enkrypter wrote:TL2 will likely suffer from piracy as most software does... You can't stop it.
There's a theory of software DRM that the goal shouldn't be to stop piracy (which is impossible, like you say) but rather to slow it down a bit. If your DRM can stall the pirate version for 6 months or a year, then most of the people who are really interested in your product will buy it rather than wait for the pirate version. People who download the pirate version of a year-old product generally aren't interested enough that they would buy it if no pirate version was available, so they do not represent lost sales. Anyway, that's the theory.
Unfortunately for Runic, the DRM product they're using for TL2 has already been thoroughly broken. A quick google search can turn up detailed tutorials for cracking programs that use it. That means that a pirate version turning up within days, if not hours, after launch is a realistic possibility. This hypothesis is further supported by the fact that someone already cracked the... um... walnut... and did so very, very quickly.
This is not good. It also raises two questions that Runic should be asking themselves:
1. If the DRM is going to provide basically zero protection against piracy, then why bother?
2. If the DRM is going to provide basically zero protection against piracy, is there something else we can do to encourage people to buy rather than pirate?
(The second question is essentially what you ask when you say
what if there were a way to incentivise people to buy the game and further reward those who have already bought it?
With regard to question 1:
Runic has frequently stated that a major purpose of having DRM is so that they can offer a limited demo that can be quickly and easily upgraded to a full game. In this role as demo-protection, the DRM product that's being used for TL2 works to some extent. If you assume that people will download the demo rather than going straight for the pirate version, activating is faster and easier than copying out your save files, uninstalling, downloading the pirate version, and recopying your save files.
That said, I think this might not be the best solution. Using a DRM solution for both piracy prevention and demo-protection makes sense. But when you're not actually getting any piracy prevention from the DRM product, it might be time to look at means of demo-protection that are specifically designed as demo-protection. I suspect that Runic could probably design a better demo unlocking system than this DRM product provides if they approached its design from the standpoint of "this is only a demo unlocking system and nothing more."
With regard to question 2:
The one thing Runic can offer as an incentive to buy rather than pirate is the online match-making service. They could enhance this by adding support for guilds or anything else that's going to leave you feeling like you've missed out if you don't have access to it. (This is also an argument against private server support since that would take away the only carrot Runic has to offer.)
I have one technical concern though: I am afraid that Runic is using the DRM product incorrectly in a way that renders the online match-making service insecure. The documentation for the DRM product says that you are supposed to set it up like this: 1. User enters serial key into client. 2. Client sends serial key to server. 3. Server validates serial key and returns a different
activation key (invisible to user). 4. Client validates activation key and saves it in its "secret place" so that it knows it already activated next time it runs.
Making the serial key different from the activation key is important because it keeps the serial key algorithm secret even if the activation key algorithm is discovered by cracking the client. (And, as discussed above, we know that the client is going to get cracked very, very fast.)
There are reports of.. um... walnut... key generators that generate keys that work for validating a Runic Games Account for walnut access. I haven't verified these reports, so maybe they're bullshit. If they're bullshit, then there's nothing to worry about. If they're not bullshit, that implies that Runic is not keeping the serial key different from the activation key, and that means that the cracking the client will also crack the online match-making service. That would be bad.
If someone yellow
is reading this, you might double-check to make sure serial keys are different from activation keys when TL2 launches.
(Alternatively, removing activation altogether (and using some other means of demo-protection) would leave crackers with nothing in the client to back-engineer.)
One last comment on the DRM product: Its documentation states that it saves one or more encrypted copies of the activation key in one or more deceptively named registry keys or files (usually within the Windows directory) and that it does not remove them when the game is uninstalled. This is not cool. Registry entries should stay within the TL2 registry group; Files should stay within the TL2 directory; and both should be deleted upon an uninstall. (Also, it's not like there's a single person in the entire world who has the skills to do everything else needed to crack the DRM, but lacks the skills necessary to find these files/reg entries. So what legitimate anti-piracy purpose does this serve?)