I was born in 1981, but I still got late to the PC party. My first computer was a Pentium 100, 8 MB RAM, 850 MB HDD, 14-inch CRT beast. My parents bought it for my brother and me on December 1995.
Some weeks before lugging it home, I was already making preparations. I bought a case of ten 3.5-inch floppies and headed to the local chess club. They had a 486 that people were supposed to use to study and play chess, but it also moonlighted as a software stash for club members under 25. That afternoon I spent twenty minutes swapping floppies in and out of the computer, labeling them as Mortal Kombat II RAR Volume 1/8, etc. That same procedure would have to be reenacted backwards at home, once a beige box graced my desk with its presence.
Was it worth it? Yes. Did I play the game much? I played the hell out of it that Xmas. Why are you telling me this stuff? Because I want to talk about...
Look. In order to play that thing, I had to:
- Walk twenty minutes to the chess club
- Pester someone to get my turn at the computer
- Wait twenty more minutes in front of it
- Walk back home
- Spend twenty extra minutes unRARing the stuff
After all that, I would have played the game even if it sucked! Maybe it sucked and I didn't notice!
I invested some of my time in getting it running so, had it failed to meet my expectations, I would have been left with these two options:
- Deciding that I was stupid for wasting a perfectly good afternoon
- Tricking myself into thinking that the game was good
Back then, I didn't think of myself as a stupid person, so I would have gone for the second one. Of course, the game was actually good, so it's a moot point. But anyways, what's the moral of the story?
Wasting the time of players increases the subjective appeal of games
Which is kind of tragic, given today's sorry state of software distribution. People don't go to game stores anymore. They don't ask their friends for games, either. They just wait for the Steam sale, whip out a credit card and pay a visit to the fridge while their game downloads. Where's the compromise in that?
We can do better. Up for some unsolicited advice? Thought so.
If you're a game developer and want your stuff to be noticed, forget greenlight. What you need is 20th century game distribution and you know it. The days of tapes and floppies may be long gone, but when everything seems lost, you can always count on good old...
Here's my proposal:
- Upload your game somewhere and force your first users to contact you to get an activation key. (wasted time + social interaction = ugly experience).
- Since you don't want to spend all day handing keys over, unload that burden on your players. Make it so that every unlocked copy of your game is capable of generating valid activation keys (oh this game has to be reaally good if im answering peoples emails just because i wrote in a forum that i was playing it).
That's the gist of the inDRM copy control scheme, my contribution to this year's SIGBOVIK conference.
List of games using inDRM
None so far, but they're coming.