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"Games as a service" is fraud.

My ultimate video on “games as a service”! This video is more fact-heavy than the vast majority of ones I make, but it’s on a topic that I think is the largest problem in gaming today. As you’ll see in the video, this is my declaration of war on “games as a service.” I’ve been meaning to make this video since at least last year, there’s been a lot leading up to this. It’s quite long and dryer than my usual stuff, you may want to watch it in chunks, or just skip straight to the ending.

In the past, I’ve made “Dead Game News” videos as a way to shine a light on how bad the practice of destroying games is. That hasn’t been enough to curtail the practice in any way whatsoever; on the contrary, the practice continues to accelerate. This video is essentially what “Dead Game News” was leading up to. I was hoping to raise enough awareness on the topic to take some sort of real action against it. Most of the video is a “deprogramming” of the industry narrative as to what “games as a service” is, similar to how you would try to treat a rescued cult member, hence the reason it’s so long.

The end goal of this video is to lead to some sort of legal action against the industry (details on that in the video). Now that I’ve learned enough about the topic to see that this could actually be possible, I think it’s the only chance for saving many games in the future. I honestly have zero idea if this video will lead to real action being taken or if things will completely fizzle out. Either way, I felt compelled to make it, like it wasn’t even in my control. This video is very much a “It’s better to regret something you have done, than regret something you haven’t done” situation.

This did take time away from my other usual videos, my apologies about that, but it also served as an exorcism for me so that I don’t have to keep obsessing on this topic in the future. It’s in fate’s hands now, I’ve done what I can, we’ll just see what happens. Anyway, more fun videos are coming for the future, which is what I’d rather be making anyway!

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It's quite alright. I also apologize if I came out as sort of mean. I was just annoyed that I couldn't seem to get my full point across. I guess I am also partly to blame since I forgot that you did in fact mention that you hadn't come to that part of the video yet.

 

I feel the same way as you do with this whole thing. It's quite depressing for me as well.

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It's been a while since the last RGD, and Freeman's Mind episodes can be kinda short (comparatively), so I was really happy to see an hour long Ross video in my feed; loved the video \m/

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Posted (edited)
5 hours ago, Elfing said:

I was actually quite surprised Ross didn't mention that "games as a service" eliminates piracy at the "pros and cons" part.

While this is true - always-online games is a sort of DRM, and probably the most efficient one available today, it doesn't absolutely eliminate privacy. Once there is a server emulator it is essentially the crack - and as an aside, the same thing goes with games with DRM when their service goes down. Such a thing has happened multiple times in the past with Denuvo, or, hey - your Steam library! No connection, no way to login and play - although Steamworks is sort of a placebo DRM.

 

All of that being said, it's a counterargument against Ross's point and it should be debated and addressed. Ross cannot feasibly make a foolproof defense against the absolute entirety of arguments against his point, and those who support it (or heck, even those who don't and want to debate) need to step up and fill in the gaps. This video is a call to action to make all consumers' lives better rather than a panacea. We, the consumers, need to fight for our rights and keep this topic debated until change is made.

 

And as a counterpoint to what I've said, he did the research. While we can debate using logic and well known facts, Ross presented some lesser known and more indepth ones that can fuel our arguments. Piracy is such a widely debated and very wide topic that could've detracted from the video, while the pros and cons for it in this context can be googled pretty easily and are kind of known beforehand. I think the video should stay as-is, and maybe not even get involved in Ross's stance on piracy (can be seen in multiple RGDs where he used cracked games because they simply weren't available to purchase, or joined a server emulator session for Battleforge) but the discussions it will generate on the topic could definitely include it and every other subject under the sun, and we debaters should be prepared.

Edited by Forgot_My_Account

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Just a heads up, folks.  I will not be doing subtitles for this video.  If someone else wants to do the subtitles for this video, please go ahead and do them, then post them to the appropriate section and I'll do the proofreading and get them ready for publishing.


I'm sorry, everyone.  This is just too long and too dense for me.

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Imagine if books behaved like games these days - While they are sitting on your shelf, the author is making edits every now and then, so when you want to go back to a book you liked, it might very well be a completely different book. And if by some chance the author dies, all of the pages go blank.

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On 4/26/2019 at 12:24 AM, daisekihan said:

Well, in a sense I agree, but on the other hand it seems like you’re skating by on a technicality of the distinction between a good and a service. It seems more like these games are something in between a good and a service. 

 

Also, supposing you’re right and any online-only game is committing fraud if they don’t charge a fee and shut their game down. You say all these games couldn’t afford to go back to subscriptions—why couldn’t they just charge $0.01 for a yearly subscription? I mean, when you try to catch a company on a technicality like that, there’s always going to be loopholes. I think it would be hard to make this stick unless you could prove that when people buy an online only game with no subscription fee, they have the expectation that they will be able to play it indefinitely.

You call it a technicality, countries like Canada define them as dead-to-rights goods.  As for loopholes, sure, that's possible, but do companies really want to kick off players who lapse for a couple months and lower their playerbase for not paying 3 cents?  Having other players run around in the server and keep it populated is worth more to them than that, that's the reason the free to play model is so successful.  Again, this is CHEAP, cheaper than finding ways of evading it.  The only thing that's cheaper is doing nothing at all, I'm trying to see if the law can slam that door shut.

23 hours ago, Elfing said:

I was actually quite surprised Ross didn't mention that "games as a service" eliminates piracy at the "pros and cons" part. Now I am in no way arguing that setting up your game so that it is dependent on a central server is a sane and ethical way of preventing piracy -even though current regular DRM is extremely weak and gets cracked within days or even hours upon release-, however I think that was another counter argument that you had to answer towards the end. Games as a service is objectively better for the seller when it comes to maintaining profits by eliminating the chance for "cracks" of the game to be made but it is NOT fully defensable since you do breach the deal you made with the buyer by also preventing those who obtained the game legitimately to play it again.

It's like the other features I mentioned.  Eliminating piracy does not require you to ALSO destroy the game forever upon shutdown.  In other words, sure it eliminates piracy while the service is running, but that does not REQUIRE the game to die after shutdown.  The logic on this can confuse people.

 

22 hours ago, Im_CIA said:

This general call to arms against corporate greed reminds me of a book I read recently, Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe.

 

The story takes place in first wave of the European conquest of Africa, where the main character tries to rally his village to fight back against their oppressive, white colonizers. Unfortunately for him, most people just wanted to live and let live.

 

I get the feeling this will fizzle out in a similar way.. 

I admit the odds aren't great, but I am legitimately seeing a chance, so I'm going for it.  If I thought it was hopeless, I wouldn't have made this.  It's like I said, I need it to end or I need to be defeated. 

23 hours ago, Im_CIA said:

I don't care, there hasnt been a good video game since 2004. Gaming deserves to die

I may quote you for a future video I have planned, you may like it.

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Posted (edited)

Probably not the reaction you intended but I love the backgrounds you use from old source maps. There's a twitter account that posts pictures from old HL1 era maps but it's just not the same thing.

 

I used to load up custom tf2 maps by myself and just take in the ambience. I'm weird.          

 

Edit: Looks like someone was inspired to follow in his footsteps and make a twitter for Unreal maps.

Edited by Archdeco

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I don't know about anyone else but I didn't get any errors or anything similar while watching the video.  I'm guessing that downloading the video could fix any problems with YouTube.

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The only fraud I see is false advertisment. They say that they sell games but instead they sell what is basically a client to service provided by their servers.
I think that this won't stop and at best you could force companies to make sure to clearly state that the function of the software is just to allow access to their service and to make them run their servers for at least a certain period after they stop selling the client.

Therefore I think that going the way of games are art, has more of a chance of stopping games from dying. First step is easy - games are art and honestly it is surprising to me that it seems not obvious to many people. Film is a combination of pictures, music, storytelling and the filmmaker's ability to make it work together and it was accepted as art long ago. Video games are just the next step.
Successfuly arguing for the need to preserve this art, you would cover everything - subscribtion based games, multiplayer only games, emulators, online archives preserving games and when it is ok to upload game files to archive them (thus possibly solving the gray area of abandoned games).

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Posted (edited)

I think saying that games are art is debatable, but the effort put behind them, is as real as it gets, and that's why I think they fall pretty easily under the goods section. It might be digital media, but it still requires a human in order to be created, just as with a painting, or with a book.

 

I think we really need to start to define goods as, anything that is real, and anything that is created.

Edited by RaTcHeT302

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Posted (edited)

Hello everyone,

Hope not to butt in too aggressively here.

i think the money part is obviously very important. This has been observed even when games where a far cry from the kind of business they are now, and even if games were not so widely lauded as art as they are today, they were at the same time not simply considered "products" to shell out each year as much either.

So for profits, the server model is probably not only about anti-piracy, but about selling "new" products continuously, and Ross mentioned some things in the video that do show this kind of "selling then breaking the games" might have something to do with it, for example when he relayed that it will take a week or so for the developers to make a game ready for long term enjoyment, just like we would hope for games or (non-live) art to be.

So the time and money involved is not too significant (and worth it, if the proud developers are trying to preserve an evergreen..) . It would also not affect the company's income in any way as they have stopped to sell the game at this point any way, it is "dead". Only that, were it still alive, fewer people would buy the next game that is exactly the same but with updated graphics.

 

By the way some people still play Tribes 1, it is possible to download for free, only most servers are in the US. Great game, but sadly people have wandered off to the sequels ;)

 

Regards

 

Edited by Immergrün

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Just playing a devils advocate here: companies can just create new shell entities to run the game and shutdown the whole controlling entity on game termination. No one to sue - no liability.

 

The point is - I really interested WHY companies are going with game-as-a-service. As you've correctly mentioned - it's a lot harder and actually maintaining the game servers cost money. So while it generates more money, it's also more risky and a bigger investment. Yet publishers seem to be throwing money at very weird projects, that would be quite risky even under normal model.

Thing is - if that's just piracy thing or microtransactions, then it would be not so (relatively) hard to "persuade" (using a strong argument of legal gun and a nice word) companies to stop ensure end-of-life plans. But if they have some other reasons - they may fight it to death.

And about that "minimal plan". I am a game engine programmer, so I know quite a bit about it. It's not that easy - there are third-party libs everyone are using that bound with license to the product. You can't just "release" the server in many cases - it's tied to client (code share) that uses those third-party libs, it's tied to platforms and SDKs that are usually under NDA.

So they have following options:
1. Release source code for the game/server side without third-party. In most codebases I've seen that would be a gigantic work (because most game codebases are a mess). Plus server side software is usually where know-how of a game is. Also depends if they are using some sort of commercial engine - their license may just well forbid it.

2. Release server executable - that really depends on the game. For MMOs that's practically impossible, as MMO server is a conglomerate of executables and services with special configuration, usually heavily tied to the platform it runs on. So basically they will have to provide a hell lot of stuff that will only be able to be run by someone who have enough money to run it on commercial cloud platform. I.e. they will just give it to their competitors.

3. Release game server assets and data and provide information about protocols and stuff. Same thing - most codebases are a mess and such information will usually show much of a mess it is. No one likes to be a laughing stock, plus yes - it may help "hackers" against other games with same tech. Which again may run into legal issues if they are using some third-party software to implement those algorithms.

4. Provide data and means to reverse-engineer everything else - legal problems against third-party. Plus it's like giving everyone a free pass on reverse-engineering their products. Legal teams will NEVER approve something like that.

Plus I do believe that in some cases games are being shut-down to avoid competition with a new game. Which kinda kills the purpose if you release it afterwards so people can play the game you were supposed to kill. Not all killed games are like that, of course, but companies will fight against any law that will forbid them doing that.

In short - while for some games (say Destiny) releasing their servers is trivial and won't take much effort, for others that will basically amount of giving up very expensive tech for free that can be used to build similar games in outside jurisdictions (i.e. China).

So I think it would be nice to distill down use-cases and reasons and try to find some compromise. I think in general large scale open-world MMOs with centralized server are most probably won't be able/willing to provide end of life solutions. They will just avoid legal trouble by moving into other jurisdicions, shell companies and whatnot.

Games that are basically single-player with additional multiplayer made online-only (such as Destiny, which is actually p2p with very little on the server, or many of online-only games like Sim City, Diablo 3) - those can be forced to develop such new games with end-of-life in mind. Existing games are probably lost.

So it really goes on how much of technology and know-how a game company will have to forfeit to implement end-of-life. It's like enough to build a similar game on similar commercial scale - they will never do that.

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I had a thought about what a game as a service truly means.

We are pretty much buying broken products already. They are broken by design, sadly.

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18:57 Where do I find the List of the Video games, that got shut down?

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After watching your video i decided to add guaranteed working period in description for my games i think its very good practice.
Games have two parts: software and services. The software is good and ussualy you are actually buying software and in addition you are provided with access to the services.
And, as a game producer, i can say that it has nothing to do with a 'games as a service'.
GAAS is gamedev term which describes a way of managing game production. You have to spend more time and resources in operating stage by constantly providing new updates to retain players in contrast to 'traditional' model 'ship and forget' there you spent all money on initial development.  
Also, as a game developer, sometimes i don't want to share server and client code even if support of the game has ended, because i ussualy reuse that code a lot and i don't want to have my production code in public))

 

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18 hours ago, NightNord said:

I really interested WHY companies are going with game-as-a-service

Because GAAS is very good for MMO, f2p games. Also it is less risky because you will release your game earlier in dev cycle, will receive players feedback and that will allow you to make changes w/o spending a lot of resources on remaking whole game. Better games with less resources is very good for small teams.

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19 hours ago, NightNord said:

And about that "minimal plan". I am a game engine programmer, so I know quite a bit about it. It's not that easy - there are third-party libs everyone are using that bound with license to the product. You can't just "release" the server in many cases - it's tied to client (code share) that uses those third-party libs, it's tied to platforms and SDKs that are usually under NDA.

 

I'm not even pretending to be knowledgeable on that part, but I've gotten a few messages on this that I've been referring to the person who worked reverse engineering a server emulator.  Here's a general response I've been sending, no one's replied back yet:

 

I was only talking about the "minimum effort" options to give users a fighting CHANCE to create a server emulator.  To that, he replied with this:

 

"On the documentation part, it would highly unusual for the server engineers not to keep SOME packet documentation during development since the server developers and the client developers are often separate.There is guaranteed, at least SOME packet documentation. There has to be. Like imagine that packet 02A sent a 8 bit packet of numbers, and it had to do with say, MPH in a racing game. This is really simplified, but you'll get the point. Then one of the 20 programmers comes along and has to ask EACH TIME what packet to check for that info.There's no way, at that point it becomes a profit loss not to have the server developer just type what it fucking is into something like OpenKM so people can search for it."

 

He also attached a comment somebody else made in the comments (attached below)

 

QuJSf6j.png

 

If you're saying that's still way off base, feel free to give specifics that I can pass on to him.  If you have specific grievances, you can even get as technical as you want, so I can pass it along to him even if it goes over my head.  On that note, I have some questions for you if you don't mind:

 

1. Since you're saying his time estimate is way off base, in your opinion, what is the BARE MINIMUM of effort a developer can do upon game shutdown to give users a CHANCE to attempt to create a server emulator?  In other words, not a functional emulator, just enough info to not make things an almost-impossible task.  Everyone seems to agree that disabling packet encryption is a big one (that alone could save YEARS or work).  What else?

 

2. How long would you estimate your bare minimum effort solution would take to implement?

 

3. The above is referring only to games that had no EOL plan to begin with.  But say you were creating a game from the design phase where you knew you wanted an EOL plan upon shutdown so users would have some method to run the game upon shutdown.  Assume it doesn't need to retain 100% functionality, so it may not contain things like auction houses, matchmaking, or being able to handle the same volume of players as a central server.  Just as long as the player can technically run around in the game and get some of the bare bones playability from the game.  How much extra work / budget do you estimate creating the EOL would take?  Assume 2 different scenarios:

3a. A simple arena shooter like Nosgoth or Lawbreakers

3b. A moderately sized MMO like Firefall or Wildstar

 

 

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Hi Ross,

 

I've been a silent follower of yours since Civil Protection days. I only wish there were more people around with this common sense approach to the game industry.

 

At 1:09:30 in the video you mention that Microtransactions is what companies/publishers care for the most, and how preserving games should not affect that. I would disagree here, we are all humans, and our life time is limited, we only have so much time we can spend every day playing games.

People behind these games would want us to spend the maximum possible amount of that time playing their game, validating our purchases and getting attached to our spendings and our time spent with the game, thus increasing the possibility of us spending even more money on the same game over and over.

Preserving old games, creates competition for that time. Especially when the older games are sometimes superior to the new, because often depth is sacrificed for accessibility and to push better performance to the limit to afford better graphics, or, simply to push out the new game out the door sooner. Finally, the market is saturated with competition, often competing games only differ in setting/looks/naming conventions, but mechanically are identical. Demand for our time is at premium here, they really don't want us to be distracted playing these "old and irrelevant" games that don't generate them any profit.

 

I have worked as a QA tester and environement/level designer in the industry for a few years, and one thing was always the same, people with money behind it always want more money back the fastest way possible. Because this industry is relatively new along with software development they often go into legally gray areas to maximize their profits. This is why I wouldn't put it past them to possibly have this reasoning behind not caring for preservation of old games. But its probably just lack of time/care for this in majority of the cases.

 

PS: I wish I had legal know how or means to help you in this Ross! But you can have my power! I am with you morally on this!

 

Thank you!

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On 4/26/2019 at 7:19 PM, Ross Scott said:

You call it a technicality, countries like Canada define them as dead-to-rights goods.  As for loopholes, sure, that's possible, but do companies really want to kick off players who lapse for a couple months and lower their playerbase for not paying 3 cents?  Having other players run around in the server and keep it populated is worth more to them than that, that's the reason the free to play model is so successful.  Again, this is CHEAP, cheaper than finding ways of evading it.  The only thing that's cheaper is doing nothing at all, I'm trying to see if the law can slam that door shut.

Well, it just “seems” like a technicality to me, but I’m not a a lawyer. Not to mention, given that there are still free online only games even in Canada, I would imagine their legal teams for these companies would fight you on them being dead to rights. Not that I agree with them, but laws are usually not black and white. 

 

As to the loopholes, I think my scenario might be more plausible than you think, but even if it isn’t, there are certainly other  ways they could think of to get around a legal ruling that required them to fork over their part of the game when they shut down servers if they are so reluctant to now for whatever reason, if it really would be as cheap as you posit to not do so.

 

One problem you are probably going to have is that there are so many political and legal issues people are worried about right now due to the rise of the far-right—just yesterday they got back into the Spanish parliament for the first time since Franco—that they would see this sort of thing as low priority. Like, the effects of the environmental deregulation by the current U.S. administration are already pretty scary at this precarious point, so it’s easy to completely focus on things like that if you’re trying to reign in corporations.

 

 

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