Q&A: “How to Prevent People From Stealing My Work”

Short version: You don’t. (But don’t take my word for it, read here for example)

Longer version:
One of you readers sent me an email containing some questions about publishing. Here’s my opinions and thoughts:

I have some questions that have been giving me a head ache. I figured there is only two ways for me to distribute, not counting on getting into stores. One, download over the internet or Two, ship out a CD.

You can actually have downloadable version in the net, and additional CD shipping. Many ecommerce providers have CD option as well (check for example Plimus, eSellerate or BMTmicro and see what they have to offer).

General trend seems to be favoring digital distribution (via internet), rather than CD/DVD option, so my suggestion would be to go for internet distribution, and additionally have CD if you really want. I haven’t used CDs but somebody somewhere at some year said that it wasn’t big (or at all) addition to their sales to have CD. Don’t know what the situation is today for indies, but I’d guess most of the developers concentrate on the internet.

The first problem I see with both methods is Copy Protection. How can you stop someone from downloading your game for themselves, then giving someone else a copy of the game they paid for? That would cause you to lose out on Capital because person two got the game for free.

You cannot stop people from downloading your game for free no matter what you do if you bring it online. Even MMO games have been hacked so that there’s pirate servers floating somewhere, people playing for free.

You simply cannot do that.

What you can do is to start thinking whether you really lose capital, and try to change your thinking about piratism. Reading this gamasutra article can be a good starting point.

It’s a tricky thing, but in the end you really cannot prevent people from stealing your work.

Having some sort of DRM might be a good option for you, or it might do nothing good. Some vote yes for DRM, some vote no – both sides support their view with statistical data, so I guess it might depend on the game too.

Whatever you decide, you have to realize that somebody somewhere can hack your game and there’s not much you can do about it.

As for CDs or DVDS….copy protection methods cost a lot of money….money I don’t have right now. Not to mention, if sells go well….their could be an issue keeping up with the demand if I were to publish the title myself (too many CDs to ship out at one time).

If you need to ship “too many CDs” that’s a positive problem. And… simply not a problem if you use an ecommerce provider that handles CD shipping.

There’s this website call, www.Shareit.com. The company is an online publisher, but I really don’t trust them. For starters…they don’t answer emails. Secondly, are they even doing any business?

Shareit actually could be called ecommerce provider (who handles the online transactions) rather than a publisher (who would do marketing, promotion among other duties).

I’ve bought stuff via Shareit earlier, and I think I even got some affiliate payments from them at some point so I think they were okay. Not sure about the situation today, but I’d head over to forums (like indiegamer boards or gameproducer forums) and ask around. I personally think they are okay the last I’ve heard (but of course you are better of checking this on your own).

Can you or someone that knows about this kind of stuff point in in the right direction? Please…..I only get one shot at this so I want to do it right. If you can get me a list of Publishers that publish Interactive Entertainment Software over the net, you’ll have my gratitude. I’m leaning towards over the net downloads…but once again….the fear of someone making a copy for a friend is eating at me.

I presume by “publisher” you really mean an ecommerce provider (which handles online transactions). At some point I was using eSellerate (was good), then BMTmicro (was good) and latest being Plimus (good as well). So, check these out (there’s others too – just ask around for “ecommerce providers”) and simply pick one and go for that. You can always switch later if you want.

Bookdepository (UK) Just Become My Number #1 Place to Order Books

Bookdepository have added possibility to use Paypal. I’ve been using Amazon.com and Amazon.co.uk (can’t never tell how much things cost at Amazon), and Play.com (good stuff, not so many books though) but now Bookdepository.co.uk just got better. Paypal is very easy way to make payments. So buying (game dev) books just become one step better.

I don’t know why exactly I prefer Paypal over Credit card… perhaps for the same reason I prefer tea over coffee. Dunno.

Anyway – it’s nice that they decided to get Paypal there.

Hint for developer: consider adding Paypal option also for your game’s store…

Game Production Lessons From a Half-Marathon Trip

Two days ago, I run a half-marathon for the first time in my life. I know there’s zillion people who have run this trip (and much more), and I don’t really consider myself to compete with others – I only compete with this trio: me, myself and I. For me this was a really cool milestone in my life.

And my legs were like totally broken for 2 days now.

With that being said, I wanted to write in this blog post how there was some good lessons learned that apply well for game production.

It’s good to practice a bit
I don’t call myself a runner but I can somehow stumble forward using my long legs. Don’t know if my running style resembles something like what a hunting zombie could have, but like everything in life: the results are what counts. I can go forward so that’s the most important thing. I’ve been running couple of years pretty frequently so I have some experience in that.

It’s good to go “bit further” step by step… (even better if you actually are prepared for the trip)
My wife and I (plus our two doggies) had decided that we’d run our usual 8-9 km trip last Sunday. The run was good, and weather was good and somehow we ended discussing how cool it could be to run 21 kilometers (and 97.5 meters) – to make half a marathon.

At around 8 kilometers we decided that we would proceed and go “bit further” and so we did. We decided that we’d go at least some more kilometers. After “some more kilometers” we decided to go more some more kilometers. And… eventually after running couple of hours we thought that this is now too near the end that we simply can’t stop running now. So, it was like an ad-hoc run where we just thought that we’d run “a bit more”. We both had way too much clothes and nothing to drink (and I think I wouldn’t have eaten ice cream the day before if I just had known about the upcoming 21 km trip).

We were paying attention to how our dogs were doing and decided that if either one of them would look such that she would need rest, we’d be ready to stop running. Dogs had no problem so we ended up running 2 hours and 40 minutes. We had no specific route, so we simply calculated the route (and took additional 1 kilometer extra trip in the end to ensure it was at least 21 kilometers total).

Being good at math helps
This brings me to the next point. While we were calculating where we need to go (we ended up going one “loop” once, and then two “loops” twice and then one more additional small trip to get 21 km filled). It started to feel that in order to run half a marathon it’s useful to be a good at math…

Well, in game programming it certainly helps. I’m glad that I took time to study math and physics in high school: it certainly has helped me to understand certain principles in programming.

There will be hard times ahead
Running the trip was actually somewhat doable, and my legs were doing fine. When I said out loud (and jinxed myself) to my wife how my legs were, then I suddenly felt a really nasty “pain spike” in both of my legs. It wasn’t muscle tension or stuff like that, it felt like somebody was poking me with a really nasty needle or something.

Luckily the pain stopped almost immediately and I could finish the run (although now as I’m writing this blog post the same “pain spike” is somewhat here. It’s getting better, but yesterday I almost couldn’t walk. Tomorrow or maybe day after that I think I’m back to normal.)

This reminded me that in game production, there will be obstacles… but the good news are that those things can be overcome.

Begin with the end in the mind
One thing that kept me going was the fact that me and my wife had talked about running a half-marathon earlier. We had spoke about it and we had thought how cool it could be to run that trip. When 12 kilometers was passed, I kept thinking how cool it would be to think back and say “I did it”. Same after 15 kilometers. And 18 kilometers. I didn’t let this vision blind me… and I repeated the strict rule that if our dogs look like they cannot keep up the pace (they had no problem at all), we’d immediately stop the run. It’s no point trying to achieve something if someone’s health is at stake. Luckily the dogs had no problem and we both could well keep running. It wasn’t until the very end when we stopped, my legs immediately “locked” and I could felt my legs wouldn’t simply go no further.

Anyway, till the very end I thought how sweet it would be to achieve this trip. And… the best part is that it felt much better than I had thought.

(Except of course for my legs…)

Mini-game #2: So, We Made This Multiplayer Mini Game (“Brainless Zombie Shooting” Download Awaits)

Brainless Zombie Shooting minigame: downloadinfo page.

Okay, bit over a week ago I said that I’d be taking each week a bit of time and mess around with prototypes. I wanted to check out what could it mean to get multiplayer system in Dead Wake (which is getting closer and closer to the actual release by the way) so I thought I might as well do a brief prototype around it.

This time I got help from an artist who spent couple of hours for testing the art (thanks Perttu) and spend around 6 hours in programming and coding and testing and communicating. I must say that “2 hour prototype’s” development time can easily be get longer when there’s (1) more than one guy doing stuff (we needed to communicate stuff with the artist) and (2) due multiplayer stuff.

Anyway, here’s a very brief youtube video (thanks Robert for playtesting) about the mini game:


I know the screen is pretty dark… hopefully not too dark though

It’s probably filled with bugs (and the client probably has quite a bit of problems), but overall it’s still works decently, so I’m happy about this. I’d say that at this point I won’t be trying to do more work to get multiplayer mode for Dead Wake before I get the other features out but now I got my weekly (last week’s) prototype out – and also got info about what it could mean to do multiplayer mode in BlitzMax.

It’s pretty cool to take breaks and see what sort of stuff you can get done with very limited time.

Moushit

I was messing around putting mouseX, mouseY and mouseHit info in parameters. Since these words were reserved by the programming tool, I thought to just drop one letter from each. mousX and mousY were fine for alternatives for variable names since I couldn’t use mouseX and mouseY. After that, I accidentally wrote moushit (instead of mousHit), which kind of sounds something else than “mouse” and “hit” together.

This reminded me that It’s pretty easy to get yourself into trouble when coming up with names.

In variable naming it might not be too big of a deal, but too bad if this occurs when naming children, or when launching new companies or software or simply when coming up with a game name. Well, I suppose (mou)shit just happens.

You don’t by any chance know any mou-shitty company names?

The Easiest (Kind Of) Way to Prioritize Big Things

If you had only 6 months left to live (and after 6 months from now you’d die), what would you do? How would that knowledge affect to you?

Would you continue working on games? Or at your current work? Would you do all the nice little projects you might have going on? Would you check email so often? Would you spend time browsing the internet so much? Would you spend more time with family, kids, spouse, relatives, friends? Would you travel? What would you do?

I’m not suggesting anybody to decide now to quit their work and run screaming around the city now. Since you probably have more than 6 months time, it’s perhaps better to think stuff in a long run. But with that being said, would you be doing the stuff you now do if you had only 6 months time lef?

If you wouldn’t continue doing the stuff you currently do – then do you think you should consider some sort of prioritizing?

How Small Stupid Mistakes Can Ruin The Whole Project

Did you watch yesterday’s Finland-USA ice hockey match? We lost 2-3 to USA. Finland was clearly controlling the game and was better team… to the moment when our guys decided to start taking stupid penalties (one ugly boarding which should have been at least 5 minute penalty, got just 2 minute from that, other penalty was because of tripping USA’s goalie (whadda heck?) and then one guy just punched some USA’s player in the face – for absolutely no reason). Maybe they got frustrated because USA’s goalie played excellent match.

Anyway, it took just few stupid mistakes, and in 4 minutes (in which time USA’s score went from 0 to 3) the whole project was ruin. (Of course you can look this from USA’s perspective as well – in just 4 minutes you can take your game to the next level…)

I kind of hope that this wouldn’t apply to game production…