Nier Automata Modder Includes Piracy Checks In Mod, Causing An Uproar, But Should It?

from the hmmm dept

Nier: Automata is a multiplatform game that I know almost nothing about at all, other than it was released relatively recently and that the PC version of the game was shipped out with some rather frustrating bugs. Apparently the game on PCs doesn't actually ship with true 1080p resolution and has some severe frame rate issues. But, because this is a PC game we're talking about, a fan going by the handle Kaldaien went ahead and released a patch that seems to fix these issues. There is just one problem.

Kaldaien's patch checks to make sure the game it's patching hasn't been pirated. And that caused something of an uproar on the Steam forums.

On neoGAF, Kaldaien explains that “Nothing malicious happens if you fail this check, you’re just presented with an infinite license screen that you can click Accept on but since you don’t respect licenses the license doesn’t respect your click.” In short, you can’t use the official mod if you pirate the game.

On the Steam forums, this news caused quite the commotion. The thread that originally shared the mod burst into arguments and insults, and Kaldaien himself even got temporarily banned from posting, allegedly because he called someone a “pirate moron.” The thread has since been removed from Steam, but reactions to the piracy check can be found all around the web. Some people actually feel entitled to use the mod no matter how they obtained the game.

The negative reactions got fairly vitriolic. One the one hand, yeah, it's the internet, what else would you expect? But frankly much of this looks very misguided, based in large part on a misunderstanding of why Kaldaien included the piracy check. With most of the angry responses suggesting that Kaldaien was taking some kind of moral stance or, as one comment suggested, simply wanted "to be a prick", it was actually done to keep the modder from suffering more headaches.

“My anti-piracy measures actually have nothing to do with my personal views on individual piracy,” Kaldaien wrote on neoGAF. “I don’t condone the practice, I don’t generally think highly of people who do it, but this is not done to punish them. It is to protect me against asset injection of copyrighted material.” On Steam, Kaldaien said, “I will not be thrown under the bus when some user uses my software to inject DLC they didn’t purchase.” It’s also worth noting that locking pirates out means Kaldaien doesn’t have to waste time trying to troubleshoot problems with people that don’t even have the game legally.

So, there's that. But how pissed are any of us, even those of us that think copyright protectionism and DRM are misguided, supposed to be? Whatever the motivation, this amounts to a fan making a mod for a game and trying to police the legitimacy of purchases on the publisher's behalf. This is, in some ways, the sort of thing a publisher should want. Nier: Automata, by the way, shipped with Denuvo DRM... which was cracked shortly afterwards. While there are workarounds for the FAR mod's piracy check, if it's causing this kind of an uproar then it must be having some effect. What if this shows that a motivated fan-driven modding scene can actually help protect the investment of game publishers on their behalf? That would be a good thing, I think.

It could help on many levels, in fact, including in that it could demonstrate even further the value a modding community can have to a game publisher. If stories like this drive publishers to be more modder-friendly, and therefore drive the modders to be more publisher friendly, the end result might be an overall better ecosystem for the end customer. There are some gamers out there that will pirate no matter what, but that doesn't mean they should expect the true fans modding those games to be on their side of the piracy argument.


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  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 15 May 2017 @ 7:41pm

    As with all mods, I take the stance that if you don't like how the mod works or some aspect of it, make your own superior version; otherwise, shut the hell up.

    This kind of entitlement, that the modding community must cater to those who couldn't be bothered to obtain the game legally is probably at least part of the reason publishers don't like modders. So I have to agree, if this encourages more publishers to support modding, then it's a great thing. Even if it doesn't, the mod creator gets to decide what his mod does, not some whiny people on the internet.

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

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 15 May 2017 @ 7:50pm

      Re:

      The problem with this perspective is that, in these days of DRM, official games may stop working at some point and pirate cracks, even on legally purchased games, may be the only way to play them.

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

      • identicon
        Paul, 15 May 2017 @ 8:35pm

        Re: Re:

        If it gets to the point that the game DRM (which is only stream) gets so bad only pirate copies can be found, the mod will be long cracked or lost to time. Or the creator will remove the check.

        Right now it's a new game with full support and steam for DRM and to me it's fine that way.

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

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 16 May 2017 @ 7:54am

        Re: Re:

        Bad perspective.

        The real threat from a Steam game is the idea that the publisher of the base game may not like the mod for whatever reason, and update their DRM to prevent it's use, or trigger a ban of some kind. Even if it's a mod to fix bugs in the official release that the publisher has no interest fixing.

        Worse case would be them attempting to trigger a VAC ban on your account because of it, thus prohibiting you from using any VAC protected server for that game's engine.

        A modder's biggest threat is the AntiCheat system getting overzealous on a harmless mod, but bugfix mods like these are particularly dangerous due to them modifying engine code in memory. An area where the AntiCheat is typically more strict about what to allow and what not to. (Punkbuster for example checks for known hashes of the loaded Windows DLLs.) Including AntiPiracy in these kinds of mods only adds complexity which the AntiCheat may not like, not to mention if the mod is banned from the official game, pointless as the mod would be rendered utterly useless as a result.

        It's not so much the risk of the game going defunct, (That's going to happen. It's a matter of when not if.) that's the issue here. It's the issue of the mod being rendered useless before the game goes defunct.

        Also, don't think that the publishers won't do something like ban a bugfix only mod? Guess again. I'm sure in a few years they'll want to fix the bugs and then repackage the game and sell it for more profit. (Maybe include all of the DLCs with it as a GOTY edition. Skip forward a few more years and the game might get an HD remake.) The bugfix mods (or mods like HD res packs) gives less incentive for consumers to buy the re-release. So a preemptive banning goes a long way to ensuring future profits.

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 15 May 2017 @ 7:50pm

    it ended up DELETING files from peoples computers, from people who had bought it legitly and from pirates. pretty sure that breaks the computer fraud laws.

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

    • icon
      David (profile), 15 May 2017 @ 8:50pm

      Re: Troll Alert!

      AC your teenager got to your keyboard.

      Do not share your password with children, even if they are family.

      You obviously don't understand DMCA or the term fraud. There is a great tech based website that focuses on such issues. Check them out at techdirt.com you will be surprised at what you can learn. If you only apply yourself.

      /s

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

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 16 May 2017 @ 5:54am

        Re: Re: Troll Alert!

        actually meant the computer fraud and abuse act.
        It just seems really "malwarey" to delete things off someone else's computer without their consent.

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 15 May 2017 @ 7:53pm

    "locking pirates out means Kaldaien doesn’t have to waste time trying to troubleshoot problems with people that don’t even have the game legally."

    Reminds me of how some games have separate forum boards for reporting bugs with the vanilla game and with the modded game. If the bugs are in the unmodded version, it's the devs' problem. If it's modded, it's the user's/modder's problem. Likewise, it's not Kaldaien's fault if some hack to crack the game messes with how his mod works.

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 15 May 2017 @ 7:57pm

    We don't need copyright. There are plenty of resources and plenty of opportunities for open-source projects. Anyone who wants to lock information of any sort away from the public is not needed in this world. The internet has done away with any meaningful need for copyright. Let's eliminate it already and get on with the cultural renaissance.

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

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 15 May 2017 @ 8:39pm

      Re:

      How is this a copyright issue? Your free to copy the mod all you like, all the guy cares about is if you have a copy in good standing so he's not being used as a hack to install DLC.

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

    • icon
      btr1701 (profile), 16 May 2017 @ 12:05pm

      Re:

      > Anyone who wants to lock information of any sort away
      > from the public is not needed in this world.

      So according to your standards, I have a right to know all the details of your finances. All your personal medical information. All the details of your private life-- who you have sex with, and how often, and in what positions-- because that's information and you don't want to be a hypocrite and lock it away from the public, right?

      And if you do want to keep that information private, then you're not needed in this world. Again, your standards.

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

  • identicon
    Christenson, 15 May 2017 @ 9:55pm

    Attitude on display

    Seems to me that our Modder actually *likes* his game publisher...as if he felt he was getting good value, and his publisher deserved to get paid.

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

    • icon
      PaulT (profile), 16 May 2017 @ 3:27am

      Re: Attitude on display

      Well he's doing free work to fix their shoddy product for them, so I presume he must like them. Or, at least, like their product enough he doesn't want them to come after him legally like some companies do when people mod their games.

      Anyway, 3 things pop up in my mind here straight away. One - DRM is never perfect. There's almost certainly someone out there falsely being flagged as a pirate, and/or who is running the pirated version because the DRM is degrading the game too much. The false positive rate might not be much, but there's almost always someone.

      Secondly, part of the moral argument goes out of the window here. This appears to be a fan who is doing work for free that the game publisher isn't doing for whatever reason. This isn't mere extra content, etc., it's fixing a shoddy product to perform as expected. Why, then, should a person pay the publisher to run the fix, when they refuse to use the income to fix their own product? Not to support piracy, of course, but there's not a lot of moral imperative to reimburse a publisher who left it to charity work to fix the game once they took the money.
      I understand the argument that he doesn't want his mod to be used as a back door for other infractions, though.


      Thirdly, this DRM saviour of the games industry (as it was first touted) will let you run arbitrary modifications on a game so long as you pass an initial test? That seems strange.

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

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 16 May 2017 @ 5:02am

        Re: Re: Attitude on display

        "Well he's doing free work to fix their shoddy product for them, so I presume he must like them."

        I think it's a stretch to say the product is "shoddy" because of an issue with it's graphics. Take the modder Durante for example; he is somewhat of a legend in fixing bad ports. Both Dark Souls and Deadly Premonition were good games as well, just not optimized or ported very well. He fixed them. He said once that the reason he can fix these games so fast is, he doesn't have to play by the same quality rules as the developers. If his optimizations break your game, then uninstall them. The publishers/developer can hardly play by those rules.

        "Not to support piracy, of course, but there's not a lot of moral imperative to reimburse a publisher who left it to charity work to fix the game once they took the money."

        Who said anything about leaving it to "charity". How do you know the game designers weren't working hard on a fix? Game Developers/Publishers release games that need immediate patching all the time. They have fixed release windows and deadlines that sometimes force their hand just like most other industries.

        Kaldaien is obviously a very talented modder. He was able to fix this game fast and well. Good for him. Good for the community. This is a win story all around if you ask me.

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

        • icon
          PaulT (profile), 16 May 2017 @ 5:28am

          Re: Re: Re: Attitude on display

          "I think it's a stretch to say the product is "shoddy" because of an issue with it's graphics"

          Well, perhaps. But, it's apparently an important issue to some gamers, and certainly important enough for this particular guy to want to repair it.

          "Both Dark Souls and Deadly Premonition were good games as well, just not optimized or ported very well. He fixed them"

          Now, I'm not a PC gamer nowadays (I gave up long ago, partly due to shoddy ports, poor update support and DRM). But, that's what I'm talking about - you pay money for your game then you have to wait for some randomer to come along and fix it because they "weren't ported very well" by the people you're paying to do so? In the minds of some people, why then should you be paying them?

          Yes, they have greater overheads, testing cycles, possible fixed release dates, etc. But your explanation here is "they weren't really finished when they were released, but it's OK someone dived in and finished them". That doesn't really gel for me.

          "How do you know the game designers weren't working hard on a fix?"

          I don't, but from what I can tell they also haven't announced that they are. Of course, an official patch would require greater testing & other delays but in the absence of any information I have to assume.

          "They have fixed release windows and deadlines that sometimes force their hand just like most other industries."

          They also have direct ways to communicate with people, even if it's just to confirm "we're aware of the issue and will notify when a patch is available for release". Perhaps there's higher profile issues that they're working on first, which would also be a good thing to inform people about. What you're saying is that this guy has a habit of going in and finishing products that aren't really finished by the developers. If there's good reasons for that, they should communicate them. Finished products and good communication & support are likely to have more effect on peoples' attitude to buying than DRM ever will.

          "This is a win story all around if you ask me."

          Unless you're someone who needed to pirate because Denuvo screwed with your system enough to make your copy unplayable or were falsely identified as a pirate, etc.

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

          • identicon
            Anonymous Coward, 16 May 2017 @ 6:11am

            Re: Re: Re: Re: Attitude on display

            "But, that's what I'm talking about - you pay money for your game then you have to wait for some randomer to come along and fix it because they "weren't ported very well" by the people you're paying to do so? In the minds of some people, why then should you be paying them?"

            I play PC games quite a bit. Most of the time, the Developers do fix these types of issues over time. They have started, and it's by no means consistent, advising their fan base of the fixes underway. I see more and more of that with Pre-Release or early access titles. Usually they have a grocery list of things they are working on, where modders on the other hand can attack a single issue such as optimization or graphics with little to no regard to the rest of the game.

            With that said. In my experiences, when you see content releases or DLC before optimization fixes, it's because there's financial trouble. Take Ark for example. They release paid DLC before the game was actually released (It's STILL in early access). People went postal, the studio had to know that was coming. The game has game-breaking bugs still and they released a paid DLC? Well, after doing a little digging, come to find out they were dealing with a significant lawsuit. Perhaps it was release the DLC or the studio was going under? Not sure. But a situation like that may force a studio's hand. If that is the case, I wouldn't be telling people whats going on. Who's going to buy a game from a studio that's about to go under?

            I can't pretend to know how one goes about putting together a major production like a video game. I would imagine that quite a bit of thought goes into what to tell, and what not to tell the public about the process as well as money flow vrs the development path. I also don't want to be seen as making excuses for shitty ports or games, you've got a valid complaint there. I'm simply pointing out that sometimes there's a reason for the lack of communication or why companies act the way they do. Sometimes it's about survival (shameless Ark Survival pun.



            http://kotaku.com/ark-survival-evolved-developers-settle-lawsuit-1771234316

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

            • icon
              PaulT (profile), 16 May 2017 @ 6:34am

              Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Attitude on display

              "I see more and more of that with Pre-Release or early access titles"

              I would damn well hope so, since that means you're essentially paying them to beta test the thing! Not communicating what you're doing in response to beta testers would be really short sighted. That doesn't excuse poor communication after they've shipped, though.

              The rest of the points are valid, I just have little patience with them. Although I'm mostly separated from them to some degree, I have worked with developers for a number of years in different capacities and have seen the internal wrangling over bugs to fix, etc. (not in videogames, though). I know that what's important to customers sometimes conflicts with what's necessary internally or with future projects, etc. It just seems interesting that people going "to hell with this I'm fixing it myself" is acceptable to some people, although I recognise that it's not just frustration that would drive them, and there's some unique factors in gaming itself.

              Whether true or not, the perception of the videogame marketplace is often that they ship out the door with little regard to quality and then never bother to fix major bugs if the sales don't come through quickly (which may in turn be lost due to an unfinished product shipping). If products can't be fixed to avoid this cycle from happening, they can at least improve their PR. If they do neither, then the consequences should be obvious.

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

  • identicon
    Patrick, 16 May 2017 @ 12:02am

    Sadly it seems Square Enix And Platinum are content to let him fix their game for free instead of releasing an official patch for the issues FAR fixes. Hopefully modder friendliness doesn't come with increased publisher laziness.

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

  • icon
    Ninja (profile), 16 May 2017 @ 6:15am

    I do agree with the modder even if I don't agree with the driving force behind his decision. So the devs cripple the game with malware (DRM), ship buggy/incomplete code taken from their arses to get their shit brought together by a fan. The bottom of the pit is further down below. The guy is just playing safe. I was very interested in the game but these developments have made my mind. I'm not buying nor pirating.

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 16 May 2017 @ 6:39am

    Meh, assuming this patch mod is worth anything, someone will just crack it (or make a better one with no DRM).

    DRM is just as useless in mods as it is in games.

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 16 May 2017 @ 8:30am

    DLC derail

    I'm going to derail the comments a bit here to focus on a different part of the story:

    The developer is worried that people (pirates, or whoever) might use his software to inject DLC that they didn't purchase. The reason this is a concern is that DLC is mostly a big fat stupid lie. The letters stand for "DownLoadable Content", and used to be somewhat accurate, in that after the game was released, the authors would create more stuff and then freely or with payment release more content that people could download. Now though, much of the "DLC" is actually contained in the game files already, AT LAUNCH, meaning they already have that extra content generated and complete, the purchaser is already downloading that extra content, but unless they have a "key" or whatever, they can't use that extra content. But the developers feel perfectly justified in this extra nickle and dime-ing scheme, because capitalism.

    And yes, I know there is still actually downloaded content after a game is released, but as I said, much of the DLC comes pre-packaged in the game files at launch. This is akin to selling me a processor at a cheaper price than normal, because the fully functioning floating point unit has been actively disabled (it's there, it just doesn't work).

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

    • icon
      orbitalinsertion (profile), 16 May 2017 @ 2:52pm

      Re: DLC derail

      That used to be a major thing IT, both hardware and software. (Particularly in the era of mini v micro wars, and early days of the PC.) I don't know how often it has come and gone as a practice, but it was rampant once upon a time.

      The other sad thing with DLC is that some devs seem to release half a game and expect you to buy the rest in installments. Never mind releasing things in a pre-beta and broken state then fixing it (or not) later. (Well, that is like a lot of software and very much like one major OS.)

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

  • icon
    McFortner (profile), 16 May 2017 @ 10:03am

    How dare he go and put the piracy check in? That's not his job, it's the gamemaker's. He shouldn't be going around making mods for somebody else's software. If he doesn't work for them, it's wrong for him to do it.

    Oh, wait....

    Nevermind.

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 16 May 2017 @ 10:17am

    I cordially invite said distinguished gentleman to go exploring an unvented petrol tank with an acetylene torch for lighting. Beyond that, I really don't give a crap about anything he may or may not have done or might do.

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

  • identicon
    Jigsy, 16 May 2017 @ 12:08pm

    Shit like Denuvo means that companies won't ever bring the game to places like GOG.com.

    After all, why spend all that money on it if you're going to release a DRM free version?

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

  • icon
    orbitalinsertion (profile), 16 May 2017 @ 3:09pm

    This is hilariously not new. And just like the main product, don't use it if you don't like it. Roll your own. Or be a better infringer.

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 18 May 2017 @ 2:25pm

    You're linking to one Kotaku article but quoting a completely different one. You meant to link to: https://kotaku.com/popular-nier-automata-pc-mod-includes-a-piracy-check-1795090696

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


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