Monday 19 December 2011

CD Projekt & Piracy

This one's probably a bit more business-y than usual, first posted as it was over at GAMESbrief.

CD Projekt's been in the news of late over its judicious mailshotting of thousands of members of the German public with demands for settlements to the tune of €911.80 for alleged copyright infringement of The Witcher 2. You can get the details just about anywhere else: basically having removed DRM from the game post-launch as a move to placate honest customers (and much  inline with the outfit's indie facade), CD Projekt have gotten onboard with a law firm, tracked torrent IPs, and demanded retribution.

Naturally enough there's been a backlash. There are a bunch of tacks here, but the basic thing is this: torrent trolling is bad, innocent people get done. It's true enough. Certainly an IP is not a one hundred percent guarentee you've landed yourself a pirate; certainly there will be innocent people who unthinkingly pay up.

At the same time, though, I want to argue in support of CD Projekt; or at least against those reasons. It seems to me that every game company is put in a position where they have to consider their approach to piracy and how they can profit despite or even because of it. CD Projekt is doing its best in that regard. The people there identified that DRM wasn't working: the games were cracked on release, everyone was complaining, and it was probably costing them more money than it was saving. So they jacked it in.

The company's new approach means legitimate customers can enjoy their game without the hoops. It also allows the company to focus attention on the people they actually want (and are legally entitled) to prosecute. Clearly there will be mistakes (unsecured LANs, false IPs etc); but there always are, and there are always processes in place to handle them. CD Projekt is working according to the law and to the demands of its customers. I think it's marginally better than the previous system.

Now, if that all sounds a bit too square, let me add a caveat. I don't think this is the right way about it. Personally, I don't take issue with the handful of innocent IPs that get lettered, and I don't try to pretend that just because piracy isn't stealing that it isn't illegal. In fact, I wouldn't be at all surprised if a lot of the people complaining along those lines didn't either. What I take issue with is the attempt to secure the rights to our internet activity by the government. I take issue with approaches that try to control or fight the freedom the net grants people, and with piracy moves that try to plug the dam after the town's flooded. And yes, I take issue with someone telling me I can't stream an episode of South Park without getting an angry letter. A lot of people get a lot of crap for free now. Ask the Humble Indie Bundle if that's a problem for their bottom line.

My issue isn't with CD Projekt using the law to their best interest. My issue is with the law that allows it.

Friday 9 December 2011

Christmas Looms, Work Pervades, Sega Game is Awesome

Things have been slow around here (the blog, not the studio) over the last couple of months, and that's something I hope to correct in the new year. The reason for it is that Sept - Jan has been just about the busiest period of my career. There are good I've-had-lots-of-jobs-come-in reasons for that, but I've also been teaching the story design module at Southbank uni again, as well as taking the first step towards my PhD in the form of a Philosophy MA at King's College. I actually have to be out of bed by 8am four days a week.

Of most interest, though, is probably the secret project that's taking up most of my time. I'm currently narrative designer for a major new Sega IP for Playstation Vita being developed up at Sega's new 'boutique' studio outside of Birmingham. Boutique, for once, is actually being applied quite fairly - this is a bunch of around 15 highly talented chaps and chapesses producing what Sega sorely needs: new, ambitious, home-grown intellectual property. The studio's creative team is headed by Simon Woodroffe of Simon the Sorceror and Call of Cthulhu: Dark Corners of the Earth fame, and we're working on what is probably only the second game I've worked on which I felt might really do something great with its writing. (The first was the ill-fated Hydravision zombie game.)

The game's being designed from the ground up with narrative as its focus, and right now myself and another designer are knee deep in fleshing out the gameplay scenarios and producing a vertical slice. We're hoping to be able to announce details Q1 next year. Story development is actually in large part being informed by the aesthetics and philosophy of mind that I'm researching at King's, and I'll probably bore you to tears with some details on the latter some time soon.

In the meantime don't give up, stay chirpy, and we'll talk again very soon.