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The Issue With Game Maker's DRM
by E Zachary Knight on 11/29/12 10:04:00 am   Featured Blogs

The following blog post, unless otherwise noted, was written by a member of Gamasutra’s community.
The thoughts and opinions expressed are those of the writer and not Gamasutra or its parent company.

 

Game Maker DRM is EvilCross Posted from Divine Knight Gaming.

I will never understand why companies continue to insist on using DRM. It makes absolutely no sense to punch your paying customers in the gut, call them pirates and tell them to stop stealing your stuff. These are your paying customers. They paid you. Why would you insist on treating them like thieves?

DRM is absolutely one of the most evil inventions in software. If you read anything I write here or elsewhere, you will know how I feel about DRM and companies that use it. I will never use it in any game I develop nor would I be willing to deal with DRM as a consumer. As a Linux user, I have to deal with the fallout from DRM on a most everyday basis. I am not legally allowed to watch DVDs on my computer. I couldn’t until recently watch Netflix on my computer. (I only can because some very clever developers not affiliated with Netflix made it possible.) And many games will not run properly even through Wine because the DRM is incompatible. All these things have soured me to any company that uses it.

That is why the recent news of Game Maker’s absolutely disgusting DRM implementation has me gagging. YoYo games go so far beyond what most companies do with DRM that they are beyond redemption. This company has designed their software that if it so much as gets a hint of you being a pirate, they will permanently vandalize your game. Seriously. They will force images of the Jolly Roger onto all your sprites in a bid to shame you into… what… paying? Paying for software you already paid for? That is the kicker. The people getting hit by this “retribution” paid for the software. They are not pirates.

The problems with this DRM seem to be so bad that the only way to recover from it is to completely uninstall Game Maker, delete every last trace of the program from your computer and reinstall. That is absolutely unacceptable. So not only is the developer out the time it take to clean up their computer and reinstall the software, they also have to spend days possibly weeks restoring their artwork. For what? They privilege of paying? I am sorry. That is evil.

To make matters worse, according to one former paying customer, they have absolutely horrid customer service that will at the earliest possible moment, accuse you of piracy. Then they will treat you like crap and silence you if you try to complain. No. That is wrong on every level.

I had long ago made the decision to not use Game Maker in my game development work. Primarily because it lacks support for Linux. But this seals the deal for me. I will never recommend this tool for any game developer, ever. I will never willingly submit anyone to such destructive and abusive developers. No one deserves to have their hard work destroyed in that way.

It doesn’t even matter that YoYo has promised to strip out that particular action from the DRM. Why? Because they will continue to rely on other just as bad if passive attacks on you the paying customers. It is time that this company felt the pains that come with such tactics. They need to lose business. Those using the tool, need to stop. There are plenty of other great tools available that you could use. I have talked about several. There are many more that I have not talked about.

We just need to stop supporting DRM using companies altogether. If they insist on treating paying customers like trash and thieves, they do not deserve our business. They deserve to fail. That is all there is to it.


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Comments


Adam Bishop
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I'm not nearly well enough versed in the relevant law to know for sure, but isn't what GameMaker has done here illegal? They're destroying files on a user's computer without that user's knowledge or permission.

Alex Leighton
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If it isn't illegal it sure as hell should be. I would guess they've hidden something in the EULA that allows them to do whatever they want.

Kenneth Blaney
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No matter what is in any document you sign, there are certain rights that consumers cannot give up. For example, if a car were to fail and injure the user the car company is still liable even if the user were to sign something that says "The manufacturer is not liable for my death." This is especially true for a user that is using a product according to manufacturer guidelines.

Alex Leighton
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I agree 100%, this is just another example to add to the list of why DRM is so harmful.

Roderick Hossack
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When people would ask me what tools they should use when first starting to develop games as a beginner, I pointed them towards Game Maker.

Never again.

From now on, I will link them directly to either XNA or Unity.

Maurício Gomes
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I am the guy mentioned as having met horrid costumer service.

There are several replacements for Game Maker, I myself went with Novashell, that is like Game Maker but using Lua instead of GML.

Also Construct is seemly fairly popular with ex-users of Game Maker.

E Zachary Knight
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Mauricio,

Novashell looks cool. shame that their Linux support is 2 years out of date. That sucks. I am more a Python guy than a Lua guy, but I might be willing to take that one up at least to experiment.

Thanks.

Adam Bishop
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@Mark

XNA uses Visual Studio.

Maurício Gomes
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Unfortunately Novashell stopped being updated, I updated it but I back then did not knew how to fork from SVN and Git was still bad to use for me (since I used both windows and linux to develop and Git for windows sucked).

Now that I use Git a lot... I do not have physical access to the machine were I updated Novashell... Some day probably I will see if I can put it in the wild.

Tom Baird
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@Mark
XNA not being cross-platform isn't really true anymore.

For example, Bastion was created in XNA, and now runs on: Windows, OSX, Xbox 360, iOS, Chrome, Linux, OnLive.

There are porting tools that work with Mono to help people take an XNA game to a multitude of platforms.

Adam Bishop
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@Mark

You may wish to do that, and it's probably a smart decision for someone who has those skills, but I'm willing to bet that someone who's looking at GameMaker is probably not at that level, and those are the kinds of people Roderick was talking about.

Ian Fisch
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I'd recommend unity. Plenty of great tutorials and a large support community.

Saul Gonzalez
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22Cans' Godus Kickstarter also seems to have gotten into trouble for not guaranteeing a DRM-free version.

Lars Doucet
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How does Stencyl measure up?
http://www.stencyl.com/

Josh Gibson
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I've been a customer of GameMaker for almost 10 years, and I've never had any accusatory comments any time that I've had issues. They've always been great at working with me as a customer.

Other users of the software are a completely different story.

Not that I agree with this DRM, it's just that this part of the post really stood out to me.

Amanda Fitch
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GameMaker should learn from Unity. Give the core away for free and let developers purchase addons to quickly customize their dev environment.

Lucky Red
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I can't see how such DRM procedures actually stop piracy; this case seems to be harming the customer just like Ubisoft's DRM for single player games or maybe to an extent the sandbox of what Battle.net 2 is.

In any case, I hope this will make the GameMaker developers to sit back and rethink this kind of approach with piracy, other major companies have chosen better, if not more effective paths to fight piracy rather than struggling with it.

Mike Engle
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Why does it feel like there're always a few people waiting for DRM products to slip up so they can jump out of a bush and say "BAM! I told you so! I told you DRM is the worst thing to happen to software!"

Meanwhile the overwhelming majority of the time there are no issues whatsoever, and when there are issues they tend to be non-impactful.

See you in 2-4 years when the next DRM mishap happens.

Willy Hwang
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I sort of agree, DRM seems to be kicked around a lot these days, perhaps unfairly. I sort of feel like DRM is like the electronic security tag big retailers put on everything in their stores, and it's kind of strange that people will accept that but not this. They are, in a way, also treating you as a potential thief. Although sometimes the detection gate (at the retailer) gives a false alarm, usually it's not such a big deal since you have your reciept, although it can be a hassle. Sometimes the staff don't even care when they know their system's on the fritz.

On the other hand, thought of as a security tag that you have to take home with you and which is always on and watching you, it does get kind of creepy. Thought of as a way intruders can get into your house (a door lock with a hidden unlocking feature ala the Sony rootkit thing) is kind of scary.

DRM's certainly not going anywhere, but as they make the systems more complicated and perhaps invasive in their sword/shield war with the crackers, well, I hope they be careful.

E Zachary Knight
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I am in complete opposition to DRM. I think it is not only pointless and damaging, but also a waste of time, money and man hours. If the goal is to stop piracy, why use it if it doesn't do that one thing it is designed to do?

As for waiting "2-4 years" for another DRM mishap, you obviously don't follow the news very much. DRM mishaps happen seemingly every week. Just in the past year we have seen nearly a dozen high profile "mishaps". That is just what is reported. It would probably be safe to say that for every case like this, there is half a dozen "minor mishaps" that people brush off.

In case you want some actual examples, earlier this year, Ubisoft migrated their DRM servers and paying customers were unable to play many games they bought because the DRM could not contact the server. Another example is the release of Far Cry 3. People were unable to play the game because of the same DRM. A day one patch had to be released so that people could play. There are many others, but I don't have time to list them all.

Mike Engle
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@Mr. Knight: Your assumption is that if it doesn't stop 100% of piracy, it isn't working at all.

I'm sure DRM mishaps do happen every week -- if you're assuming every gamer uses the sum total of all software produced online and encounters every single DRM mishap possible. That's completely unrealistic though, and the average gamer experiences these mishaps on a dramatically less frequent basis. When they do encounter them, they typically have minimal impact (a day of downtime like one of your examples.)

A REASONABLE REACTION is to calmly point out "A day of downtime is a slap in your consumers' faces, and a pretty bad business blunder. Stop it, developers."

A KNEE-JERK OVERREACTION is to imply the downtime is grounds for complete removal of DRM.

E Zachary Knight
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So if the goal is not to stop 100% of piracy, what is the goal then? If it is to stop 50%, 25%, 10% os some other fraction of total piracy, there are far better ways to do so. Ways that don't negatively impact paying customers.

Personally, I am of the opinion that the goal of any business should be to make money. If I find something that I am doing is actually costing me money, in both spending and lost potential revenue, it is my job as a business person to end such losses. To me, DRM is one such money losing actions. DRM costs money to implement and it loses money as people who would normally buy if I did not include it and instead tackled the reasons why they don't buy.

It is my job to figure out ways to get people to buy. DRM does not entice people to buy. At best, it inconveniences some people enough that they *might* buy, but there are no guarantees that they will. If instead I could change the way I distribute, price or market my product, that would be better at drawing in willing paying customers.

For example, Amanda above suggested that YoYo learn from the way Unity is marketed to game developers and mimic that. Unity gives away a fully featured core development kit. You can make and sell games using it. The way Unity makes money is by selling premium enhancements and add-ons. It is working quite well for them. Game Maker could be sold in a similar way and will solve a LOT of its piracy issues. Solving those piracy issues could result in a lesser reliance on inconvenient and costly DRM.

Willy Hwang
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I'm not sure about this, might have heard it or just imagined it, but DRM is mainly to protect those precious early sales where publishers make most of their money. Sales after the first week or month (or something) fall off sharply so, even though almost all DRM eventually falls to the crackers, as long as they were able to protect their early sales then it probably felt like it was worth it to them.

I'm sure the thought of an easy-piracy Kazaa-like scene is way scarier to them than consumer backlash over draconian DRM schemes. I wouldn't put it past them to somehow be involved in spreading malware-ridden fake cracks to dilute the environment, much like the music industry did with its scrambled mp3s.


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