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ROSS'S GAME DUNGEON: BATTLEFORGE

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Hey Ross - loved this video. I'm glad you're passionate about the topic and I think the political spin adds flavor & depth to the game review format. I can relate, since a lot of my favorite games have fallen victim to server rot. Battlefield 2 and SWAT 4's multiplayer mode come to mind as particularly disheartening. Because of my personal attachment and associated memories, I agree with the emotional comparison to a beloved pet passing away.

 

That being said, I thought I'd chime in since I'm not seeing many counterpoints - I don't see any reason to characterize this practice as malevolent. Corporations routinely pull the plug on products or services, and it's not because they're supervillains who thrive on depriving people of happiness. It's because whatever they're discontinuing is no longer profitable. It's sad and unfortunate for affected consumers, but there's no logical reason why the plug shouldn't get pulled at that point. Many of the arguments I've seen follow the pattern of "company X should burn money maintaining a deprecated service so that I can have fun" - that line of thinking is self-centered. I would be outraged if Vanilla Coke were discontinued, but I'm not entitled to Vanilla Coke. I'd have no grounds to demand that they restore it, and I certainly couldn't call for legal or political action with any seriousness.

 

I liked your list of a publisher's 4 options when a game is no longer maintainable. I'm in favor of #2 ("Patch the game so that people can play it on private servers"); I think you had a good argument for why it's financially workable and saves stress to all parties. As a software developer for a company who is fiercely protective of IP, I nearly did a spit take at #3 ("Release the relevant source code for non-commercial use") - but Quake & Doom eventually got there, so who knows.

 

As for #4 - and this is really my point - I think a much more accurate characterization than "Go f*** yourself" would something like "Not my problem". It's cold, but it's not evil.

 

Great video, and looking forward to the next.

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There is one game that when I think about NFS world it sort of comes to mind, its an MMO Racing/RPG hybrid game called Drift City

It does seem to be one of those games you either grind alot on or you give in to the pay to win sort of system, I preferred grinding heavilly with this game but it is kinda fun......I played it alot when the servers were originally being run by Nexon, not sure who runs them now but the game is fun no doubt about it and would reconmend it if anyone wants an original game that feels cool as all hell, it does have some awesome cel shaded graphics too

 

http://driftcity.gamescampus.com/ I reconmend it if anyone wants to try something new when it comes to Racing games

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I'd like to mention option 3 to ensure the survival of online games isn't always realistic.

 

Many (if not most!) games utilize many middlewares to handle certain aspects of the game - for example, physics engines, sound engines and animation engines. Although it's perfectly legal to release the game code, usually it's not legal to release the middleware's source if you even have it in the first place - and without these middlewares, the game source is essentially neutered and useless.

 

Releasing the source code of a game is rarely easy, even under ideal situations. Consider Doom 3, where even though it was built on it's own engine from scratch with minimal outside middleware, releasing the source was STILL a headache because of software patents meaning that the lighting code (despite being independently discovered and written by John Carmack himself - Carmack's reverse) couldn't be released.

 

You know Ross, every game dungeon you do this thing I really like: You identify and call out companies and designers for cutting corners. I'm willing to bet that the reason NfS uses those tint filters is less out of trying to achieve the mood and more out of because actually doing the proper lighting manually would take them a lot longer. Every game cuts corners in one form or another, some are just more shameless in how they do it.

I don't think that's the reason. I honestly think it was a legitimate (if perhaps misguided) attempt at art direction. Tonemapping isn't inherently some "lazy" approach of faking lighting - I mean, with some tweaking of the "true" lighting colours, you'd get a practically identical effect. The point is, the game wouldn't look any better or much different whether you used tonemapping or modified the light colours to be identical.

 

Tonemapping is used in many games, and when it's used correctly you never even question it or realize it is there. That doesn't mean the effect is subtle, necessarily, it just means it's done in a natural way. There's no flaw with the technolgoy, it's a flaw with the art direction. You should criticize the art decision to make the world look so grey and dull, but not blame the graphics technique used to make that true. If the tonemapping wasn't used to make it look crap, then the lighting would be used to make it look crap.

 

I see this fallacy too often. People will say they hate bloom and HDR, but in reality they hate the way it's applied instead of the technique itself. When a technology is correctly applied, you often can't even tell it's being applied at all.

 

It's sad and unfortunate for affected consumers, but there's no logical reason why the plug shouldn't get pulled at that point. Many of the arguments I've seen follow the pattern of "company X should burn money maintaining a deprecated service so that I can have fun" - that line of thinking is self-centered. I would be outraged if Vanilla Coke were discontinued, but I'm not entitled to Vanilla Coke. I'd have no grounds to demand that they restore it, and I certainly couldn't call for legal or political action with any seriousness.

I have severe issues with this analogy. Simply put, we are entitled to playing games that we paid money for. If pay for a game, a company shouldn't be able to freely revoke access to playing it.

 

If it's a subscription-based MMO, it's fair enough. We are paying the company for a consumable month of gameplay. If it becomes unprofitable, I'd say the developer is morally justified in pulling the plug because ultimately they are paying money in hosting the servers. It's not a *good thing* but it's not fair to force the developers to pay to host servers when they aren't breaking even.

 

If it's a game where components are uselessly and deliberately made server-side for the sake of DLC or other purposes, then it's completely unfair, because we pay only once. We pay a higher price tag up-front, because we are buying a copy of the product - not just mere access to the product. Revoking access at that point is taking the game away from us which we already paid for.

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If you want to effect change you should get in touch with some other big youtube mouthpieces. Your Totalbiscuits, your Adam Kovics, your Yahtzees. Yes, you're in their league. You could have conversations with them that we can't. If you were all to shine a light on the issue then there's a good chance you could change the climate.

 

btw, love this series. I go to one of those "rotating dj" sites where people pick youtubes to play and we have viewing events every time a new episode drops.

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That being said, I thought I'd chime in since I'm not seeing many counterpoints - I don't see any reason to characterize this practice as malevolent. Corporations routinely pull the plug on products or services, and it's not because they're supervillains who thrive on depriving people of happiness. It's because whatever they're discontinuing is no longer profitable. It's sad and unfortunate for affected consumers, but there's no logical reason why the plug shouldn't get pulled at that point. Many of the arguments I've seen follow the pattern of "company X should burn money maintaining a deprecated service so that I can have fun" - that line of thinking is self-centered. I would be outraged if Vanilla Coke were discontinued, but I'm not entitled to Vanilla Coke. I'd have no grounds to demand that they restore it, and I certainly couldn't call for legal or political action with any seriousness.

 

Start saying that when people come to your house and burn all your clothes, take away your furniture, take apart your computer and steal all your food. Because you're not entitled to have it... :roll:

 

Oh... and take away your phone and delete your music playlists from all the devices you have (that will get confiscated too)*

 

I think your argumentation is really stupid...

 

*It's been four years!

 

 

 

I seriously suspect you want the current civilization to end and start an age of corpo-dystopian governing where people have no private property... 8-)

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Can i get a list of the music tracks you added into this video?
They're all either from the Battleforge or NFS World soundtrack. Metalforge was the end credits track, not included in the official soundtrack, but part of a free download EA had.

 

NFS World OST:

 

I am constantly enthralled in how passionate you get about these things. Yeah, corporate decisions are the worst. I work at McDonalds so I'm reminded of that constantly. This companies bringing in billions worldwide daily, yet we can't fix our ice machine because it's not in the budget. Once minimum wage went up, hours get cut. Any dip in profit, no matter how miniscule, results in drastic budget cuts for everyone. No one is safe from this, even gamers.
America's 2nd biggest employer! I actually cut a lot out of this episode because it was getting way too bitter.

 

Where did you get the time machine? (No, really how did you play the game?)
That's a story in itself, I'll probably save it for a follow-up later on.

 

That being said, I thought I'd chime in since I'm not seeing many counterpoints - I don't see any reason to characterize this practice as malevolent. Corporations routinely pull the plug on products or services, and it's not because they're supervillains who thrive on depriving people of happiness. It's because whatever they're discontinuing is no longer profitable. It's sad and unfortunate for affected consumers, but there's no logical reason why the plug shouldn't get pulled at that point. Many of the arguments I've seen follow the pattern of "company X should burn money maintaining a deprecated service so that I can have fun" - that line of thinking is self-centered. I would be outraged if Vanilla Coke were discontinued, but I'm not entitled to Vanilla Coke. I'd have no grounds to demand that they restore it, and I certainly couldn't call for legal or political action with any seriousness.

 

I liked your list of a publisher's 4 options when a game is no longer maintainable. I'm in favor of #2 ("Patch the game so that people can play it on private servers"); I think you had a good argument for why it's financially workable and saves stress to all parties. As a software developer for a company who is fiercely protective of IP, I nearly did a spit take at #3 ("Release the relevant source code for non-commercial use") - but Quake & Doom eventually got there, so who knows.

 

As for #4 - and this is really my point - I think a much more accurate characterization than "Go f*** yourself" would something like "Not my problem". It's cold, but it's not evil.

Hell, this one gets me worked up. First off, I want to be 100% clear on one point: I am in no way advocating that the company give up their IP in this situation. I think that would be a little ridiculous. Just because a game flops doesn't mean you can't try again later or sell it off and they shouldn't have to yield that. I was ONLY talking about the dead TITLE itself.

 

If you saw the previous video, I mentioned that I wasn't sure if this one counted as evil or not. I think if you're not a gamer and simply don't play games, it's hard to argue this is evil, since there is zero harm being done to you. If you like games however, it's basically the worst thing you can do to a gamer.

 

As for your argument, I feel you WOULD have a point if the game hadn't been designed to die from the get-go. I don't think companies should have to run a server forever, nor do I feel like they need to support a game forever. Those take resources. However, when your game is DESIGNED this way, knowing this is the end-game for it, then it becomes a deliberate act that is harmful to gamers. This stuff isn't an accident is the point. It's like if I'm driving a bus full of passengers and I KNOW I'm going to fall asleep at some point during the trip because I'm tired. Going ahead with it anyway would be criminal negligence at best. Now obviously that's an extreme example, but doing this with the intent that it will die I see as a form of malice for gamers. "Not my problem" only applies when you didn't actually CREATE the problem, let alone profited off it.

 

Again, releasing the source is sort of a contingency plan if everything else has gone wrong, and again, I'm NOT advocating relinquishing the IP. Hell, Valve released most of the relevant source code to Half-Life 2 on release, and their IP is still pretty damn strong. The BEST scenario is to have a failsafe option built into design. So if the server dies, you're ready and release the patch. The second best is to have enough resources to give a server patch and withdraw support, but keep selling the game. The source code release is if EVERYTHING fucked up. You didn't plan for it, you don't have the resources to make a patch, so here you go, here's the best we can do under the circumstances to save the game and make good to paying customers.

 

Like I said in the video, I'm the extremist. I feel NO game should be intentionally killed. NONE. So if a company plans for it, great. If they don't, they can still do things. But at some point, a line has to be drawn somewhere to not kill the damn game.

 

Many (if not most!) games utilize many middlewares to handle certain aspects of the game - for example, physics engines, sound engines and animation engines. Although it's perfectly legal to release the game code, usually it's not legal to release the middleware's source if you even have it in the first place - and without these middlewares, the game source is essentially neutered and useless.
Well I did say RELEVANT source. The idea here is if devs are actively going to kill a game that people paid for a game, they need to try and throw people a bone. I think it's unethical to create media with some artistic merit to it that's designed to die otherwise. So yeah, maybe you can't mod the game to have raining elephants, but they can't even be bothered to release enough code to get a private emulator up from the ashes, even though the game was in development for years and they took money from people this entire time? The bottom line is this is an absolutely preventable situation that no developer or gamer wants and if it was ENFORCED, companies would find a way to make solutions happen or they wouldn't do it in the first place.

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Again, releasing the source is sort of a contingency plan if everything else has gone wrong, and again, I'm NOT advocating relinquishing the IP. Hell, Valve released most of the relevant source code to Half-Life 2 on release, and their IP is still pretty damn strong. The BEST scenario is to have a failsafe option built into design. So if the server dies, you're ready and release the patch. The second best is to have enough resources to give a server patch and withdraw support, but keep selling the game. The source code release is if EVERYTHING fucked up. You didn't plan for it, you don't have the resources to make a patch, so here you go, here's the best we can do under the circumstances to save the game and make good to paying customers.

Saying that Valve released "most of the relevant source code" is simply not true. Valve released the SDK - they released the tools pipeline to make content for the engine, and released some wrapper code to actually talk to the engine. The meat and bones of the engine, and by far the significant majority of the codebase, is still completely under wraps.

 

Why does this matter? Because if Valve decided on a whim that distributing builds of the source engine itself was illegal (instead of freely as now), then modders and game developers on Source would be breaking the law if they releasing their work, and could be sued. The same goes for external middleware. You can't just legally rip the Havok physics engine machine code out of Source and use it in your own games... and on that matter, you can't legally rip some AI middleware out of the server software and push it into the client.

 

Reverse engineering itself is legal for compatibility purposes, but often releasing the actual results of this reverse-engineering (a modified build of the game) is highly illegal.

 

It's mostly down to how anal the middleware companies want to be, but if they wanted to, they could effectively make the game's source worthless. They could even try and argue that their API is their legal property and can't be shared - so then what can the game developer so? Redact all the lines which actually communicate with the middleware? That's hardly practical, and the end code would be practically unreadable.

 

Well I did say RELEVANT source. The idea here is if devs are actively going to kill a game that people paid for a game, they need to try and throw people a bone. I think it's unethical to create media with some artistic merit to it that's designed to die otherwise. So yeah, maybe you can't mod the game to have raining elephants, but they can't even be bothered to release enough code to get a private emulator up from the ashes, even though the game was in development for years and they took money from people this entire time? The bottom line is this is an absolutely preventable situation that no developer or gamer wants and if it was ENFORCED, companies would find a way to make solutions happen or they wouldn't do it in the first place.

Releasing only the relevant source isn't that helpful, even if it's possible to release that at all. It'd be like releasing Java source code in an alternate universe where nobody has a Java runtime - technically they've given you the code, but it's impossible for you to actually run and compile the code. Ultimately the programmer at the end would still need to reverse engineer the codebase and/or API of the middlewares they don't have. Ultimately that's better than reverse engineering EVERYTHING, but it's not much better really considering the complexity of these middleware tools.

 

I agree with you on a moral standpoint. Killing games is something that nobody would ever like to see... I just think that sometimes it's unavoidable, if the devs have dug themselves deep enough into a hole. Better planning at the start could always avoid it, but sometimes it'd just not practical to release source code. Of course, better planning at the start could ensure they'd planned for the contingency of releasing source code... but now we're just back at the start issue again.

 

The underlying issue is that games die because the developers ultimately dug them a grave from the start. They are on life support from the moment of release until the developer decides to pull the plug, and trying to get around this is incredibly difficult even in an ideal world where you have the full source code.

 

The real solution is that developers plan ahead... I think laws should be put in place to avoid this, preferably. However, the old games which have their servers shut down, or the new games that are destined to some day have their servers shut down? They are pretty much gone and I don't think it's really possible to save them, sadly. The only people who can properly save them are the developers, and that's only if they make the financial decision to save a dying game.

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You can't just legally rip the Havok physics engine machine code out of Source and use it in your own games... and on that matter, you can't legally rip some AI middleware out of the server software and push it into the client.
[/quote[ I think we're having a communication problem. You're literally describing the exact opposite scenario I was condoning: I was saying rip out the middleware (as in remove it from what you do distribute), then pass on the source code that your company did write for tinkerers of the dying game. Even then, it would be for noncommercial use only.

 

It's mostly down to how anal the middleware companies want to be, but if they wanted to, they could effectively make the game's source worthless. They could even try and argue that their API is their legal property and can't be shared - so then what can the game developer so? Redact all the lines which actually communicate with the middleware? That's hardly practical, and the end code would be practically unreadable.
I'm still not certain how common a scenario this would be to release server source code, but you may have a point in that would be a dead scenario. But then that makes the necessity for some sort of law all the more relevant.

 

I keep thinking back to the Xbox One releases where Major Nelson chided Angry Joe saying that removing the online only requirement was impossible, then lo and behold that's what happened once it became apparent it was going to be a suicide move. Companies can adapt and make things happen if they have an incentive to. Right now they have no tangible incentive, that's why a law or completely different climate is needed. Whatever we're doing now is not only not working, it's encouraging this behavior.

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You can't just legally rip the Havok physics engine machine code out of Source and use it in your own games... and on that matter, you can't legally rip some AI middleware out of the server software and push it into the client.
I think we're having a communication problem. You're literally describing the exact opposite scenario I was condoning: I was saying rip out the middleware (as in remove it from what you do distribute), then pass on the source code that your company did write for tinkerers of the dying game. Even then, it would be for noncommercial use only.

 

Ah, yeah we may be having a communication issue. My thoughts were a bit mixed up when I said that - here's what I meant:

 

Let's assume you are a modder trying to bring the game back to life, and the game's developers have given you the code (but without any of the middleware). If you wished to, you could theoretically rip the middleware machine code out of the server executable and plug it into the game, which would allow the game to work (with a bit of patching up), but importantly you wouldn't need to code a replacement for the middleware itself. However, such a practise is illegal if you wish to actually share the modified executable with other players - which means that creating a modified version of the game that is standalone is actually very difficult, even with the source code to non-middleware-related parts.

 

I was talking about the programmer's options when trying to revive the game's standpoint when given only source to the game without middleware, not the company's options for releasing the source.

 

I keep thinking back to the Xbox One releases where Major Nelson chided Angry Joe saying that removing the online only requirement was impossible, then lo and behold that's what happened once it became apparent it was going to be a suicide move. Companies can adapt and make things happen if they have an incentive to. Right now they have no tangible incentive, that's why a law or completely different climate is needed. Whatever we're doing now is not only not working, it's encouraging this behavior.

 

Removing an online-only component is almost never impossible. However, it can be very expensive. Anyways, usually when game developers say "we are using the cloud to perform calculations", they are just talking out of their ass to try to justify online-only DRM, like with Simcity.

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You can't just legally rip the Havok physics engine machine code out of Source and use it in your own games... and on that matter, you can't legally rip some AI middleware out of the server software and push it into the client.
I think we're having a communication problem. You're literally describing the exact opposite scenario I was condoning: I was saying rip out the middleware (as in remove it from what you do distribute), then pass on the source code that your company did write for tinkerers of the dying game. Even then, it would be for noncommercial use only.

 

Ah, yeah we may be having a communication issue. My thoughts were a bit mixed up when I said that - here's what I meant:

 

Let's assume you are a modder trying to bring the game back to life, and the game's developers have given you the code (but without any of the middleware). If you wished to, you could theoretically rip the middleware machine code out of the server executable and plug it into the game, which would allow the game to work (with a bit of patching up), but importantly you wouldn't need to code a replacement for the middleware itself. However, such a practise is illegal if you wish to actually share the modified executable with other players - which means that creating a modified version of the game that is standalone is actually very difficult, even with the source code to non-middleware-related parts.

 

I was talking about the programmer's options when trying to revive the game's standpoint when given only source to the game without middleware, not the company's options for releasing the source.

I could be completely off base here, but I recall mods in the past where they would say "you need to download and install X,Y,Z THEN run the mod script in order for the mod to work". The idea being that their mod depended on 3rd party tools or middleware that they couldn't legally distribute, but they streamlined it as much as possible if you were willing to get the external software yourself. Could programmers take a similar approach if they were given the code to a game (and knew it used specific middleware) where the developers can't give them everything, but programmers could take the additional steps to acquire the middleware on their own?

 

EDIT:

Another thing is it's very unlikely the exact same code would be suitable at all. Scaling down your game for thousands of people meant to run on a server farm to dozens on a single server might require a rewrite of all kinds of things, but I would think the more information the fans have access to, the more of a headstart they can get trying to replicate similar functionality.

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So, Ross, what are your thoughts on a game that has a built-in expiration date as a selling point?

Will anyone actually buy the game even with the expiration date announced beforehand? I won't have much problems if it were free to play, but this is wrong in many ways.

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I could be completely off base here, but I recall mods in the past where they would say "you need to download and install X,Y,Z THEN run the mod script in order for the mod to work". The idea being that their mod depended on 3rd party tools or middleware that they couldn't legally distribute, but they streamlined it as much as possible if you were willing to get the external software yourself. Could programmers take a similar approach if they were given the code to a game (and knew it used specific middleware) where the developers can't give them everything, but programmers could take the additional steps to acquire the middleware on their own?

 

EDIT:

Another thing is it's very unlikely the exact same code would be suitable at all. Scaling down your game for thousands of people meant to run on a server farm to dozens on a single server might require a rewrite of all kinds of things, but I would think the more information the fans have access to, the more of a headstart they can get trying to replicate similar functionality.

The issue with requiring the consumer to install X, Y and Z first is that only works when the middleware has a freely available user component. If the middleware isn't freely available to users (like an animation middleware - you can't exactly pop onto Rad Game's Tools and just download the .dll for Granny 3d), and especially if the middleware is statically linked instead of dynamically linked, then it'd be practically impossible to legally redistribute the required data, if you can even get a hold of it in the first place.

 

I do agree that it gives a headstart to modders. However, I've found many other modders I've worked with are rather... cynical, and it actually backfires. People would rather be given nothing than be given half of what they wanted, surprisingly enough. I've worked on a Total War mod, and whenever a new modding tool was announced people would immediately point out limitations in the system and get very angry - to the extent that they'd be happier when left without any sort of developer support at all!

 

If you release only half of what is needed people will usually just accuse the developers of malicious intent - "you pretend to support us, but in reality you give us broken tools so our lives are harder!". It's not a particularly logical mindset, but I've seen it a lot. I wish it weren't this way, but ultimately it means that the developers either get a whole bunch of negative press for releasing tools or they get no press and people are silently angry.

 

Just take a look at this, from a modding summit hosted by the Creative Assembly (developers of Total War): http://www.twcenter.net/forums/showthread.php?678823-Mod-Summit-2015-Assembly-Kit-for-Total-War-ATTILA

 

Just a few posts down we see this:

That is exactly what i was about to post now!!

That proves that this summit is a big joke (to avoid post more agressive terms) and all its happening there is a feast on the suckers (us all)!!!!

IF any one of the so called "modders" will post that CA created a modding tool he/she will have us all for fools!

 

These people are actually probably the minority, but they are just so vocal that it's often not worth the risk from the developer's perspective.

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I do agree that it gives a headstart to modders. However, I've found many other modders I've worked with are rather... cynical, and it actually backfires. People would rather be given nothing than be given half of what they wanted, surprisingly enough. I've worked on a Total War mod, and whenever a new modding tool was announced people would immediately point out limitations in the system and get very angry - to the extent that they'd be happier when left without any sort of developer support at all!

Well, you are assuming they would want to use the same exact middleware. While it IS more faithful to the original, sometimes it's simpler or even better to replace the module with something else.

Let's say that the developers wanted to use Havok as their physics engine. By removing it and releasing the source code, the modders might be want to be unfaithful and use another physics engine, which may be a hypothetical free iteration of Havok, or another physics engine which might be open source. Now, this is stepping into mod territory from total preservation territory, but if that's the only way of keeping at least some aspect of the game alive, I'm fine with it.

Heck, if there's a community for that game after some time went by, they might even improve upon it with some tinkering and state-of-the-art software. That's opening a previously unmodifiable game up for total modding, and that's a pretty big stride.

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I do agree that it gives a headstart to modders. However, I've found many other modders I've worked with are rather... cynical, and it actually backfires. People would rather be given nothing than be given half of what they wanted, surprisingly enough. I've worked on a Total War mod, and whenever a new modding tool was announced people would immediately point out limitations in the system and get very angry - to the extent that they'd be happier when left without any sort of developer support at all!

Well, you are assuming they would want to use the same exact middleware. While it IS more faithful to the original, sometimes it's simpler or even better to replace the module with something else.

Let's say that the developers wanted to use Havok as their physics engine. By removing it and releasing the source code, the modders might be want to be unfaithful and use another physics engine, which may be a hypothetical free iteration of Havok, or another physics engine which might be open source. Now, this is stepping into mod territory from total preservation territory, but if that's the only way of keeping at least some aspect of the game alive, I'm fine with it.

Heck, if there's a community for that game after some time went by, they might even improve upon it with some tinkering and state-of-the-art software. That's opening a previously unmodifiable game up for total modding, and that's a pretty big stride.

 

Often there's no replacement for the middleware, and even if there is, converting it can be incredibly time-consuming and difficult. Consider VPhysics, a project to replace the Havok physics of the Source engine with Bullet - although it's definitely impressive, it's still hugely buggy and causes many game-breaking issues.

 

Other middlewares just cannot reasonably be replaced. An animation middleware like granny has their own special animation format which stores curves instead of keyframes, and converting from that could be difficult. Bink video has their own video formats, and Wwise has their own audio formats. Finding converters for file formats is hard enough, but even then ensuring that the game can correctly interface with replaced components could be practically impossible.

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Other middlewares just cannot reasonably be replaced. An animation middleware like granny has their own special animation format which stores curves instead of keyframes, and converting from that could be difficult. Bink video has their own video formats, and Wwise has their own audio formats. Finding converters for file formats is hard enough, but even then ensuring that the game can correctly interface with replaced components could be practically impossible.

I'm not saying it wouldn't take some major time and effort, but there have been projects that have succeeded with the exact same thing.

One example comes to mind with a Deus Ex mod, HDTP. They needed to convert all of the animations, skeletons and models from a format they can modify (i.e. a Maya project) to objects UE1.5 can read, and that was a massive undertaking which could've taken them years. They've completed it in a few months using volunteers to use their own computers as a distributed server farm, and then send the results to centralized server.

 

Again, this was a very well documented format and I'm not saying it's a one-size-fits-all solution, but it's better than nothing. Plus, even if it's buggy, it can still run. It can still be optimized, and most importantly - the game can still be experienced in some form.

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I do agree that it gives a headstart to modders. However, I've found many other modders I've worked with are rather... cynical, and it actually backfires. People would rather be given nothing than be given half of what they wanted, surprisingly enough. I've worked on a Total War mod, and whenever a new modding tool was announced people would immediately point out limitations in the system and get very angry - to the extent that they'd be happier when left without any sort of developer support at all!

Well, you are assuming they would want to use the same exact middleware. While it IS more faithful to the original, sometimes it's simpler or even better to replace the module with something else.

Let's say that the developers wanted to use Havok as their physics engine. By removing it and releasing the source code, the modders might be want to be unfaithful and use another physics engine, which may be a hypothetical free iteration of Havok, or another physics engine which might be open source. Now, this is stepping into mod territory from total preservation territory, but if that's the only way of keeping at least some aspect of the game alive, I'm fine with it.

Heck, if there's a community for that game after some time went by, they might even improve upon it with some tinkering and state-of-the-art software. That's opening a previously unmodifiable game up for total modding, and that's a pretty big stride.

Well I admit middleware can be an issue I overlooked, but I doubt stuff like Havok or RAD game tools, I'm talking about JUST getting server emulation functional again, which I would think would cut down on the amount of source that needs to be released (and middleware in use). I mean things like physics and animations are typically handled client-side. Also true preservation would be impossible for some of these games anyway. I guess I agree that this isn't as cut and dried as it could be (that's what followup episodes are for), however, we're still doing NOTHING v. releasing SOME code, SOME documents. We seem to be on the same page anyway that some sort of law regarding this would cut through a lot of the where this becomes a liability of the company bringing in money rather than the people paying for it. Again, my reasoning revolves around the game dying being unacceptable and works its way out from there. Any scenario that leads to a commercial game still being killed intentionally I see as one that needs to be changed.

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Well I admit middleware can be an issue I overlooked, but I doubt stuff like Havok or RAD game tools, I'm talking about JUST getting server emulation functional again, which I would think would cut down on the amount of source that needs to be released (and middleware in use). I mean things like physics and animations are typically handled client-side. Also true preservation would be impossible for some of these games anyway. I guess I agree that this isn't as cut and dried as it could be (that's what followup episodes are for), however, we're still doing NOTHING v. releasing SOME code, SOME documents. We seem to be on the same page anyway that some sort of law regarding this would cut through a lot of the where this becomes a liability of the company bringing in money rather than the people paying for it. Again, my reasoning revolves around the game dying being unacceptable and works its way out from there. Any scenario that leads to a commercial game still being killed intentionally I see as one that needs to be changed.

Physics is typically server-side, otherwise every player would see a different state of the world. Some games which don't care much about physical state (like CS: GO) have client-side physics, but games like Garry's Mod where the physical location of items is shared with every player, the physics is serverside. Animation is usually client-side when it comes to actually performing the blending and IK and actually manipulating the skeleton, but the animation state machines are usually server-side (if a player is crouching, walking, or running, every other player should know about it). Of course, many other components are often at least partially serverside. Usually games will have their own networking systems instead of using TCP (usually UDP with some added features), since TCP is built for a web browser and so doesn't care much about latency. These networking systems are obviously partially serverside, and can often be middleware.

 

I do agree that releasing some code is better than none, but it's not really that much better. Honestly, releasing code with redacted elements could actually be counter-productive because of the added confusion it'd create in the codebase. And of course, because of software patents it can be illegal for a company to release code they own fully. If your game uses perlin noise for procedural generation, if it uses marching cubes for voxel meshing, or if it uses Carmack's reverse, then you'd be unable to share that section of the code. Undoubtedly in most games there will be many other portions of the codebase which are riddled with patented techniques.

 

I know what you're thinking - "so what? just release everything else! Something is better than nothing!". That's true... but then it misses the point. The "release the source code" option was listed as the last possible choice, when nothing else is possible and they don't have the time or money to continue, but it isn't.

 

To release the source requires hiring technically inclined lawyers to read your source code, for programmers to look through it and redact information, it requires collaboration with middleware companies to figure out how much they are willing to allow, and in reality it requires masses of effort. Releasing the code could take as much effort as making a patch could! So, the "go fuck yourself" option isn't chosen because of selfish desire to hide the source. It's chosen because the other options could amount to "go fuck ourselves". No company wants to risk being sued, and no company wants to waste money and effort on patching a game nobody plays.

 

The issue stems from the decision to make online-only games. The issue isn't to do with making online-only games playable after-the-fact. Although it's very sad that these games are gone, trying to fix it by requesting that companies release source is just hiding the wound instead of healing it. The entire concept of an online-only game is fundamentally flawed if you ever want the game to survive.

 

I'd like to say that NONE of what I'm saying is an excuse - it's just an explanation. I don't think companies should be allowed to do this. However, companies do not do it out of malicious intent, they do it out of brutal efficiency and in the pursuit of money. When every possible option expect for 4 requires spending money for no gain, they are always going to choose option 4.

 

I've greatly enjoyed this conversation. It's fantastic having a place to communicate where people are fair! On places like Reddit I find myself being downvoted because I say what's true instead of what people want to hear, regardless of what I actually believe from a moral standpoint.

 

As always, I love your videos. Can't wait for the next one!

 

I'm not saying it wouldn't take some major time and effort, but there have been projects that have succeeded with the exact same thing.

One example comes to mind with a Deus Ex mod, HDTP. They needed to convert all of the animations, skeletons and models from a format they can modify (i.e. a Maya project) to objects UE1.5 can read, and that was a massive undertaking which could've taken them years. They've completed it in a few months using volunteers to use their own computers as a distributed server farm, and then send the results to centralized server.

 

Again, this was a very well documented format and I'm not saying it's a one-size-fits-all solution, but it's better than nothing. Plus, even if it's buggy, it can still run. It can still be optimized, and most importantly - the game can still be experienced in some form.

I'm not saying that doing this is impossible, I'm just stating how difficult it is. A game like Deus Ex is very old and it's techniques are frankly pathetic by todays standards. My point is more about the companies decisions. This discussion has gone onto a bit off a tangent here...

 

It's ALWAYS possible to reverse-engineer a game to working state. However, I think that highly redacted source just isn't that important ultimately. The parts that are redacted are usually the parts which are toughest to replace, which kinda defeats the point. Deus Ex was just about changing the models to an intermediate format which they could modify, and has nothing to do with actually replacing middleware systems.

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