Piracy and how it has affected me

In a post back in January, I mentioned discussing my take on the whole piracy issue that faces the FS payware community in an ever so painful way. Since the topic seems to have died down a bit in the forums lately, I’ll rekindle the flame a bit with a bit of perspective on my end.

It is piracy that ultimately caused my leaving FSD. Why? I’ll get to that in a bit but first a brief history of how I came about as a team member at FSD in the first place.

FSD’s history as 3rd party content creators goes back before my time as a developer. It was in the late 90s that Jim Goldman (still an FSD team member) along with Yannick Lavigne, Marco Rensen, Fred Banting, and Steve Small (also still with FSD) started creating amazing content such as the original Turbo Porter for FS 2000.

During my first freeware adventure with the creation of the Project Open-Sky C-17, I sought out the very best people I knew of to help me develop it.  For the flight model, I asked Steve Small and he happily agreed (at that time, he was still doing some freeware work). Well, time passed and the C-17 was put out and then I decided to take a hiatus from development. Maybe a year or so later, Steve and the rest of FSD (who, along with Steve, was Tim Dickens and Jim Goldman) asked me to come on board as a professional modeler. They had several projects in the works that needed some modeling help and they felt that I fit the build – plus they were working on transitioning from FSDS to Gmax and I had already been learning it on my own. Also, I had been secretly working on a T-38 that would become (to my amazement) a great contribution to FSD’s hangar.

So it began in 2002, I was officially on board with FSD. We utilized the Flight1 installer to distribute product. With the release of the Seneca V, we noticed a dramatic problem. We were getting support inquiries in our forums from people not showing up in the product database. In an experiment, we released the service package as a download at FlightSim.com. To our amazement, the download count was nearly 33% greater than the number of aircraft originally sold. That told us that we were losing nearly 33% revenue to piracy.

That was enough motivation for us to develop or seek another distribution method that allowed better control of piracy. At first I thought that this was a good thing, but ultimately caused my leaving the group. Let me first say that in no way am I criticizing work done by the team members at FSD – I still think the work done there is great. But I was getting the feeling that more time was being placed on protecting the product than creating quality content of the overall product. Support for the product really became an ugly issue, especially when we were accusing a user of having pirated wares on his/her PC. FSD’s reputation was sinking like a ship, so I felt my time there was done.

Then I moved to a short stint with Dreamfleet. I came to realize that Lou and I didn’t see eye-to-eye on a lot of issues – namely placing authentic avionics in the Twin Comanche I was developing, so I joined Eaglesoft with whom I currently develop. Yes, Eaglesoft product is shared on bittorrent and warez sites. Am I happy about that? You bet I am not. Will piracy ever go away? I do not think there will ever be a vehicle for distribution that will not be susceptible to hackers.

I prefer to look at the whole situation like this. If people are willing to steal my work, I would rather not have them as a paying customer. Period. To those who do believe in rewarding people such as myself for the time and effort to created authentic and highly realistic works for FS, I applaude you for your contribution. You help sustain and prolong our existence in the FS market.

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16 Comments

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16 responses to “Piracy and how it has affected me

  1. Unknown

    I don\’t know how you count your downloads, but 33% is not that far from what I would expect for people to re-download because of a failed download, inability to find it after downloading, or numerous other reasons.  I have run a website for over 9 years that provides free content for several MX games.   I assume that about 60-70% of the download count I get is the real count.I think piracy is killing PC games, but I also think that most of the pirates would never be paying customers no matter what you charged.  I believe those that are looking at making games look at piracy and think that is what the potential customer base is.  The reality is that it is far less.  Another thing that is killing PC games is the lack of shelf space.  There have been several games that have come out in the last few years that are only on the store shelf for a few weeks and then disappear (MXvsATV for example).  How many people have actually seen it on a store shelf?  The PC game market is a smaller market than consoles, FSX is an even smaller market, and then 3rd party add-ons for FSX is even smaller.  When you throw in the resource requirements of FSX than there isn\’t much of a market at all and it\’s a shame.   My Athlon 3200 XP, 3 Gig of ram, with an 7800GS OC video card just barely acceptably runs FSX without addons. Bruce

  2. Christian

    Thanks for sharing this Owen. I\’m currently writing a blog post about the Flight1 wrapper. I had to reformat my hd after a system crash and it\’s giving me a lot of trouble. I know that if I have to spend more than 1 hour to reinstall software something has gone wrong…Anyhow, I believe this article is a very great summary about piracy: http://www.openp2p.com/pub/a/p2p/2002/12/11/piracy.htmlI also believe that customer service should always come before anti-piracy efforts. @BruceI\’m about to write an opinion piece on the whole PC gaming vs console thing. There is a lot of misconception and distorted numbers out there. PC games are far from dead, in fact they are stronger than ever. It\’s the classic video games that are a dying breed, and by that I mean the endless fps spin-offs that are aimed at under 25 year olds and really everyone is getting bored with. The boom is in casual games, played by a wide group of gamers including above 30-70 years olds and also females. Industry experts are seeing classic video games as becoming a niche market already. The fact that the Wii is outselling the X-Box further suggests this is true. The video game market has concentrated too much on teens and is now paying the price.  The time for mindless spin-offs and no originality is over. I\’ll elaborate in my op-ed. Christian

  3. Owen

    @Bruce,Thanks for your thoughts. I failed to mention the time frame in which we made our observation. It was made within about week\’s time after release of the service package. Sure, I would estimate that within that time span that maybe 1-2% were re-downloads, but the astronomical value within that short period of time was an eye-opener to say the least.Also, I\’m unsure of where you live Bruce, but MS has reinvigorated the PC games arena significantly within the past year with the Games For Windows branding here in the states. In fact, I\’ve seen several kiosks like this one.@Christian,Thanks for your comments as well. I look forward to reading your piece regarding the Flight1 wrapper. Great link to a great article too!Regards,Owen

  4. Francois

    Am looking for your article too, Christian :-)And yes, I too am in the camp of believing good customer support is more important than alienating real customers just to fend off some pirates who would not buy my products anyway. It is the POSITIVE appraoch to the market and one\’s customers, as opposed to the NEGATIVE approach FSD took at the time (and paid for dearly I would say).

  5. Jim

    Lessons were learned (we still distain piracy and maintain a strong stand against it), customer support has significantly improved, our customer base has been rebuild and continues to grow, and most important… we are not quitters or jumped ship and we are still around 🙂 just trying to have some fun trying to create something unique and special.
     
    Best
     
    Jim
    FSD

  6. Francois

    Good to hear Jim.By the way, I just discovered this: http://fs2004.info/forum/fusionbb.phpGo figure 😦

  7. Ron

    Well the issue has been cussed and discussed since our first release and exposure to piracy. The bottom line is that many people will steal anything they can get their hands on if they feel they won\’t be caught.
    The problem from our perspective is that we and others do not have the resources in terms of time, personel, and cash outlay to do our own enforcement of existing laws. It is far too easy for thieves to do their dirty work and thumb their noses at enforcement entities around the world. Those same entities KNOW the perpetrators AND their methods but are simply outnumbered.

  8. Jim

    Ron and Francois:   I could not agree more with all of you, but the major problem is that when you do catch a pirate all of a sudden they feel victimized.  One thing we have seen time and time again… Piracy is not an isolated issue, some of our paying customers on accasions have fallen to the temptation of getting something for free.  Look our installers are 100% incompatible with the license hacking caused by the hacked installer,  we have even gone as far a posting a warning on our site stating that the hacked installers are INCOMPATIBLE with our new installers and not to install new aircrafts until they have contacted us. There are many time that we have bent head over heal to help some out, on occasion we can on other we just cannot correct the problems that hacked installer has caused the end user, also we cannot be held responsible for the introductionof viruses/worms..etc… other unscrupulous people introduce into the hacked installersYet when a pirate is caused and his licensing system becomes corrupted. But guess who becomes the victim and who is the aggressor, now the so called victim runs off to diffeent forums and complains/falmes the developer in an effort to impart as much damage as possible yet never owning up that they where the instigators of the problem in the first place.   I agree also that software protection has caused hardship to respectable customers,  There has to be a happy medium for all of us, where that is  I donot know, but I am not willing to through in the towel, we will just have to put more effort to working harder to please our true customers. .  best to end it here as I am begining to ramble on 🙂
     
    Oh before I forget.. we have had pirates demand support for the software they pirated… the CHUTZPA….
     
    Francois, thank you for the link.. all I can say is disgusting……. but this is only to top of the iceberg 😦
     

  9. Jim

    I am responsible for the previous message
     
    Jim Goldman

  10. Owen

    Jim, et. al.,It was not my intention to dig up a hatchet that has been long since been buried. I was encouraged to speak my mind on piracy and how it has affected me and my history with FSD is a large part of my history when it comes to dealing with piracy. I appreciate your comments (tells me that at least someone is reading my words) and I wish you guys the best. I\’m anxious to see the results of that JetStar. :)Regards,Owen

  11. Jim

    Understood…… we have also moved on… As for the Jetstar…. it is moving along a bit slower than I would want, but there are so many systems to develop that it is mind altering.  In the mean time I have taken the opportunity to learn the FSX SDK with the C115… talk about a learning curve and seeing how much information the SDK lacks…. A lot of the learning has been trial and error, but I am getting to the finishing line.. the only thing pending is getting the Spot view corrected… something?part has sent the Spot view to about a mile away fromthe aircraft.. bonding boxes OK.. nothing out.. but problem persists…. Oh well I will figure this out as well.
     
    Jim

  12. Bobby

    A few years back Ron and I reviewed, and discussed the piracy issue. Once you start pulling up the numbers and doing the math, it truly blows the mind upon realizing the number of people who pirate your hard work. Adding insult to injury, I\’ve read many pirate forum posts where major software company representatives are laughed out of a thread and told to stick their local laws up their afterburners.  That\’s food off our table. Since this is a blog and not our home office, I don\’t mind saying that being one of the old school types, military vet, and police officer… I\’ve gotten pretty steamed at punks who display that level of arrogance, so nothing would please me more than to run a few of these houligans out to the wood shed for a little one on one..just a little educational adjustment session.
    But that wouldn\’t do any good either, unfortunately. 
    Bottom line, as Ron pointed out, you build a better mouse trap which makes things tougher for the good customers, meanwhile the pirates figure another way to hack it. The only solution I would see to help take a bite out of it, are international laws that govern and enforce internet software piracy.

  13. Ron

    Bob wrote "The only solution I would see to help take a bite out of it, are international laws that govern and enforce internet software piracy."
     
    Bob, Owen, et all, We are all on the same page with regard to the anger/frustation level involved in hard work being stolen and restributed but I must differ with Bob on his statement above.
     
    We already have laws, layered upon laws, eulas, anti piracy tecniques, etc.
     
    What is really needed is EFFECTIVE ENFORCEMENT of existing laws, regulations, etc.
    As a law ENFORCEMENT officer I\’m sure Bob agrees that without EFFECTIVE ENFORCEMENT burglers, rapists, child molestion, etc. would be much more rampant in every society on the planet.
     
    The issue of software theft is only a drop in the bucket when you consider the recent news item stating that now we have one out of every one hundred American citizens in prison. This speaks of the moral/spiritual condition of so many that it staggers the imagination. Why are they in prison? Because they are twisted and crooked and they don\’t even represent the numbers who HAVEN\’T  been caught yet. 😦

  14. Ron

    Jim G.
     
    Thieves who are caught and then whine when punished, reminds me of those from Hamas or Hesbolah who attack/kill innocent people in Israel and then moan, groan, whine and cry when Israel retaliates against their despicable acts.
     
    To pretend that the original attacker..[Hamas] is the the victim of of the one who retaliates [Israel] is the ultimate lie and adds the greater insult to the senses. What a freakin mess be it software pirates or international terrorist 😦

  15. Laurie

    Great insight guys.A huge issue that continues to nag. Let\’s hope that with improvements to electronic marketing, piracy figures will continue to decline to the point where they will be an insignificant statistic.

  16. Jim

    Guys:
     
    The issue of piracy will not go away.  We are unfortunatly left with making life a little harder on the pirates.  So far our newest installers have been hard to crack, but I suppose it is only a matter of time before that is done.  But we will continue to upgrade the installer making is more robust and simpler the end user (our installer has come a long way), we acknowledge that initially we had problems with our installers and these were created by ourselves, yet in most circumstances it took the hackers about 1 year to open the installer.  Since that time things have changed, at the present our latest installers have not been cracked and this is close to two years now that they have survived the hackers (but again I know it is a matter of time, so we will have to be proactive and update logarithms to safeguard our products.  In fact we are at the point of offering our installer as another alternative for developers.
     
    Nonetheless we are concentrating on shoring up our customer support and establishing better relationaships with customers and other developers.
     
    Ron.. I could not agree with you more on the analogy of what is happening inthe Middle East (let me state that I hate to see innocent life lost independent if is PAL or Israelies.) But yes when the bullie gets caught all of a sudden the become the victim, sad affari isn\’t it.
     
    Laurie:  Piracy is here to stay.. because of the anonyminity  (I think I spelled this wrong) the internet offers end users and the perception that the internet is somewhat like the wild west with out rules of engaugement many people feel that they are entitled to have anything they want for free.  But there are consequences to their actions.. sooner or later they are caught or they introduce a virus into their system……. it is just a matter of time.
     
    Oh well back to work.
     
    Best
     
     
    Jim

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