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10 minutes ago, juansolo said:

 

One once used the Pompey Packer on their cover disc in an issue where they were attacking piracy. A mate of mine highlighted the hypocrisy to them. Fair play they published his letter and he ended up getting a shout on the next PP disk scroller ;) 

That sounds oddly familiar, and was likely what I was thinking of.  Thanks! 👍

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On 9/9/2019 at 3:04 PM, Justin Payne said:

When I was a teen I worked at a video store. Videos were around $80 for the average consumer to buy. It was more around $60 for video stores. Still, that was outrageously expensive so people ended up copying them....until prices were around $15. Then I wasn't worth the effort. Software companies probably should have considered how much they lost to piracy and how much they would need to drop the price of their software to make it so it wasn't worth it. Now, was that effort ever made? I don't know but I do know it worked with videos...at least in countries where you could easily buy them.

True, but there was one major difference between the home video and software markets: production costs.

 

With home video (and particularly in the early days), the production cost of the film had typically been recouped by the time the film was released on video.  Sure, there are exceptions to this - straight-to-video releases, films that flopped at the box office but were contractually-obliged to receive a home video release, etc. - but, by and large, the production costs weren't a factor by the time the home market was coming into consideration.  Granted, distribution into the home market did come with its own costs and considerations, but those could, at least in part, be factored based on the success of a given movie at the cinema and weren't typically accounted for during production.

 

Software, however, wrapped production and distribution into one cost package.  There was no general release followed months (or, sometimes, years) later by buying the game for personal use like there was with video.  This made it a more difficult proposition to amortise the costs of, because every release was effectively the same as releasing a brand-new, previously-unknown product onto the market.  Sure, there might be market research and even focus groups guiding the development, but production remained a sunk cost that had to be recovered through units sold.  It's basically sailing the paper aeroplane out of the window and seeing what happens; there was no broad way to estimate potential success or failure in advance like with video.  It just had to be hoped that it was good enough to sell well, and to not be pirated to the point where its development and release amounted to a loss.

Edited by x=usr(1536)

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1 hour ago, juansolo said:

 

One once used the Pompey Packer on their cover disc in an issue where they were attacking piracy. A mate of mine highlighted the hypocrisy to them. Fair play they published his letter and he ended up getting a shout on the next PP disk scroller ;) 

It was ST Action (I think?) and they'd used Automation packer, I suggested they used Pompey as it was more efficient.  Magazines were massive hypocrites, I wonder where the cracked games came from before release?   

 

Wish I could remember which pompey had the scroller credit on, must be a later one,  I got an Amiga not long after.

Edited by marauder666
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You've only got half the story, as most of the big releases would spread through phreaking.  If they could crack the game and get it for free, they sure weren't going to pay to transmit it.

 

It's simultaneously abhorrent and fascinating.

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2 hours ago, orange808 said:

You've only got half the story, as most of the big releases would spread through phreaking.

There's a distinction that needs to be made between 'phreaking' and 'calling card fraud'.  They are not the same things.  Based on some of the lore surrounding how cracked software was distributed at the time, it's difficult to know which one you're referring to.

 

One thing I can say, speaking as someone who had a recreational interest in the phone system around the time that all of this was going on: regardless of whether an uploader was paying for the call or working their way around that, modems were still susceptible to the quality issues inherent with 1980s and 1990s landline phone networks.  And international calls couldn't sustain anywhere near the quality they've been able to over the past 20 years.  In short, it could be an incredibly frustrating way to try to distribute cracked software depending on where you were trying to get it to.  Even calling within the same dialling code could produce an entirely different set of results with each call.

 

Note that I'm saying this from a European perspective; things may have been different in other parts of the world.  But based on posts I recall reading via Fidonet-connected BBSes at the time, they weren't much different - and having emigrated to the US right near the end of the dialup era, many of the same problems seen in Europe were also present here.

Quote

If they could crack the game and get it for free, they sure weren't going to pay to transmit it.

Disagreed.  Plenty of cracking groups would upload to warez BBSes.  Others would distribute by hand (including by mail), then wait for their releases to spread.  Some did both.

Quote

It's simultaneously abhorrent and fascinating.

What do you consider abhorrent about it, and what about it fascinates you?

Edited by x=usr(1536)

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2 hours ago, marauder666 said:

It was ST Action (I think?) and they'd used Automation packer, I suggested they used Pompey as it was more efficient.  Magazines were massive hypocrites, I wonder where the cracked games came from before release?   

 

Wish I could remember which pompey had the scroller credit on, must be a later one,  I got an Amiga not long after.

That was it! To be fair, it was a while ago and my memory it really bad...

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Oh yes, the "noble" harmless person that's just experimenting with cheating Ma Bell.  :)  Sure.  Okay.

 

Didn't share the information with them to help them close the loopholes, but it's ethical.

 

It's "different".  :)

 

 

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20 minutes ago, orange808 said:

Oh yes, the "noble" harmless person that's just experimenting with cheating Ma Bell.  :)  Sure.  Okay.

 

Didn't share the information with them to help them close the loopholes, but it's ethical.

 

It's "different".  :)

 

 

You do realise that Bell themselves were well aware of the potential for abuse before it began to happen on an appreciable scale, yet continued to roll out networks that were susceptible to it well into the '80s (and, in some cases, even later than that)?  Or that they published all of the technical data necessary to abuse their network in open engineering journals available through both public and University libraries, or to anyone who cared to take out a subscription to them?

 

This isn't a case of 'closing loopholes', as you put it; it's not something that could have been fixed with a software update.  Literally every switch in deployment that was capable of being controlled by digital signalling would have to have been torn out and replaced, or at least substantially gutted to be retrofitted with a more secure alternative.  The cost to do so would have been staggering, and the Bell system was unwilling to shoulder it.  Prosecuting cases of toll fraud was significantly less expensive than rolling back the engineering decisions that led to the creation of the vulnerable equipment that they continued putting into the field, so that was how they decided to address the issue.

 

Never mind that they hadn't learned their lesson from that set of decisions when deploying the first analogue cellular networks and history predictably repeated itself, but that's a separate story.

 

It's not as simple a set of circumstances as you appear to believe it may be.

Edited by x=usr(1536)

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I like turtles.  You can use that tone elsewhere, cause I won't see or hear it again.

 

Also, breaking the law is breaking the law.  Doesn't matter if the door was unlocked.

Edited by orange808
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39 minutes ago, orange808 said:

I like turtles.  You can use that tone elsewhere, cause I won't see or hear it again.

 

Also, breaking the law is breaking the law.  Doesn't matter if the door was unlocked.

If there's one thing I can appreciate, it's a reasoned, well-thought out reply.

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11 hours ago, x=usr(1536) said:

True, but there was one major difference between the home video and software markets: production costs.

 

With home video (and particularly in the early days), the production cost of the film had typically been recouped by the time the film was released on video.  Sure, there are exceptions to this - straight-to-video releases, films that flopped at the box office but were contractually-obliged to receive a home video release, etc. - but, by and large, the production costs weren't a factor by the time the home market was coming into consideration.  Granted, distribution into the home market did come with its own costs and considerations, but those could, at least in part, be factored based on the success of a given movie at the cinema and weren't typically accounted for during production.

 

Software, however, wrapped production and distribution into one cost package.  There was no general release followed months (or, sometimes, years) later by buying the game for personal use like there was with video.  This made it a more difficult proposition to amortise the costs of, because every release was effectively the same as releasing a brand-new, previously-unknown product onto the market.  Sure, there might be market research and even focus groups guiding the development, but production remained a sunk cost that had to be recovered through units sold.  It's basically sailing the paper aeroplane out of the window and seeing what happens; there was no broad way to estimate potential success or failure in advance like with video.  It just had to be hoped that it was good enough to sell well, and to not be pirated to the point where its development and release amounted to a loss.

Yes, but the home video market only became a thing when they dropped the prices. No one was buying videos when they were $60 to $80. They were renting them from us, getting two VCRs, and making copies OR waiting until it was on pay TV and copying it from there. People would also buy old stock. Video stores would generally buy several copies of new releases but after some time, we'd get rid of a bunch because they were just taking up space on the shelf so we'd have a sale and get rid of them that way.

 

True about software. It has a much shorter shelf life and the market was small BUT development teams were pretty small and packaging, artwork, and manuals couldn't be a significant portion of the cost. It's definitely not like today where the production teams credit roll can sometimes be as long as a movie. I also understand that the market was very volatile and you really had to watch what systems were getting most of your sales. This was such a new market that I think a lot of business decisions were made by rolling dice.

 

 

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Excellent points, and I'll admit that I was oversimplifying the two situations somewhat.  Just a couple of things:

 

10 hours ago, Justin Payne said:

Yes, but the home video market only became a thing when they dropped the prices. No one was buying videos when they were $60 to $80. They were renting them from us, getting two VCRs, and making copies OR waiting until it was on pay TV and copying it from there. People would also buy old stock. Video stores would generally buy several copies of new releases but after some time, we'd get rid of a bunch because they were just taking up space on the shelf so we'd have a sale and get rid of them that way.

One other thing I can remember seeing happen: a person would walk into the video store, rent a VCR and five movies for the weekend, and buy five blank tapes at the same time.  It was pretty obvious what they were doing when they got home, but the video stores generally didn't care since the margins on the VCR rental and sale of the blank tapes were higher than they would've been had they just sold (or rented) five new movies.  The clearance shelves of ex-rental titles were the same: anything the tapes sold for was effectively 100% profit provided that it had at least broken even on its original purchase cost.

 

(BTW: I also worked in video stores, albeit as summer jobs when I was still in school.  This was also in Ireland, so things may not totally align with how they worked elsewhere, but I'd imagine it wasn't totally dissimilar.)

Quote

 

True about software. It has a much shorter shelf life and the market was small BUT development teams were pretty small and packaging, artwork, and manuals couldn't be a significant portion of the cost. It's definitely not like today where the production teams credit roll can sometimes be as long as a movie. I also understand that the market was very volatile and you really had to watch what systems were getting most of your sales. This was such a new market that I think a lot of business decisions were made by rolling dice.

 

 

Good points re: development scale then vs. development scale now, but the corollary is that today we have a much higher penetration of computers and consoles in the marketplace.  To my mind, that permits larger development teams - partly out of necessity due to the increased complexity of the hardware, but also partly because the larger market permits creating hardware of greater complexity, which in turn leads to increased software complexity in order to take advantage of the hardware.  Admittedly, that's a chicken-and-egg scenario, but makes sense since platforms tend to live or die based on their software libraries.

 

That said, I would love to see a return to rolling the dice on more titles.  Not saying that it doesn't happen (or that there weren't plenty of me-too games back in the day), but gaming has become so genre-driven that if it weren't for graphical differences it'd be almost impossible to tell certain games from others in many cases.  Indie games do help with stepping outside of that, to be sure, but I'd like to see a major publisher take a leap of faith in that regard *cough*Portal 3*cough* ;)

Edited by x=usr(1536)

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On 9/18/2019 at 11:04 AM, juansolo said:

 

One once used the Pompey Packer on their cover disc in an issue where they were attacking piracy. A mate of mine highlighted the hypocrisy to them. Fair play they published his letter and he ended up getting a shout on the next PP disk scroller ;) 

There was also a time when ST (Saint) Format, the vanguard against piracy, not only had a full copy of a vector drawing program on a coverdisk (by mistake) and also never had permission from the American company that made it...so they had to pull that issue.  :lol:

 

Anyway, for me the path to piracy went in the opposite direction.  I did buy ST games from a local dealer that imported them but they stopped selling them to make room for the far more popular PC titles.  They continued to sell imported magazines, like ST Format, so I got most of my software through their coverdisks like a word processor and even STOS Basic.  Most of the games I got were PD/Shareware stuff which I also got through BBS's and user group libraries so I had enough content where I didn't need to pirate anything.  In fact everyone at the user group gave me their all the games they stopped playing, not copies but original disks.

 

Once my ST died and I had to get a PC, I got an emulator to still keep playing my old games.  All the free PD games I was able to transfer over but in order to still play the auto-booting games I had to get the pirated versions which became available as disk images, because the Makedisk program that makes the disk images can't read copy protected floppies.  Yeah the PP cracktros might come off as being a bit pretensious as the OP stated, but OTOH it was real convient to have a 2 disk game on a single disk image with room left for the docs and/or extra games.  By that point the commercial ST game market was already dead anyway.

 

I now buy PC games but that's because they're cheaper via digital downloads either through GOG or Steam sales.

 

 

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14 hours ago, x=usr(1536) said:

Excellent points, and I'll admit that I was oversimplifying the two situations somewhat.  Just a couple of things:

 

One other thing I can remember seeing happen: a person would walk into the video store, rent a VCR and five movies for the weekend, and buy five blank tapes at the same time.  It was pretty obvious what they were doing when they got home, but the video stores generally didn't care since the margins on the VCR rental and sale of the blank tapes were higher than they would've been had they just sold (or rented) five new movies.  The clearance shelves of ex-rental titles were the same: anything the tapes sold for was effectively 100% profit provided that it had at least broken even on its original purchase cost.

 

(BTW: I also worked in video stores, albeit as summer jobs when I was still in school.  This was also in Ireland, so things may not totally align with how they worked elsewhere, but I'd imagine it wasn't totally dissimilar.)

Good points re: development scale then vs. development scale now, but the corollary is that today we have a much higher penetration of computers and consoles in the marketplace.  To my mind, that permits larger development teams - partly out of necessity due to the increased complexity of the hardware, but also partly because the larger market permits creating hardware of greater complexity, which in turn leads to increased software complexity in order to take advantage of the hardware.  Admittedly, that's a chicken-and-egg scenario, but makes sense since platforms tend to live or die based on their software libraries.

 

That said, I would love to see a return to rolling the dice on more titles.  Not saying that it doesn't happen (or that there weren't plenty of me-too games back in the day), but gaming has become so genre-driven that if it weren't for graphical differences it'd be almost impossible to tell certain games from others in many cases.  Indie games do help with stepping outside of that, to be sure, but I'd like to see a major publisher take a leap of faith in that regard *cough*Portal 3*cough* ;)

Sure, people did that but did they do it when a new tape was $60 - $80 USD new (This is 1987 dollars where minimum wage was $3.23) OR was this later on when prices were $15 for a video tape? I do remember a new release was was $3.00 and older movies, I think, were $1. Blanks were a few bucks. As far as VCR rental, I can't really remember how much that was but let's say it was $20 a day. Now, renting it all weekend to tape 5 movies doesn't seem like someone wanting to save buck....like me, so I would have only rented it for 24 hours.

  • $20 VCR rental
  • 5 blank tapes @ $4 = $20 (not including tax cuz I figure I'm averaging)
  • 5 new releases @ $3.23 a piece (the .23 was tax. I remember that) = $16.15

Total: $57 (round up).

 

Tax in my area was about 8% so at a minimum a single new release tape was  $64.80.

 

Even when video tapes were at $15, it would still be 81.75 (moved the tax up to 9% because it increased by the time tapes got the low).

 

It was still worth pirating but then I didn't have to put for the effort and I got a nice production quality tape and case. At that point the extra $30 was probably worth it.

 

I think it all comes down to accessibility to material, the easy of obtaining that material, the quality of that material, how much extra cash one has, and what it would cost if you just purchased the thing legally.

 

As far as rolling the dice, there is soooooo much riding on games these days that rolling the dice is just too risky so you get carbon copies. That's nothing new but it's more so these days. One wrong misstep with a title and buy buy company. Yes, I would also like to see Portal 3 come to life but good ol' Valve ain't in the game making business anymore so I don't think we'll see either of their 3's (HL3 and P3) in the bright sunlight.

 

 

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