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RPGWatch Forums » Comments » News Comments » Stardock & Gaspowered Games Unveil "Gamers Bill of Rights"

Default Stardock & Gaspowered Games Unveil "Gamers Bill of Rights"

September 2nd, 2008, 19:00
Shack News has an article up announcing an attempt by publisher Stardock and developer Gas Powered Games to formulate a "Gamer's Bill of Rights."
Here's the spiel:
"As an industry, we need to begin setting some basic, common sense standards that reward PC gamers for purchasing our games," explained Stardock CEO Brad Wardell. "On the PC, publishers can release games that are scarcely completed, poorly supported, and full of intrusive copy protection."
The Gamer's Bill of Rights

We the Gamers of the world, in order to ensure a more enjoyable experience, establish equality between players and publishers, and promote the general welfare of our industry hereby call for the following:
  1. Gamers shall have the right to return games that don't work with their computers for a full refund.
  2. Gamers shall have the right to demand that games be released in a finished state.
  3. Gamers shall have the right to expect meaningful updates after a game's release.
  4. Gamers shall have the right to demand that download managers and updaters not force themselves to run or be forced to load in order to play a game.
  5. Gamers shall have the right to expect that the minimum requirements for a game will mean that the game will adequately play on that computer.
  6. Gamers shall have the right to expect that games won't install hidden drivers or other potentially harmful software without their express consent.
  7. Gamers shall have the right to re-download the latest versions of the games they own at any time.
  8. Gamers shall have the right to not be treated as potential criminals by developers or publishers.
  9. Gamers shall have the right to demand that a single-player game not force them to be connected to the Internet every time they wish to play.
  10. Gamers shall have the right that games which are installed to the hard drive shall not require a CD/DVD to remain in the drive to play.
More information.

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September 2nd, 2008, 19:00
Looks good, but I don't see it ever catching on.

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September 2nd, 2008, 19:14
Some publishers and developers actually do it. Like Valve (with Steam) or Stardock (Impulse).
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September 2nd, 2008, 19:18
> … "shall have the right to expect/demand" …

We all have the right to expect, or to demand. The question is: will the game companies answer?

I applaud this initiative. Even if it won't catch on across the board, it's a good move forward by Stardock and Gas Powered.

Someone, at some point, has to make a firm stand when the industry takes the wrong turn (DRM, draconic copy protection, etc). Their position is never popular initially, and financially costly too. However, once the concepts catch on, everyone will wonder why it wasn't like that in the first place.

The developers and artists have the right, and moral obligation, to refuse working for studios, publishers and distributors that engage in questionable practices.
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September 2nd, 2008, 19:32
Hmm, isn't point 2 and point 3 the exact opposite of each other??
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September 2nd, 2008, 19:33
Well if they commit to this, and I'd be surprised if GPG does does considering their are mostly under the hand of MICROS~1, it could be a good marketing gimick to shame their competitors. Perhaps they can come up with some label and a standards/consortium.

But let's consider the points:

1 - How can they expect retailers to agree to this? With piracy so common returning refunds is problematic. An opened product will generally re-sell for less if the manufacturer won't take it back and the store will suffer a loss. That's assuming that local laws allow used PC software to be resold.

I have seen where manufactures want you to contact them instead of the retailer. I think the effort to use the mail system to return the product might be one deterrent. And then the publishers won't put the retailer in a bind considering their profit margins are much smaller than their's.

2 - What do they mean by "finished"?

3 - Does this contradict Right 2? Again, what do they mean "meaningful"? I'm going to assume this means patches which could almost contradict Right 2 and/or additions to the game. However, I don't think a manufacturer has any obligation to offer additions to a released product, especially if its "finished".

4 - I can't comment on this as I've rarely experienced it. I rarely buy online versions of games. Is this a problem for some people? Do they not uninstall themselves?

5 - I can't be in more agreement. Why lie?

6 - This is good, but I think the language about express consent should be removed.

7 - I agree with this but how do you implement this? How do you prevent fraud?

8 - A good general principal. Its seemingly language that sounds unnecessary but when you are developing a framework for a rights based legal system intentionally vague principals are usually best. There is lots of rhetoric about this in standard forums and this is a good salvo against the heavy handed policies of security software companies.

If this could change those company's thinking or pressure the publishers to push the security companies that way, it would help. Look what Bioware managed to accomplish against Atari and SecureROM. Several versions of Neverwinter Nights patches had features which were the results over the problems with SecureROM. Bio tested and complained quite bitterly to Atari who allowed Bio to either make fixes or to remove it in certain patches.

9 - Dhruiny may disagree with this but I don't. I shouldn't have to play cripple ware and I resent something relative "new" and positive (the internet) being used in a negative fashion. Unless they are internet specific software should be able to run offline and independently.

10 - I agree. See 9 regarding crippleware. Leaving a disk in the drive is problematic thanks to the overdrive mechanisms in them as well as interrupt requests affecting performance. The way the disks are hacked to create these protection schemes has always been a problem performance wise since the floppy disk days - in some cases actually damaging the disk and the drive. It also hasn't proved effective and encourages the use of NoCD systems to get past the problems they create.

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Last edited by Lucky Day; September 2nd, 2008 at 19:46.
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September 2nd, 2008, 20:13
I like it. It's a good start at recognizing that indeed we do have rights when we shell out our money to pay for their product.

At least it isn't Atari's Bill of rights,

1. We have the right to background check anyone playing our game whether it is legal or illegal.
2. We have the right to sue you to the poor house if you pirate our games, if you are already in the poor house then your shack will be taken, demolished and set up as a warning to all others you pirate.
3. We have the right to send you to jail for failing to pay us an ungodly sum of money if you pirated. Nevermind your children, they will be taken in as orphans of the company and forced to work long hours coding for us.
4. We have the right to blow up your game and computer if we even think you may have a pirated copy.

All kidding aside, I think this is a step in the right direction. Good luck implementing #1 though. The retailers are going to scream bloody murder. Let's hope the transition from brick and mortar store to online digital downloads, kicks it up into high gear. I can see point #1 happening if they cut out the middle man like Wallmart and just sold online. As of today though, that isn't exactly the most profitable way to go, but sometime in the near future I see online sales will overtake the brick and mortar stores.

Point 10 should could be done now. It's not like it takes pirates more than a few hours or at most a day to crack whatever copyprotection the game has. So why do we still have to put up with donglekeys even when they don't work at all.

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September 2nd, 2008, 20:23
As to issue #1, one would hope that if issue # 5 was clearly (and exhaustively stated on the box and online), consumers would be expected to educate themselves as to the limitations of their own gear. The large caveat being games like Shadow Vault; did they ever get the Nvidia problem fixed (I seem to recall a complex problem relating to unpaid developers and such)? Now, the issue of a crappy game, over-hyped by media, that you can't return…. well, a lot of stores would go out of business if consumers returned all the crappy software out there. And I'm not saying that this is a bad thing
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September 2nd, 2008, 20:26
Originally Posted by skavenhorde View Post
I like it. It's a good start at recognizing that indeed we do have rights when we shell out our money to pay for their product.

At least it isn't Atari's Bill of rights,

1. We have the right to background check anyone playing our game whether it is legal or illegal.
2. We have the right to sue you to the poor house if you pirate our games, if you are already in the poor house then your shack will be taken, demolished and set up as a warning to all others you pirate.
3. We have the right to send you to jail for failing to pay us an ungodly sum of money if you pirated. Nevermind your children, they will be taken in as orphans of the company and forced to work long hours coding for us.
And we have the right not to care if you don't know enough to secure your wireless network, and someone else used your IP to pirate the game? This is what I wonder about.
Last edited by Santos; September 2nd, 2008 at 20:56.
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September 2nd, 2008, 20:51
Ironic that it's Gas Powered Games behind this - I'd gladly (and regularly have to) forfeit most all of these rights just to get a game that I actually enjoy playing. However, Space Siege fails miserably on even that most basic requirement.
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September 2nd, 2008, 20:58
Many good points that won't even be considered by most producers who are in this business for some quick and easy bucks and could care less about the end users. A company with the initials of s and o and e comes to mind.
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September 2nd, 2008, 20:59
Meh, I wasn't particularly impressed with this little PR stunt.

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September 2nd, 2008, 21:34
Originally Posted by Lucky Day View Post
2 - What do they mean by "finished"?
That's something that really needs to be considered in context. It's valid on its face, but I'd expect anyone with only a week's worth of experience in product development to be able to explain the concept of "finished" adequately. It's just not that confusing, not for someone in the business of developing finished products.

These are all good points, IMO. They're not new, either. The PC software business needs to change.

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September 3rd, 2008, 01:13
I see Stardock is still getting good PR mileage with this stuff. They've teamed with GPG on this because Demigod will be released through Stardock.

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September 3rd, 2008, 01:20
I don't agree with #2 or #3. The definition of finished is completely subjective, and if a game truly is bug-free then what comprises the mandatory updates? Are we speaking of expansion packs? Why force a developer to do that? —"We the gamers command you to produce more content for this game!!" — How stupid!

I also think the returning games idea is foolish. As someone else already stated, a person ought to know what their machine is capable of running. If such a policy were in place, 98% of the games returned would be because people don't like them, not because of technical difficulties.

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September 3rd, 2008, 11:09
I quite firmly believe that this "bill of rights" will have no incluence whatsoever on the big publishers.

On smaller ones, yes, maybe, but not the market-controlling ones which can do just what they like to do.

They have the sheer power to just step over this "bill of rights".

Any intelligent fool can make things bigger, more complex, and more violent. It takes a touch of genius and a lot of courage to move in the opposite direction. (E.F.Schumacher, Economist, Source)
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September 3rd, 2008, 16:14
I think as Dhruin points out, this is more of a PR fantasy than a proposal with enough chops to do much. I thought it had some interesting discussion points though. I really think that things like draconian copy protection and disastrously buggy games need some addressing if PC games are going to continue to compete, but whether this actually does it is another story.

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September 3rd, 2008, 16:42
Id like a right to sell the games I buy. I dont like the idea of buying a full price game and then forever locking it into a specific account or a computer. Console games resell is booming but as for PC they are trying to kill it.

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September 3rd, 2008, 16:55
Originally Posted by magerette View Post
things like draconian copy protection
On a side note … "draconian opy protection" ? A copy protection enforced by dragons ?


But in principle you are right. A well-known developer (I forgot his name, as usual), once mentioned that the problem were responsyible people in the managements who don't know about entertainment, but of money accounting much more, which means that they are trying to control the software entertainment with means of a totally different, totally unappropriate business approach - one that might be working well with other indistries, but not with this one.

It's a bit like the cheese manufacturer trying to get into the business of Opera, like in Terry Pratchett's "Maskerade".

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September 3rd, 2008, 21:47
You don't buy games, Zakhal, you license them. If they really sold it to you, then you could make all the copies you want and sell them for $1 each. What you really want is the ability to transfere your license to somebody else.

Let's see, point by point….

1. Many of the games that don't work are having problems not because of system specifications but because users have a few virus programs, tons of spyware, and a hard drive that's 80% fragmented. It's not fair to punish the stores for clueless PC users that are too cheap to buy anti-virus software.

That said, the practice of printing crytpic hardware specifications in tiny type on the side of the box is pretty cruel. Vista at least takes a stab at solving this with it's performance index number but I have yet to see a publisher put one of those on the box. It seems they would rather make the requirements as difficult as possible for the customer to understand. That's very slimy.

2. BWWWAHAHAHA!!! The manual for the latest expansion to Gal Civ 2 is still not out!! It should show up in a week or two. Hopefully. Just a few months after I bought the game.

3. It's nice when we get updates but I don't see it as a requirement. They should fix bugs that crop up but new content? That's a bonus for us.

4. Huh? You mean we shouldn't be forced to run an update program if we don't want a patch? That's OK for single player games. Not good for multi-player. Laughable for MMO's.

5. Yeah, this is one of the sad things. "Minimum requirements" actually mean "You can't play the game if any of your system stats are below these stats." "Recommended requirements" are the actual minimum you need to have fun playing the game. If they are even mentioned. Again, part of the publisher's drive to make sure most customers have no clue if the game will run on a given PC.

6. Amen.

7. A nice goal but the right to download anytime, as many times? Nah. Somebody who wants to re-download their game 3 times a day isn't on the up and up. Letting them download 3 times per month and a maximum of 10 times sounds better to me.

8. Gamers should have the right not to be treated as criminals, I agree. Problem is, a ton of gamers are criminals - probably the majority.

9. Why? Aren't most gamers connected all the time, anyway? Is it terribly difficult for those still on dial-up to dial in when the game feels like doing a confirmation?

10. If companies can confirm ownership via the internet, we don't need CDs in the drive. See Mass Effect, for example.

Seems like they could drop half the points in this bill of rights and just say "Gamers shall have the right to demand that all games be sold on a shareware basis."

(Sheesh, I had time to write all that? Please come out, Spore! I need you!!)
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