Stardock Interview Part 1: Brad Wardell Speaks Out on His Plan to Save PC Gaming

By Nick Breckon, Sep 08, 2008 1:15am PDT Stardock CEO Brad Wardell made headlines recently with the debut of the "Gamer's Bill of Rights," a ten-point plan to revitalize PC gaming that he developed in conjunction with Gas Powered Games CEO Chris Taylor.

Always honest and never shy, Wardell has gained a reputation as an outspoken critic of many conventional responses to the problems facing the PC platform. Recently I caught up with him for a lengthy interview, covering everything from the Bill's conception to his controversial views on piracy.

That is his answer to charges of setting unrealistic goals in the interest of a publicity stunt? What does he have to say about Crysis developer Crytek's conservative stance on piracy? Does the Sins of a Solar Empire developer read the Shacknews comments? Read on to find out.

Shack: Tell me about how the Gamer's Bill of Rights came about.

Brad Wardell: The genesis of it was.. a friend of mine, who's been a hardcore PC gamer, bought Oblivion for the Xbox 360. And I asked him, "Why did you do that? You're a PC guy. Why would you want a.." I'm not anti-console, but I wouldn't want, I couldn't imagine--I was really surprised.

And he says, "I'll tell you why. I buy it for my Xbox, it's gonna work. Period. It's just gonna work. I know it's going to be finished, and I know it's going to work."

So I started talking to him, and then I got to talking to other people who are--they're not the people who hang out on Shack. These are people who are normal, day to day--

Shack: Oh, normal people. [laughs]

The people who are going to buy stuff are going to buy it, and the people who are never gonna buy it, well, who cares about them? They're not a lost sale.

Brad Wardell: Yeah, I mean, it's funny. I'm at PAX, and I'm trying to find out what's happening at PAX, so I'm logging onto Shacknews to find out what's at PAX, but I'm at PAX. [laughs]

But we're into it, we're into the gaming community so to speak. So these are just regular, more casual gamers, but they buy games. And it came up over and over again. One guy had gotten a game with Starforce on it, and it had actually messed up his ability to burn DVDs. I'm not a Starforce expert, but--

Shack: That's actually happened to me.

Brad Wardell: It did? But you know how to fix that stuff, right? Basically his solution was to reinstall Windows. And he says, "I'm done." He's not buying games from anybody, because he doesn't know what uses it and what doesn't.

And another guy bought a game, and he's in the armed forces, he's in Iraq actually. And the people there, not everybody there is in combat all the time, they're just stationed there, and they often don't have internet access. So he gets a game, it's single-player only--you can probably guess what game it is, pretty big-name game. And he can't play it because it insists on connecting to the internet to play it. And he's just like, "That's it. I can buy an Xbox 360 or a PlayStation 3, and I'm not putting up with this. It just works."

So we collected all these things, and over the last couple years we started changing our own policies to fit this. Because it's easy to go and say how the game is and how it should work if you're not going to walk the walk.

So we started saying, "Are these things doable? And if they are doable, are they doable and profitable?" Because we're not doing this because we're nice guys per se, we're doing this because we think it'll make our business stronger, and the industry stronger business-wise.

One of the first things was our copy-protection, not putting CD copy protection on there. And sure enough, that increased our sales, because you'd have a lot of people who'd buy the games, who knew about this because they knew it'd just work--knew that we're not installing anything.

And then we started doing the after-release updates a lot. Every time we do an update to our game and it gets announced somewhere, our sales at retail go up. You know the industry well enough to know that it's unusual for a game to come out in February and make it into the following Christmas season at Wal-Mart and Best Buy--but Sins of a Solar Empire is. And one of the big reasons for that is that every time the sales start to slow, we release an update, a meaningful update that gets people excited again, and the sales go back up at retail. So that was another thing. We thought, "Well, if people start doing that they'll see their sales increase."

And then the last thing was refunds. That was the one we were most nervous about. If I get a game, and it doesn't work, getting a refund. Well what if the people lie? They get the game, they make a copy.

So we started doing this to see what the impact would be. And it turns out, hardly anyone returns their game, but the fact that they know they can if it doesn't work on their computer greatly increases sales.

Shack: So are you thinking about this as more of a public relations initiative?

Brad Wardell: It's not so much a PR value, it's more of a security value. What happens is that a lot of people buy the game for their console because they know it's going to work on their console. They buy it for their PC and it's like, "What is Pixel Shader 2? I don't know what that is." And so their game doesn't work. "But I got a GeForce! It should work, right? GeForce!" "What kind?" "I don't know! An Nvidia one!"

And it doesn't work on their machine, and they go back to the store, and the store goes, "You can't return a game, you opened it." And so they're like, "Screw this, I'll just get a console game."

In the console market, you can't pull this crap.
So what we started to do is, if you send the game back to us, we'll pay you the full price you pay at retail, even though we're going to eat it. So there was a lot of nervous people around here saying, "Gosh, you could end up with 10,000 people sending back this game, which we're eating $20 a unit on it." Because our wholesale price is like $20 on a $40 game. So if someone comes back and we're sending them a check for $39.95, they're just like, "Oh no."

But it turns out people see this policy and hardly anyone ends up returning it, because it does work on most people's machines. It's like a tiny percent that don't. But because they know it will work, we get people buying it who would not otherwise. So then it becomes a question of, are you going to gain more sales because people are confident it's going to work for them, versus the number of sales you lose because people returned it. And so far it's been a no-brainer.

So then I got talking to [Gas Powered Games CEO] Chris Taylor about this last spring, and I said, "Well, you know, Stardock's kind of small." I mean, if I were a gamer and I saw this from Stardock, I'd go, "Well who the hell are they? Aren't they those Galactic Empire guys?" I mean, how presumptuous.

And Chris said, "No, we should totally do this. And if it gets enough attention you might actually get other publishers who might want to get together, and we could create some sort of like--you know, if we made a contract, then you start putting this on your boxes or something, then people can go, 'Oh okay, it adheres to whatever these principles are.'"

So from there we started working together and came up with exact principles. And we said, well, let's make them vague. And if people like them then we can start meeting with other publishers and actually make it into a more legalese thing that spells out--it's almost like a license that people have to agree to. Because obviously who determines if a game is done? What exactly is "done"? What is "meaningful updates"? What do you mean "treating players as criminals"?

So that's what we did. We announced it at PAX. And it's worked out great.

Turn the page for more. _PAGE_BREAK_

Shack: What has the reaction been like from developers and publishers so far?

Brad Wardell: I've already gotten calls from Microsoft, from Take 2, and other publishers who are interested in moving forward on this. Obviously the first step is we have to really define these items. And I've had other developers and publishers who have come back and said, "No, because it's not flexible enough."

At the end of the day, the only ones that are gonna really make this happen are the gamers themselves.
For example, what happens if someone wants to do a policy where there's CD copy protection, but after the first month [consumers] can download a patch that gets rid of it. So obviously that's a perfectly good solution too, but our thing eliminates the ability to do that. So those are things that we'd have to negotiate and figure out, well, that's a good point--is that something that we can compromise on, or find some other way around?

But I think you're actually going to see something come up, either through an independent organization or as part of Games for Windows or something, where there's going to be some standards. I think you may see some of these actually become more industry standard, like being able to return your game. Because that's something we've got data on, we can prove that generates revenue. Or everyone agreeing not to install rootkits. I think that's a pretty straightforward thing. [laughs]

Shack: [laughs] You would hope.

Brad Wardell: Well, I would have a thought. Yeah, don't be installing stuff that doesn't let me burn a CD, good grief. Especially now that I have a Blu-ray burner.

Shack: When the Bill of Rights was announced, there were a few critics who said this was more of a publicity stunt than a realistic set of goals--

Brad Wardell: Well certainly it's a publicity stunt. The idea is to get the word out there. Because at the end of the day, the only ones that are gonna really make this happen are the gamers themselves, if they start to make purchasing decisions based on those who would adhere to some kind of standard.

Because I mean, I've seen on Shacknews plenty of times: "If a game is not finished, don't support them with your buying dollars." But the problem is, nobody knows if a game is adhering to anything until after they've bought it.

Whereas if we can come up with something so that a company or a publisher has fined it.. really it's a publisher. Gas Powered Games is a developer, so they don't have a lot of control. They could be fully behind it and get signed by company XYZ to publish, and they might put a rectal probe as part of the CD copy protection. But still, if gamers know that, okay, this publisher is signed on to this, then I can assume I'm going to get these certain basic..

Shack: More or less trying to put a set of expectations out there for consumers.

Brad Wardell: Right, and what people need to realize is that it's just business. The goal of this is to generate more revenue for our industry. Because in the console market, you can't pull this crap.

For example, and a lot of people don't realize this--I was reading the Shacknews comments extensively, and I was like, "Guys, try pulling this stuff on the Xbox 360." Microsoft certifies not just--it's not like you give your thing to Microsoft and they say, "Okay, thank you," and they certify it. They test for basic performance on these games, they test for quality, they go through a whole bunch of things. They make sure it's truly finished. There's nothing like that on the PC.

Shack: So at this point, do you think Games for Windows needs to be more aggressive? Because they have those 21 rules or however many there are, that they hold publishers to--

Brad Wardell: Yeah, but their rules, I don't like some of them. And I met with [Games for Windows GM] Chris Early and those guys over there to discuss this before PAX, and they're onboard, they like it. I mean, they like this concept. And I talked to the PC Gaming Alliance before I went to the show as well. But the thing is that, you know, some of these things are more technical. What we need is..

Shack: Concepts that average consumers can understand?

Brad Wardell: Well yeah, I want something consumers can tangibly understand. And I want something that they--for example, if I sign a contract with Games for Windows, and it says, "I am going to adhere to these standards, and there is a legal punishment if I don't."

A lot of people will go and say, "Oh, what about Crysis," as if there was some universe where Crysis was going to sell four million copies on the PC if it only weren't for piracy.
I'd rather have that than to have to wait four weeks after I'm "done" with my game for Games for Windows to certify. Because the ESRB adds an extra month to our game development time, because you have to wait until the end to have them look at it. And then it takes six to eight weeks to manufacture your manuals and stuff.

So I don't want developers to have to go through some extra hurtles to get their game out, but at the same time you want to have something out there that gamers can see on the box, or somewhere, that this game adheres to some basic rights for the consumer.

Turn the page for more. _PAGE_BREAK_

Shack: So you would say the "PC problem" needs to be solved with significant action, rather than just words?

Brad Wardell: It's not a PR problem. The people I'm talking about or I run into, they don't pay attention to the marketing at all. They just know they pay $40 for a game--$40, who am I kidding--they pay $50 for a game at Best Buy or wherever, they take it home, it doesn't work on their computer. And not because the game minimum requirements were just bull, or because it installs some weird driver on their machine that didn't test the copy protection right.

If game X comes out for Xbox 360 and the PC, and piracy is the scourge, then why wouldn't it also affect the Xbox 360 sales?
Or here's one of the things I find funny--we as an industry can't manage to get multiplayer games to connect correctly half the time. How many times do you run into that, where you didn't install such-and-such port router. We can't get that to work, but we're smug enough to think that we can get some sort of sophisticated product activation for people who didn't buy it online, who bought it at a store. I mean, good gravy.

Shack: A lot of people think the solution is making games that are so connected with the online experience that everything is validated online, patched online, controlled through the internet. But what you're talking about is an offline, almost traditional solution.

Brad Wardell: Well I think [we need] a combination. You have to be able to protect your intellectual property. And I'm a big believer in activation. Our games, not all of our games, but Galactic Civilizations uses activation for downloads. Basically, our system has always traditionally been that you purchase a game, it has no copy protection, but if you want to update it you have to get it from us with your serial number, and we validate who it is.

But if you're not connected to the internet, if you're in the service and you're overseas, and I just want to play the freaking game single-player, I should be able to just play it and not have to worry about it. But if you want to get updates, obviously if you have interent access, all bets are off, it's fine.

As an example, if someone can update their game, they clearly have internet access, and at that point it's perfectly valid to make sure they're a customer. But if it's a single-player game, and if it doesn't have updates to it, there's gotta be a way so that people who aren't connected to the internet aren't going to be jerked around. Because they don't have to go through that with the console.

Shack: I always love interviews about piracy where the developer says, "There's a better solution--I just don't know what it is yet." Do you know what it is yet?

Brad Wardell: We come from the shareware world on the non-game side of things, so we know all about piracy. To us, these game developers complaining about it, it's like, "Welcome to the party. We've been dealing with this for a long time, when you guys were still making cartridges."

The answer is that you focus on people who buy your stuff, who will buy computer software. The game industry is the only industry that I know of that sweats people playing their games even if they were never gonna buy them. It's completely different form the software industry in this regard. Adobe for example--I'm sure they don't like the fact that people pirate Adobe Photoshop, but I doubt they're losing sleep over it. There's no major common business software that I can think of where they go through the elaborate lengths to control piracy that the game industry does.

And the difference is that in the game industry, the emphasis is on keeping pirates from playing the game, regardless of if they're ever gonna purchase your product. Whereas in the software industry, the emphasis is on making people who would otherwise buy your product to buy it. And I know that seems like a subtle distinction, but it's a lot easier to focus on getting people who might otherwise buy your game to buy it.

And that's where things like providing updates comes in--where the source is secure, where you have to get it from Stardock. Or you have to get your update from Microsoft, and you have to install Windows Genuine Advantage. Some people get annoyed by it, but the average user does not care about installing an ActiveX controller to run the Genuine Advantage thing. They don't even think about it.

But why does Microsoft have that? Because if you want to get some extra feature out of Windows, then they want to make sure you're a customer. Verified at the time they want to make use of one of your services. They don't sweat as much whether someone's installed an illegal version of Windows in the beginning. Because the people who are going to buy stuff are going to buy it, and the people who are never gonna buy it, well, who cares about them? They're not a lost sale. I mean, it annoys me if someone playing my game didn't pay for it, but I only really care if they are someone who might have bought it.

Shack: So you take the stance that the majority of pirates would never have purchased the game in the first place?

Brad Wardell: Well, I don't know about "majority"--yeah, I would say probably, it depends on the title.

A lot of people will go and say, "Oh, what about Crysis," as if there was some universe where Crysis was going to sell four million copies on the PC if it only weren't for piracy. And it's like, oh come on. If you're making a game for a demographic that's mostly 15-18 year olds, who probably don't have jobs, but it requires a $4,000 computer to play, where are these kids getting the machines?

Crysis and other games like that need a high-end PC to get anything out of them. Look at the Tom's Hardware benchmarks on even the latest cards. "Oh look, I'm getting nine frames a second with the new GeForce, the 9800 GT or whatever." And then they come out, and they're like, "We've sold fewer copies than we had hoped. Look at all the copies on Bit Torrent." Well, those people weren't going to buy it. How were they going to buy it? With what money?

Shack: One could make the argument that if the pirates downloaded it and played it, you can assume they have a computer that can run it.

Brad Wardell: Well no, they have a computer that could install it. But do they have a computer that can really run it decently? I don't know.

Turn the page for more. _PAGE_BREAK_

Shack: Are there studies on piracy that you guys refer to? Are there any numbers you can point to when you're debating this issue?

Brad Wardell: Well when we debate it, we know--we certainly have the hardware specs of people who play our games. Just as Valve's Steam has the hardware specs of people who play their games, and that's a pretty large sample.

And so if you go and just use--and let's just use Steam, because they're a competitor of Impulse, so clearly I'm not biased in their favor. So let's use their stats, and then look at the systems that they have, and say, "How many people can literally run these games that come out, based on those stats?"

Intel did not do us any favors with those embedded video cards that made a lot of games not work right.
As an example, Valve has been very successful with Steam. They've got 15 million users, right? So after three years, 15 million users, and the hardware requirements to run Counter-Strike are nothing. Wouldn't that say to you then that your best case scenario on a PC game would be 15 million users right now, by definition? And if you're just using those stats, how many of them could potentially play some of these super high-end games that are complaining about sales?

And then you figure out what percentage of those people are likely to have actually bought it? Because you're obviously not going to get 100% penetration. Remember the old business plan argument that, if I can get 1% of such-and-such market I'm doing great? 1% of 15 million is 100,000 people.

Shack: There are a lot of multi-platform ports that will hit the PC and require Xbox 360-level hardware. What would you say to publishers who are trying to stay competitive in the PC market while still serving the consoles? For instance, EA canceled many of its PC sports games this year.

Brad Wardell: Part of the problem is you really have to make the right game for the right platform. We make PC games because the PC is the best platform for the game we like to make. But if I was making a sports game I wouldn't even consider the PC, and it has nothing to do with piracy--it has to do with the controller. I know that my players are going to have this controller, and it's going to work, and I know they're all going to have relatively equal hardware specifications.

But the example I usually hear is that a game comes out for the PC, and on the console it sold five gazillion copies, but on the PC it only sold a tiny number. Well first of all, if piracy was the cause of it, if piracy is so rampant on the PC, then why are the console numbers still high? If game X comes out for Xbox 360 and the PC, and piracy is the scourge, then why wouldn't it also affect the Xbox 360 sales? I mean, what's the percentage of Xbox 360 owners that don't own a PC? So that begs the question, I mean you can do a Shack survey: how many Xbox 360 owners do not own a decent PC?

The second question is, how many of those Xbox 360 purchasers bought it because they knew it would work? They could install it, they could put the DVD in and it's going to work. Whereas my friend who got Oblivion, he didn't even consider the PC version because he didn't know it could work on his computer and he didn't have time to mess with it.

Shack: So would you say the future of the PC development is a lineup of games solely developed with the PC in mind?

Brad Wardell: Actually I wouldn't. Well, I think it will become that way if we don't clean up our act as an industry. If we don't create the same gaming environment that you already have on the consoles, where someone can go to the store and have some confidence that it's going to work on their machine, then that's going to happen.

For example, Intel did not do us any favors with those embedded video cards that made a lot of games not work right. I mean, one of the concepts behind Impulse--a lot of people look at Impulse and say, "Isn't that just Steam?" And it's like, well, no, it starts out similar to Steam, but it really is a platform. I mean our whole company objective with Impulse--and the Gamer's Bill of Rights is related to it--is to provide a standardized platform, not just for us but for everybody. And they're not tied to Impulse, but we just want to provide these services that make the PC gaming experience better.

Impulse has video card updating built into it. So if you get Demigod, the Demigod beta for example--I had the default Vista drivers on my own box, I'm ashamed to say. It's a relatively new install, but it had literally 2006-era drivers. So I load up Demigod and it has graphical corruption. So first of all, that's a strike against the PC game experience right there, right? If I had a Demigod for the console, it's just going to work.

Impulse at least takes the first step of letting me update my drivers within Impulse, which is nice. Obviously the next step is for it to automatically update my drivers, which we have to formalize our agreements with Nvidia and ATI to get that going. That's not in yet--that's the long term.

But to speak to your question, if we don't want the PC to be a niche game platform, then we have to clean up our act. We've got to make the PC experience better. Period.

Come back tomorrow for part two of the interview, in which Wardell and I discuss Stardock and Gas Powered Games' upcoming title Demigod, as well as his company's mysterious 4X fantasy title.

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Comments

  • Basically I think he's off track because the console is ALWAYS going to be easier and simpler than the PC. It's the nature of being a console. So the kind of people who get frustrated with PC gaming (personally, I've never thought any of it was a big deal) they WILL be happier with consoles. Let them have their consoles.

    You're not going to get everything to use this bill of rights thing, nor are you going to get all the clueless people out there to really understand what it all signifies, and if they can't understand PC hardware specifications/requirements then they need to just use a console and be done with it.



  • Jesus Christ.
    " If game X comes out for Xbox 360 and the PC, and piracy is the scourge, then why wouldn't it also affect the Xbox 360 sales?"
    ...Well, captaain obvious, maybe because pirating PC games is alot easier than pirating console games?

    Not many people own both a 360 and a decent gaming PC. There are some, but most peopel either have a 360 or a gaming PC.

    "A lot of people will go and say, "Oh, what about Crysis," as if there was some universe where Crysis was going to sell four million copies on the PC if it only weren't for piracy. And it's like, oh come on. If you're making a game for a demographic that's mostly 15-18 year olds, who probably don't have jobs, but it requires a $4,000 computer to play, where are these kids getting the machines?"
    Has this guy even seen the torrent stats for crysis? Why dont people appreciate the harm that these selfiish people are doing to the industry? How can someone watch hundreds of thousands of people steal a game and go "nah, thats not a big deal."

    Furthermore, it amazes me that people still use hardware requirements to justify piracy. If you cant run a game to begin with how does stealing it change that fact? The whole "zomg crysis needz aem $5000 computer" is just stupid too. My PC costed no more than $1200 and it can run crysis fine all maxed out.


    "Or here's one of the things I find funny--we as an industry can't manage to get multiplayer games to connect correctly half the time. How many times do you run into that, where you didn't install such-and-such port router. We can't get that to work, but we're smug enough to think that we can get some sort of sophisticated product activation for people who didn't buy it online, who bought it at a store. I mean, good gravy."
    Admitantly, the PC does have much more technical issues than the consoles and I agree that these can talk many people out of gaming on the PC, but this has never happened to me. MP works 99% of the time.
    I think people also seem to have forgotten how much crysis was anticipated. Look at Gametrailers. People were amazed with the game and couldn't wait for it it. Them, all of a sudden, when the game is realeased and people defer to piracy as their means of getting the game, it suddenly sucks, despite all the great reviews.

    "Crysis and other games like that need a high-end PC to get anything out of them. Look at the Tom's Hardware benchmarks on even the latest cards. "Oh look, I'm getting nine frames a second with the new GeForce, the 9800 GT or whatever." And then they come out, and they're like, "We've sold fewer copies than we had hoped. Look at all the copies on Bit Torrent." Well, those people weren't going to buy it. How were they going to buy it? With what money?"
    Again, why are we trying to trivialize piracy?


    "As an example, Valve has been very successful with Steam. They've got 15 million users, right? So after three years, 15 million users, and the hardware requirements to run Counter-Strike are nothing. Wouldn't that say to you then that your best case scenario on a PC game would be 15 million users right now, by definition? And if you're just using those stats, how many of them could potentially play some of these super high-end games that are complaining about sales?"
    So call of duty 4 is super high end too?



    I don't know if this is a trend or anything, but what the hell is with this "blame the developers, shift blame away from piracy" attitude? The reason copy protection is there is because of PIRACY. It used to be very minimal. Just a simple key code that was on the box/manual. However, people took advantage of that trust, and now many games use internet activation because DEVELOPERS HAVE A RIGHT TO PROTECT THEIR WORK.

    The reason why no one pirated star docks games is because they're casual and there is almost zero piracy demand for casual games.


    The solution to PC gamings problems is :
    1) Do something about piracy isntead of turnign the other way, butting your fingers in your ears and going "''nnaahhhh i caaannt heearr you". Piracy isn't an insurmountable odd. Results have been great when legal action is taken, but for some reason devlopers and publishers seem very reluctant to put their foot down.

    2) Stop exxagerating hardware requirements. No, having agame that only 10% can run isn't good, but that's not the case. Crysis is very scalable. People complain about bad graphics all the time yet, they expect the game to be able to run on a geforce 4. Optimising games is something we should defenitely continue to keep an eye on, but if PC gaming is present a competive market to the consoles, we need cutting edge games. Werent PCs supposed to have the graphical edge and wasnt that supposed to be the poster child of thee PCs supeiority.

    3) Improve windows vista. Make it less slugginh and give it a few more features that cater to PC gamers, like tighter integration of harware updates. People have been talking about improving PC gaming, but no one's even touched on windows. Kind of odd, consisdering that windows is the very basis of the pcs gaming ability.

    Improve security. I find it hard to believe that micorosft, in their enormouse wealth and resources, cant even stay up to date with the latest malware threats. Yeah, I know about spybot, but it would really improve the experience if hunting down a 3rd party app wasn't a neccesary part of the process.

    4) Focus on creating high quality,exclusive AAA titles. Enough with the WW2 already. How about some sci fi games or possibly games inspired by popular action flicks.

    5) Microsoft really needs to divert its attention back to PC gaming if they're serious about getting the ball rolling. They really dropped us off with the introductio of the XBOX. Since then, all they've ever foxused on is their consoles. This really shows with their press conferences. They talk alot about giving xbox users the bext experience and hw they want to drive the platform forward, but as far as they're consernced, the PC is something that just sits on the corner begging for money...

    If publishers dont give a crap about Q&A, then msoft needs to step up to the plate. They need have each game go through a rigorous testing process where they look for issues.

    They seemed very excited about Games for Windows, but that branding label seems to have had no discernible effect.





  • That was an excellent meaty interview, thanks. I'm biased towards these guys though, anyone even willing to speak opening on piracy rather than just cry how its the root of all evils gets my attention. These guys are looking at what it will take to bring PC gaming back to its proper place means I have tons of respect for anything they attempt. At this point though, I've long since accepted that PC gaming of old is gone and short of consoles and PCs merging down the line (certainly a possibility if not inevitable with PCs becoming more and more integrated into entertainment systems) it may just not happen again.









  • Oh Gamer Bill of Rights, here is the other side of the picture:

    The Game Developers Bill of Rights:
    1) Game developers have the right to NOT be responsible for games that don’t work on a Gamers spyware filled, Fry’s built Frankenstein, or off the shelf bought budget computer.
    2) Game developers have the right to conjure up infinite cash in order work on a game for as long as they feel necessary in order to demand a quality and finished product.
    3) Game developers have the right to conjure up more infinite cash in order to support their games post launch.
    4) Game developers have the right to ensure that their 1 or 2 years of hard work are paid for at 100% retail value by every end user of their product.
    5) Game developers have the right to build a game with one system specification in mind and should not be responsible for gamers that have outdated crap.
    6) Game developers have the right to install whatever software or drivers they believe is required to run their game on every single user configured computer in their target audience.
    7) Game developers have the right to force their publisher to host magical unlimited bandwidth internet services that contain detailed user information so every end user can download any game they have paid for legitimately on demand.
    8) Game developers have the right to treat every single PC user as a criminal until the piracy rates on the PC platform drop back down under 50%.
    9) Game developers have the right to ensure that their product is paid for by end users and can enforce this right by forcing gamers to connect online to verify the legitimacy of their product.
    10) Game developers have the right force gamers to own a legitimate physical copy of their product and require that the physical copy be present every time the game is run.
    11) Game developers have the right to always receive backend participation on their hard work, not forced into hand to mouth work for hire agreements.
    12) Game developers have the right to force any publishers in the world to give them infinite money to build whatever game the developer wants made, regardless of target market, projections, or potential for success.
    13) Game developers have the right to always own any IP they create.
    14) Game developers have the right to walk into to any Gamers house that has pirated their product and beat the shit out of that pirate, steal anything they want before leaving, and be guaranteed protection from the possibility of any legal recourse.
    15) Game developers have the right to be suspicious and assume that Game publishers, Game retailers, and Gamers are all out to screw Game developers out of their investments.

    The Game Publishers Bill of Rights:
    1) Game publishers have the right to rely on their limited QA and compatibility teams to ensure that games work on every spyware filled, Fry’s built Frankenstein, or off the shelf bought budget computer but ultimately are not responsible if it doesn’t work.
    2) Game publishers have the right to ensure profitability of every product they invest in by creating specific budgets that Game developers must adhere to.
    3) Game publishers have the right to create budgets for post ship support for a product only if the product is successful enough to warrant additional funding, and granted that the developer is still solvent and capable of providing post ship support.
    4) Game publishers have the right to force gamers (via the EULA) to keep their products updated via download managers and updaters in efforts to reduce the cost of retarded call center and tech support calls.
    5) Game publishers have the right to force developers to reduce their high end, graphically superior products quality down to a set of arbitrary minimum system requirements in order support the lowest common denominator consumer that fits inside the marketing departments “target market.”
    6) Game publishers have the right to force gamers (via the EULA) to install the latest software or drivers they believe is required to run the game in efforts to reduce the cost of retarded call center and tech support calls.
    7) Game publishers have the right to build a digital distribution system for any product they desire, allowing gamers to download, purchase, and update those products on demand as long as a system like this is affordable and has the potential for success.
    8) Game publishers have the right to treat every single PC user as a criminal until the piracy rates on the PC platform drop back down under 50%.
    9) Game publishers have the right to ensure that their product is paid for by end users and can enforce this right by forcing gamers to connect online to verify the legitimacy of their product.
    10) Game publishers have the right force gamers to own a legitimate physical copy of their product and require that the physical copy be present every time the game is run.
    11) Game publishers have the right to shop for Game developers all over the world until they find a developer that can build a game within a specific budget and on a work for hire basis.
    12) Game publishers have the right to test any game idea against the target market and refuse to fund development of a game that will not be profitable.
    13) Game publishers take all the risk of funding, marketing, and being legally responsible for a game, therefore they have the right to demand IP rights from developers in order to fund their game.
    14) Game publishers have the right to sue the shit out of pirates and make an example out of any pirate they feel necessary in order to protect their investment and deter further piracy.
    15) Game publishers have the right to do whatever they want, since they have all the money and take all the risk, period, get over it.
    16) Game publishers have the right to be suspicious and assume that Game developers, Game retailers, and Gamers are all out to screw Game publishers out of their investments.

    The Game Retailers Bill of Rights:
    1) Game retailers have the right to refuse to refund gamers if they have opened the product or if a product doesn’t work on their spyware filled, Fry’s built Frankenstein, or off the shelf bought budget computer.
    2) Game retailers have the right sell products at any price regardless of how much it cost developers or publishers.
    3) Game retailers have the right to force Game developers and Game publishers to never release post ship DLC or updates, instead those further updates must be converted into retail product that can be sold for profit.
    4) Game retailers have the right to demand that publishers do whatever it takes to ensure that Gamers do not return copies to their store, this includes forcing users to update their products by any means necessary.
    5) Game retailers have the right no not care what publishers or developers put on the box in regards to system requirements and ultimately leave the task of determining if a game will run or not up to the well informed purchasing consumer.
    6) Game retailers have the right to not be responsible for what is inside the game box and what the software does to a Gamer’s computer.
    7) Game retailers have the right to re-sell copies of games to Gamers that are too stupid to keep their disc in good working order or lose their products using whatever means necessary to ensure that Gamers come back to the store to spend more money.
    8) Game retailers have the right to refuse the return of opened PC games since the user is likely a criminal that has just bought the game, copied to their hard drive, and is now returning it.
    9) Game retailers have the right to demand that Game publishers and Game developers force games to connect to the internet at all times so that pirating becomes harder, ensuring that Gamers actually come in to the store to buy physical copies of the games they are playing.
    10) Game retailers have the right to demand that Game publishers and Game developers force games to require a physical CD/DVD to be present in order to run the game, ensuring that Gamers actually come in to the store to buy physical copies of the games they are playing.
    11) Game retailers have the right to not be required to pay publishers any profits on “used” copy sales.
    12) Game retailers have the right to protect against losing money by not carrying a single copy of a game that has not received any pre-orders.
    13) Game retailers have the right to open every product making it “used” so when gamers attempt to return the product, they can buy the product back as “used” instead of issuing a full refund, then turn around a sell that product for 90% of the new price.
    14) Game retailers have the right to be suspicious and assume that Game publishers, Game developers, and Gamers are all out to screw Game retailers out of their investments.

    And one more to add to the Gamers Bill of Rights:
    11) Gamers have the right to be suspicious and assume that Game publishers, Game developers, and Game retailers are all out to screw Gamers out of their hard earned money.

    Now, if you put all four of these lists next to each other, you can easily see that the business of game development contains many contradictory elements since there are essentially 4+ parties involved with radically different requirements and expectations for each and every product.


  • Very good interview. I think Brad has the right attitude. It sounds like he's really willing to work with the industry, even maybe the bill of rights is not set in stone (because even as a gamer I can see some aspects that are a bit too overzealous). He at least seems open to the idea that there are no simple solutions, but wants to address the core problems with the PC platform and make it competitive with consoles.

    He's absolutely right about the hassles involved. DRM, copy protection, release & patch mentality, etc. Some of these are inexcusable, like install limits and other obtrusive copy protection schemes. I do think it is hard for devs to be 100% certain their game will work on all machines, but even then some of the blame falls on the hardware vendors and drivers. It's always a pain.

    I'm not convinced PC gaming can really be saved, but if it is going to be this is the kind of action that would need to happen.



  • They've actually though this through in more ways than I expected, still a bit too idealistic instead of practical, but they're aware of it at least.
    I feel like I should buy these guys' games for the same reason I haven't bought Mass Effect and a few other games I actually really want to play; they don't impose pointless DRM on me for actually being a paying customer. I'm not going to try and justify it anymore than that it makes a lot more sense than some of the schemes out there, just like Steam did/does (on which I've also double-dipped on games simply because they're on there).

    GG Stardock, GG indeed.



  • Mad props to Brad and Chris for at the very least taking this on the chin for the often maligned silent gamer mass. I have a couple suggestions the first being that the gamers bill of rights really should come from gamers. I have no problem with a developer and publisher, even vendor bill of rights, but its important rather than assuming this is what "hxcgamer666" really wants for christmas that the industry reaches out and builds consensus from the grassroots up. This movement along with fancy labels like Games for Windows, should really represent a multifaceted legislative body that can not only lead our gamer mass to a brighter tomorrow but also deal with the hungry wolves at the door, particularly with regard censorship.

    Secondly the sophistication of the PC super user is formidable and if you balk at the challenge on this platform, its only a matter of time before economics ensure that other platforms will fall to widespread piracy and abuse. I don't believe piracy eradication is realistic, but I do believe that many diseffected super users can be sponsored to work with the industry in cooperation rather than opposition. Escalting punitive measures by the industry to date have only damaged legitmate users while educating and swelling the ranks of the pirate super user and their respective audience.

    Its important to ask the question, "Why with piracy being so widespread, do people pay for any content?" and how do we create further incentive in this legitmate channel. From my point of view without any datapoints, every article I read about how all encompassing piracy is equates to an open invitation to treat. Why is the industry so keen to advertise illegitmate channels?

    Lastly I find it remarkable in our piracy ridden platform that over 10 million people play and subscribe to WOW and that GTA 4 sold 10 million copies to date. What I'm trying to stress here is why aren't real issues that can be given traction and visibility ignored while our platforms demise is hyped beyond Spore?


  • -- They buy it for their PC and it's like, "What is Pixel Shader 2? I don't know what that is." And so their game doesn't work. "But I got a GeForce! It should work, right? GeForce!" "What kind?" "I don't know! An Nvidia one!" -- ....... I lol'd, that guy cracks me up, Kudos sir!

    Its good to know there is still some people in the industry who care about the consumers not like all the retards at EA & Craptek, who just constantly churn out crap no one even wants, they still haven't realized they made the same game twice =/ Idiots.

    gj shack, nice interview.