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Sunday, June 25 2017 @ 02:17 AM PST

Take-Two Interactive kills decade-old GTA4 modding tool

Some game companies understand that modding extends the life of a game, and embrace the idea. Others are somewhat less enlightened.

Take-Two Interactive, makers of the Grand Theft Auto series, recently sent a threat letter to the developers of a popular GTA4 modding tool called OpenIV. Lacking the resources to fight the threat, the OpenIV folks stopped distribution of the tool. Fans of the tool -- and the game -- are furious.

Dear idiots at Take-Two: this was a stupid move. You're going to lose far more business and consumer goodwill than you could ever hope to (somehow?) save by shutting down this tool. Here's a suggestion: stop letting your lawyers guide your business decisions.

Denuvo's troubles escalate

I'm almost starting to feel sorry for the folks who make Denuvo, the widely-despised DRM (copy protection) software.

RiME developer Tequila Works said they wanted DRM because if the game was cracked it could mess up the experience, but they also said if the game was cracked they would release a version without Denuvo DRM. The game was almost immediately cracked, and Tequila Works now says they will make good on their promise, but also that the DRM was never their idea anyway.

The person largely responsible for cracking RiME described the excessive number of calls being made to the Denuvo protection just in the game's startup and loading screens. He speculates that complaints about the game's performance by paying customers were almost certainly related to these ramped up -- and, ultimately, fruitless -- efforts to prevent the game from being cracked.

Meanwhile, Denuvo itself was recently accused of using unlicensed software. In the world of DRM, this is known as 'stealing'. Denuvo's DRM uses code supposedly licensed from a company called VMProtect. But Denuvo's license was not sufficient for their use, and VMProtect went public. Denuvo must have had a little chat with VMProtect, because now the latter is saying "DENUVO GmbH had the right to use our software in the past and has the right to use it currently as well as in the future." Which is amusing, in that it allows for Denuvo having been improperly licensed for some amount of time in the past.

And finally, a hacking group known as 'SteamPunks' created a key generator that could potentially allow for very straightforward workarounds for any game protected by Denuvo. If it turns out to work as claimed, this is likely to put the final nail in Denuvo's coffin.

Nintendo's DMCA hammer creates a successful competitor

Nintendo just can't stop shooting itself in the foot. In 2015, the company successfully prevented a fan from distributing a game he created (originally known as Zelda Maker) in response to Nintendo ruling out creating such a game itself. Unperturbed, that fan remade the game, staying clear of Nintendo's branding, and is now successfully selling that game as Legend Maker. Of course, everyone knows it's really Zelda Maker. Congratulations, Nintendo: your clumsy efforts to crush the spirit of one of your biggest fans has backfired, as usual.

New version of Denuvo defeated

Denuvo ain't dead yet. The company keeps fighting to stay relevant in the world of software copy protection, but it's a losing battle.

A few weeks ago, a new version of Denuvo -- created to combat recent progress by DRM crackers -- was used to 'protect' the new game 2Dark. Within a month, that game's DRM was defeated. This victory was especially sweet for DRM opponents, because 2Dark's developer had earlier stated that the game would not use any form of DRM.

Keep fighting, Denuvo. This is entertaining.

New study shows video games don't cause loss of empathy

For those of you still convinced that video games somehow cause aggressive behaviour in players, here's yet another study that refutes those claims.

This particular study shows no connection between video gaming and loss of empathy.

Please stop repeating BS claims about video games causing violent behaviour in kids. It's just not true. Aggressive and violent behaviour in kids has a lot of causes, with the main one being bad parenting. Which is of course why (bad) parents are quick to blame anything other than themselves.

Troubles continue for Denuvo

It seems like only yesterday that Denuvo's DRM (copy protection) technology was unbeatable. The best software cracking teams in the world seemed ready to throw in the towel.

But Denuvo's glory didn't last long, and games 'protected' by Denuvo are being cracked increasingly quickly. Recently, Resident Evil 7 was cracked within five days of its release.

So Denuvo has joined the ranks of all other copy protection software, in that it: a) doesn't prevent 'protected' games from being copied; b) causes a lot of problems for people who purchase 'protected' games legitimately; and c) costs game developers a lot of time and money, both for the Denuvo technology and for related technical support.

Denuvo responded to the Resident Evil 7 cracking news by saying that five days of protection is better than nothing. But a simple cost-benefit analysis shows that using Denuvo (or any other DRM technology) to protect a game is always going to cost more than can possibly be saved.

Adding to Denuvo's misery is the news that their corporate servers were recently breached, and private email archives published. It must be fun to work at Denuvo these days.

Update 2017Feb22: Techdirt points out that the alternative to using annoying, counter-productive DRM is to make games that are actually good, and make them moddable, like Quake, which still earns money for ID Software, twenty years after its release.

A Christmas gift from Nintendo

Nintendo has formally apologized for all of its anti-customer activity and vows to do better in the future.

Just kidding. No, Nintendo must have realized that it hadn't recently reminded us all just how much it hates us (the people who keep them in business - for now). Their latest move is to go after people who modify Nintendo ROMs to add new content.

I think there are just too many lawyers around. They are desperate to find work, or simply justify their high salaries, and convince dim-witted and ignorant executives to pursue these counter-productive and sad initiatives.

Atta boy, Nintendo. Figure out who loves you the best, and then break their hearts.

Denuvo downturn

Until a few months ago, the software copy protection technology (aka DRM) known as Denuvo was considered uncrackable. Now, games 'protected' by Denuvo are being cracked within days of their launch. And game developers are starting to dump the technology as a pointless waste of time and resources.

The game developer Playdead recently removed Denuvo from their popular game Inside, presumably so that it could be sold from the GOG web store, which doesn't sell DRM-encumbered games.

Bethesda has also removed Denuvo from the 2016 release of Doom. The Denuvo protection for Doom was defeated very soon after the game was released. According to at least one source, Denuvo effectively offers its customers a refund if a protected game is cracked within three months of its release. That may be what happened here.

Update 2016Dec20: Denuvo has responded to the media attention by saying that they don't offer refunds. But that's just semantics; not having to pay for something that normally costs money is just a proactive refund. Also, Techdirt weighs in. And again.

Another game studio says NO to DRM

You can add another name to the growing list of game developers that have decided not to bother copy protecting their games. Polish game studio Flying Wild Hog apparently realized that a) all DRM mechanisms are eventually defeated; b) DRM is costly and time-consuming to implement; c) DRM is annoying to paying customers; d) DRM increases support costs; and e) their efforts would be better spent on improving their games.

The result? Their most recent (no-DRM) game, Shadow Warrior 2, is selling extremely well on Steam. Sure, some people are no doubt 'stealing' the game, but those people will always find a way to do that whether there's DRM or not.

More stories of game developers making bad (and good) choices

The recently-released Forza Horizon 3 racing game includes a special feature that you only get when you purchase the game: crappy performance. That's because the game includes resource-intensive DRM (also known as copy protection). The problem doesn't affect people playing 'pirated' copies, because those copies have had the DRM removed. So, basically, this is a great reason to avoid buying the game and find a DRM-free copy instead.

Noted purveyor of extremely crappy games Digital Homicide likes to threaten people who post negative reviews of their games. This eventually generated so much negative feeling that Steam decided to drop the publisher completely from their catalog. This setback prompted the the company to rebrand itself as 'Digital Suicide'. Okay, not really. But they did take their ball and go home, sulkily declaring that the company has been ruined by Steam's actions. Boo hoo.

'Bait and switch' is a nasty retail tactic used to create consumer interest in a product, only to change the deal, leaving the consumer with something they didn't actually want. When the product in question is a Kickstarter-funded video game, telling investors that the promised DRM-free version will no longer be an option is likely to generate some ill will. The developers of Duke Grabowski, Mighty Swashbuckler! discovered this the hard way. To their credit, they saw the light and reversed their decision, surprising nearly everyone.

Happily, there are a few game developers who truly understand their relationship with customers. PM Studios, who make the Playstation Vita game SUPERBEAT: XONiC, discovered instructions for copying the game on reddit. Instead of unleashing their dogs (i.e. lawyers), they joined the discussion, stating their appreciation for the attention, and offering a discount on the game. Result: massive increase in consumer good-will, and increased sales.