Friday, April 11, 2008

Online Activation is Inevitable and safe.

I just had someone ask me if one of my games used online activation, saying they would not buy it if it did. I think this attitude is pretty rare, but I have never understood it. here is why:

1) Online activation is essential to prevent piracy.
Yes I know there are ways around it, but generally they are harder than bypassing a disk check. vital code can (in some systems) be kept on a server and never released into the hands of gamers. Piracy IS killing PC gaming, and pretty much every developer is using some kind of online integration or activation now. It helps kill casual piracy, which is the main concern.

2) It's no different to retail
If you buy clothes in a store, they come with a big bulky security tag that you cannot remove. the sole purpose of the tag is to prevent you stealing the clothes, and every exit from the store has technological systems in place to check everyone leaving for stolen goods. They don't even hide them. Yet somehow this is just fine, yet doing the same check online is 'treating you like a criminal'. hmmmm. The stores have security cameras and guards too...

3) It's as safe as anything else you run online.
You might not trust positech games to run any code that connects to the web. But there are two reasons why you should. Reason 1, is that we have sold games for 11 years. we have a reputation and we aren't about to risk losing it. Do you REALLY think that there aren't a few geeks who run packet sniffer software telling them every single byte of data that our games send to any server, and every byte that comes back? (we only use online activation for 1 game - Democracy 2 and it's a one off thing when registering). If we were snooping your hard disk and copying your emails to our server, it would be splashed all over the geeky websites within 24 hours and our business would collapse. We know that. (besides which we would consider that a gross invasion of your privacy, obviously, but assume we are rational but evil for the purposes of argument).

The second reason, is that there is nothing magical about anti-piracy activation systems that mean they should be less trusted than your web browser, your messenger client, your email client etc etc.
How do you know that MSN messenger isn't logging every conversation and every image you send with Microsoft? Ditto firefox, ditto vista itself... Even if all your apps are open source have YOU looked at the source? EVERY line? are you SURE that source really is that exe? did you compile it yourself (with an open source compiler).
You don't, and yet you trust these applications every day to send personal emails, surf websites and even bank online.

Online activation of games is probably one of the least invasive, most trustworthy situations in which you trust someone with your computer. If you won't buy a game because it needs to send a serial number over the internet, I STRONGLY suggest you give up internet banking, shopping, web browsing and everything else. Unless you want to learn HTTP and run a packet sniffer on everthing that leaves you PC.

I'm never fussed by on-line activation of games. If it lets me play the game without needing a CD, then I'm extra happy.

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