine for most northern europeans. Americans would find it acceptable too, probably. But what about poorer countries? Should I charge less if you're from a country with higher rates of poverty? And if so, since I "lose out" on value there, should I charge the wealthy more? After all, it is my own personal wish for as many people as possible to play my game, but by setting a fixed price I exclude potentially millions of people. This is relative to this:

The sad fact is, if you rely on people to donate out of the goodness of their heart, you better have another job and be doing games on the side, because it won't pay for anything. Despite how much they enjoyed the game, if people have the choice, they will keep their money for things they HAVE to pay for.
Because there's so much to choose from. And so much to spend money on. And the financial climate isn't exactly healthy these days, either. So of course people will spend their money on what they have to; it's in very limited supply to most people. The thing is, for many – even older teens and grownups – the situation is this: They want to experience AAA games – which are expensive – but also indie games. If I charge a specific sum for my game, it's harder for me to sell it to people with little money because there's other, more "satisfaction guaranteed" products to choose from. Even 5$ for an indie game can be a lot to many people. Look at the AppStore and all the 99c games from studios that create AAA products; there's too much to choose from out there, and so a super low price is the only way. Or f2p with IAP, but let's not go there.

Seriously, you and I have argued quite a bit over DRM and piracy, but I really just don't want that Situation B to happen to you where it turns out future games can't be supported. I'd rather you take a less risky route. AAA developpers can sit and spin for all I care, but when it comes to an indie developer like you, I'll fight, tooth and nail, to try and see that you get what you deserve for the experiences you share with people.
Because of strong personal principles, I will never include DRM in anything I create; it goes against my vision for the evolution of humankind, free speech and the right to free information. If it wasn't for all the free information people happily shared with me through the internet growing up, I probably wouldn't be able to do half of what I can today. Programming, design, writing; I owe a lot – if not most – of it to individuals who shared their knowledge and source code with me for free. But even ignoring all that personal principle stuff, because of what I wrote above I don't think it's the right thing to do to add DRM. Neither is putting a set price. I might go the "pay what you want" route with a demo and an initial set amount that you can change to what suits you, however. But I won't try to force people to buy it to play it. Besides, if people enjoy it it'll be cracked within hours anyway.

The reason I'm so set on letting people pay what they want is because of all the things above. It's also that while I do currently live within the system of capitalism, I don't want society to stay stuck in it; I'm constantly trying to find ways to live my life differently and rely as little as possible on that system. Due to personal experiences and knowledge about its darker corners (I used to work for a global ad agency that dealt with corporations and politicans), I know it will bring ruin to all but a lucky few.

And no, I'm not pro any other isms either; I'm for trying something new.
 

monkeynohito

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I don't think it should be a zero sum equation though, either fixed pricing or DRM. If we just opt out of the systems, predatory publishers like EA, Activision and Zynga will continue to define the rules, even co-opting and weaponizing our ideas whether it's barely reskinning an indie game as their own or putting out their own "indie" bundles. The internet really leveled the playing field in a lot of ways and while that affords us a lot of cool publishing potential, the big publishers now see indie developers as either competitors or resources to exploit and they'll respond accordingly whether you like it or not. They'll file suit over nonsense like Mojang's Scrolls case or hand you a broken platform to publish on and then pull the lifeline out of the blue like XBLA.

We now operate under a huge double standard thanks, in large part, to piracy. Though it's more common for movie and record pubs to claim they need to recoup pirate losses, it's OK for EA to push the prices up to $60 or $70 now and charge the same number in US dollars, pounds or euros while an indie game is expected to be free or abysmally cheap. On the other hand, the most successful indie game, Minecraft, sells for a respectable, but reasonable $27. AAA pubs can even get away with highly intrusive DRM to some extent while indies are advised not to even bother with the most basic protection. Again, I barely even realize Minecraft's DRM really exists, it's never caused me any problems. Mojang has achieved incredible success with compromises within those models, it's possible for it to work. But I feel that DRM-Free and free distribution models -currently- feed into the harmful double standard more than they help and I don't see that circumstance ever changing.

At any rate, aside from ethical discussions, some non-intrusive DRM does help to curtail piracy for small enough indie projects. Cracks aren't so simple to produce for the majority of players, so a game needs to be at least big enough to draw the attention of someone willing to bother. From a functional standpoint, I don't think DRM becomes easily diverted until you're seeing a measure of success, so it's not useless. At the least, it can provide you a sense of security fora while if you're worried about piracy.
 

Galenmereth

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monkeynohito, your arguments make a lot of sense. And you are right, too :) Especially when it comes to AAA prices and the double standard of what is expected as a price label for indie games vs AAA games. It's not about the best practice, either: Non-intrusive DRM like Minecraft's I'm all for. Actually, Minecraft's can hardly be considered DRM; if you've signed in once, you can play as a guest on that account forever. It only hinders you from joining servers for multiplayer. I played my first few Minecraft hours guesting on a pal's account because I was really sceptical about the game. It looked very boring until I played it :p

What gives me hope is that you see AAA publishers lose their iron grip a little every day. Kickstarter, for example, has disarmed them quite a bit. Not to say "corporations are evil, boo!"; they're not all bad. In fact they're all working as they should within the system they're created in and for. But the fact that power – and by that I mean money – is flowing more freely because of the internet means indies have a lot more choices to get out there.

I just happen to choose the option that's the most dangerous financially speaking, because I'm weird, principally stubborn and like to take risks.

So to put my thoughts into order: I think some DRM is alright as long as it does its absolute darndest not to get in a legitimate customer's way. Like Minecraft. Personally I won't use DRM, but I will buy your game even if you add a DRM solution to it. As long as that solution respects me as your customer.
 
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monkeynohito

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Right, I don't want to say AAA publishers are generally evil. In some cases, problems are really out of the hands of a generally decent publisher, for instance, it's not Valve's fault that Steam is such a beast, it really is everyone else's fault. I do feel AAA publishing is on the cusp of becoming unsustainable though as they push technology and production beyond the limits of their sales and loose touch with their fans. EA, Activision and Zynga though, they're predators, IMO.

Anyhoo, on the Minecraft DRM, at times where I didn't have an internet connection, I could play offline totally fine, but I just couldn't use my character skin. It's such a little thing in a first-person game, you really only see the character in the inventory screen really, but it's pretty effective to me. I wouldn't play a cracked version that witheld benefits like that. Mojang, themselves, are also hosting that skin for you so, ethically speaking, they're upholding their minor share of the burden and as a benefit to the customer, a persistent account and skin is very helpful for multiplayer.

On the other side, if I had to restart my system during a spell of connection trouble, I was totally shut out of many of my Steam games. This was when I was living in North Minneapolis with spotty, slow internet being the best available, so I completely understand points about always on-line DRM unfairly punishing poorer areas where internet isn't the best. Going back to the Minecraft example, a lack of access to the cloud and achievements really is going to be enough of a deterrent for a lot of people, it's worth asking if DRM is really that much more effective in those situations. I have to mention though, not every game on Steam uses the DRM, so I was still able to play a lot of games without internet by starting them outside the client.
 

Galenmereth

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On the other side, if I had to restart my system during a spell of connection trouble, I was totally shut out of many of my Steam games. This was when I was living in North Minneapolis with spotty, slow internet being the best available, so I completely understand points about always on-line DRM unfairly punishing poorer areas where internet isn't the best. Going back to the Minecraft example, a lack of access to the cloud and achievements really is going to be enough of a deterrent for a lot of people, it's worth asking if DRM is really that much more effective in those situations. I have to mention though, not every game on Steam uses the DRM, so I was still able to play a lot of games without internet by starting them outside the client.
That is my biggest gripe with Steam; lack of uniformity when it comes to DRM. Some games require Windows Live, some require an internet connection. Some don't. Some do if you launch them through steam, but otherwise don't. Some are clearly labelled in terms of DRM requirements, others not at all. I rarely buy anything on Steam that isn't on sale for this very reason; it is an inconvenience to me, and I don't feel it justifies a full price, because I never know how available my game is. Sometimes Steam's offline mode won't even work if I've forgotten to launch it for a few days or longer and suddenly lose my internet connection.

I live in Norway, but a bit out on the country. I've got a pretty stable 25mbit/5mbit connection here; by no means crappy. But it uses above-ground phonelines, and bad weather happens. Sometimes we're without a connection for a few hours after or during a storm; other times it can be a day or two. The thing is that when the weather's crap is when I want to play games the most, and that's when my internet connection has the biggest chance of getting borked. And that's when online requirements become a true pain in the butt. And cloud saving that I can't make local backups of... (Stares at Dark Souls)
 
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Engr. Adiktuzmiko

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^ yeah, I experience that here too... bad weather = no online gaming for me...

as for minecraft, I appreciate their current set-up... I'll just simply play creation mode or not go for achievements when there's no internet connection... XD
 

Helladen

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Making stuff to make stuff and commercial products aren't exactly mutually exclusive, though. If you're purely making games to make money, then you should get out of the biz.
I got to disagree with you. You make a profit when you're good enough to do so and that is totally fine. Charity games are good for new developers and helps you learn faster than expecting money. I have been in this business for quite awhile myself, and I'm not that experienced at commercial discussions cause I didn't meet my expectations of a developer, so it is good to talk about these things for current and future games for developers in my position.

I would just make a good game and try to Steam Greenlight it. If your product gets enough attention the DRM can be handled by Steam.
 
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metronome

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My parents always tell me something like this:

"If you want to make comfortably enough money into your life, stay away from world of art and/or science. Go do business"

Oh, I hate that remark.

And here is my reply:

"Peeps from non-business world do make big money too!"

15-20 years later, I can start to see why they say that, though I will not 100% agree with that remark. May be another 50 years? LOL.

Now, what about game designing world, is it art? Is it science? Is it Business? You decide. Not me. If you treat it like art and/or science, and if what my parents say were true, then you should be prepared that you are going to be one of those people who have hard time making enough money to have comfortable life.

Anyway. Let's get back to topic.

Let's say I make a game, and that's the very first game I make and I want to go commercial. (I would want to give it away for free, seriously, but for the sake of......debate (?), let's just say I want to go commercial, yay!).

DRM or DRM-free?

For simplicity sakes, let's say if I go DRM I will get 50 sales in 1 year, and if I go DRM-free I will get 500 pirates in 1 year over my first-born game.

DRM Route:

If I sell it for 5 usd/item and under, then I will get (at most)250 usd in 1 year. This is obviously not something that will support my life. Let alone comfortable life, I might as well stop joking and stop dreaming about this ****.

If I sell it for 5 to 20 USD/item, then I will get (at most)1000 usd in 1 year. Of course this is still not something that I will proudly say that it will support my life.

I gonna have to sell my game for at least 240 USD/item. Seriously. We are talking about lifes here. If I could go for 300 USD/item, why not?

Someone A:

"Hey! This is your firstborn game we are talking about here! If you can get 50 sales/year, you will get at least 100 sales/year for your second game, and you will get at least 200 sales/year for your third game! Heck, why don't you make 1 game every 2 months and then sell it for 5 USD/item? It's going to be at least ((100+200+400+800+1600+3200 = 6300 sales ) x 5 USD/item)) = 31,500 USD/year! I mean come on. This 50 paying customer will go find at least 2 paying customers to buy your next game! Nothing is impossible! OMG!"
Me: "Yea OMG! What if my second game can not even make 25 sales/year? Will you throw in your money for the rest?". Of course if anyone could become millionaire by making 6 games/2 months in 5 years easily, everyone should become game designers!

DRM-free Route:

500 pirates over my first-born game (0 paying customers)? Well. Not sure what I will have to say about this. I mean....I don't even know how big 500 is.

During my highschool days, there were 800 students in total in one school of mine. So......I am imagining that there are 500 out of 800 students in that school playing my game, then if that's the case, I will be happy, even if they don't want to pay for my first-born game.

500 could also means there are only 500 people out of almost 7000000000 people out there on earth willing to play my game, not to mention that they don't even want to pay.

Someone B:

"When you have 200 audiences and under during your first try, your second try will at most net double of that number, but ifthere are 300 - 900 audiences during your first try, your third try will net at least double of that number, could go triple with quadraple at max. (1000+ audiences on first try will net at least triple of that number)."
Me: -Big Eyes-"Wooooowwwww, hurray? That means I gonna be as popular as Obama and John Lennon by my 5th year game designing.............. right? I will sell my signature/autograph/photo/panties/whatever now! They will be expensive 5 years later. You gonna be my first customer, right, right, right????".

Sadly, being popular doesn't always mean living a comfortable life.....

Statistically speaking, 75% popular people you know can not even live a meager life, and yup, popular is actually really subjective matter, you may be hallucinating when you think you are popular. Honestly.

Soooo, if you want to be popular, make sure you are popular! 10000 audiences on first try (in one year) and then 14000000 audiences on your fifth year trying is a minimum....I guess?

Conclusion?

You want fame, then time to say goodbye to DRM. Embrace DRM-free and make sure you gain at least 10000 "audiences"/pirates/thieves/scums/big bads/gangsters/mafias/jack sparrows/whatevers on your first try in one year. Remember, you want at least 50000 "audiences" for your second try. We are talking about NON-PROFIT fame here, if you are not making that much on the first try then.....what?

You want money, then make sure you DRM your game AND you must make at least triple of your country's yearly minimum wage from this one game. Why triple? Well....do the math yourself I guess...?

Compromise?

Sure! Let's say you go DRM and you get 24000$ in one year on the first try with 500 "audiences"/year. why not?

Even better, you go DRM-free and you get 240$ in one year PLUS 8000 "audiences"/year, then good enough.

Compromise is something subjective. All you have to do is find the numbers. How much money do you think it costs to get the fame of 10000 "audiences"/year? How much fame do you think it costs to get triple of your country's minimum wage? I know there are some countries with minimum wages below 100 USD/mo...so....

If you can't make 10000 audiences or if you can't make triple of your country's yearly minimum wage, then there 3 routes ahead of you:

Route 1: Keep Going.

Route 2: Give Up

Route 3: Combine Route 1 and Route 2 together. Example? Hmmm treat it like a hobby, pursuit of higher art, and science research. There are more examples for this route, and I am in route 3 right now.

I think, what I said above applies to other things too, not just game......

If what you are trying to "sell" can not make that much on the first try (might need to make even more by the next years, you know...), pretty much talking about PROTECTION or PROTECTION-FREE is taking it too far. Heck, you might even need to reconsider if you really want to keep going (Route 1) before you even spout something like "PROTECTION"?

And again and again and yet again:

This is just my personal opinion

Please forgive me if there are any errors, typos, rude words, etc in what I said above.

Thanks for at least reading.
 
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Tuomo L

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By the way, beware all you guys who are boasting being DRM free, I heard a certain Indie dev had 97% of their copies ( 3104 of the 3318 ) being pirated copies. 



Sums it all up in ironic twists that this person is complaining about his pirated copy of a game developing game.

So yeah, DRM your games always. All the complainers are the kind of people who brought it upon themselves for there even needing to be DRM in the first place. 

Also Metronome, if you don't meet the minimum quota (I think it's like 6000$ a year? Can someone who has expertise in US laws verify?) you can actually get welfare and still receive the small payments of the game.  So you can get paid as much as unemployed as well as the ocassional checks from your games while developing your second game and then hopefully continue to become more rich in the future. Also, 500 people playing your game for free or for cash isn't anything special at all honestly though if you'd be content with so little, be my guest. I think all your figures are all way too low honestly. You shouldn't be aiming so low regardless if you go free or commercial. 
 
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Tsukihime

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On the flip-side, he made 200 sales in one day.


Of course, after a year's worth of hard work, you'd want a lot more than a mere 1600 for your efforts.
 
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EternalShadow

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I would not go DRM free. If someone doesn't have to pay for it, chances are, they won't. And they don't have to pay for it if a friend already has and they don't mind sharing with each other (which is the case a lot more often than you'd like).
GOG seems to be doing alright without DRM, though.
 

B.Ultimus

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I feel like there needs to be a happy medium.  I understand the need for DRM, but some companies go overboard with it, which really hurts their sales.  I feel like even if you have some kind of simple DRM, that will probably help your sales a ton... even the smallest obstacle will deter people.  But pirates will be pirates, and your DRM is never full-proof.  You need to figure out a balance that will keep your game secure, and yet not anger your fan base who want to spend money on your game.
 

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I'm sorry about my mistake of not messaging you about posting in Games in Development Rules and Guidelines. I'm still new on this forum but using RPG Maker for 3 years. Well it is in English language. Well, I just want to explained about the game and show them the demo. I promised, there is no inappropriate contain because I don't like that. What should I do?
Magic numbers are the devil.
So I was explaining to someone today that Magic (the Gathering) has advertised itself as a Trading Card Game (TCG) and a Collectable Card Game (CCG), but never a playing card game. Playing cards are what they use for stuff like Poker or Black Jack. So by playing Magic with the cards, they were in fact doing it wrong, and me trading the cards is a correct usage. :popcorn:

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