Enforcing difficulty lock when installing from unofficial download services

Discussion in 'Game Mechanics Design' started by BreakerZero, Nov 23, 2018.

  1. BreakerZero

    BreakerZero Veteran Veteran

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    I ain't naming specifics but those in the know will probably get the idea here. And as a disclaimer, since this subject will likely progress to full-blown implementation and I am not sure where to direct this I have decided to start with concept analysis and go from there.

    Anyway, the basic idea is that I am looking to do something ridiculous to customers if my game is loaded from an unapproved source. The idea I have regarding game design is in relation to the infamous "advisory mode" that locks difficulty, pesters you with jokes about proper market support and intentionally crashes to bootstrap following a total data wipe during the endgame.
     
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  2. gstv87

    gstv87 Veteran Veteran

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    how do you tell what the source is?
    you'd probably need a whole license server for that.
     
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  3. Uzuki

    Uzuki Kawaii on the streets, Senpai in the sheets Veteran

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    Best thing you could do is beat the uploader to the punch and send out a crappy build of the game yourself. Not a lot of people upload, reupload or keep RM games up to date so if you can go to the more popular seedy sites and upload a crappy version of your game, you can let it spread from there.
     
    Last edited: Nov 23, 2018
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  4. BreakerZero

    BreakerZero Veteran Veteran

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    Two good ideas there, but let's say you just went paywall on itch, Steam, GameJolt etc. and you're interested in some kind of database entry (REGEDIT, installer destination etc.) that if it's not there means that you downloaded the raw data and not the proper package which in turn will set off a series of pranks at the customer's expense until they realize what happened and go to an accredited source to get the necessary dataset, unlock the blacklisted material and thereby complete the transaction.
     
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  5. Uzuki

    Uzuki Kawaii on the streets, Senpai in the sheets Veteran

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    I believe I recently saw a plugin that would allow you to have the game check for an internet connection or server check, but then you're just getting into DRM territory and that's always a sore spot to deal with with PC games.
     
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  6. Andar

    Andar Veteran Veteran

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    @BreakerZero
    The problem with your concept is how to determine that it really comes from an invalid source.

    Because the first pirate downloads the paid version from the legal source (even paying for it) and then copies it somewhere else where he sells it for a small part of the price until his copy is paid, and then the legal version is free.
    There is no other way pirates can get a copy, because they don't break into your computer for that.

    And because of that, any even halfway working copy protection needs an external customer check - and that is a DRM server or something like it that requires payment.
     
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  7. BreakerZero

    BreakerZero Veteran Veteran

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    It can definitely involve a multiple endpoint configuration if required. Specifically regarding the official channels now that we have consensus on approach, I think it's just a matter of checking install keys for the respective services at this point (during bootstrap or otherwise).

    EDIT: This is leading me into another question, this one regarding a package file created by the installer to which all the game data is directed, including the main execution point (the game.exe in the case of Windows platform deployment) and a detection app to expand, preserve and remove all of the runtime material as required, perhaps even with the account check included thereof.
     
    Last edited: Nov 23, 2018
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  8. gstv87

    gstv87 Veteran Veteran

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    the license validation has to be unique.
    that means, a server that keeps track of the licenses, a program that request a validation to that server, and a software engineering that triggers that request, and can't be forcefully circumvented.

    that's gonna cost you a couple of zeros..... monetary and binary.

    it's not *impossible*, it's just *overly complicated and costly* for the intended purpose.
     
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  9. bgillisp

    bgillisp Global Moderators Global Mod

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    One problem you will run into is what if the data check messes up? No check is 100% perfect, and if it fails, then you will get a paying customer who had this happen to them. And nothing will annoy a paying customer more than a data wipe, especially when it is undeserved.
     
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  10. BreakerZero

    BreakerZero Veteran Veteran

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    As an update, I just made mention of this in the official API discussion centre for GameJolt as a follow-up since not everyone has that kind of access and because it's the distribution target for which I have the most experience to date. Steam/itch would undoubtedly have to be a similar process but ya gotta start somewhere.

    That's what the service check is for. In the case of a system outage the result is a definite "try again later" condition by practice. The advisory mode is meant to run in the event of a blown verification off an active connection - not in the middle of downtime because that would be ****ed up over 9,000. So there still has to be an in-between for the data wipe vs. access denied if the check is interrupted by a blown fuse, router glitch, neighbourhood outage or verification centre housecleaning job. That part's an entirely separate matter that's intentionally unrelated to the data wipe condition which is reserved for a failure in the account check. In other words, you still have to have something to verify against meaning that you can't data wipe simply because you can't run verification off anything that's beyond the control level afforded upon the end user.
     
    Last edited: Nov 23, 2018
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  11. Saboera

    Saboera Veteran Veteran

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    No offense but what's the point of doing this in the first place?
    It's funny when it comes off as a joke from a really popular Triple A blockbuster game but as an indie dev, it's kind of a pointless waste of your time in my opinion. Knock yourself out if you want, but that really sounds entirely pointless and more of a detriment and potential hazard to your legit customers than the handful of people who would download your game illegally, if any.
     
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  12. Engr. Adiktuzmiko

    Engr. Adiktuzmiko Chemical Engineer, Game Developer, Using BlinkBoy' Veteran

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    Practically, you just need a DRM (or DRM-like) service, and/or you upload an edited version yourself as the "pirate" version..

    Just be careful on how you do the DRM thingy because one wrong choice and you might push away even your would-be customers

    As for steam/itch, steam already has their own DRM so you probably shouldn't worry about needing to configure your game from there.
     
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  13. Sixth

    Sixth Veteran Veteran

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    Why would you even try to do this?
    Like someone already pointed out, it seems pretty pointless, especially if you pay 4-digits amount for it. Points, yay! :D

    No matter what you do, how you check "the source", how many walls you build, it's just a matter of time to crack ANY games, let alone RPG Maker games with close to no anti-piracy methods.
    It's hard to believe but even the worst RPG Maker games get cracked regularly (and not by people who want to re-sell it, that's actually just a small group), no idea for who, though.
    I see even DRM is mentioned... Yeah, because that hasn't been cracked before. :D

    In any case, point is (dayum, so many points here! >.>), you can add in ten trillion checks and such, all of those can be "rick-rolled" easily with the knowledge to do so. And there are plenty of people with that knowledge around the internet.

    I know, I used the taboo word of "crack" on a game forum! Don't hurt me, pretty please? -.-
     
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  14. KB

    KB Veteran Veteran

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    Well, as someone who uses Let's Plays and (maybe unofficial) free plays on the Internet, or at least the reviews and demos, to determine if I even want to purchase a game, this would probably mean that I would never even bother to check out the official one, because those crashes would lead me to believe (even if it was falsely) that the game was poorly made or an inferior product.

    What you could do instead might be to offer a free demo version of the game and / or in app purchases that make game play more fun / challenging for paying customers. Obviously, a version of the game illegally downloaded to a PC wouldn't offer those options but instead a very basic, perhaps somewhat frustrating, experience to the perspective customer and might lead them to purchase the full game.

    Example:

    I recently downloaded a demo of a Pokemon knock-off (generic JRPG monster catching game) for free from the app store. I played the first level or two and liked it. Then, the game told me that I couldn't progress without buying the full version. I was curious, liked the game play, and thought it had a good story, so I went to the app store to check on it. It was only 99 cents! I purchased the full version and tried to play through the game.

    I reached what I thought was the end of the game in about two days (it was really only the middle). By this time, I loved the story and definitely wanted to know more of what was going on, and I was getting frustrated by the difficulty curve. An NPC gave me some in-game currency for some items I wanted to get, and I went back to the purchase screen.

    Unfortunately, I found out what I wanted to buy would cost more than what the NPC gave me, so what did I do? I paid about five or six dollars to buy the in-game items I wanted. (I would not have done this if I wasn't already interested in the game. I like getting things for free, and don't want to feel like I'm wasting my money. Plus, I know where to download games like this for free (but not to play on my phone). I can even build my own monster catchers (with the right software) and kind of just downloaded this to see what it had to offer and how similar to Pokemon it was (at least that's what I was doing at first. I quickly fell in love with this game and started playing it for sheer enjoyment!)

    After I beat what I thought was the final boss, though, I was met with yet another surprise; the game was nowhere near over! There were several other chapters left to complete, and that would mean I might want to buy more in-game items to make game play easier.

    The game was free to start playing, but to continue, I had to pay about a dollar. The game was challenging without the items, and even though I didn't necessarily need them, they promised me better game play, so I bought a few of them. The new levels are interesting and offer even more options than the previous ones, so I will probably buy even more items before i finish the game.

    I started off paying zero. Then, I payed about a dollar to play the "full version." I wasn't pressured to make any extra in-app purchases, but I found out through playing the game that they would make my game play easier, so I eventually did make an in-app purchase. I may make more to make the game even easier.

    So far, I've spent about $7 on the game, but I could easily spend $20 plus on upgrades and not feel ripped off. Plus, I found the game story to be pretty interesting, so I'm probably going to purchase the sequel when / if it comes out.

    Had I just downloaded the "basic" version of this game, even if it wasn't from a reputable source (although I'm not sure how easy that is to do on an Android or iOS), I probably would have still been interested enough to pay to download the actual version.

    Reasons:

    It's a genre I like: JRPG monster-catcher; the graphics are appealing, and the monsters are well drawn. The story is also interesting and well-developed, and that's kind of important for an RPG.

    It's really convenient to play on a phone and has special modifications that make playing on a mobile device much more comfortable.

    Only with the in-app purchases is the game at a reasonable difficulty level.

    The people who made the game didn't just create a mediocre rip-off. This is a high-quality clone that copies some of the best feature of the games it's imitating while adding new to the old. Plus, they seem to understand their audience. The price of entry was low, and they didn't make me buy an expensive console.

    The game has features (such as online battling and trading and in-game upgrades) that make playing the full version more fun than the free demo.

    Plus, I like the product and want them to continue making games. (As I mentioned before, this is a decent Pokemon clone that works for me since while it's not impossible, it's a whole lot of work, not to mention expensive and a bit disappointing--as these versions are not supported by official Nintendo products, to get legitimate copies of the old GBA console games on a phone. I suspect it will continue to be that way until Nintendo decides to offer some of their old console games in the app store.)


    Edit:

    Of course, if you already have a substantial fan base that doesn't mind paying premium prices for premium products, you may not need to do any of that, but if you're worried that someone will try to give your game away, I'm wondering if you're offering the kind of game play convenience your audience expects? I don't expect quality from free downloads on the Internet; I do expect quality and convenience, however, from games I purchase in the app store.

    Also, remember that just because a pirated version of a game was downloaded doesn't necessarily mean the person who downloaded it got it for free. The way I see it, this is just unnecessarily punishing the customer, unless maybe you have a clear disclaimer at the beginning of the game and only sell the "official" version through a certain website / provider, but whatever protections you decide to use, I think you should probably make sure they punish the people committing piracy ( the ones illegally offering your game) not the potential customers who may download it.

    For example, if I went to a website and paid for a game that I thought was the official copy and found out it was the unofficial copy that was trolling me for illegal downloading, something I didn't intend to do, that would just discourage me and probably make me want to leave a negative review about the game, even if it wasn't the official version and the person with license to it had no idea it was happening.

    Then again,

    If you just want to know the mechanic out of curiosity, though, I don't know how to help. I would imagine the app store is pretty secure, though. I've never found full versions of mobile phone games being sold on PC, but again, why would I look? Part of downloading a game to my phone is convenience.

    TL;DR?

    Quality and convenience are key with online games. Price points aren't always selling points, especially with a relatively unknown game. A game that gets wide distribution, pirated or not, is a popular game, and people will pay what they will pay for a popular game. Plus, people are lazy. Pirating games just isn't convenient, as it takes a lot of work to pirate a game that offers the quality and convenience most of us want. (how are they going to set up in app purchases for upgrades or online trading or whatever your game's gimmick is, for example?)

    If, however, you already have a substantial fan base that won't mind, though, you might want to just sell it in the app store, or on a private website, at a price your fans will pay for. If you also want to include a joke demo, go for it, but new fans might not appreciate it.

    If you're just curious about the mechanic, I don't know. Sorry.
     
    Last edited: Nov 24, 2018
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  15. slimmmeiske2

    slimmmeiske2 Little Red Riding Hood Moderator

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    Kendra, please avoid double posting, as it is against the forum rules. You can review our forum rules here. Thank you.


    If you want to add something after you posted, please use the 'Edit' button to do so. I've merged your posts this time.
     
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  16. Ace of Spades

    Ace of Spades Veteran Veteran

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    I think you're focusing your efforts in the wrong area. To put it bluntly: nobody wants to steal your RPG maker game. Even if they really did, there's not much you can do to stop it.

    Instead, try focusing that time and energy back into your project. The best way to combat piracy is to make a game worth purchasing.
     
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  17. bgillisp

    bgillisp Global Moderators Global Mod

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    I have to agree with @Ace of Spades here. I think you'd be better off putting the effort into making a good game. Putting a feature like this in is going to only hit a few of the pirates, the rest will figure out how to crack even that and then you wasted your effort for nothing. Plus, you will get those it does affect complaining that your game is broken due to that feature, which will hurt your sales.

    And don't forget, some people don't want to have games that are always online. What you propose is essentially an always online feature. What if the player wants to play offline? Then you have to ignore the check, which is a workaround even the pirates could use (just turn off the internet connection and it will not kick in). So you will either have to enforce it on anyone who plays offline, or it will be vulnerable to being broken just by someone disrupting their internet connection intentionally.

    And before you ask, I've done that where I've disconnected the internet on purpose. My ps3 is no longer connected to the internet as I got tired of all the updates it wanted to do before I could play, so I just disconnected the internet from it. And my xbox360 the wireless connector no longer works on it, so that one is permanently disconnected unless I replace it. So if any game on either of those did what you propose, I'd hit this 'feature' but be a legit customer of the game too!
     
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  18. KB

    KB Veteran Veteran

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    I also agree with Ace of Spades and the others who have said this is not necessary. I apologize for my somewhat long post earlier attempting to detail why, but I do think a lot of people consider quality and convenience as their main reason for purchasing a game. Whether it's "official" of not doesn't really come into play. In fact if I played, watched, or used an online game or service often, I would gladly pay a small fee for access to the same service offline and have done it before.

    Concentrate on building a brand and becoming known for quality convenience and fun games. There are thousands of free projects on the Internet, and many of them rival paid games in quality but not necessarily convenience.

    If you are really concerned about privacy, become a console developer, but expect your fan base to be a lot different from PC gamers. People still trust Nintendo for the quality and convenience of its products, but console gaming may be a dying industry.
     
    Last edited: Nov 24, 2018
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  19. Wavelength

    Wavelength Pre-Merge Boot Moderator

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    You don't need DRM per-se to discourage piracy; for example this article contains a list of "creative" anti-piracy measures, some of which relied on DRM but some of which did not. Worthy of specific mention here is the DRM-free Game Dev Tycoon, whose developers flooded the pirates' usual channels with an apparently-working version of the game that would later handicap and chastise players for not buying the game legally:
    I think this kind of measure can act as somewhat effective method of non-DRM anti-piracy for an RPGM game, as long as you beat the would-be pirates to the punch, like @Uzuki mentioned.

    With that being said, even though you might drive pirates away from your game with such measures, I don't know how many pirates you could actually convince to buy your game, especially if you're using outright sadistic measures like Earthbound (similar to what this topic's original post proposes) rather than light-handed punitive measures like Game Dev Tycoon. If anything, you might make the pirates more determined to crack the game and break through your anti-piracy measure. That doesn't mean you should or shouldn't do it, but it's something to think about if your bottom line is what you're worried about when you think of piracy.
     
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  20. KB

    KB Veteran Veteran

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    @Wavelength that's an awesome example of a creative way to protect a game from piracy without DRM. I still don't know if it would work with an (I'm assuming unknown) indie game, though. Unless your game is really something special, people aren't even going to care enough to hack it (at least that's what I think). Still, though, a joke demo might be a way of getting your game some attention (but I really only think this would work if (a) you were relatively well known already or had a superb video game that everyone was already talking about and (b) you knew your joke demo was likely to be downloaded / distributed by pirates and people who don't want to pay for the product.

    To the OP,

    Something without a DRM would probably be pretty hackable, but if someone wants to put all of that time and energy into it, it means you've successfully created a game that's generated quite a bit of interest, and you are probably making lots of legitimate sales outside of the ones who are putting in the time and effort to "crack the code."

    Going back to Pokemon, for example. It's got thousands of clones, fan games, ROM hacks, and rip-offs floating around, and some have garnered quite a bit of popularity. It still did nothing to replace the original, even though all the original game makers did was have some of those fan games taken down (they didn't take anyone to court that I'm aware of and even the light "cease and desist" notices they issued were not well received by some fans). Those light warnings did little to discourage fan games from still being downloaded. Plus, Nintendo can't do much about the various similar games and clones which are their competition, games like Digimon, Nexomon, and Micromon. How is Pokemon still a thing?

    Other than sending pretty strong messages about copyright infringement (which some fans disagree with and doesn't really deter pirates anyway), they stay on top on the industry and genre by offering quality game play (and now nostalgia value) that's hard, yet maybe not impossible, to come by elsewhere. For example, you will never find yourself under leveled by several points in a legitimate Pokemon game if you play as intended. They know exactly how to space the difficulty so that the player doesn't have to work very hard to level up. Most fan games and clones don't do this and instead force the player to "grind" to catch up, or worse, make it too easy to level up.

    The developers of the games seem to pay meticulous attention to detail when it comes to game play, and that makes the games far more enjoyable than their competition. You would have to put in a lot of work if you wanted to create a JRPG monster catcher the quality of Pokemon, from graphics and music to game play design; it would not be an easy task. (It doesn't mean some of us aren't willing to try, though!)
     
    Last edited: Nov 24, 2018
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