Posted by snide (2413 posts) -
How high does your rogue need to be to open up GOO?
As a PC gamer worried about the death of his platform, one of the bigger announcements that came out of GDC last week for me was the unveiling of StarDock's Game Object Obfuscation (GOO) DRM solution for PC games. While I know DRMs aren't exactly the most popular additions to your games these days I think StarDock -- maker of Galactic Civilizations II as well as the Impulse digital distribution service -- seems to have their heart in the right place with GOO. The service, in a nutshell, takes the DRM away from the physical game and ties it to a simple email address. The goal is to allow an owner of the software to be able to use their game on any computer, as many times as possible, as long as they can authenticate against that email address and serial number. Since the serial number and email address are independent this would allow for a couple pretty cool ideas.
  1. Once purchased you could potentially download the game from the service of your choice, be it Direct2Drive, Steam or StarDock's own Impulse service. This would help remove the fear of any one of the services going out of business and you losing your game catalog.
  2. Since the email address and key are independent, owners could potentially resell their keys. This would open up a digital second hand market and even possibly a way to rent PC games.
  3. If adopted, this would mean you wouldn't need a half-dozen copy protection systems on your computer.
While the first point is significant, it requires a whole lot of co-operation from the industry as a whole. First, all of the major digital distributors would have to agree to this set standard. Then they'd have to allow others to download games purchased on one service from another. Do we really think it's possible that Valve will let its users re-download a game on Steam that was purchased on Direct2Drive? Don't get me wrong, I'd love it if they did, but with the price fluctuation of digital-only games, I don't see it as likely.

It's the second point, though, that I think is more interesting to PC gamers. Second hand digital-distribution is a BIG DEAL. Imagine if you could take your entire Steam catalog of games and sell it to your buddy for less than it cost on Steam at today's prices. Remember, there's no packaging or limited figurines here, this is just the buying and reselling of code. And really, why should you not be able to do something like that? It could potentially open up a whole new market in the game industry and allow games to see the kind of long-term lifespan that console games currently enjoy.

While the best answer to the DRM solution may continue to simply be to not include it, if I'm going to have to use one I think GOO looks like the best option at the moment. One thing I'm worried about, though, is if StarDock is a big enough company to pull it off. While popular with the hardcore audience, GalCiv II and Sins of a Solar Empire aren't exactly equivalent to the Half-Life 2 release that got Steam off the ground. Still, you can't fault a brother for trying.

For those looking to dig deeper, there's a great read from Spiderweb's Jeff Vogel on PC game piracy over on IGN. It's not tied to GOO, but gives you an idea of what it's like to be an independent developer trying to release your games digitally in today's market.
#1 Posted by snide (2413 posts) -
How high does your rogue need to be to open up GOO?
As a PC gamer worried about the death of his platform, one of the bigger announcements that came out of GDC last week for me was the unveiling of StarDock's Game Object Obfuscation (GOO) DRM solution for PC games. While I know DRMs aren't exactly the most popular additions to your games these days I think StarDock -- maker of Galactic Civilizations II as well as the Impulse digital distribution service -- seems to have their heart in the right place with GOO. The service, in a nutshell, takes the DRM away from the physical game and ties it to a simple email address. The goal is to allow an owner of the software to be able to use their game on any computer, as many times as possible, as long as they can authenticate against that email address and serial number. Since the serial number and email address are independent this would allow for a couple pretty cool ideas.
  1. Once purchased you could potentially download the game from the service of your choice, be it Direct2Drive, Steam or StarDock's own Impulse service. This would help remove the fear of any one of the services going out of business and you losing your game catalog.
  2. Since the email address and key are independent, owners could potentially resell their keys. This would open up a digital second hand market and even possibly a way to rent PC games.
  3. If adopted, this would mean you wouldn't need a half-dozen copy protection systems on your computer.
While the first point is significant, it requires a whole lot of co-operation from the industry as a whole. First, all of the major digital distributors would have to agree to this set standard. Then they'd have to allow others to download games purchased on one service from another. Do we really think it's possible that Valve will let its users re-download a game on Steam that was purchased on Direct2Drive? Don't get me wrong, I'd love it if they did, but with the price fluctuation of digital-only games, I don't see it as likely.

It's the second point, though, that I think is more interesting to PC gamers. Second hand digital-distribution is a BIG DEAL. Imagine if you could take your entire Steam catalog of games and sell it to your buddy for less than it cost on Steam at today's prices. Remember, there's no packaging or limited figurines here, this is just the buying and reselling of code. And really, why should you not be able to do something like that? It could potentially open up a whole new market in the game industry and allow games to see the kind of long-term lifespan that console games currently enjoy.

While the best answer to the DRM solution may continue to simply be to not include it, if I'm going to have to use one I think GOO looks like the best option at the moment. One thing I'm worried about, though, is if StarDock is a big enough company to pull it off. While popular with the hardcore audience, GalCiv II and Sins of a Solar Empire aren't exactly equivalent to the Half-Life 2 release that got Steam off the ground. Still, you can't fault a brother for trying.

For those looking to dig deeper, there's a great read from Spiderweb's Jeff Vogel on PC game piracy over on IGN. It's not tied to GOO, but gives you an idea of what it's like to be an independent developer trying to release your games digitally in today's market.
#2 Posted by Coltonio7 (3156 posts) -

(( Snide is on NEWS DUTY ))

 I can see this working...and I can totally see this falling on it's face.

#3 Posted by snide (2413 posts) -

Oh yeah, it more then likely will fall on its face. I very much doubt it'll get used by anyone other then StarDock, but like I said, at least these guys are trying to be smart about it and not create another Spore-like DRM solution.

#4 Posted by MattyFTM (14393 posts) -

I can't see this becoming the norm anytime soon, but its nice to dream about it.

Moderator
#5 Posted by ZombiePie (5684 posts) -

It sounds good enough, but Stardock is going to have to fight an uphill battle convincing publishers to adopt their DRM. Most of publishers want to either develop their own form of DRM or simply use Steamworks. Also Stardocks download service has always been the alternative of the alternative of Steam, meaning they don't have that many users to entice publishers or have publishers take them seriously.

Moderator
#6 Posted by Coltonio7 (3156 posts) -
Spore DRM Story: My little brother got great marks this term so I gave him my copy of Spore because I was totally done with it. He tries installing it on his computer and can't. he wa sreally excited to play before he headed out to Thunder Bay, but he couldn't because of the DRM. I tried explaining DRM to him and he wasn't having it.

DRM makes 7 year olds cry.
#7 Posted by Al3xand3r (7574 posts) -

As a PC gamer I've had enough of people talking about the death of the platform for the past 20 years... If a nobody that makes stupid desktop applications for a living can raise to the spotlight thanks to a most excellent 4X TBS game and on top of that grow enough to become a digital publisher of Stardock's caliber, the platform's doing just fine, and the more room left for such developers by the fledging big name companies the better.

#8 Posted by DeavonW (42 posts) -

Oh brother, more DRM. At least this one sounds less invasive than most. I would like to see PC gaming thrive again.

#9 Posted by TheBeast (1931 posts) -
I really can't see how this would work without some client tie-in - the serial/e-mail combo has never worked to deter piracy without some sort of online key verification server, even then people work around it.
Valve's Customer Executable Generation sounds like a promising and relatively decent solution to the problem - it seems like it would be significantly harder to crack without replicating the system.
#10 Posted by Lunarbunny (1025 posts) -

Actually Steam allows UT3 and Defense Grid keys from D2D to be activated. It's more a question of the publisher or developer of the game making the keys available to be authenticated against.

And that is the entire thing right there - those keys can be activated because those devs/publishers decided to voluntarily cooperate with Steam.

The amount of cooperation a system like GOO would require is kind of staggering and while I like Stardock, their idea sounds like another "great in theory, terrible in practice."

#11 Posted by FCKSNAP (2299 posts) -

PC gaming will never die; maybe the "Games For Windows" platform, but not PC gaming.

#12 Posted by Ghostin (369 posts) -

It's cool that these guys are trying... the more people looking for the solution, the more likely one will succeed.

#13 Posted by Celios (5 posts) -

Steam has been pretty good about letting people add their retail-bought CD keys to the service. From what I understand, you can actually buy games like UT3 in a store and put them on your Steam account as if you had bought them there.

I imagine Valve would be the least resistant to something like this.

#14 Posted by TheClap (538 posts) -

Awesome use of the Mimic picture.

#15 Posted by Al3xand3r (7574 posts) -

Only happens in games like UT3 because the last update REQUIRES Steam, even if you didn't buy it through Steam. Same for Total War, minus the "update" bit.

Games that run independently to Steam aren't 100% certain to be addable in it, the publisher has to provide the existing CD keys to Steam or something.

#16 Posted by snide (2413 posts) -

@celios


Oh you definitely can. My boxed copy of Empire Earth tied directly into steam and can be re-downloaded at any time.
#17 Posted by Hamz (6846 posts) -

Nice write up Snide. I have to admit though I can't see this being used by the industry as a whole. It wasn't long ago Stardock created their own "bill of rights" which outline some key issues the industry must resolve when making a game. Infact it was a pretty damn well written piece but no one paid any attention to it other than Stardock themselves. Thats what I can see happening here, everyone will nod their head and agree it is a good idea. But no one will willingly take the first step to carry it out.

A pity really. As like you said there is some huge potential for the PC playerbase to get some love from the industry when all we seem to get is contempt and hate.

#18 Posted by Media_Master (3283 posts) -

its nice to dream

#19 Posted by Jayzilla (2563 posts) -

too logical. it will never work. companies don't want logical and convenient for their consumers. they want to fill their coffers with your phat lewtz.

#20 Posted by CitizenKane (10506 posts) -

It sounds like a nice idea, but for it too succeed it would have to be endorsed by one of the major players in the industry like Activision/Blizzard.

#21 Posted by BiggerBomb (6944 posts) -
CitizenKane said:
"It sounds like a nice idea, but for it too succeed it would have to be endorsed by one of the major players in the industry like Activision/Blizzard."

Or if Valve said developers had to use GOO instead of DRM if they want to get their games on Steam. I think developers are becoming dependent enough, on this pariticular digital distribution service, to the point that they wouldn't want to try calling bluff.
#22 Posted by Vigorousjammer (2507 posts) -

couldn't pirates essentially just give the username and pass to the email away in the zip file along with the key and the game?

#23 Posted by Hamz (6846 posts) -
BiggerBomb said:
"CitizenKane said:
"It sounds like a nice idea, but for it too succeed it would have to be endorsed by one of the major players in the industry like Activision/Blizzard."
Or if Valve said developers had to use GOO instead of DRM if they want to get their games on Steam. I think developers are becoming dependent enough, on this pariticular digital distribution service, to the point that they wouldn't want to try calling bluff."
Well Steam in itself is a form of DRM, albiet more friendly and less obvious compared to other forms. I'm not so sure would Valve be the first to step up to this, not when they themselves are trying to get everyone to vote Valve for president if you catch my drift.

That being said it wouldn't hurt to see Valve and Stardock team up on something like this. Both seem to have the same ideals about DRM / customer value. So it could happen, but the cynic in me says it wont.
#24 Posted by Alex_V (615 posts) -

PC gaming is not anywhere near dying - it is thriving.

DRM is essentially useless - it has never really worked, and I don't see that changing now.

Publishers look at the piracy rates and imagine what life would be like if all those pirates bought the game. But that is a dreamworld - pirates wouldn't buy the game if the miracle DRM worked, they'd just go download something else.

I don't see why it's a concern to games players. Let publishers worry about their bottom line, and enjoy your games.

#25 Posted by TheBeast (1931 posts) -
Hamz said:
"BiggerBomb said:
"CitizenKane said:
"It sounds like a nice idea, but for it too succeed it would have to be endorsed by one of the major players in the industry like Activision/Blizzard."
Or if Valve said developers had to use GOO instead of DRM if they want to get their games on Steam. I think developers are becoming dependent enough, on this pariticular digital distribution service, to the point that they wouldn't want to try calling bluff."
Well Steam in itself is a form of DRM, albiet more friendly and less obvious compared to other forms. I'm not so sure would Valve be the first to step up to this, not when they themselves are trying to get everyone to vote Valve for president if you catch my drift.That being said it wouldn't hurt to see Valve and Stardock team up on something like this. Both seem to have the same ideals about DRM / customer value. So it could happen, but the cynic in me says it wont."
I can't see Valve considering GOO at all, but only because, they have their own DRM solution (
CEG) being implemented in Steamworks (which is already being used by a bunch of relatively large game developers).
#26 Posted by WilliamRLBaker (4777 posts) -

I have no problem with DRM if it works and works well if its fucked and messes up games then its not worthwhile.

#27 Posted by AleM (42 posts) -

The envrionment is definitely not one of the main concerns of the game's industry. However, I can see the benefits that this system would have, putting a break on the massive consumerism that has plagued our modern society by expanding the whole digital distribution market.

#28 Posted by theMcNasty (740 posts) -

     Fuck DRM.  It ruined PC Gaming.  I want to buy and enjoy a game, not endlessly jump through verification loops.

#29 Posted by BiggerBomb (6944 posts) -
Hamz said:
"BiggerBomb said:
"CitizenKane said:
"It sounds like a nice idea, but for it too succeed it would have to be endorsed by one of the major players in the industry like Activision/Blizzard."
Or if Valve said developers had to use GOO instead of DRM if they want to get their games on Steam. I think developers are becoming dependent enough, on this pariticular digital distribution service, to the point that they wouldn't want to try calling bluff."
Well Steam in itself is a form of DRM, albiet more friendly and less obvious compared to other forms. I'm not so sure would Valve be the first to step up to this, not when they themselves are trying to get everyone to vote Valve for president if you catch my drift.That being said it wouldn't hurt to see Valve and Stardock team up on something like this. Both seem to have the same ideals about DRM / customer value. So it could happen, but the cynic in me says it wont."

I might have misinterpreted that, but are you saying that digital distribution is DRM?
#30 Posted by Scooper (7881 posts) -

Steam is fine by me.

#31 Posted by Evilross (216 posts) -

I bought GalCiv II Ultimate edition off of Stardocks' Impulse service. Thats the only place to get GalCiv digital legally that I know of. (Its not avalible at Steam, D2D, or GOG)

The game is patched to it's latest version, but is a total mess. Crash, after crash, after crash.

I paid 40 bucks for it, and can't even play it. Haven't heard a word back from customer service. Crap like this is the reason PC gaming is going south.

#32 Edited by Jake (29 posts) -
#33 Posted by Giantsquirrel (601 posts) -

Fuck Impulse. Fucking program merged my friends account with mine and now neither of us can play Sins of a Solar Empire. I hope they fucking burn.

#34 Posted by MackGyver (547 posts) -

Since I only buy my games in a physical package, this doesn't concern me. Either way, DRM sucks and unless developers and publishers start putting out demos that REALLY show what their game is all about, piracy will still be going on.

#35 Posted by Bischt (1 posts) -

DRM of any kind is a horrible idea.  It only punishes the users who pay.  It isn't difficult to pirate and since there is no DRM or CD check it is a better product.  As long as the game companies disrespect their users with DRM and annoy them with things like a CD check, piracy is the best option.  Even if you buy the game legitimately it's best to pirate a clean copy.

#36 Posted by theredace (80 posts) -

Um...this isn't a DRM it's just a reg key system.  The casual games industry has been doing this exact thing for the past 7 years.  It works for casual games because the average casual gamer isn't savvy enough to realize that you can just give somebody else your e-mail/reg key and they can download and unlock the game for themselves.  Since most casual gamers don't frequent forums (good luck finding one), developers don't have to worry much about people just posting their reg keys for everyone to use.

If you put this on a larger scale with gamers that actually understand the implications of it, you'll have anarchy.  Websites will pop up all over the place posting universal e-mail/serial codes for every game released.  It could maybe work if there was a secondary authentication built in where you couldn't use the serial code more than once unless the original purchaser requested an additional install verification...but then we're right back to Spore-caliber DRM.

It doesn't work.