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Developers vs. Publishers

Zonk posted more than 9 years ago | from the dichotomytastic dept.

First Person Shooters (Games) 41

An anonymous reader writes "CNN's Chris Morris takes a look at the increased animosity of late between game developers and publishers in the latest installment of Game Over. The column examines this weekend's catfight between Valve and Vivendi, where Vivendi threatened to sue Valve for authenticating copies of Half-Life 2 that had been sold before the retail embargo date; the misery that is crunch time and the recent campaigns against Electronic Arts miserable working conditions."

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ghoppa homiez (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10831701)



Why are people pissed off about steam? (1, Insightful)

Tibor the Hun (143056) | more than 9 years ago | (#10831705)

So they require an online activation? Whoopty-hoo.
And please don't bitch about online activation if you're posting on slashdot (unless you mail in all your posts to the editors).
So they want to curb the piracy. Good for them. Sure it looks like it's already been cracked and is out for download, but they did a fantastic job by not having it on torrent trackers before it ever came out.

And no, I'm not a rabid fanboy, I just happen to like their distribution method, it works fine for me, and saved me a trip to the store. But then again I also happen to buy my music off iTunes, so that probably puts me in a minority here.

Re:Why are people pissed off about steam? (2, Interesting)

JohnFluxx (413620) | more than 9 years ago | (#10832201)

I will bitch about online activation.

I have the internet at work, but not at home.
How do I play? I'm a student live in rented accommodation without a phoneline.

I could protest and just not play - but I doubt they care. So screw it - I'm going to steal it and crack it as soon as I can.

Re:Why are people pissed off about steam? (1)

Deluxe_247 (743837) | more than 9 years ago | (#10832402)

Nevermind the fact that its written on the box that an internet connection is REQUIRED to play. They told you up front, don't cry about it if you don't meet the minimum requirements. But hey, I guess you'll just steal it and crack it with your 'non-existant internet connection' to really show your cival disobediance. Go you, showing yet again that stupid will always prevail over logic and reason.

Re:Why are people pissed off about steam? (1)

JohnFluxx (413620) | more than 9 years ago | (#10832659)

I fail to see your point.
The requirement for an internet connection is one they put in on purpose - it's not a technical requirement, so why can't I 'cry' about it?

My current choices are not play it, or steal it, or find a way to drag my machine into work, or sign up for a phone line just to play this game.

Also my argument was logical. I fail to see where I was illogical or stupid (but then if I am stupid, that might explain why I can't see this). So please point out the flaws in my argument.

Re:Why are people pissed off about steam? (4, Insightful)

Deluxe_247 (743837) | more than 9 years ago | (#10832832)

I Appologize, maybe 'stupid' was the wrong wording. I could understand if this was just 'another game' that nobody cares about. It'd be something if this was an EA game that was just one of the hundreds they pump out a month, at the expense of their employees health.

Valve actually works really hard to make the community better. They are involved, they worked hard on this system to distribute the game and cut OUT the middle man (therefore in the long run, probably making it less expensive for us, the end users.) Plus, they spend an extended ammount of time developing and tweaking it, to be the *BEST* gaming experience it could be. Ive only played it 3 hours, and Im convinced they not only put their skill into making it, but their heart and soul. They took the time to give you everything you could possibly want, wrapped in a neat distribution package with a nice card labeled "STEAM" on the top, and you are hung up on 'not being able to use the internet at home, so im going to steal it instead!'

It angers me that instead of just getting off your lazy crack, dragging your box to a friends house and using his internet to do the *ONE-TIME Authentication* to unlock the game, you are going to go through the effort of downloading, cracking, burning, just so you can not pay for these peoples hard work.

I am sure its not by choice that 'you dont have internet' at your main residence, but there are alternatives to stealing. This is one game worth supporting the developers, and I think it's sad that something so miniscule as an authentication process (to gaurantee that the game isnt 'cracked' in the first place) would DRIVE you to doing just that.

Maybe stupid wasn't the right word, but if you can fill in the blank for me, feel free.

Re:Why are people pissed off about steam? (1)

JohnFluxx (413620) | more than 9 years ago | (#10835134)

>It angers me that instead of just getting off your lazy crack, dragging your box to a friends house and using his internet to do the *ONE-TIME Authentication* to unlock the game, you are going to go through the effort of downloading, cracking, burning, just so you can not pay for these peoples hard work.

You misunderstood my intentions. I would go through the effort of downloading, cracking and burning just so I don't have to lug my computer to work for the one-time authentication.

Money doesn't really come into it - I paid shit loads for the graphics card and everything else - an extra £30 doesn't matter to me. (UK Sterling if /. still blocks the pound symbol)

I know you view it as just lazy that I don't want to drag my computer into work, but what sort of precedent is this going to set? Am I supposed to drag it into work when I want to get day of defeat working as well?

And like I said, I have to take the machine into work (on the bus btw) because of an artificial restriction. I also have to buy a DVD drive since, well, I've just never needed one before, but I'm complaining at that, because I understand the requirement.

I realise copy protection is a hard system, and to be honest steam seems the best solution. But damnit, this time it's inconveniencing me, and when I bring it up, I'm told to either not buy then, or put up with the inconvienence.

Re:Why are people pissed off about steam? (1)

pommiekiwifruit (570416) | more than 9 years ago | (#10836108)

I also have to buy a DVD drive since

Remember before you buy the DVD drive to test it against SecuROM and other gameplay-prevention technologies, since the publisher certainly won't, and some games that you buy at the shop refuse to work if they you are using certain DVD drives. Like my Philips one for example.

Re:Why are people pissed off about steam? (1)

The Slient Progenito (828944) | more than 9 years ago | (#10838364)

I am in the same position as you John - I live on a universtiy campus with a restrictive firewall that won't connect to steam. I buy most of the games I play since I want to support games developer into making more of the kind of games I want to play. Blizzard had a great way of making people buy the game. No activation for single player but in order to play multiplayer online, you have to go via battle.net. That way, for the casual gamer who won't buy the game anyway, they can crack the game. For me however, even if I spend most of my time in campus where I can get hold of the cracked version easily, I will still gladly pay Blizzard for the game since you can tell it's a labour of love, and the game itself doesn't punish me or make my life difficult. Now for Half life 2, I will simply have to do without buying the game. If a cracked copy become easily available, I will of course download it and not feel any gulit. Games are meant to be entertainment, not something I should spend hours/days working on a workaround.

Re:Why are people pissed off about steam? (1)

moyet (148706) | more than 9 years ago | (#10840277)

What happens in three years time, when Valve goes bankrupt, and I can't install Half Life2 on my new pentium5?

Re:Why are people pissed off about steam? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10840444)

yeah, bankrupt from all the *money* they're gonna make...
I'm sure you'll crack that bridge when it comes anyway.

Re:Why are people pissed off about steam? (1)

mausmalone (594185) | more than 9 years ago | (#10841741)

So they require an online activation? Whoopty-hoo. And please don't bitch about online activation if you're posting on slashdot (unless you mail in all your posts to the editors).
There are other problems with online activation, just as strong for real users as pirates. (a) What happens X years from now when Valve goes out of business? (b) What if I re-install it? Will the authentication bitch about the same copy being registered twice? (c) What if my firewall prevents it from working correctly? (I've heard that the Steam verrification only works through one level of NAT maximum, which is bad for people on college networks, but that's just unconfirmed rumor.)

Also, people are kind of annoyed right now because they went out and plunked down real money to get a real disc that contains a game, and now they can't play it until Vivendi says "allright, go ahead." I'm sure if Valve was able to authorize the early purchases, many fewer people would be angry about it.

P.S. I agree that the distribution method is freaking sweet. I would love to see more games made available this way. I have a feeling that, if it catches on, it'll help developers gain more leverage over distributors. Then we won't have this whole "activation denied" fiasco that happened this weekend.

Re:Why are people pissed off about steam? (1)

Drakonite (523948) | more than 9 years ago | (#10843111)

I have broadband. And I bitch about online activation.

What happens 6 months from now when I don't have broadband and want to install a game I bought?

And what happens a couple years from now when I want to reinstall an "old" game and it turns out they shut down their servers, or perhaps have just quit letting you activate their "old" games in hopes you'll buy a new game?

The problems with online activation aren't just limited to possibly not having internet access when you first purchase the game.

Temporarily or Permanently? (1)

GospelHead821 (466923) | more than 9 years ago | (#10831724)

One thing the article does not make clear is whether or how Vivendi wants Valve to deal with these premature requests for authentication. If it's purely a legalistic matter - demanding that Valve delay the authentications until the agreed-upon date, I'd say that it is probably a fair, if unpopular, request. If it's to be a punative measure - demanding that Valve blacklist any DVD key that requrested early authentication, I'd say Vivendi can go soak their heads.

Coverage (5, Insightful)

Moby Cock (771358) | more than 9 years ago | (#10831858)

There has been a hell of of a lot of coverage about EA and their 'crunch time' work ethics. I wonder why this is such a big story all of a sudden. Is it just that it has finally starting to become known outside of the (relatively) closed community of IT development? I'm not a software guy, so I have no first hand knowledge about the issue however, I remember hearing about major crunch-time pushes from way back when Apple was a big player. Didn't Jobs demand that people stay at the office for 40-50 hours consecutively for the development of Lisa and Mac?

It seems to me that now the industry is making so much cash that pehaps there is an expectation for some tension to be slackened. With the release of GTA:SA, Doom3, Half-Life2 and Halo2 there has been a very widespread understanding of just how big the gaming industry (and by corollary, the software industry at large) has become. An industry of such size with such resources should not be able to treat its core employees in such a fashion. All big business has hit this stumbling block at some point. Manufacturing had to deal with unionisation. The entertainment industry has suvived the creation of the Guilds (which are just unions). Anyone who is a hockey fan knows that there are unions in pro sports. So why are there no unions for programmers? Is it because they move from company to company? I don't think so, actors and directors, for example, work on different projects for different studios and have protection from exploitation.

So what is up with this? Why is it that thousands of intelligent and motivated professionals are allowing themselves to be exploited and treated so poorly?

Re:Coverage (3, Insightful)

Donoho (788900) | more than 9 years ago | (#10832110)

So what is up with this? Why is it that thousands of intelligent and motivated professionals are allowing themselves to be exploited and treated so poorly?

I think everything is happening (in reaction to the situation/environment) as it should. There are people who can deal with the environment and those that can't. Every company I've worked for has as a salaried employee has taken advantage of unpaid overtime, because I allowed them to (I was having fun). When I no longer enjoyed the enviromnment I left. At will employment.

I don't think that means that employees can't or shouldn't complain, but painting EA (for example) as a villan degrades their argument to whining. By making practices public knowledge, there's a better chance that EA and companies like it will consider change, unless they have an endless stream of potential employees ready to deal with the status quo.

Re:Coverage (1)

scot4875 (542869) | more than 9 years ago | (#10834898)

company I've worked for has as a salaried employee has taken advantage of unpaid overtime

Mandatory 12-hour days 7 days per week is not just 'taking advantage.' At best, it's morally deplorable. IMO, it should be criminal.


Re:Coverage (1)

Donoho (788900) | more than 9 years ago | (#10835489)

Better look away from any orgs auditing SOX audits, that'll Really piss you off.

Seriously, I respect your right to your opinion and if you get enough people together, it could be criminal (if it isn't already). But then people like me that take advantage of the opportunity to advance at an accelerated rate would be legally cut off. It's my opinion that that is unfair. Althoug in no way insurmountable.

I work for myself while working for someone else. I learn and grow on someone else's dollar, while providing productivity (not counting posts like this) that turns the company a profit. I work for my educaton. When I choose, the library is open 24 hours a day. If a company were to "require" 80 hours a week, I could leave. If I don't want the job, there's someone that will and I'm okay with that (as long as they know it's their choice).

Re:Coverage (1)

Austerity Empowers (669817) | more than 9 years ago | (#10835145)

Because tech geeks are still pretty arrogant, and think that there is a wide salary gap between the elite alpha geek (which many younger people identify with) and the 'average slob'.

As far as I can see, the only ones doing A LOT better than the average guy are either self-employed (and even this is fading), or are in a high position in a company that has a place for non-managing engineers that are esentially senior management (or are in management, but still do engineering).

So in fact, everyone is getting the same crappy salary and benefits, but the elitist behavior drives people apart who should be teaming up and organizing. Only something like a union has the power to negotiate work rules and conditions, and only something like a union has the muscle to build barriers to outsourcing.

Re:Coverage (1)

Chyeld (713439) | more than 9 years ago | (#10843242)

Well, I can only tell you from my experience but....

The majority of the IT related friends I had were under the delusion that unions were for 'drones' and associated them more with plumbers and construction workers than with actors or teachers. Most were young, just out of college, and saw life as it was depicted to them in college. Or in other words, they believed that their starter job would be hell, that as they worked their way up in the company the job would be less and less so till they were 'tenured'. So they were willing to put up with the hardship because they thought that they would be rewarded in the end. Sadly, most never realized that the real world isn't academia and that being good at your job just means that most people are going to want to keep you in that job if you aren't pressing to go higher.

The protection a union gives comes at a cost. Your job suddenly has much more red tape involved, you suddenly have many more rules to follow, and you have a second boss in your union leaders. Most didn't see this as an improvement.

Now that they've become older, have had their delusions ripped to shreds, they are scattered about and surrounded by a million more kids who were just as mis-lead as they were at the start.

And remember, unions work only if you can control the labor. Look at the number of unemployed IT people out there today and ask yourself if you would risk your job knowing that there were ten people who the company could hire to replace you and that making too much noise could lead to you becoming black balled under the table.

No one in a non-union shop would ever hire someone they knew as a union sympathizer.

Re:Coverage (1)

Moby Cock (771358) | more than 9 years ago | (#10843625)

Interesting points. But I have encountered arguments against unionisation that can be summed up as, "Non-union people will shun any union supporters". This notion must have been present when all unions were created. I am not implying that there would be some serious upheaval in the industry if there was unionisation, but is it not worth it?

cognitive dissonance (-1, Flamebait)

Profane MuthaFucka (574406) | more than 9 years ago | (#10831933)

I would really love to play Half Life 2, because I am a person who really enjoys weapons, blowing things up, shooting people in the head, shooting people multiple times with shotguns, watching them bleed, seeing them fall on the ground, writhing in pain, or better yet, seeing their bloody hamburgerfied bodies smeared on the walls.

But, I can't, because computer games are the product of human misery.

Re:cognitive dissonance (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10833196)

That's not flamebait. Flamebait is when you call somebody a cock smoking whore.

Activation not a great idea for consumers (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10832111)

Authentication may stop pre-release pirating, but I highly doubt it will stop HL2 from being cracked. The only reason I can see for authentication to a steam account is to stop reselling of their games. Technically, it is against the EULA to sell a Steam account, and Valve has even said on their forums not to do so or your account will be banned (would link but forums are down). Even if they didn't though, selling an account is a much bigger pain than selling a game or cd key since you can't move games from one account to another. I really think Valve should allow people an easy way to transfer games between steam accounts.

Delayed Again! (2, Insightful)

Deluxe_247 (743837) | more than 9 years ago | (#10832185)

This would have been the first post, but it was delayed due to pending litigation between myself and my publisher ^_^

Really, its sad when a publisher, who really didn't do anything to produce the game, makes loyal fans (who in turn are going to buy the game and therefore pay their salaries) wait just 'because thats how they want it.' In the end, they are only hurting themselves AND the developers, because most people will get angry over something as little as this and NOT buy the game. (Ive heard many people say they wouldn't support Valve or VU because of the constant delays and BS between the two companies.)

Considering how good this game is, I doubt anyone will actually stick to it and NOT buy it, but thats all due to Valves Hard work. VU just gets to laugh all the way to the bank.

Re:Delayed Again! (4, Insightful)

Zeriel (670422) | more than 9 years ago | (#10832294)

Honestly, if you're like me and like Valve but think VU can jump off a short pier...

Buy it on steam. It's cheaper for the best deluxe extra (HL1:Source) and as I understand it, VU sees no/little money for it.

Re:Delayed Again! (1)

Deluxe_247 (743837) | more than 9 years ago | (#10832479)

That is *EXACTLY* what I did. Although technically no matter how you buy it I would think VU is getting some sort of kickback through their contract.

Re:Delayed Again! (1)

Moby Cock (771358) | more than 9 years ago | (#10832575)

I won't buy it. Simply because of the way VU acted. I felt it was shameful. There are a lot of good games out there right now. I won't miss HL2. And besides, I may get my thesis finished too.

Re:Delayed Again! (1)

Schnarl (796811) | more than 9 years ago | (#10839935)

"(Ive heard many people say they wouldn't support Valve or VU because of the constant delays and BS between the two companies.)"

They're all Liars, and I daresay Whores. Or at least enough of them are for Vivendi to still not give a damn.

Re:Delayed Again! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10840188)

I won't buy it.

But then again, the reason is another, namely the activation. I won't go into a discussion here, let's just say I don't want it for a few reasons and will not buy HL2 because of this.

Re:Delayed Again! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10848182)

Didn't do anything to produce the game? Wow...

Now, while perhaps they didn't supply the creative vision behind the game, a publisher does many things which are necessary for a game to ship. Generally, the largest amount of funding comes from the publisher, as an example. The box, the manual, and QA all were likely mostly due to the efforts of the publisher.

If the publisher really did nothing but collect revenue, developers wouldn't bother with them. But they are necessary.

Of course, this doesn't mean that VUG is a good publisher. I'm not commenting one way or the other on that.

Hi I'm Chris Morris! (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10834121)

I read /. and other game websites. Then I rip off other peoples stories for CNN!

Thanks again!

The Solution (3, Insightful)

Dachannien (617929) | more than 9 years ago | (#10834443)

The answer to the problem of profit-hungry publishers doing everything they can to keep developers under their thumbs is direct distribution, probably via Internet. It's the same answer as for underappreciated musicians, except even more-so: marketing for computer and video games tends to be far more word-of-mouth driven, since there's no equivalent of a Top 40 radio station for games. In fact, for a game like HL2 or Halo 2, the tremendous cost of marketing could practically be eliminated without affecting profit margin too badly - not necessarily a deal-breaker, since most developers prioritize "making a fun game" over "making metric assloads of cash".

Re:The Solution (2, Insightful)

Ahnteis (746045) | more than 9 years ago | (#10837224)

Holy cow, that sounds exactly like what Valve did!

Re:The Solution (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10843585)

Except they messed up and signed in contract with Vivendi an agreement not to release the game earlier online via Steam than in-box. Other than that, great - It's something like $20 cheaper for the full thing on Steam.

Not Black and White (2, Insightful)

hchaput (544841) | more than 9 years ago | (#10835572)

I am a programmer at EA and, without being specific in any way, I just want to say that not all of EA is like what has been posted on the blogs. I'm not saying they're not being truthful, and I have no reason to doubt them. I'm just saying that my experience is nothing like that, and that EA is not monolithic. I'd also like to say that, during my 14 years as a programmer, I've seen much much worse than what I'm reading on the blogs. (I'm surprised there isn't a class action suit on the same grounds against doctoral programs. And I paid them!) And by no means is this isolated to even the gaming industry. I once spent four straight days at work (no showers, no trips to Burger King) working on a database client.

Bad management and employee exploitation are wrong and should be stopped. Just please keep in mind that EA isn't the alpha and omega of programmer abuse.

Re:Not Black and White (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10843629)

I once spent four straight days at work (no showers, no trips to Burger King) working on a database client.

And you work for a gaming company? I think I see the next step in Maxis games - The Sims: At Work.

Re:Not Black and White (1)

hchaput (544841) | more than 9 years ago | (#10858533)

Sorry, to clarify, I worked on that database client at a different, non-EA company.

Publishers also fund games. (2, Interesting)

DrStrangeLug (799458) | more than 9 years ago | (#10840746)

While likes of Valve & ID can afford to fund development of a game themselves there are a lot of smaller development houses who are employed by publishing houses to develop games. I'd even hazard a guess that the major of games publishers fall into this catagory. The question [that a lot of people are asking] of how to remove the publisher from the loop extends to more than just getting the game onto the customers PC . Don't get me wrong, I liked the steam process and bought my HL2 from it. I love the idea that 100% of my money went to valve and not split between the shop and the guys who printed the box. So the prime question facing game development today is not "how do we do away with the publisher?" but "how do you fund new game development without a publisher?". I'd like to see a system where you could develop mini-games using the source SDK or an open source engine and sell them on a steam service for $5 a time or at a price that compares with renting a game from BlockBuster. Turn the games from monolithic creations into episodic series. Small games that equate to an evenings entertainment, both financial and in terms of enjoyment, positioning themselves alongside movies and TV as entertainment mediums. A subscription gaming network episodic games. Now that would scare the TV giants.
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