Author Topic: Question about GoG  (Read 6285 times)

Offline keith.lamothe

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Re: Question about GoG
« Reply #30 on: April 20, 2014, 10:17:09 AM »
Does it make me a pirate that I would have very much wanted to have a standalone offline updater for my legit game?
We certainly never called you, or anyone wanting a different updating process, a pirate :)  When dealing with us, please assume we mean well toward you, rather than that we mean ill toward you.  I think things will be more pleasant that way.

Anyway, the reason we do the in-game updater is that we tend to do lots of "beta" patches inbetween each "official" patch.  The official patches generally get standalone installer updates (iirc, I don't know if that policy has changed recently, though we can certainly bear in mind the wishes of the GOG audience in that regard), and generally takes 2+ hours for us to arrange.  The beta patches are all delivered through the in-game updater.  Which just downloads zip file(s) from our amazon s3 drop.  It takes us 5 minutes (sometimes less) to arrange one of those.

We're a small team and have to work very efficiently to stay afloat.  I'm sure you can see why we therefore prefer the 5 minute process to the 2 hour one for the more-frequent beta updates :)
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Offline Riabi

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Re: Question about GoG
« Reply #31 on: April 20, 2014, 10:42:09 AM »
And bear in mind, when he says "more frequent" that can sometimes mean multiple updates a day.

Offline Magnitus

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Re: Question about GoG
« Reply #32 on: June 25, 2014, 08:29:35 AM »
My weariness is with the subset of GOG users who hold (and forcefully argue) a far more extreme position than the one you just articulated.

I don't have a strong brand attachment (GOG just happens to be the main provider of DRM-free games atm) and I sort of ressent your implication that my point of view is "extreme". No matter how you feel about this, I think you should be careful about how you express yourself from a PR perspective. I bought 3 of your games on GOG and I'm sure many of my fellow "extremists" did the same.

I like to think I have a pretty balanced stance between the needs to customers and the needs of content providers.

One on hand, I do strongly believe in the need for content providers to get paid for their labor (yes, I subscribe to the whole open-source movement especially for system-level/middleware software, but I don't think it applies unconditionally well to everything).

However, I also strongly believe that unless unless the content needs to be provided as a service (ex: WoW), payment should be done only once and content should be accessible in a standalone manner.

Let's take the movie industry as an example of what not to do: First there was the VHS tape, then the DVD, then the blue-ray and now the upcoming 4k format. How often are we expected to pay full price for the same product?

Similarly, closer to home in the game industry: there are games I got on DVD where the DVD broke and I had to buy the game again from digital distributors... most annoying.

And the above is not even the worst case scenario. There might be situations where content is not accessible at all when it is designed to poll a server that is no longer there.

Take Gamespy as an example: I'm sure they had the best intentions in mind, but at some point, they went down and the end result was that games that were dependent on their servers to play in multiplayer where no longer multiplayer playable. In their case, it was hard to avoid, because of the nature of matchmaking with strangers across the internet (although I do appreciate LAN support to fall back on to play with my friends when multiplayer servers for a game go down).

That brings me to the topic of game updates and "convenience": it's a lot less hard to make it server-free (or provide a server free alternatives). I appreciate that your company is doing well right now and I'm sure you have the best of intents with this, but if your company goes under 10 years from now, I still expect to have access to the game I paid for with the latest patch. Fair is fair.

I guess this is where I differ from some gamers. Many gamers play a game, finish it and never revisit it again, but I do enjoy revisiting some games down the years.

I certainly hope that you view your games as good enough that they should be included in the list of games I'll replay 10-20 years from now so why package them as a throwaway product?
« Last Edit: June 25, 2014, 08:36:43 AM by Magnitus »

Offline keith.lamothe

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Re: Question about GoG
« Reply #33 on: June 25, 2014, 10:40:46 AM »
My weariness is with the subset of GOG users who hold (and forcefully argue) a far more extreme position than the one you just articulated.

I don't have a strong brand attachment (GOG just happens to be the main provider of DRM-free games atm) and I sort of ressent your implication that my point of view is "extreme".
To clarify, did anything I say indicate that I considered your particular position extreme?  Possibly my use of the term "subset" was too vague, but I was trying to avoid rehashing the details of what I objected to at that particular moment.

The sort of thing I was referring to is along the lines of "the only reason any developer ever uses any form of DRM is because they want to make it harder to pirate".  Which is not true in our case (we did license keys to make keeping an updated demo feasible; we did Bionic initially as steam-distribution-only so we could have a linux version that could be kept updated).  But I've found that attempting to present facts, reasons, and arguments in such a case is often futile: often what the person making such a claim wants is not to understand our situation, but for us to submit to their demands, regardless of the details of what we're currently doing or why we did it.  Their liberty to use a game however they please is important to them (and I sympathize with that), but our liberty to make our development choices according to what we think is best overall is not important to many of the folks I've seen advancing that kind of "extreme" argument, and I object to that.

That said, I'm not objecting to the core desires behind such a position.  Even if they want all software to always be completely free and without restriction, etc (and I know most of them are quite happy to pay for good games, so long as they get the game rather than some kind of revocable permission to play it).  My objection is when they seek to impose their desires on us in a coercive manner (rather than a persuasive one).


Quote
No matter how you feel about this, I think you should be careful about how you express yourself from a PR perspective. I bought 3 of your games on GOG and I'm sure many of my fellow "extremists" did the same.
I am careful to speak politely, and reasonably precisely, in the sense of "how" I express this.  Though I appreciate the reminder.  But if the situation is such that voicing objections to coercion is itself met with fallout, then in many ways that is simply an extension of the coercion.  It tells me "don't reason, don't argue, just submit".

That said, I do understand that most players out there are used to being hit with the "just submit" stick by developers/publishers, so I understand if tensions are high and the players trying to fight for better treatment aren't particularly gentle about doing so.  But when a developer is fundamentally on the same side of "customer service", as we are, it really helps if we can address concerns via rational discussion, rather than being treated as an enemy.  Otherwise time and resources are wasted on defensive measures on both sides.


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I like to think I have a pretty balanced stance between the needs to customers and the needs of content providers.

One on hand, I do strongly believe in the need for content providers to get paid for their labor (yes, I subscribe to the whole open-source movement especially for system-level/middleware software, but I don't think it applies unconditionally well to everything).

However, I also strongly believe that unless unless the content needs to be provided as a service (ex: WoW), payment should be done only once and content should be accessible in a standalone manner.

Let's take the movie industry as an example of what not to do: First there was the VHS tape, then the DVD, then the blue-ray and now the upcoming 4k format. How often are we expected to pay full price for the same product?

Similarly, closer to home in the game industry: there are games I got on DVD where the DVD broke and I had to buy the game again from digital distributors... most annoying.

And the above is not even the worst case scenario. There might be situations where content is not accessible at all when it is designed to poll a server that is no longer there.

Take Gamespy as an example: I'm sure they had the best intentions in mind, but at some point, they went down and the end result was that games that were dependent on their servers to play in multiplayer where no longer multiplayer playable. In their case, it was hard to avoid, because of the nature of matchmaking with strangers across the internet (although I do appreciate LAN support to fall back on to play with my friends when multiplayer servers for a game go down).

That brings me to the topic of game updates and "convenience": it's a lot less hard to make it server-free (or provide a server free alternatives). I appreciate that your company is doing well right now and I'm sure you have the best of intents with this, but if your company goes under 10 years from now, I still expect to have access to the game I paid for with the latest patch. Fair is fair.

I guess this is where I differ from some gamers. Many gamers play a game, finish it and never revisit it again, but I do enjoy revisiting some games down the years.

I certainly hope that you view your games as good enough that they should be included in the list of games I'll replay 10-20 years from now so why package them as a throwaway product?
I think that's basically my own position as well.  It's not something I even disagree with, let alone something I would consider extreme.  If I may ask, what gave you the impression that my statement about a subset of extremism applied to that?  I haven't gone back and checked, but does your position differ fundamentally from the one preceding my earlier-quoted comment ("the one you just articulated")?


Anyway, on the topic of game updates and convenience, are you saying that our approach runs counter to what you're asking for there?  Perhaps it would help if I recapped the details of our updating process:

1) When the game runs, if you have auto-updates enabled (it is by default, but can be disabled), it will retrieve an xml file on our server.  For AIW that's http://arcengames.com/dl/AIWarBetaUpdates2.xml .  Note: if it fails in this retrieval for whatever reason, the game will still run fine.  Though we have had problems with firewalls killing the program when it tries to check, in which case disabling the auto-check is necessary.

2) It checks the entries in that xml file against the version number of the install, and if the xml file mentions a later version it downloads the zip file from the url included in that entry.  The latest one as of this writing is http://arcengames.com/dl/AIWar7042.zip (which may be replaced later, not all versions are kept up there due to a later one containing everything from the previous, but all the ones still in the xml file are kept up there).

3) The game then runs the updater itself, and closes the game.  The updater just unzips the zip file into the install directory, and then re-runs the game, and closes itself.
- Note: we've recently written our own updater for TLF that will be also be used to replace the AIW updater (already has been for Bionic) that can run natively on linux (thus allowing Bionic to become not-steam-distributed-only, which is why it's on GOG now).  That updater is slightly more complex in that it's not a straight unzip operation: there's now a "dl" folder (that's the name, iirc) in the zip file that the updater then copies the contents of to 3 locations: one for windows, one for mac, one for linux.  Since those platform-specific executable files are almost always the largest part of an update this really helps keep the size down.

And done.

And on our side, to do an update, all we have to do is:
1) copy the changed files to a staging location
2) zip them up
3) upload the zip
4) update the xml file to reference the new zip

Which can be done in less than 5 minutes.  Actually we spend more time typing up the release-related announcements, etc.

If it took an hour to build an installer and distribute it to a bunch of different places, that would significantly cut down on our ability to quickly change things, etc.  So our process significantly improves the service that players get from us.


So, what's your recourse if the server with the xml file and zip files vanishes into the warp?  Basically, right now: find someone who has an updated copy of the game, and copy that (replace the settings.dat, inputbindings.dat, and Save directory with your own).  The installs all work wherever they're put, and make no effort to defend themselves.

If you want a more robust solution, then what would it be?  Someone could archive an updated copy of the game, or the updater zip files (you can run the updater manually, no internet connection necessary), somewhere.  But wouldn't that archive be subject to the same vulnerability?  The only true "server free" method I can think of is for each of you to keep your own backups locally (which is easy, just copy the game directory to a jumpdrive, and then copy it to whatever you want to run it on; or even just run it from the jumpdrive).  For that matter, all those games you bought on GOG, what happens if their servers vanish?  Or, since GOG is presumably more likely to stick around than an individual developer, is that an acceptable level of risk?


Best,
Keith
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Offline Magnitus

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Re: Question about GoG
« Reply #34 on: June 26, 2014, 01:43:34 AM »
To clarify, did anything I say indicate that I considered your particular position extreme?  Possibly my use of the term "subset" was too vague, but I was trying to avoid rehashing the details of what I objected to at that particular moment.

I probably over-reacted. I interpreted your comment in the context of the post you were replying to where using GOG to prevent Steam monopoly was ok, but going beyond that (ie, GOG's catalog being DRM-free while most of Steam's catalog isn't) was extreme.

I usually let it slide when some random bloke posts something like this, but when it comes from someone who officially represents a gaming studio, it hits closer to home, especially when I like their games.

The sort of thing I was referring to is along the lines of "the only reason any developer ever uses any form of DRM is because they want to make it harder to pirate".  Which is not true in our case (we did license keys to make keeping an updated demo feasible; we did Bionic initially as steam-distribution-only so we could have a linux version that could be kept updated).  But I've found that attempting to present facts, reasons, and arguments in such a case is often futile: often what the person making such a claim wants is not to understand our situation, but for us to submit to their demands, regardless of the details of what we're currently doing or why we did it.  Their liberty to use a game however they please is important to them (and I sympathize with that), but our liberty to make our development choices according to what we think is best overall is not important to many of the folks I've seen advancing that kind of "extreme" argument, and I object to that.

I fully respect your freedom to release games in whatever format you find most convenient (my understanding is that Steam provides good support to developers), but it is also my freedom not to financially support such a release format because the alternatives were too much trouble.

Granted, I'm probably part of 5% or less of the gaming populace so it's not a market that will make or break the financially viability of a game, but it is an additional source of revenue for those who bother, just like supporting Linux is :).

That said, I'm not objecting to the core desires behind such a position.  Even if they want all software to always be completely free and without restriction, etc (and I know most of them are quite happy to pay for good games, so long as they get the game rather than some kind of revocable permission to play it).  My objection is when they seek to impose their desires on us in a coercive manner (rather than a persuasive one).

Well, obviously, we live is (relatively) free countries so any reasonable folks will realize that outside of debates such as this one (to win over minds), the only impositions we can reasonably make here are financial ones (with the games we decide to purchase).

Of course, that never stopped me from trying to win over fellow gamers (and more generally, consumers of intellectual property) to my point of view in order to increase it's financial impact and generally bring to the consciousness of those around me the services that do release intellectual property in a DRM-free format whenever the structure of the work being sold allows for it.


I am careful to speak politely, and reasonably precisely, in the sense of "how" I express this.  Though I appreciate the reminder.  But if the situation is such that voicing objections to coercion is itself met with fallout, then in many ways that is simply an extension of the coercion.  It tells me "don't reason, don't argue, just submit".

I think it's one thing to argue your disapproval of the point of view that is expressed by the DRM-free crowd. It's quite another to label them as extreme, though my interpretation of the later is obviously a misunderstanding.

To my sensibilities, my point of view is not extreme and rather quite reasonable. Obviously, it doesn't stop me from realizing that most consumers of intellectual property have more of a "throwaway" mentality concerning the intellectual property they consume and perhaps long time access to their purchase doesn't matter as much to them (and hence, neither does the DRM-free aspect). This is a perfectly valid point of view given their priorities and it's not my place to tell them they should watch the same movie or play the same game more than once.

That said, I do understand that most players out there are used to being hit with the "just submit" stick by developers/publishers, so I understand if tensions are high and the players trying to fight for better treatment aren't particularly gentle about doing so.  But when a developer is fundamentally on the same side of "customer service", as we are, it really helps if we can address concerns via rational discussion, rather than being treated as an enemy.  Otherwise time and resources are wasted on defensive measures on both sides.

I don't think of it as a battlefield, but rather, simply whether particular developpers share my values or not (or at least, act in a way that further those values). I tend to be more supportive of the continued success of those who do.

It's not a hateful "let the rest rot in hell" kind of thing just as natural selection is not an hateful "you are evil and need to die" kind of force, but I do have a vision of how I want the industry to be and as little impact as it has, I'm willing to use my purchasing power to further that vision.



Anyway, on the topic of game updates and convenience, are you saying that our approach runs counter to what you're asking for there?  Perhaps it would help if I recapped the details of our updating process:
...

My main worry, as you have articulated, is that I don't have access to the latest update if/when your company vanishes.

The solution you outlined work to manually back up updates from the server, though perhaps it should be better advertissed to gamers who care about such things. Alternatively, you could release an official patch or simply an updated installer on the GOG website once your release version is pretty stable (ie, one update every 6 months or less).

Concerning my GOG collection if GOG vanishes, I always keep 2 copies of my collection. Atm, I got one copie on a 3 TB external hard drive and GOG keeps my redundant copy on their servers. If GOG vanishes, then I'll quickly get another external hard drive and keep my redundant copy on that drive, keeping my drives phased out by about 2 years (one newer and one older). I regularly store the hash value of all game files to detect and restore corrupted files. I realize that this is probably more "hardcore" than what most gamers would go through to preserve their collection, but it's actually pretty important to me.

btw, I also do the same thing for my music collection and my collection of IT ebooks (though technically, the later will probably be obsolete in 20 years anyways :P).

Theoretically, I could also do the same with my movie collection using tool that bypass the DRM of DVDs, though I would totally not do that because it's illegal and I totally respect the right of the movie industry to keep my movie collection stuck on their original DVDs ;).
« Last Edit: June 26, 2014, 01:58:01 AM by Magnitus »

Offline keith.lamothe

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Re: Question about GoG
« Reply #35 on: June 26, 2014, 10:05:14 AM »
I fully respect your freedom to release games in whatever format you find most convenient (my understanding is that Steam provides good support to developers), but it is also my freedom not to financially support such a release format because the alternatives were too much trouble.
And that's perfectly fine with me.  We knew when we made Bionic initially steam-distributed-only (though it had no DRM on it per-se, it could run without steam) that it was a compromise and that it excluded part of the audience.  But we considered that an acceptable tradeoff for adding linux support (which we couldn't do outside steam because our updater didn't work on linux).  Happily, we later had time to develop our own updater, and so Bionic is now available on a user-liberty-oriented distribution platform (GOG) as well as a user-liberty-oriented operating system.  Neither linux nor GOG distribution bring in a significant part of the bottom line at this time, but even if it were a net-zero proposition those are still things we want to support.

But, back when Bionic's distribution was steam-only, if you had said that you weren't willing to buy it under those terms, then I have absolutely no problem with that.

My problem was with those who (actually, not hypothetically) told us that adding linux support was easy and that the only reason we would use DRM was because we wanted DRM.  They were not interested in the facts we presented to the contrary.  That's what I mean by "extreme".  Perhaps a more accurate phrase would be "fanatical" or "imperialistic", in that my problem isn't so much with the degree of how much they want games without DRM, but rather in how they treat those whose beliefs or practices differ with their ideals.  But I don't think either of those descriptors sounds much nicer :)


Quote
Well, obviously, we live is (relatively) free countries so any reasonable folks will realize that outside of debates such as this one (to win over minds), the only impositions we can reasonably make here are financial ones (with the games we decide to purchase).
It can and does go beyond that.  You mentioned being careful for PR purposes; perhaps this isn't what you had in mind, but, there can be (and have been, for some) serious PR consequences for appearing as a Reactionary versus the DRM-Free Revolution ;)


Quote
Alternatively, you could release an official patch or simply an updated installer on the GOG website once your release version is pretty stable (ie, one update every 6 months or less).
Yea, something like that works if you have a set of servers you trust (GOG's, in this case).  Building installers is a big pain, but we're transitioning to a setup where it's basically just a zip file to unzip and it runs as-is.  Looks less professional, but removes potential barriers between the customer and their ability to use the thing.


Quote
Theoretically, I could also do the same with my movie collection using tool that bypass the DRM of DVDs, though I would totally not do that because it's illegal and I totally respect the right of the movie industry to keep my movie collection stuck on their original DVDs ;).
Ugh, yea.  And their DRM totally works in preventing the ubiquitous availability of illegal copies ;)

In case it's not clear, I think DRM per se (measures used to prevent people who didn't pay for a product from using it) is simply irrational because it simply does not accomplish the stated purpose (outside of something like WoW, but you get the idea).  But the practice isn't susceptible to rational discussion (at most of the big publishers, anyway) because they're still in a fear/defense reaction against a perceived enemy.

What I want to avoid is something like that continuing on the consumer side.
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Offline Riabi

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Re: Question about GoG
« Reply #36 on: June 27, 2014, 06:43:35 AM »
...outside of something like WoW...

For the record, even WOW has been pirated, and people have pirated the server side stuff too. The only think lacking is the large numbers of people around (usually the pirate servers have just a handful.) But, I think this just proves your point more... DRM to prevent piracy is pretty silly.

Offline keith.lamothe

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Re: Question about GoG
« Reply #37 on: June 27, 2014, 10:55:35 AM »
...outside of something like WoW...

For the record, even WOW has been pirated, and people have pirated the server side stuff too. The only think lacking is the large numbers of people around (usually the pirate servers have just a handful.) But, I think this just proves your point more... DRM to prevent piracy is pretty silly.
Yea, I'm aware of the "private" servers, etc.  But it still seemed that those delivered a substantially less interesting experience than the "real" servers.  Because if the experience is based on the involvement of all those other players, etc.  As opposed to games where a pirated version gives you an equal experience to the normal ones, and in some cases a better one (due to not wrestling with some insane DRM).

Perhaps a better example would be EVE.  There's server emulators for that too, but it's just not the same game with a small population.  For better or worse.
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Offline spelk

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Re: Question about GoG
« Reply #38 on: June 29, 2014, 05:27:17 PM »
So theres absolutely no way for a person who has bought the game through GOG to get a Steam key, without buying the game again?

Offline keith.lamothe

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Re: Question about GoG
« Reply #39 on: June 29, 2014, 05:36:55 PM »
So theres absolutely no way for a person who has bought the game through GOG to get a Steam key, without buying the game again?
To my knowledge GOG has never sold steam keys, and at least in this case they did not ask us for steam keys to bundle with the product they're selling to their customers.

I don't know if we have any way of knowing who's bought the game on GOG, but either way I don't think we said we'd give steam keys to people who bought it elsewhere for this game (possibly I missed where that was said, or forgot).

If you want to ask for a steam key, sending a PM to x4000 (Chris) is probably the way.

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Offline spelk

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Re: Question about GoG
« Reply #40 on: June 29, 2014, 05:46:16 PM »
Ok, thanks for the advice. I'll ask Chris.

I've bought the game a couple of times now, but I foolishly jumped at the chance to download it as soon as I could when I saw it was available at GOG before Steam or even direct from Arcen. I'm obviously regretting that purchase now - not for any of the DRM/Anti-DRM reasons discussed here - but more for the fact that my purchase there can't be transferred over to something like Steam. And I'd like to have all my Arcen Games in one spot (all the other ones are on Steam). With every new release I usually end up buying multiples, but mainly for friends/family. I guess, my impatience got the better of me in this instance, and I jumped on the GOG copy without thinking about the long term consequences. Next game, I'll try and temper my enthusiasm a little and wait for a better (more inclusive) distribution option.

Offline keith.lamothe

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Re: Question about GoG
« Reply #41 on: June 29, 2014, 07:16:02 PM »
Ok, thanks for the advice. I'll ask Chris.

I've bought the game a couple of times now, but I foolishly jumped at the chance to download it as soon as I could when I saw it was available at GOG before Steam or even direct from Arcen. I'm obviously regretting that purchase now - not for any of the DRM/Anti-DRM reasons discussed here - but more for the fact that my purchase there can't be transferred over to something like Steam. And I'd like to have all my Arcen Games in one spot (all the other ones are on Steam). With every new release I usually end up buying multiples, but mainly for friends/family. I guess, my impatience got the better of me in this instance, and I jumped on the GOG copy without thinking about the long term consequences. Next game, I'll try and temper my enthusiasm a little and wait for a better (more inclusive) distribution option.
Thank you for your support, we appreciate it.  If you have multiple copies of the game and you have a friend who wants it, I don't see any problem with you giving them a copy (in the literal sense; the distribution platforms obviously don't take notice of this), since if we got paid twice there's presumably no problem with two people having it, etc.
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