Bohemia Interactive defends Degrade DRM, says online DRM is 'worrying'

Bohemia Interactive CEO Marek Španěl talks about the Degrade DRM, which renders pirated copies unplayable, and compares it with other recent DRM efforts.

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Bohemia Interactive is mostly known for games like the ARMA series and the recently launched Take On Helicopters, but the Czech developer has also gained notoriety for its alternative approach to DRM. The "Degrade" tech slowly adds bugs to pirated copies until they're entirely unplayable. CEO Marek Španěl recently shared his thoughts on the advantages of using this method.

"The motto is: Pirated games are not worth playing, original games do not degrade," Španěl told PC Gamer. "Some of the symptoms are funny, usually annoying. In the Arma series, players with pirated copies have lower accuracy with automatic weapons in both single player and multiplayer, and occasionally turn into a bird with the words 'Good birds do not fly away from this game, you have only yourself to blame.' While we know we will never stop piracy, we use this as a way to make our stand that piracy is not right, that it has a serious negative impact on PC games developers."

He suggests that "for every three legitimate buyers playing their game in multiplayer, there are 100 (failed) attempts to play with a pirated version," and says that while data for single-player is unavailable, the ratio there is "undoubtedly much worse."

Španěl says they consider this a supplement to other copy protection, and sympathizes with the difficulty of getting an investment back on PC development. "Our approach is to remove conventional DRM not too long after the initial game's release to ensure as smooth an experience as possible for our legitimate users and still appeal to our distribution and publishing channels," he said.

And though he's hesitant to be critical of methods like Blizzard's always-online DRM, he does prefer games not to have a connected requirement. "It's really worrying that games may stop functioning at all just because running the central service is no longer viable commercially, or even because your Internet went down in a thunderstorm, etc," he said. "People still play and mod our 10-year-old game, and hopefully some will even continue to do so 10 years into the future. While systems and companies may fail over time, great games should last forever."

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From The Chatty
  • reply
    November 17, 2011 7:45 AM

    Steve Watts posted a new article, Bohemia Interactive defends Degrade DRM, says online DRM is 'worrying'.

    Bohemia Interactive CEO Marek Španěl talks about the Degrade DRM, which renders pirated copies unplayable, and compares it with other recent DRM efforts.

    • reply
      November 17, 2011 8:03 AM

      "And though he's hesitant to be critical of methods like Blizzard's always-online DRM, he does prefer games not to have a connected requirement."

      He shouldn't be. Those methods are idiotic and make publishers lose sales. It's a loss-loss-loss for the publisher, the developer and the customer.

      Only the company that makes the shitty DRM wins.

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        November 17, 2011 11:39 AM

        What if the DRM is developed in-house by the developer?

        *mind blown*

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          November 17, 2011 11:45 AM

          Won't they then have to pay their developers more? Developers Developers Developers Developers Developers

      • reply
        November 17, 2011 12:00 PM

        On a spreadsheet, sometimes its better psychologically to see less piracy than less sales due to people living in the boonies with a 1997 internet connection.

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      November 17, 2011 8:09 AM

      Completely agree with this guy, and turning into a bird sounds hilarious.

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      November 17, 2011 8:23 AM

      I like this approach. In a sense it lets you test out the game to see if you like it, and if you do and want to keep playing it, then there is a large incentive to buy buy the product.

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        November 17, 2011 9:28 AM

        The only problem I have with this, is that if someone torrents the game and it degrades for them without them knowing that it's only the pirated copies that does this, they'll think that the full game will be full of bugs too and won't buy it and won't recommend it to friends.

        At least the have that thing in there where you turn into a bird that suggests that it's doing that is because you pirated the game.

        Personally though, I prefer Notch's take on Piracy. He says that piracy does NOT cost the company a dime, all it is is a POTENTIAL sale lost. I believe that If you embrace Piracy but give legal owners of the game certain perks, and if you're confident in your product, then people WILL buy the game even if they torrented it.

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          November 17, 2011 11:17 AM

          I don't think that you can say piracy doesn't cost a company a dime. Developers like Relic and Gas Powered Games have been pretty open about the fact that when ten times the amount of people who legally purchased your game still use your support forums/email and download the patches from your server, your already higher-than-console maintenance costs increase while your sales stay the same or lower.

          Even this story says that the vast majority of people trying to connect online are pirated copies, so more resources need to be spent to ensure that this doesn't end up interfering with people who legally purchased the product (who don't care that your server is being hammered by pirates, just that they can't play their game), otherwise you run into similar problems Stardock had with Demigod.

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      November 17, 2011 9:24 AM

      Yeah, im sure nobody is smart enough how to stop it from degrading or reset it back to normal.

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      November 17, 2011 11:06 AM

      I don't get why piracy hurt sales so much. Most people that pirate a game just want to play it for free or else they wouldn't buy it at all. So if piracy didn't even exist they wouldn't get the money from that person because it wasn't worth the $50 $60 (prices need to stop going UP) in the first place.

      Sometimes people download the game as a demo then end up buying the game because now days devs like to just release a game with a demo or beta because...?

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        November 17, 2011 7:10 PM

        They would buy some games. Maybe not quite as many as they would pirate but some.

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      November 17, 2011 11:24 AM

      This tech goes back to their days of Operation Flashpoint with FADE.

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      November 17, 2011 11:25 AM

      This tech dates back to their game Operation Flashpoint with FADE.

    • reply
      November 17, 2011 11:28 AM

      He suggests that "for every three legitimate buyers playing their game in multiplayer, there are 100 (failed) attempts to play with a pirated version," and says that while data for single-player is unavailable, the ratio there is "undoubtedly much worse."

      It's like they are suggesting they would have 100x better sales if pirating was not an option. The ratio is irreverent. What matters is how many people buy the game, period. If you make a good game that is easy to get legally and not a pain to activate and run, then people will buy the shit out of it.

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        November 17, 2011 11:30 AM

        It's not like he's suggesting that. He's just stating that there are a huge amount of pirates out there.

        If you make a good game that is easy to get legally and not a pain to activate and run, then people will still pirate the shit out of it. See: World of Goo, Humble Bundle.

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          November 17, 2011 12:56 PM

          Right, but that's not what matters. What matters is how many people buy it. More people will buy it if those conditions are met.

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        November 17, 2011 11:36 AM

        he didn't suggest that at all

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        November 17, 2011 12:45 PM

        There is definitely a non-trivial percentage of people who would buy more PC games if the option to pirate wasn't available. Not a majority, and many may have waited until the price drops to varying degrees, but crazy ratios that most developers cite absolutely represent lost sales. This isn't a multi-thousand dollar Photoshop or CAD program we're talking about.

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          November 17, 2011 12:57 PM

          Maybe. I wonder what proportion this group represents...

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          November 17, 2011 7:08 PM

          I think when they look at the location of most pirates they are from countries where people don't buy software anyway. People can't afford it and they have a culture of copying and stealing and taking things if you can.

          I would advice these guys to worry more about making sales and getting people to buy their game rather than worry about how to fuck with pirates. Messing with pirates doesn't general sales. Making people want to buy your game is more effective than making people unsatisfied with their pirated copy.

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            November 17, 2011 7:12 PM

            You know what they would do if they were smart. Fuck I feel like they owe me money just by saying this. They should display advertising on copies they detect are pirated. If they have as many pirates who have disposable income and would buy things if they had to as they think they do, then it should be a lot of eye balls that are valuable.

            Right? If pirates would buy things if they had to, and you have millions of pirates playing your game for hours, couldn't you make some profit by selling ads?

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      November 17, 2011 11:53 AM

      Did they ad somekind of drm to the original opflash xbox version? Cuz it looks like someone took a shit on the terrain and smeared all over it with horrible textures, not to mention to the crippled cat movement the soldier characters performed. That being said, I do hope the arma series make it to the consoles

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      November 17, 2011 11:57 AM

      Other people have mentioned FADE but other developers have done similar things. Like the cape glide not working in Batman AA.

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        November 17, 2011 7:52 PM

        Paradox does it for their strategy games too. It's hilarious when a guy on the forum posts seeking tech support on a pirated copy.