Giant Bomb News

161 Comments

What Happens When a Developer Catches You Pirating Its Game

In the case of Skullgirls, it's a humanizing conversation about game development that we could all probably take a lesson from.

While playing Skullgirls, fighting game fan "Dan Hibiki" found this message on his screen:

Er, what?

The Internet can be a lonely place sometimes. It often feels like no one is listening, as if you're simply shouting into the void alongside millions of other voices. But sometimes, someone responds.

When Hibiki posted the photo above, he also tweeted at the official Skullgirls account. A huge reason Skullgirls raised nearly $1 million to create more Skullgirls characters was because the game's developer, Lab Zero Games, is constantly talking with its community.

So it wasn't a surprise when the Skullgirls account responded. Hibiki probably didn't expect this, though.

Oops.

Skullgirls isn't the first game to include a message aimed at players who haven't paid for the game they're playing. Mirror's Edge, for example, would slow players down before crucial jumps. EarthBound was probably the most cruel, though. (As cruel as a game punishing pirates can be, anyway.) If players somehow made it past the game's anti-piracy screen, EarthBound would spawn way more random encounters, often with enemies far more difficult than would be present at that point in the story. Furthermore, if players made it to the final boss, the game would freeze. When players reset the game, they'd discover their saves were gone.

But Skullgirls doesn't do that, and the developers were content with teasing Hibiki, who immediately realized he'd been caught red handed.

One of the reasons I answer virtually every private message or email that comes my way is because I've experienced the benefits of open communication. For Lab Zero Games, that's people playing Skullgirls. For me, it's people who read, view, and comment on what I write and record. Even when people passionately, vehemently disagree with me (which happens all the time, as it turns out!), I've been able to have worthwhile dialogues in which we come away with a better understanding of each side. When people realize others are watching, behavior changes. Often, but not always, behavior changes for the better. More listening happens.

It would have been completely understandable for Lab Zero Games to be upset at Hibiki. A sale was lost. Instead, the two sides began to have a conversation about the game, and what features might be coming.

The last time I wrote about Skullgirls, it was during the game's Indiegogo campaign. Lab Zero Games had asked for $150,000 to build several new characters for Skullgirls, and people couldn't understand why it needed so much money. The rise of crowdfunding has been interesting for many reasons. Games that wouldn't exist any other way, like Broken Age, are now on Steam. It's also opened our eyes to the realities of development. Making games costs more than people realize, especially given our sky-high expectations today.

A conversation that started about piracy now becomes a teachable moment about development.

I wish more conversations on the Internet were like that.

Patrick Klepek on Google+
170 Comments
  • 170 results
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
Posted by Make_Me_Mad

Always nice when people have reasonable discussions instead of freaking out or making sweeping generalizations, eh?

Posted by LikeaSsur

This is probably the best anti-piracy measure: Just be nice to them. People are more willing to buy your product if you seem like an actual human and not just a faceless corporation.

Posted by HammondofTexas

Didn't Alan Wake put an eye patch on your character if you pirated it?

Posted by harinosho

If every conversation ended that way, we'd have world peace..

Which means, the army wouldn't be needed..

Is Patrick saying that America needs to put down its guns.. like pansies?

Edited by StriderNo9

Hey Patrick, this is why you are one of the best journalist in the industry. Small stories like this are way more interesting than the dozens upon dozens of stories of BS other sites push through. And for the record you responded to my questions when I PMed you about EGM a few years back. Kudos.

Edit: Oh and regarding the story, I agree with @make_me_mad it's nice to see people talking on Twitter rather than simply reacting.

Posted by Rirse

Another fun anti-piracy was in the original Arkham Asylum, where the grappling hook wouldn't catch on certain objects, so anyone who was complaining they couldn't get pass a certain area were caught red handed as pirates.

Posted by Thiago123

It is beyond fitting that 'Dan Hibiki' would be the one who sent that image to the devs after pirating the game.

Posted by Mortuss_Zero

That.. is really cool. I liked hearing this story. Killing pirates with kindness or a clever trick has always been what I consider the best way to do it. I'd never heard of the Mirror's Edge thing, that's funny.

Posted by komplanen

A huge reason reason

What does that mean? The whole sentence is a little off even without the double word.

Edited by xdaknightx69

This is the right way to deal with piracy, pirates(online) are not EVIL, most people who pirate things either don't have the money at the moment to buy it or are not sure if they would like the game.

If games still had demo's, people would pirate games a lot less.

PS: nice story patrick

Edited by ErkableGamer

Great article Patrick Klipklop! P.s. Hope Pixel is doing okay.

Edited by vocalcannibal

I'm sort of confused, does this guy actually go as Dan Hibiki online? It's weird seeing him being referred to as 'Hibiki' like it's his actual name when, well...

Regardless, good article! I've been pretty enamored with Skullgirls since the beginning, and it's comforting to know that Lab Zero is as chill as they make themselves out to be. Nice seeing fans being considerate as well!

Posted by D_W

The skullgirls folks can't catch a break.

Posted by Deusx

Great article. I love when both devs and it's community are sincere to each other. This also shows a better example of how we, as an audience, should act when discussing different points of view with the creators. Great job Patrick.

Posted by Veovisjohn

Super interesting read. Thanks Patrick!

Edited by Nightriff

How did Earthbound work like that? I feel like for them to know you pirated it, it would have to have some sort of connection to a server they run? I don't know anything about this stuff and doesn't make a lot of sense to me.

Posted by BBOYS2231

Fantastic article @patrickklepek! It's nice to see the other side of the games industry have a down to earth conversation with a consumer. It really has opened my eyes to be a little more knowledgeable and understanding of both sides in regards to the subject.

Posted by rmanthorp
Moderator
Posted by Slayeric

Serious Sam 3 sics a giant pink scorpion after you if you pirate it. http://www.rockpapershotgun.com/2011/12/07/serious-sams-drm-is-a-giant-pink-scorpion/

Posted by KaiUnderneath

I remember the original Metal Gear Solid's anti-piracy measure was having Meryl's codec number on the back of the box. The game would tell you (the player, not Snake) to check the back of the box. I actually had no idea what it was talking about and spent ages checking my items and calling people. Eventually I gave up, but I happened to end up looking at the box at some point and noticing the codec screenshot on the back. The game forcing me to have that realization that it was speaking to me and not Snake opened my mind to more of the possibilities of an interactive medium. That and Psycho Mantis.

Also, interestingly, my Auntie and Uncle had a chipped PSOne at the time and a bunch of copied games, MGS being one of them. That part with the codec totally stopped them from getting any further. So it actually worked. Guess that's what the world was like before everyone used the internet.

Posted by Milkman

I found this guy's assumption that adding 1P vs. CPU or CPU vs. CPU would somehow be free way more obnoxious than the actual piracy.

All the credit in the world to the Skullgirls developers for being understanding with this stuff. I doubt I would be nearly as nice if I was in their position.

Posted by Wolfgame

Glad I read this today, comes across as a conversation between real people without all the internet drama we come to expect.

Edited by Marcsman

Nice.......................

Posted by TheManWithNoPlan

I always love seeing what developers do to hinder or reprimand players who pirate their games.

Edited by Corvak

Red Alert 2 had buildings spontaneously explode (failing your mission) if the CD wasnt in. Civilization would ask questions that were answered in the game's manual.

But pirates will just circumvent it, like they have CD checks, activation and stuff like SecuROM.

And 99% of the time, if someone does run into something like this, they wouldn't talk to - or respond to a dev - once they knew it was a piracy thing.

That said, not super up on the guys behind Skullgirls because of a way they treated a friend who did some work for them and recieved no compensation.

Online
Posted by KoolAid

Didn't Alan Wake put an eye patch on your character if you pirated it?

That sounds like a terrible idea... because I'd want to pirate the game so I can get that eye patch!

Posted by MightyDuck

Enjoyed the article Patrick! I'm all for game companies putting something in their game to alter it when it's being pirated.

"Dan Hibiki's" excuse of "I didn't want to leave my house" is pretty ridiculous if you ask me.

In most cases I've seen that games are pirated because the user can't afford it. To be honest, if you can't afford the game, then don't buy it? I don't understand when the mentality of not being able to afford something was an excuse to "steal" it. Just my opinion though.

Good article!

Posted by MythDarK

Now, imagine the conversation that would take place if this was about Fez instead.

Oh, the hate. :P

Posted by garbagewrappedinskin

This is the right way to deal with piracy, pirates(online) are not EVIL, most people who pirate things either don't have the money at the moment to buy it or are not sure if they would like the game.

If games still had demo's, people would pirate games a lot less.

PS: nice story patrick

This is in no way a valid reason to pirate anything.

Edited by naeblis213

Yeah, great article, Patrick. Piracy has always been a service problem and it's always great to see this kind of interaction, even if it did stem from someone pirating the game. I can imagine what an EA or Ubisoft representative would say if they were in the same position...

Posted by DannyHibiki

BESMIRCHING THE GOOD NAME OF SAIKYO

(ノಠ益ಠ)ノ彡┻━┻

Posted by Baltimore

I had not heard about this interaction between developer and pirate. Dare I say it's refreshing to see two sides behaving like rational human beings.

P.S. Mr. Hibiki, please purchase their game. It's the right thing to do.

Posted by Nakiro

People are being normal and polite on internet, quickly! We must write a story!

It's unfortunate it has come to this.

Posted by thomasonfa

I think that your article did more to shame Hibiki into buying this game.

Posted by Solh0und

If you pirated it,Batman Arkham Asylum locks gliding so when you get to the crucial moment where you need to glide, you die all the time.

Posted by Dan_CiTi

@koolaid said:

@hammondoftexas said:

Didn't Alan Wake put an eye patch on your character if you pirated it?

That sounds like a terrible idea... because I'd want to pirate the game so I can get that eye patch!

Reminds of Max Payne 3. The pirated version re-encoded all the cutscenes to 720p and as a result making the games filesize much smaller/more reasonable. I wish games actually offered that, I actually dont want several gigglebytes of uncompressed audio & video it turns out!

Anyway nice article Patrick. The way Lab Zero has been supporting Skullgirls and its community since the fundraiser is fantastic. The constant additions and tweaks to the game have been really exciting and interesting. The new characters especially are great!

Edited by Corevi

@nightriff said:

How did Earthbound work like that? I feel like for them to know you pirated it, it would have to have some sort of connection to a server they run? I don't know anything about this stuff and doesn't make a lot of sense to me.

It does various integrity checks throughout the game and if anything was out of place it did that. If you want to read more on it here is a great place to do so.

Edited by PimblyCharles
@hammondoftexas said:

Didn't Alan Wake put an eye patch on your character if you pirated it?

I haven't heard of this one, so I did a bit of research, and turns out they did. (source)

Posted by Bholla71085

Good read, nice to see people acting civil over the internet. Especially when it's between a developer and a person that pirated their game.

Posted by HammondofTexas
Posted by Xpgamer7

This isn't a big story, but it's one of my favorites this year. Thanks Patrick.

Posted by BonOrbitz

Good on Hibiki for reciprocating with civility... I have to wonder how many wouldn't have and, more interestingly, how a large publisher would approach an unintentionally self-admitted pirate in the first place.

Posted by lizzard2

I remember when The Settlers was new and i was working at a friends small gamestore and a customer walks in and asking why the items in the game turned into pigs, i told him it was a copy protection and that he should buy the game ,,and he did :P

Posted by angus_lafroy

@kaiunderneath: That damn MGS codec thing was a pain. My friend and I rented that game from a local rental place and were not able to get through that part until the next weekend after we were able to look up what to do online at school. Crazy fourth wall breaking Kojima!

Posted by Abendlaender

@lizzard2 said:

I remember when The Settlers was new and i was working at a friends small gamestore and a customer walks in and asking why the items in the game turned into pigs, i told him it was a copy protection and that he should buy the game ,,and he did :P

Yeah this is probably one of the best anti-piracy measures ever :D

Posted by EveretteScott

I think that your article did more to shame Hibiki into buying this game.

If only they all felt shame afterwards.

Posted by Brendan

Interesting conversation, although I can't help but roll my eyes at Hibiki's rather lame sounding excuses.

  • 170 results
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4