Funcom Responds Well To Mixup Over Denuvo DRM Resulting In Piracy Of Conan Exiles Game

from the good-guys dept

With the way the past couple of weeks have gone for Denuvo, the DRM that was supposed to end piracy but instead only ended the industry's brief resurgence in faith in DRM, you would be forgiven if you thought this was going to be yet another post about another Denuvo-protected game being cracked and released to the pirating masses. This isn't that kind of story. Instead, it's the story of game publisher Funcom accidentally stripping Denuvo out of the latest build of its early access game, Conan Exiles, and having that be released to the pirating masses.

In Conan Exiles' case, Denuvo Anti-Tamper was temporarily removed - and accidentally. An updated version of the game was suddenly without protection. Denuvo Anti-Tamper returned soon enough, via another update, but not quickly enough. Pirates pounced and the damage was done.

Remember, Conan Exiles isn't solely an online game, which tend to prevent piracy by requiring game versions to match that of the official servers. In Conan Exiles you can host your own worlds and play them alone or with others, or join their private worlds. In other words, a pirate can play the game.

I'm having trouble thinking up a way to construct a more frustrating experience for a game publisher. To have a game not susceptible to server check-ins, to have tried to infuse that game with DRM only to have it stripped in error and released, and to then have that game very much playable by the people you had specifically tried to prohibit via the DRM is like some kind of trifecta from hell for a game publisher. Remember, Nintendo lost its shit comnpletely when its free app was found to be "pirated." You're probably expecting Funcom to be cheesed off at equal or greater levels.

Except, at least from the company's first public statements on the matter, not so much.

"There is unfortunately not much we can do about those who choose to download and play unauthorised copies," Funcom said, "but we hope they make the jump to the official version so they can stay up to date with the latest patches and improvements. Being an Early Access title, there will be a lot of updates going forward!"

It's a nearly perfect response. First, the company admits that piracy is a thing that's going to happen. Then the company makes both a logical case for why fans of the pirated versions have a reason to buy an authorized copy, while maintaining a cool demeanor and enthusiasm that can only ingratiate the publisher to its fans, paying customers or otherwise. And keep in mind that it would be totally understandable if Funcom had a negative emotional response to all of this. But this way is better business.

It may be a little light on the connecting with fans part of the equation, but Funcom has focused on giving those who might pirate the game -- and like it! -- a reason to buy. Well done.


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  • icon
    JoeCool (profile), 8 Feb 2017 @ 5:08pm

    Accident... yeah, right

    More likely - "accidentally" released by a dev who got passed up for a raise/bonus while all the bosses got big fat raises/bonuses.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 8 Feb 2017 @ 6:30pm

      Re: Accident... yeah, right

      Yeah... this isn't an accident. This was intentionally disabled on their production build. But management doesn't know that because no one who understands it will tell them.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        DCL, 8 Feb 2017 @ 8:01pm

        Re: Re: Accident... yeah, right

        Having previously worked for a major game PC publisher I can say with certainty that it could easily be for a non-DRM version to be published by mistake (I have seen it happen).

        The console versions go through the 1st Party Certification process that catches the things like that. PC titles generally only rely on internal processes and checks that are easy to bypass. Plus Denuevo is designed to not be noticeable so it isn't obvious if it is running on a build (even if you are looking for it).

        Game build pipelines get to be complicated and are often looked after by a lower level engineer. Denuevo wrapping is a separate step in that process and it would be easy to confuse builds if you don't have a good publishing process and tech.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • identicon
          Anonymous Coward, 9 Feb 2017 @ 1:35am

          Re: Re: Re: Accident... yeah, right

          Wrapping is relatively easy to spot if you are running benchmarks as it inevitably lowers performance compared to non-DRM builds and benchmarks are incredibly important later on in the development when performance becomes an issue.

          I am a bit surprised that Funcom is recognizing the value of fighting piracy by updating the game, while still using money on DRM. It seems a bit of an expensive approach for rights management.

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

          • identicon
            Bob, 9 Feb 2017 @ 4:31am

            Re: Re: Re: Re: Accident... yeah, right

            We know it's a wrapper, because a Denuvo employee told us so.

            What's special is, that they do a performance evaluation of an exe with debug symbols, to identify functions that aren't performance critical.

            The wrapper then targets those functions specifically, so FPS won't suffer from it. That's why Denuvo protected functions are usually those that are tied to starting up the game, loading data and so on.

            reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

            • identicon
              Anonymous Coward, 9 Feb 2017 @ 9:57am

              Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Accident... yeah, right

              There are other benchmarks than FPS. Loading times are often one of them... And as much as a wrapper is better than most other approaches to DRM, it is still a cost for the developer and requires some degree of standardizing the code to the wrappers hooks.

              As for value, the players willing to play an outdated version are often not likely constumers anyway. Cracking with or without a DRM, so the better protection of value is often updates and bugfixes to the game. Thus the use of DRM is an expense that may delay hacking a bit, but if the game is updated frequently enough, why bother updating the hack and why bother giving the cracker a different challenge?

              reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

              • identicon
                Anonymous Coward, 9 Feb 2017 @ 4:55pm

                Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Accident... yeah, right

                Updates aren't good protection against piracy if there is no DRM or it's weak. Thing is, that there are more groups capable of cracking normal DRMs than Denuvo, other groups can crack updates, while for Denuvo only CPY can.
                They basically released demo (early access, game may change a lot) and game revolving about frequent updates WITH Denuvo that got cracked once won't put in higher priority for CPY than AAA games that aren't cracked yet.

                So basically unless there will be easy and fast method to crack Denuvo that's known to more groups, they probably protected their game from cracking by this move.

                reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

          • identicon
            DCL, 9 Feb 2017 @ 10:00am

            Re: Re: Re: Re: Accident... yeah, right

            Some DRM systems are easy to spot by the files that are included in the game build. I have experience with Denuevo and it isn't that simple.

            As for the FPS comparison approach that takes a lot of time to perform as it won't be obvious. By the time the consumer sees the game (i.e. not a dev build) most FPS slowdowns are worked out as QA finds them and the devs work with the Denuevo team to remove performance issues. I have seen that the Denuevo team is eager to work with the devs to fix performance and crash issues.

            Build pipelines often have options for free/clear build outputs. Those builds are normally debug builds for the devs and often run slower due to the debug functions.

            I actually know quite a bit about the process with Denuevo but I am still under a NDA so I can only provide limited details in my efforts to clarify things for others.

            reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    GristleMissile (profile), 8 Feb 2017 @ 5:40pm

    I really don't think Nintendo should be the company to use as an example. They are notorious for losing their shit over ANYTHING. Nintendo is the worst company in the industry when it comes to copyright maximalism.

    (They're not the worst company all around though, they at least make good games that you can buy once instead of getting fucked with "DLC")

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Nick (profile), 8 Feb 2017 @ 7:08pm

    You know, they used to have these versions of the game that were free. It didn't contain updates, nor all the content of the finished game. Used to be released weeks or even months in advance of a game release.

    Funcom missed a great opportunity to call it a demo and reap the rewards of releasing one.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 8 Feb 2017 @ 11:35pm

    Can we get demo CD's back

    I know devops, bigdata, agile annalists find it so very hard but ...

    no as I have said before

    it's time to shut the internet down and go back to dialup bbs's

    SHUT
    IT
    DOWN.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 9 Feb 2017 @ 1:18am

    So.. Its not really a game yet. But its decent 7/10 for an EA

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 9 Feb 2017 @ 4:59am

    "Jump to the official version"

    Funcom has focused on giving those who might pirate the game -- and like it! -- a reason to buy.

    But if they buy, will they have to deal with DRM? People already have the DRM-free version, and Funcom doesn't mention anything about that.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Machin Shin (profile), 9 Feb 2017 @ 6:22am

      Re: "Jump to the official version"

      What is really great too is that they released the DRM free version, then quickly released a patch that put DRM back.

      This should make it much much easier for cracking teams to yank the DRM from later builds because a simple compare on these two versions should show you exactly where the DRM is hooked into on the game.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 9 Feb 2017 @ 6:23am

    soo...

    Where can I get the DRM free version? It is the ONLY version I would consider buying.

    And no, I am not joking. I currently refuse to buy any games with this level of DRM in them. I sucks to not play some games with my less and "committed to putting your money where you mouth is" friends but in a way, they still suffer for them having one less friend to play with.

    I am working on a game myself... it will be DRM free, I would rather someone pirate it than to not play it at all.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 9 Feb 2017 @ 6:24am

    Bravo

    (in sincerest British accent)

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 9 Feb 2017 @ 8:23am

    The game is still in alpha anyway, other devs/publishers have put out games in this state for free on purpose.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Chuck, 9 Feb 2017 @ 10:02am

    Microcosm

    This really is a perfect microcosm of everything wrong with DRM. On the one hand, the PR response is excellent. On the other, the fact that it's so easy for DRM to be left out of a game - accident or not - shows just how much of a poorly-designed afterthought even this "best DRM ever" actually is. That you can "forget" to include it and the game runs fine speaks VOLUMES about how truly poorly integrated the code for the DRM is with the code for the game itself.

    This, in turn, means that there's absolutely NOTHING (aside from maybe contractual things) preventing EVERY game ever released with this crap releasing a patch that simply removes the DRM outright. If it can be omitted "accidentally" then it's trivial to patch it out intentionally.

    For what it's worth, The Secret World, another Funcom title, is one of the best MMO's I've ever played. The controls are an even split between WoW and TERA (tab targeting but with active dodging) and the setting is the absolute best take on Lovecraftian Horror I've literally ever seen in a video game. If you feel like supporting them without installing this DRM crap on your system, give TSW a try.

    tl;dr the best way to make your game pirate-proof is to just make it so awesome people feel guilty not buying it. Same thing as everything else on Techdirt: Just Make A Better Product, Stupid.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Reason, 10 Feb 2017 @ 3:13am

    I was not interested in this game, might of picked it up on sale or just got excited and buy for full price, but since it uses DRM rubbish, i will not. I boycott anyting that uses Denuvo because i dont want my money wasted on something that ruins modding, instead of adding content to the actual game.

    I, personally, dont care about piracy, and it does nothing for my interests to burden me with some DRM crap.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


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