In recent years, we’ve seen more creative forms of combating video game piracy. There used to only be two major anti-piracy methods, DRM (trying to make pirating the game more difficult or using piracy checks if a user wants to play online) and compelling the user not to pirate (be a company that people people want to support). Steam just so happens to be a mix of both, where it is literally impossible for people to steal or resent games.
Now there’s a third methodmy favourite: Fucking with pirates.
Crime doesn’t pay, especially if you’re an idiot
When Arkham Asylum first came out, the developers released the pirated version of the game themselves but with a slight change: Batman was unable to glide. This made many of the stealth sections extremely difficult and the exploration portions impossible as poor
Bruce Wayne Batman plummeted face-first to his untimely demise. Considering the footage of the game at the time showing the caped crusader gliding around without a care in the world, you’d think that there was something wrong with your copy of the game due to the fact that you didn’t exactly pay for it.
Game Dev Tycoon’s creators went about their anti-piracy method in a similar way, but not as extreme. Like with Arkham Asylum, the game developers released their own game on torrent sites with something changed in the game. In the pirated version of Game Dev Tycoon, people will pirate the games you develop leading to a huge loss in sales, forcing the player to slowly go bankrupt.
Surely such a creative method of telling people their swash-buckling activities hurt game developers would work, right? Wrong. Here are some choice quotes from the official forum about this issue:
- Is there some way to avoid [piracy of my games]? I mean can I research DRM or something …
- Why are there so many people that pirate? It ruins me!
- I had like 5m and then everyone started pirating everything I made . . . Not fair.
Irony. So much irony. It’s creative stuff like this that made me proud to throw actual money at Greenheart Games.
There’s a reason modern games aren’t original
When you release a game in Game Dev Tycoon, it’s very quickly reviewed. If you focused in the right areas, released it on the right platform with the right target audience and with the right marketing, you’ll get a good review. Obviously you’ll get increased sales if the sales are good but if the reviews were awful, it’s not the end of the world. What’s more important is the number of fans you have and how big a release you have for your game.
If, for example, a publisher wants you to make a Law Simulator game for kids on the Playstation, you can pretty much guarantee that the reviews are going to be terrible. However, thanks to the size of the publisher, it’s reaching stores on a global scale rather than the much smaller scale you can reach on your own. Once you realize this, the shock of Generic Shooter 15 getting record high sales and perfect reviews is pretty much non-existent.
Hell, why do you think so few people review games like that? The review simply isn’t going to matter when people are going to rush out and buy it anyway. Seeing it from the industry side is somewhat comforting. “Shit, I’m going to go bankrupt… Better throw out a big release sports sim!”
There’s a subtle art to game design
Yes you can crap out shooters and sports sims constantly to earn money, but you will get much more by trying new game topics. Balancing out the genres to make good matches is actually half the fun; it’s extremely satisfying when you create a Vampire/Action game which ends up being a surprise summer chart topper. The real meat of the game, however, is in how you make your games. During the development process, you adjust a series of sliders to decide where you spend the most time. The game engine, gameplay, world design and graphics are just a few of the areas you have to keep in harmony. Time spent in the different areas will produce Design and Technology points with different ratios between the two resulting in different games.
I spent a lot of my time in the game wondering if it’s better for my new franchise of action games, Shoot Dudes, should focus more on design or technology. I mean, do people play action games because the technology behind them is impressive (good looking graphics, modern game engine, extremely smart AI)? Or do they play them because the world seems real, the story is believable and the characters talk like real people?
Once I started thinking about where different genres focus their attention, it became easy to think of real world examples. Trying to make those real world examples in Game Dev Tycoon is actually a really good way to gain insight to this. Even if you get the ratio between Tech and Design perfect, your game could still flop. Maybe you’re not well known enough yet or the scathing reviews make you lose fans. I found that the more formulaic I tried to play, the worse my games did. Whether or not this was intentional or if I just suck at game design I have no idea but it was certainly a lot of fun.
The final lesson: Game Dev Tycoon is fun
Even if there was nothing to learn from Game Dev Tycoon, it’s an incredibly entertaining game. When I first booted it up, I lost four hours. Four. That’s two hundred and forty minutes. For context, that’s enough time to watch The Hobbit roughly half of the way through.
You can buy the game here, and I strongly recommend that if you’re at all interested you grab the trial and see what you think. In a world where pay-as-you-go social games are getting more and more prevalent with so many indie developers getting ignored or simply overlooked, it’s important we show our support when they do something right!
“8/10 – Can’t wait for the sequel!”