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Ask Slashdot: Freedom From DRM, In the Social Gaming Arena? 71

Posted by timothy
from the so-the-doctor-says-to-the-guy-don't-do-that dept.
An anonymous reader writes "My wife and just successfully funded the production of our board game on Kickstarter, and are putting the over-funding toward the development of an electronic version of the game. It's a two player game turn-taking game with pawn movement that we envision being played on a social network (Words with Friends-style) and it's important to us that it be DRM-free. Does anyone have any experience or know of issues we should consider in terms of preserving the users' rights, achieving scalability, and gaining exposure through the ability to interoperate with platforms like Facebook, the iTunes store, Android market, and so on?"
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Ask Slashdot: Freedom From DRM, In the Social Gaming Arena?

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  • XML (Score:5, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday February 25, 2012 @02:43PM (#39159513)

    XML. You need lots of XML. No such thing as too much XML.

  • Just one thing (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Yvan256 (722131) on Saturday February 25, 2012 @02:43PM (#39159515) Homepage Journal

    Make sure that your electronic versions can all play together, so that people don't need the same version of the device to play against their friends.

    It may seem like a dumb request, but most Windows, OS X, Xbox360, PS3 and Wii games don't seem to understand this simple concept. Maybe it's companies who want to keep their users inside their own walls, I don't know.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by CmdrEdem (2229572)

      Make sure that your electronic versions can all play together, so that people don't need the same version of the device to play against their friends.

      It may seem like a dumb request, but most Windows, OS X, Xbox360, PS3 and Wii games don't seem to understand this simple concept. Maybe it's companies who want to keep their users inside their own walls, I don't know.

      The reason why games can`t be played online between multiple platforms is difference in controls (Ex.: A FPS player in a computer has an advantage against console players). In a turn-based game this should be no problem, so it can be done. In consoles there are issues with communication middleware (VOIP capabilities, text messages inside games), witch is different for each platform too.

      • Re: (Score:1, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward

        The reason why games can`t be played online between multiple platforms is difference in controls (Ex.: A FPS player in a computer has an advantage against console players). In a turn-based game this should be no problem, so it can be done.

        Yes, which is precisely why manufacturers should allow cross-platform playing on FPSs. Only when "hardcore" gamers at the very top ranks among the console players are repeatedly spanked by any random 8 year old with a keyboard and a mouse will the console players realize how pathetically lame they all are. It all comes down to letting honesty and transparency make the world a better place.

      • Aside from the technical differences, there are also price differences, both on the revenue side and on the cost side, between gaming on those different platforms.

        For instance, if you use something like the Unity3D game engine to develop a game for the iPhone/Android platform, your game should also be able to run on the Wii, but you will still be required to pay Nintendo something like $40,000 to register as a developer with them (assuming they even accept you, which they may not, they do not accept many de

        • After all, Nintendo doesn't want to suddenly have games appearing for free, or for 99 cents, on their Wii platform. Not only, those games probably wouldn't take good advantage of their highly specialized hardware, but those games could potentially crowd out the much more expensive other games they have on it.

          So instead they would rather see people adopt other platforms in addition to theirs, where users can get 99 cent games, and then see their platform fall into disuse as developers realize they make more money putting their $50 games on all platforms than just some, and then users realize they get all games on the platforms with 99 cent games and abandon the exclusionary platforms?

          Stupid exclusionary tactics where you try to screw over your users only works until you have a competitor that doesn't play by the

      • by tlhIngan (30335)

        The reason why games can`t be played online between multiple platforms is difference in controls (Ex.: A FPS player in a computer has an advantage against console players). In a turn-based game this should be no problem, so it can be done. In consoles there are issues with communication middleware (VOIP capabilities, text messages inside games), witch is different for each platform too.

        The other reason is capability. Each platform has strengths and limitations that are completely different. If we take two l

    • by gl4ss (559668)

      they need a scalable server structure.

      and then build clients that talk to the servers.

      how the fuck he manages to bring drm into this I don't know though. is he implying that he wants the players to run the servers? or? just attaching it to fb makes it drm'ed in a way, your servers are going to be your servers - it's not like there's any practical drm in there if there's html clients anyways.

      if they plan go with user hosted servers though and totally independent of their own operation.. well... if it's jus

    • Re:Just one thing (Score:4, Insightful)

      by westlake (615356) on Saturday February 25, 2012 @04:21PM (#39160013)

      It may seem like a dumb request, but most Windows, OS X, Xbox360, PS3 and Wii games don't seem to understand this simple concept.

      The PC game is played solo.

      There are others competing for use of your big screen HDTV.

      The PC gamer will complain about the mediocre graphics and controls of the console port.

      The console gamer will complain about "balance" --- anything that gives the PC gamer a competitive edge.

      • The console gamer will complain about "balance" --- anything that gives the PC gamer a competitive edge.

        Why doesn't the console gamer either hook up a PC to the TV or STFU? It seems silly to complain about an advantage that you can fairly easily claim for yourself.

        • You know what, that's too harsh. Let me put it a different way: Why deprive the PC users of an advantage rather than merely disclosing it? There is no reason for a blanket ban on PC users playing against console users. You just identify which kind of device a competing player is using, and if you don't want to play against PC users, don't play against PC users. You can always kick them out of the session (or the developers can provide whoever is hosting/creating the session an option to not let them join).

        • by westlake (615356)

          Why doesn't the console gamer either hook up a PC to the TV or STFU?

          The video game console is set up in a family room or a fully kitted out home theater with front projection, surround sound, lounge seating and a popcorn machine.

          The emphasis is on social gaming with family and friends.

          Half the fun in owning a Kinect or Wii controller is watching your kids and your Dad at play in a game they can enjoy together.

          • by Anonymous Coward

            The video game console is set up in a family room or a fully kitted out home theater with front projection, surround sound, lounge seating and a popcorn machine.

            That's funny, I have the same home theater setup with my HTPC/gaming PC. Except my HTPC also plays DVD/BDs from any region, and streams to/from any device I own in pretty much any video or audio format.

            Half the fun in owning a Kinect or Wii controller is watching your kids and your Dad at play in a game they can enjoy together.

            What a coincidence! I have those exact same input devices connected up to my PC! Not to mention Xbox 360 controllers, PS3 controllers, steering wheels, wireless mini keyboard and touchpad...

          • by kamapuaa (555446)

            If my family busted out video games for us all to play together, I would get a new family. Not all of us are nerds in need of getting stuffed into a gym locker room, Poindexter.

    • by hal2814 (725639)
      Sure they understand it. It's just a lot harder problem than you're giving it credit for. Most console and mobile platforms have built-in APIs for multi-user applications. They make it ridiculously easy to hook your players into a rich multiplayer system with very little programming effort. But they are platform-specific systems that don't talk to systems on other platforms. So do I dump a ton of development time into reinventing the wheel and coming up with my own system from the ground up or do I use
  • by Anonymous Coward

    Can you elaborate what you really mean by that? for instance on the iTunes store (iOS) you can't distribute on the official store without Apple's DRM, but it's essentially non-intrusive. If you're not opposed to using Facebook APIs, they may be your best bet for providing matching, leaderboards, and etc. in a way that's easily accessible from the web, ios, android, and the desktop. Apple has an API that makes turn-based multiplayer and matching very easy, but you won't be able to use that on other platf

  • You will want to explicitly state a license for the users to be allowed to share the product, but not sell it. Also you want to watch your distributors, they will assume that you do not want it to be shared and send out bots to track down "pirates." Alex Jones, of Info wars, has experienced such a problem where authorized content has been taken down under the accusation of piracy.

  • by Surt (22457) on Saturday February 25, 2012 @03:01PM (#39159621) Homepage Journal

    If it's successful, zynga will clone it, and dump money into it until your version is forgotten. If you're not successful, you're not successful. Either way, you lose your investment in the electronic version.

  • by jbn-o (555068) <mail@digitalcitizen.info> on Saturday February 25, 2012 @03:09PM (#39159647) Homepage
    I recommend the AGPL version 3 [gnu.org] or later; this license will preserve the user's software freedom and keep users on a level playing field with you. I also recommend enforcing your license. The Software Freedom Conservancy [sfconservancy.org] can help you enforcing your license with the assistance of experienced GPL enforcers. As you probably already know, if the program is proprietary nobody will be able to determine if the program is DRM-free or not. If any distributor discriminates against free software, you can choose not to do business with them.
    • by bidule (173941)

      As you probably already know, if the program is proprietary nobody will be able to determine if the program is DRM-free or not.

      I have to agree with the co-poster: this is laughable.

      You could technically have some DRM-laden software that stops working for free in 2013 but you have no reason to cater to paranoid players about that. I am sure someone will have fun decompiling your program to check for that, source or no source.

      Now, if there is any randomness or hidden information and you haven't protected it against cheating, you (and your non-cheating players) may prefer there are no hacked version flying around. But it doesn't look

  • My sugestions (Score:5, Insightful)

    by CmdrEdem (2229572) on Saturday February 25, 2012 @03:10PM (#39159651) Homepage

    Keep user information at a minimum inside your game. If you are not going to handle payments directly you only need an alias (username, not the real name), a password and maybe an e-mail. At the database don`t use default ports and restrict database users to access the database only through the IPs your servers are into, you should avoid using the domain names at the database configuration if you use static IPs.

    Scalability can be tricky. I never faced this problem directly but I`m aware that AWS is a good choice most of the time. For now I use vps.net for hosting of small servers. Worst case you will have to make a server front-end to manage incoming connections and redirect them to a lightly loaded "shard", so you can keep everything simple for the user at the end.

    To get exposure you have to actively ask people to participate into the evaluation process. Ask for likes and shares on Facebook and ask for a 5 star classification at the IStore. If people like your game they will comply. Just don`t get overboard with the number of requests (one every 3 matches should be good but is a wild guess depending on how log each match is) and keep it simple (direct links to the evaluation page).

    • Just don`t get overboard with the number of requests (one every 3 matches should be good but is a wild guess depending on how log each match is)...

      That's already overboard for me. I hate games that keep on asking me for ratings repeatedly, since games apparently have no way to tell that I've already rated and reviewed them. Please give an easy way for the user to opt-out from future requests.

  • Of course, your board game will be DRM free. After all, games that are inherently multiplayer over the network don't need DRM anyway if you're the one who controls the server.

  • Copyright the game content, Patent the game play, give up now. Make your money with the first couple of months because that's about all the lead time you have. There are lots of people who think that ALL software should be free, and they have no conscience when it comes to pirating software.

    • Copyright the game content

      Copyright is automatic.

      Make your money with the first couple of months because that's about all the lead time you have. There are lots of people who think that ALL software should be free, and they have no conscience when it comes to pirating software.

      "Have different moral code than me" != "have no conscience"

      Also, they already got the money, that's the point of Kickstarter: you get paid before you create & release the project.

  • I don't understand the question. YOU are going to be the developer, and YOU are going to be the publisher. Who is going to force you to put DRM into the code? If you want it to be DRM free then write it without DRM. Simple
  • by MtHuurne (602934) on Saturday February 25, 2012 @11:17PM (#39161847) Homepage

    Every game in Apple's App Store has DRM, it's part of the system. You can make the source available as well though, so your users have the ability to make modifications to the client or port it to new devices. Put all the intelligence in the server, that way the client is simpler and you don't have to worry about people cheating by modifying the client.

    For scalability, since this is based on a board game I would guess the number of players per game session is relatively low, which makes scaling easy: you can start new game sessions on the server with the lowest load. More difficult to scale is the matchmaking, where you do have to deal with the total worldwide number of players. Perhaps you can create a hash of the user ID and use that to determine which server handles authentication and status of users, like buckets in a hash table.

    For deployment, I think this is one case where cloud computing is a good match: you can bring up move servers when there are a lot of players and bring them down again when demand is lower. This is especially useful if you get a lot of players when the game is first released or got some media attention but the number doesn't stay high; if you would buy your own servers you would be stuck with a lot of capacity that you don't use anymore. Ideally you'll either have the ability to migrate games between servers or a time limit on game length, so you can force games off a server when you want to shut it down.

    Don't spend too much time on designing the perfectly scalable system though: a game with scalability issues is still better than a game that is never released at all. One thing that allows you to correct your mistakes is to make the client and server negotiate a protocol version. This allows later client versions to use a protocol version that is more suitable for scaling. If needed, you could even stop supporting old protocol versions at some point and instruct the user to upgrade the client.

  • First you should determine what kind of application you're making. Is it a native application on iOS & android? Or is it a web front end? How deeply do you want to integrate Facebook, twitter, google+, etc?

    All the different platforms (hardware and software) have different licensing issues that need to be figured out. It may be that what you'd like to do isn't allowed by one platform or a combination of them. DRM is only a factor on the open platforms (PC & android). For iOS & game consoles

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