Greenheart Games Trolls Pirates With Altered Cracked Version Of Game Dev Tycoon

from the flawed-simulation dept

When we have talked about game developers messing with pirates in the past, I’ve actually found it quite entertaining. As much as I hate Ubisoft, it made me smile when they released a version of one game that filled the audio up with vuvuzellas if it was a pirated copy. I’d of course prefer they have done something a bit more forward-thinking than simply trolling pirates, but it made me laugh. Certainly I have no sympathy for the pirates, nor for Ubisoft, whose trolling attempt was a minor hiccup corrected when other cracks of the game came out.

While I have some of the same issues, I find it even more entertaining when a move like this is done by an indie developer, particularly when that developer goes out of its way to otherwise be exceptionally level-headed about the pirating of their game. Such is the case with Greenheart Games, who released their game Game Dev Tycoon, and simultaneously released a cracked version that trolled infringers magnificently.

The cracked version is nearly identical to the real thing except for one detail… Initially we thought about telling them their copy is an illegal copy, but instead we didn’t want to pass up the unique opportunity of holding a mirror in front of them and showing them what piracy can do to game developers. So, as players spend a few hours playing and growing their own game dev company, they will start to see the following message, styled like any other in-game message:

“Boss, it seems that while many players play our new game, they steal it by downloading a cracked version rather than buying it legally. If players don’t buy the games they like, we will sooner or later go bankrupt.”

It’s really hard for me to get mad at them for this. The cracked version doesn’t disrupt the entire game, as Ubisoft’s vuvuzella did. You do get to try the gameplay out for a bit before encountering the trolling code. It is a bit of passive aggression, but one which both makes a point and isn’t angry or mean. Besides that, the effects of the trolling in the responses of some of the infringers are downright hilarious. On forums, the pirates were asking for help, saying things like “Can I research DRM or something?” and “Why are there so many people that pirate? It ruins me!” Detecting irony, it appears, is a skill.

All that said, and perhaps this makes me weird, my first thought once I’d stopped laughing was that the simulator had failed completely. If the result of piracy in the cracked version always results in ruin for the developer, then we know the simulator is flawed. After all, I’m fairly certain folks like Ubisoft, EA, and the like haven’t been driven into the ground by piracy. Somehow they are still going strong. And what about indie developers that utilize CwF+RtB, like tinyBuild or contributors to the Humble Bundles? Why isn’t there room for all of them within the simulation?

The answer, of course, is this is a trolling attempt, not part of the sim at all. And to their credit, the developers seem to be quite level-headed about piracy in general, particularly when this game’s user-base is 94% from unauthorized versions (though that may have been sprung by the developer releasing their own cracked copy).

I’m not mad at you. When I was younger, downloading illegal copies was practically normal but this was mostly because global game distribution was in its infancy. To be fair, there are still individuals who either can’t make a legal purchase because of payment-issues or who genuinely cannot afford the game. I don’t have a quarrel with you.

Nor I with them, though I’d suggest that perhaps if they had attempted to work some of the aforementioned examples into their simulation, it would have been instructive on how they can actually embrace tactics that can make them a great deal more money than just trolling potential customers.

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Companies: greenheart games

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Comments on “Greenheart Games Trolls Pirates With Altered Cracked Version Of Game Dev Tycoon”

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Rikuo (profile) says:

If you ask the heads of Ubisoft, EA, Square-Enix et al if their companies were strong, they would say no. Square-Enix in particular has said that the latest Tomb Raider was a flop, for not meeting sales targets…despite selling three million.
Here, Jim Sterling says it best
http://www.escapistmagazine.com/videos/view/jimquisition/7121-Dark-Souls-and-Dark-Sales

Ninja (profile) says:

Re: Re:

That’s rich coming from a company that has FFIV in their “fiasco” list. But seriously, if 3 million is a flop then I want to flop yearly. Sell it for 99 cents and you get almost 3 freaking million dollars in your lap. Now since they do have a bigger structure to maintain I can understand why this is less than stellar. Still, Tomb Rider, again? Mass Effect 85 (as if 84 of them weren’t enough)? The big game companies are not even trying anymore.

Anyway, these devs have the right attitude but they could have scored a much bigger win by honestly asking for support of the file sharing community. It’s amazing how supportive this community can be with the right push.

Rikuo (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

I remember face-walling when I heard that certain games *cough Halo cough * had absurdly huge marketing budgets, to the tune of a HUNDRED MILLION DOLLARS (huh, wonder why that number is so familiar…)
And this is for the mainstream games. This is for one of the most well known games series of all time, one that has a huge fan-base. You don’t need marketing at that point. With the internet, Bungie could have just sent a few e-mails to sites like IGN, saying “Hey guys, new Halo game in development, spread the word!” and they would have still made more or less the same amount of sales, while keeping that hundred million advertising budget and not wasting it.

Business Management Lesson 1: Cut your costs.

Jay (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

Kind of hard to do that. I have the PDF of Square’s costs and one of them that struck me was the cost for DRM and “protecting their assets” which was to the tune of billions of yen which made no sense. They have plenty of money and revenue but spent it on copyright protection and their prices for digital goods have been too high.

For whatever reason, they can’t charge more money to get more out of the audience in the midst of a recession that’s in its sixth year.

And that’s the lesson that most publishers have to learn. The market has shrunk and has moved into the digital for cheaper than what they got on consoles.

Rikuo (profile) says:

Re: Re: Still broken

Think about that for a moment. In order for the DRM to not affect normal people…it would have to be completely ineffectual.
Think of the most innocuous DRM. Let’s say…a serial number that has to be input upon installation. I still remember with horror back in the day when I had umpteen Sims 2 expansion packs and having to carefully keep the manuals safe.
Or how about a disc check, which is something the user doesn’t perceive – I remember failing disc checks even when the disc was in the drive – the DRM was scared of either the second disc drive or the fact I had a disc drive emulator like Daemon Tools installed.

Zakida Paul (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Still broken

I was pissed off when I had to enter an activation code to play Football Manager 2009. Of course it had a device limit and, with Windows being Windows and needing to reinstall it every few months, it wasn’t long before you had to go seek out how to deactivate a device. This was hidden in an obscure corner of the Sports Interactive website.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: Still broken

Those affect normal people, so I’m not sure what your point was responding to me.

Also the idea that you had to keep a physical object safe makes sense. Welcome to everything else that existed back then, although those things no longer apply the same way to digital media.

Those are examples of bad DRM that affects the normal user.

DRM that DOESNT affect the normal user is harder, but so is locking your door. Locking your door will stop the casual thief who will just check to see if its unlocked, but anyone with any degree of skill or determination isn’t going to be stopped by a locked door, thus meaning no matter how deadbolted and secured that door is, they will just use the window.

Theres a diminishing returns on the whole thing, so making intrusive DRM is counter productive, while light yet effective DRM can still persist without causing undue frustration by the user.

Rikuo (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Still broken

I’ll try to be clearer. DRM, by its very nature, affects you, whether you’re a legit customer or an infringer.
My example of the disc check is actually a good one. There’s a famous Youtube video of a guy going on a rant because his game’s DRM affected him merely for having a second disc drive
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mt4BpnfAN-o
I was responding to the way you you worded that sentence. “Clever DRM that doesn’t affect normal people is good DRM”. The only way for DRM to not affect normal people is if it doesn’t do literally anything at all i.e. is completely useless. Once the DRM doesn’t affect someone, it’s no longer “clever”, because you might as well have not included it in your program for all the effect it has.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:3 Still broken

It still has nothing to do with MY point. This “DRM” did not affect any legitimate person cause the DRM was never even IN the legitimate version in the first place.

You are giving an example of DRM that affects all products and all consumers, and your disc check DRM example is flawed because these are examples of poorly executed DRM mechanics that rely on hardware or software requirements that people don’t always conform to.

Earthbound had DRM, to my knowledge, amongst my friends and on the internet, I pretty much never heard of any legitimate consumer being affected by it. Pirates sure did though.

Other games have their own forms of “silent” drm, some of whom take it as a challenge. Serious Sam HD I believe had the unkillable scorpion. I don’t remember many legitimate consumers being affected by that one either.

Your assumption is that DRM MUST affect the consumer, but good DRM really SHOULDN’T, it should be a very light, very minimal hurdle that never deactivates the game. This will stop the “casual” day 0 pirate, especially if cracks don’t catch it the first time around, and won’t negatively impact consumers.

Linking me examples of DRM done BADLY doesn’t invalidate this point.

Rikuo (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:4 Still broken

DRM does affect, that’s what it does. It’s something that affects the installation and gameplay process, whether to a minor or major degree. DRM, even at best, is a silent judge, hidden while you’re installing the game, but still able to spit out false positives.
Most boxed copy PC games I buy say on the back of the box that their copy protection will fail if it detects drive emulation software…which most serious PC gamers have these days by default (Asus even bundles a licence for Daemon Tools Pro with their higher-end gamer-oriented motherboards).

I agree with you, I wish all DRM were that benign. To give a quick real-life analogy, I wish DRM were as easy as a guy at the front of the store having a cursory glance at my receipt, without checking first if I haven’t modified the trolley or without me having to recite a sequence of letters and numbers. However, even that is an affect on the normal player, however benign. It’s still something that stands between them purchasing and playing/getting out the door.

Wally (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Still broken

I don’t know how to put this, but, it’s sort of like saying “We’re glad you like the game so much…and we invite you to play a legitimate copy of it if you wish to”.

It is a minor unobtrusive form of DRM. Serious Sam 3 had a red scorpion that would relentlessly follow you and kill you little by little if you played a pirated version of the game.

The reason why Greanheart’s form of DRM does not look like it is actual DRM is because it does not hinder game play like the forms the public is used to seeing…however, it will shame you into actually buying a legitimate copy of the game. So you don’t have to worry about loosing the game, but it does remind you in a very tongue and cheek way to be fair to the developers of Dev Tycoon.

Wally (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:3 Still broken

DRM restricts copying or makes changes to the game to either hinder progess of the user, or simply asks them to actually buy the actual non-pirated version of the game. The point is that this game’s pirated purposefully distributed pirated version basically does not hinder progress but does remind the user about how piracy can realistically have an affect on a small developer company who publishes their own games.

I am only trying to see the silver lining on this particular case as it is quite true that piracy can in fact hurt small non-syndicated developers.

Wally (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:4 Still broken

I should also add that BASIC for the Altair 8800 was not Microsoft’s first big software hit because of piracy..and Microsoft was just starting out as a company (Paul Alan and Bill Gates were the only two people running it at the time). Many bought BASIC (yes the punch tape version) legitimately for their business but made copies of the tape of BASIC they bought to run on more than one Altair 8800.

I really commend Bill Gates for what he did to combat piracy…rather than make the copied software crippled in some way he wrote a letter to the various businesses politely asking them to stop pirating Altair BASIC. His letter on the loosest of terms is DRM.

Now when you look at that and compare it to what Greenheart has done…maybe it is only a tongue and cheek thing so people would be tempted to by the real game rather than pirate it.

Wally (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:6 Still broken

Altair Basic was their first piece of software. They were the first to deal with piracy on an economic scale because of it.. and you are right, they made less of a fuss about piracy. They went as far as to politely ask people to buy more than one copy of Altair BASIC for each of their computers rather than copy it. As a result of their actuions…they boomed in the business!

Atkray (profile) says:

Re: Still broken

And they released the broken version at the same time increasing the likelihood that people looking for it would find it.

I also thought this was amusing until I saw they were using the worn out “stealing our game” line.
These guys are no different than EA or Ubisof, just not as well funded.

Possibly a little more creative.

Wally (profile) says:

Re: Re: Still broken

Greenheart does not really make all that money…nor does EA for that matter…most of EA is glomming off of developers as a publisher. Greenheart has a very legitimate reason for all this as they are a small company that publishes and develops its own games. Greenheart actually loses money from piracy and in my opinion, I think that they found a good balance to their DRM.

I grew up on a Macintosh and a lot of the games on the classic Macintosh (yes I am referring to a Macintosh Plus right now) were in fact shareware. Duane Blehm was one of my favorite developers. He brought classics like Stunt Copter and Cairo Shootout.

So piracy really did not help in the slightest when you develop and publish your own games. Though that is a very 1980′ and early 1990’s attitude towards it, it is still very easy to forget that little developer companies spend money on developing games we want to play.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: Still broken

I don’t quite follow the argument that a small developer/publisher loses money to piracy, but big developers/publishers don’t. Are you just claiming that the effects of that loss are worse for a small company? How so when a big company spends much more to develop, distribute, and promote its games?

Regardless of company size, lots of people here don’t buy the argument that “piracy” = lost sales.

Wally (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Still broken

Never said I did either. But someone had to complain about a “worn out line” and…well I just had to chime in stating that the problem is real…some forms of DRM are not really as bad as others…but the whole point is as you stated.

I do not condone piracy in any way, but I also know better ways of trying to control that situation than others…Greenheart’s solution is a much better form of DRM as it is a less hindering way of asking people to buy a legitimate game rather than pirate it.

out_of_the_blue says:

Put in right sequence, your puzzlement clears up:

“If the result of piracy in the cracked version always results in ruin for the developer, then we know the simulator is flawed.” … ‘” If players don’t buy the games they like, we will sooner or later go bankrupt.”

The “sooner” part is that a LITTLE piracy can be tolerated. BUT when the common law principles of respecting copyright are undermined by Mike and the Mega-Grifters and piracy becomes yet worse, then the LATER effects are bankruptcy.

Rikuo (profile) says:

Re: Put in right sequence, your puzzlement clears up:

Didn’t read the whole article again? Here lemme help ya. Here’s a key part you willingly skipped over
“After all, I’m fairly certain folks like Ubisoft, EA, and the like haven’t been driven into the ground by piracy. Somehow they are still going strong. And what about indie developers that utilize CwF+RtB, like tinyBuild or contributors to the Humble Bundles? Why isn’t there room for all of them within the simulation?”

Chris Brand says:

Re: Put in right sequence, your puzzlement clears up:

I don’t know whether that’s true or not, although I have little doubt that many rightsholders believe it.

I do know that when Copyright is used as the justification for censorship, for locking the cellphone I bought to a particular carrier, for rooting my computer, and generally as a weapon against competitors and customers, of course copyright will no longer be respected.

Your move, rightsholders…

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Put in right sequence, your puzzlement clears up:

Ha, that’s a good one. Its the public that doesn’t respect copyright laws. Who benefits when copyright lengths are extended decade after decade. Law enforcement become private contractors for entertainers. And you accuse Techdirt of undermining respect for copyright law?

How many people write comments as ootb? One minute you rail against big industry corrupting the govt then with your next breath you fall to you knees to assuage the blasphemy you aimed their way

RD says:

Re: Put in right sequence, your puzzlement clears up:

“The “sooner” part is that a LITTLE piracy can be tolerated. BUT when the common law principles of respecting copyright are undermined by Mike and the Mega-Grifters and piracy becomes yet worse, then the LATER effects are bankruptcy.”

Here’s a little hint for you shitbag: We are ALREADY in a world of “mega piracy.” There isn’t some looming, massive uptrend waiting to happen in file sharing, it’s already here, and been here for a while now. And it’s impact is MARGINAL at best. Companies are still making money. In some cases, obscene money. Hollywood is making more money than at ANY time in history WHILE we have “piracy.” Ditto the music (but not necessarily the recording) industry. Not one single industry is anywhere NEAR to bankruptcy. It’s a pipe dream from the ShillTards who can’t make it (ie. failures, ie. you.) and have to scapegoat the rest of us for their lack of success and vision.

ixaxar says:

Stolen game

They have a right nerve claiming loss of earning on a game they apparently developed for over a year that is an almost identical, and inferior, remake of Game Dev Story by Kairosoft.

Rather than get angry about the very real problem of piracy and hold these people up as champions of the downtrodden indie developer why not call them the thieves that they are. They stole a game, remade it and then claimed it was their own work.

Rikuo (profile) says:

Re: Stolen game

You mean like what Call of Duty did to Battlefield or Battlefield did to Call of Duty? (I honestly don’t know and don’t care which one came first).
So fucking what? I’ve taken the time to look at screenshots of both games and while they look similar, that’s because it’s what they are. They’re simulators of you running a game developer. Besides, they’re not quite the same game. Story is on Android and iOS, while Tycoon is Windows, Mac and Linux. The very different user interface on a portable OS would necessitate one game being very different to the other.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Stolen game

Call of Duty and Battlefield may look similar but play entirely differently. This on the other hand is a blatant ripoff of Game Dev Story (which actually released for the PC back in ’97, so your other argument kind of shows your utter disregard for the facts).

There are similarities that arise due to genre conventions, and there are similarities that arise due to being a blatant ripoff. This is the latter. I mean they didn’t even bother changing the name of the pseudo-statistics used to build your game.

Rikuo (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Stolen game

Are you sure you and I are thinking of the same “Game Dev Story”? This is the one I mentioned,
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Game_Dev_Story

the one released on Android and iOS.

Hang on, turns out that that one’s a remake of the 1997 one you mention.

Even so, your accusation that Tycoon is a ripoff is a bit hard to believe. For one, if Tycoon is ripping off Story, then by default it would have to be ripping off the 1997 game…which would have been Win 95/98. The coders of Tycoon, if interested only in making a quick buck, wouldn’t have taken the time needed to rewrite a game working on a 16-bit OS to work on today’s 32/64-bit OS’s. Or take the Android/iOS game and rewrite it from a touch-screen interface to a desktop mouse and keyboard environment, running on a completely different operating system through different programming languages.
Besides, how can Tycoon be a counterfeit modern Story? Story hasn’t been released on desktop environments since 1997 as you admit. That’s a market that the Story developers haven’t decided to sell to (which they very easily could have done in the three years since their game’s re-release)

THCW says:

Re: Re: Re: Stolen game

You… are a complete and utter moron. The reason that these games are similar IS due to genre conventions. They are both game development simulators. Meaning that in both of them, you build up your own game development company. Meaning that in both of them, you make your own games.

“I mean they didn’t even bother changing the name of the pseudo-statistics used to build your game.”

Game Dev Story: Fun, Creativity, Graphics, Sound, Bugs (or Cuteness, Approachability, Simplicity, Game World, Realism, Niche Appeal, Innovation, Polish)

Game Dev Tycoon: Design, Technology, Bugs (or Engine, Gameplay, Story/Quests, Dialogues, Level Design, AI, World Design, Graphics, Sound)

So… where are these statistics that they didn’t bother to change the name of? Because other than Graphics, Sound and Bugs, NONE of these statistics share the same names. And there is no reason for Greenheart Games to have not called Graphics, ‘Graphics’, etc. That’d be stupid.

John Fenderson (profile) says:

Re: Stolen game

They stole a game, remade it and then claimed it was their own work.

They did? Where’s your evidence? How did they get the code for the game they stole? Industrial espionage?

Making a knock-off of an existing game isn’t theft at all. It’s making a knock-off. If they coded it themselves, then it was their own work. That it replicated a different game doesn’t enter into it.

JarHead says:

Re: Re: Stolen game

I’m not familiar with those 2 games. But if your argument is because someone coded a game themselves then it’s not a ripoff, well, I must disagree. What makes a game ultimately is not the codes, but the game design. Coding is a largely mechanical part of game dev, but most creativity is in the game design.

So platform (16/32/64/128/512bit Windows/MacOS/Linux/Android/iOS/FireFoxOS etc) doesn’t matter. As long as people perceive 2 games have their design alike, they will call it one ripoff another, and I tend to agree (though I don’t care about it too much).

Anonymous Coward says:

I’m extremely disappointed by this article. For those of us who did any background research, there have been two things apparent about this story from the start:

-This game is an utter ripoff of Game Dev Story by Kairosoft. Not “a similar game”, I mean they took Game Dev Story and made the graphics uglier, removed much of the humor and charm, and then charged three times as much for it.
-This entire thing was a marketing ploy, that all of the tech blogs gobbled up instantly to give a sub-par ripoff a bunch of undeserved attention. It’s not even like releasing a ‘pirated’ version with adverse effects is a remotely new idea, either – sure, in this case it’s ironic because the problem the pirates encounter is piracy itself, but that’s just the story they needed to get a bunch of free advertisement from the blogosphere.

It’s only disappointing really because generally this blog tends to dig a bit deeper than average and ferret out things like “this blatantly clones an existing game” that have been overlooked thus far. I was really hoping for more.

Rikuo (profile) says:

Re: Re:

Yes, games rip each other off all the time, and no one fucking cares. There are hundreds of JRPG games that use the exact same game mechanics and even textures (especially if they’re made in RPG Maker) and no-one gives a crap about that. I’ve played both Chrono Cross and Final Fantasy VI, and they’re both similar games: top down perspective, small useable party, stat-based attributes, collectible equipment, exploreable world map, etc. (And yes, I know both were made by Square)

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

That “whooshing” noise you hear is the point flying right above your head.

Chrono Cross and Final Fantasy VI are DIFFERENT GAMES. I’ll even be generous here and assume you meant Chrono Trigger, since Cross is not actually top-down and came out years later – but Chrono Trigger and FFVI, while sharing many similarities (and indeed much of their core engine) still told different stories with different characters and different themes. This is more like if someone redid Chrono Trigger with bad Flash graphics, changed the main character’s name to Krono, and re-released it as “Krono Trigger” with everything else in the game kept exactly the same (with a ridiculous hamfisted message about stealing thrown in for good measure). It wouldn’t necessarily be illegal, but it would be scummy.

Again: if you are too stubborn (or possibly too stupid) to recognize the difference between similarities due to genre conventions and similarities due to blatant copying of the entire game, then you’re just not worth discussing this with at all. Yes, we get it, JRPGs have a lot of similar elements, and every FPS game has you looking down the barrel of a gun. That’s not what’s being discussed here at all, and you look increasingly dense for continuing to argue that it is.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Re:

I’m sorry, but…what? Discussing one game completely copying another while simultaneously chiding users for copying it is relevant to both the article at hand AND the general theme of articles here at TechDirt. It’s not like I’m sitting here giving an IGN-style review or anything, I’m drawing attention to a point that was completely ignored in the article while being absolutely pertinent to the issues being brought up.

And maybe I missed the memo, but who made you the comment police to begin with?

Rikuo (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

Okay I’ll admit to getting Trigger and Cross mixed up. My mistake.
I’m just wondering why you’re getting so worked up about one game copying another. If true…then ignore the clone. Ignore the rip-off. Don’t let it affect you. Don’t buy it, don’t play it. Just play the original.
Star Wars: The Old Republic is basically a rip-off of World of Warcraft. Does the fact Old Republic exists somehow harm Warcraft? I would highly doubt it. In fact, Republic copying Warcraft harmed Republic far more than it did Warcraft, since I, and many others, started Republic, saw the similarities and said “Heck no. I’ve been here already”.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Re:

I am trying to ignore it, that’s the point I’m trying to make with my first post. This game DESERVES to be ignored but instead we’re all here in the comments section discussing it and giving it free advertising. That’s what bugs me.

And again, while I understand what you’re saying – SW:TOR vs. WoW is not a clone on this level by any stretch of the imagination: it has its own plots, its own locations, its own powers…you get the point. If they had just taken vanilla WoW and thrown some Jedi skins over it, that’s what is happening here (and incidentally would make a much better game than SW:TOR…wonder if such a mod exists?)

Wally (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:3 Re:

I think the only real reason why those games feel “copied” is that they came from the same developer house or genera. Anyone who has ever played the board game version of Dungeons and Dragons will tell you that leveling up and having certain amounts of strength…levels..etc…is A lot of Game Play elements which are used in similar various mannors.

A more fair comparison of in house copying would actually be Secret of Evermore (Made by Square’s one time only US development division Square Soft) and Secret of Mana (made by the legendary Square Enix). One has to look at the battle system and how you get basic access to use your powers. Admittedly though, Chrono looks a lot like Randi from Secret of Mana.

Needless to say, griping about similarities in RPG’s is a bit bothersome unless it is a blatant rip off shovel-ware title from some other company gleaming off the popularity of a genera (Wizard 101 is an example of the latter).

John Fenderson (profile) says:

Re: Definitions

Are you still a “pirate” if you play a version that they distributed themselves for free?

I don’t know if you’re still a pirate or not — that depends on your overall behavior. But I think it’s pretty clear that if you are using a version that the makers released intentionally for you to download and use, then you have not engaged in piracy in that instance.

Wally (profile) says:

Re: Definitions

Could be a very subtle way of gaining notoriety…possibly advertising the fact that there is a legitimate, non-cracked version of the game you could pay for and play.

Point of history here, this distribution method is almost exactly like some of the shareware used on 68K Macintosh games….gives you a taste of full game play but is slightly different because it prompts you to buy the game as you play the shared/pirated version of it. Some games cleared the registry number if you copied them to a floppy disk and then it got distribution that way…didn’t stop the piracy one bit really because one person could tell the other the serial number or key. But it did get the game advertised cheaply in the days when most computer users did not have internet.

CK20XX (profile) says:

Re: Definitions

Not only that, but because Greenheart Games has chosen such a unique way to combat piracy, they’re probably unwittingly encouraging people to pirate the game just to witness that uniqueness. It’s kinda like how the main reason people like Space Quest is because of all the different ways Roger Wilco can die, so you can’t take that 94% figure at face value.

Brentalfloss once did something similar. He released a pirated version of an album called “Bits of Me” onto bittorrent, and it scolded users who downloaded it. People loved it so much that they asked if they could buy it, so he put it up for sale on Bandcamp.

Duke (profile) says:

Re: Definitions

Are you still a “pirate” if you play a version that they distributed themselves for free?

Maybe I’ve spent too much time among lawyers, but I can see it being arguable (down to the precise definition of “authorisation” used, the existence of implied licences, whether knowledge is important).

It should pretty much scupper any claim for damages, though, unless there were some sort of statutory level for them – but only a crazy country would have something like that…

Togashi (profile) says:

Re: Definitions

I was thinking exactly the same thing.

…Initially we thought about telling them their copy is an illegal copy…

How can it be an illegal copy if the copyright holder itself is making it available for free download? I would think that would at the very least be an implied license for it.

Also, I wonder if their piracy and sales rates would have been different had they not released their “cracked” version of it. The majority of the responses that I’ve heard are that it’s a slightly worse version of a game that’s already available for free. Could be that nobody would have bothered to crack it, leading to a much lower piracy rate. Even then, would more people have bought it?

Anonymous Coward says:

this makes me laugh

just got off another site that was talking about this. some people download it and don’t even see what it is. they think its just an obstacle in the game. im reading about one guy who is asking for help on some forum because he cant make games that turn a profit. best part? HE ASKED IF THERES A WAY TO PUT DRM IN HIS GAMES.

Rabbit80 (profile) says:

Suggestion for the devs:

I apologise if somebody else has already suggested this as I haven’t read all the comments…

If the developers are going to go to all this trouble, why couldn’t they have put a simple “More info” button that:
? links to a website and has a little explanation of why the piracy message there
? that the gamer can carry on playing, but will find it impossibly difficult as piracy levels increase,
? and give the player an option to remove the restriction by buying the game?

Turn some of the players into paying customers instead of pissing them off!

Wally (profile) says:

Re: Suggestion for the devs:

” and give the player an option to remove the restriction by buying the game?”

That is not DRM…thatt is called shareware…and those of us who grew up on pre-iMac Apple products got used to it PDQ and actually bought the games after ordering the legitimate versions or serial numbers to activate the full version.

Chuffed says:

Re: Suggestion for the devs:

Well, to be fair, this game was all over the media when it first came out due to this. A simple search of the game’s name on Google (which the owners of pirated copies are sure to do in a vain attempt to find a solution) will come up with dozens of articles about this anti-piracy method, and that will let them know what is happening.

Coyote says:

Re: Re: Re:

Pretty blatantly copied the idea, actually, just with updated graphics and more facebooky goodness. Look up some of the screens of Game Dev Story, and the resemblence is unfortunately canny in many areas. Could barely be arsed to even change the art style — they just made it more like facebook with higher res graphics and charged 8 bucks for it.

Anonymous Cowherd says:

If your into trolling...

This can be seen as a successful troll, even funny if you’re into such things.

But as far as “holding a mirror in front of them” goes, these developers failed to look into it themselves first. If they had, perhaps they would’ve realised that their business model — like the business model they force upon the players in their game — is based on releasing something and hoping players choose to pay for it just because.

In a video game, they get to play god and make the virtual population behave the way they want. To buy games or pirate them, because they’re programmed that way. In reality, people need reasons to do things. They won’t pay you just because you want them to. You have to give them a reason to buy. Apparently, 94% of their audience have decided “because otherwise we’ll go bankrupt” is not good enough.

Uriel-238 (profile) says:

Here, play our game...you monster.

My thought was that they were soapboxing, and the first impression I received about the “unauthorized” version (I equate compare it to the “pirate” version of No Time To Explain, except the feature is killer in-game software pirates rather than piratey re-skins.

But what gets to me is their message is “you’re evil if you play our game…unless you buy it first.” Fine. I won’t play your game. I won’t get interested. Disinterested, I won’t consider buying the unsabotaged version. I probably won’t consider future versions, since Greenheart was that company who did that thing.

(Much the way I don’t trust Origin since at least earlier versions would scan your directory and file structure and send it back to EA for scrutiny.)

Next time maybe Greenheart will do a bit of research about how sharing works, and how that can be used to facilitate monetization and include realistic piracy rather than simply preach an absolutist message.

Anonymous Coward says:

“Boss, it seems that while many players play our new game, they steal it by downloading a cracked version rather than buying it legally. If players don’t buy the games they like, we will sooner or later go bankrupt.”

Tell that to the makers of Path of Exile. Free to play with an in game cosmetic only item mall. I’ve spent a good deal on POE because I love it! It’s what I’ve been looking for after D2 and the fact that it’s being constantly updated only makes it better.
They even allow players to create custom items for the game with them if they spend enough. A couple new items “player made” just came out not too long ago.

It was a rough start with the servers yes but for an indie company they dealt with it pretty fast.

Now back to their game.
I would not even pirate a copy of their shitty game let alone buy it. If someone decides to actually crack this it will not be because the game is good, it will be because they asked for it. I wouldn’t even bother with it if it were up to me. Actually I wouldn’t even allow a cracked version of this garbage to be released.

Anonymous Coward says:

When I first read about this, I thought it was cute, and went on with my day.

After thinking about it, though, It occurred to me that this was both a wasted opportunity and a terrible (game design) idea.

As a terrible game design idea, you have something that claims to be a simulation, attempting to emulate the realities of the simulated thing. To introduce the concept of massive piracy that makes turning a profit nearly impossible is questionable. To provide no recourse (freemium models, subscription services, DRM investment) breaks the simulation pretty horribly and gives the impression that this is a shallow polemic agianst a straw man.

For comparison, imagine if Simcity had Keanu Reeves come to your city and start blowing stuff up if you used a coal plant. Police, national guard, etc. are helpless agians Keanu. If you bulldoze your coal plants and replace them with solar power, he goes away. From a gameplay perspective, it’s workable (but pretty boneheaded); from a simulation perspective, it’s completely divorced from reality.

As for a wasted opportunity, it’s a little simpler. You may as well argue that the “legitimate” version is a paid DLC for DRM, seeing at it (I imagine) completely eliminates the piracy issue.

A better idea? One version, both sold and leaked. Piracy is an actual game element, but the effects aren’t transparent. Ideally, the behind-the-scenes effects of piracy are based upon actual studies with solid methodology. To the player, they just have an (estimated) piracy rate listed among the various statistics for a game. If they consider piracy a concern, they can opt for alternate revenue models, or invest in DRM. DRM, just like in reality, may in fact reduce the piracy rate, or at least slow it down, but it can also have an impact on the bottom line through lost sales, increased burden on tech support, negative reviews, etc.

Give the players the same information you have, and the same uncertainty of result, and they may be a little sympathetic. Give them a fantasyland trolling response and you’ll get all the respect and attnetion that approach deserves.

Uriel-238 (profile) says:

Re: Re:

I think paid version, since they put out the cracked version themselves. Both are technically legit.

But in that case, they could have just released it on the torrents and let it go, at worst with a plead page.

A truthful simulation will speak for itself, and some people who torrent will buy later (and some people who buy will torrent later).

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