TPG Cast Episode 6: Linux Gaming and DRM

Ethan Lee from flibitijibibo (The Big Steam List of 3rd Party DRM and Steam on Linux) takes both Phil Cordaro and Adam Ames to school on all things Linux.  Ethan starts by talking about the origins behind his site and motivation in porting games to Linux.  In the end, Ethan tells his harrowing tale of losing 100GB of data thanks to SecuRom.  Finally, the most important aspect to this show was the realization that we call could use more downloadable RAM.  Ethan would also like to thank Josh Bush for his contributions in designing and maintenance of flibitijibibo.

Download via Dropbox or listen on YouTube.

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Running Time: 1 hour, 19 minutes.

19 thoughts on “TPG Cast Episode 6: Linux Gaming and DRM

    • Once as a joke I told someone that they could keep their floppy discs in ziplock baggies to protect against computer viruses. The next day as he was putting discs into baggies he asked if it was safe to put more than one in the same bag. I felt so bad! I didn’t want to embarrass him further, so I told him he was safe putting up to five in each bag.

  1. Great show! I really like these podcast interviews.

    I’m wishing now I hadn’t abandoned Linux all those years ago. I played with it back in high school, I think Red Hat came out towards the end of my senior year so I didn’t really get a good look at that one. Then in the Army they had me playing with Unix on Sun stations for a little while. After that it was back to Windows for me because I went to a lot of LAN parties at the time. I’ve been toying with the idea of carving out a few dozen gig and setting up a virtual machine on my desktop and running Linux again, I’m just not sure which one(s) to run. So I guess in that respect I would be open to any pointers for using Linux again for the first time. As for actually porting games, I might be willing to play with something like that at a later date; it sounds like it could be a lot of fun.

    I think I am officially the unofficial TPG Steam-Hater so it was interesting to hear the Anti-DRM view from a Steam user. If you like Steam and you use Steam then I fully understand the angst when you discover (perhaps too late) that the game requires some other form of DRM. This is what I go through as well. If I wanted to use Steam I would, but when I go to some other retailer only to be told “Go directly to Steam, Do not pass Go. Leave $50.” It irks me a bit. In my case Steam is the 3rd party but others look at me as having the tin foil hat on. Millions of gamers have signed up for a Steam account, not necessarily because they liked what Steam had to offer but because they wanted to play a specific title and there was no legal alternative. The fact that this artificially inflated number of users is then pointed out in order to gain more exclusive deals it what most upsets me.

    DRM in games has always been a little funny in how it is received. For all the whining and complaining about code wheels and such gamers talk about them now as almost a badge of honor. For all the Nerd Rage over DRM today there are still so many people going out and buying the games. Spore had one of the worst DRM schemes ever created, yet still sold millions of copies. Ubisoft has been criticized for it’s always online DRM but is still around and releasing new games, although they seem to have walked back a bit on their opinion of DRM. Then there is Diablo 3, everyone not living under a rock knew it was coming and that you would be required to maintain a constant connection to play even the single player mode, within the first 24 hours it had created a new meme around the Error 37 message but despite this it went on to becoming the best selling title ever with a whopping 6.3 million sales in the first week alone.

    Wow, I didn’t intend to ramble on like that. Come to think of it, maybe I do need a tin foil hat.

    • I am a pro rambler; we can make our hats together! (Then sell them in TF2!)

      Here’s the link to the Fedora resources I mentioned in the episode:

      You’ll probably be most interested in Fedora.txt, but the other stuff is there if you want it. It requires some prerequisite knowledge of Unix-y things, but a lot of that can be done with proper user guides, which I would probably do a terrible job writing.


      I’m a pretty big supporter of Steam, but I do agree that having it at retail is pretty silly. I understand why it’s there and I understand why developers put it on retail, but retail copies should have the option of avoiding accounts… these days there’s probably a reason why you’re buying from retail.

      That last point is a very good one, and I tend to never let it go when someone I know knowingly buys a game that provides some massive disservice to them. It’s why I’m mostly tired of reading so many DRM threads, or people complaining about the series becoming X Y Z, because I know that every single person in this hypothetical thread is going to buy it anyway. I’m a bit hypocritical like that; I despise the DRM “guilty until proven innocent” model, but for people who “boycott” games these days, it seems to be the only way to avoid a shotgun blast of disappointment when something like Diablo 3 shatters sales records.

    • We enjoy talking to these types of people so our efforts become win-win for us.

      The issue I have with Steam is similar to your own. I hate when a game becomes Steam exclusive and the publisher/developer leaves in additional DRM on top of what Steam already does. I am sure developers like Bethesda roll around on bed full of 100 dollar bills when they made the Steam exclusive agreement. However, this is never EVER good for the consumer. For example, if I hate Best Buy (for whatever reasons), but the TV I want is only sold there, I have no other choice. Either I do not buy or give in.

      In the case of additional DRM, I have no clearer example than the release of GTA IV. An online activation process, Social Club, SecuRom and Steam. I would love to be in meetings when developers make decisions like this. Do they really believe measures like these will stop piracy or be good for the consumer?

      What I also cannot stand is the hypocritical thinking of those who bash companies like Ubisoft and then defend Blizzard. Either you are against always online DRM or you are not. To me, there is no third direction.

      • Thanks for the links Ethan. Before today I would have just installed Unbuntu and that would just have been totally embarrassing.

        From what I understand making a game Steam exclusive versus making a game simply available on Steam is it affects the size of Valves cut from each unit sold on Steam. For an open game the publisher may have to share 30%-35% of each sale with Valve, but if it were Steam Exclusive then they would only share, let’s say 20%. I’m sure that Bethesda was able to cut quite a lucrative deal considering their adoption of the Steam Workshop. Is this extra per unit profit worth alienating part of their customer base? That is for Studio Executives to figure out for themselves. As Ethan said about Linux Gamers, Non Steam Gamers are here and we have money.

        It’s funny that you mention GTA4. In 2008 I was really looking forward to 2 titles, Fallout 3 and GTA 4. I had set aside money at the beginning of the year to purchase both titles but wound up only getting one, wanna guess which? I did my research and saw all the hoops that Rockstar wanted their customers to jump through for a single game and thought “Forget them!” Meanwhile Fallout 3 had GFWL used only for DLC and it was 100% optional. In fact I still have the codes from both the original release and the GOTY both unused. Both games were still heavily pirated but one company spent less for piracy protection.

        Also, how come you guys get cool avatars and I have what looks like a character from the Atari release of E.T.?

      • I forgot how to change the avatar. I think you need a WordPress account. Not sure though.

        In one of our scraped casts, Phil mentioned they looked like, “a pixelated octopus.” I told him that would have been a great name for a band or the site.

      • Hi guys,

        A few comments about DRM – The main issue with it beyond a “we all hate it as gamers” level is that it’s not even worth it for them to integrate it. Research on the topic (including my own, hah!) shows that DRM does not really make an impact in terms of it’s overall effect on piracy. It appears that people who just want to pirate everything are going to continue to do that, and people who are against piracy won’t, and this seems to be the case for the vast majority of people. The actual proportion of those that avoid piracy because of DRM is fairly small, and even then you could make the argument that it is “cancelled out” by people who go out and pirate the game BECAUSE of the DRM.

        So in the end, strict DRM practices are not actually effective in terms of reducing piracy. What they ARE effective in is making consumers upset, which results in making your games less appealing, and making the image of your company more negative. So basically, not only are you doing nothing to combat piracy and fruitlessly costing yourself money to pay for these DRM schemes, but you are actively shooting yourself in the foot by reducing the appeal of your games and making it so less people want to buy them in the first place. Even from a purely economic standpoint it’s pretty dumb.

        Also I assume the reason a game like Diablo 3 gets leeway (well besides people just blindly supporting it because it’s Blizzard) is that their reasons behind the implementation of the always-on model are not necessarily wholly piracy related. I’m convinced that the “real” reason behind it for that particular game was so that Blizzard could have a greater degree of potential control over the in-game economy – Thus ensuring they’d make more money in the real money auction house (which many of the game elements conspire to subversively move you towards but maybe that is a topic for another time). They may have even known that an always-on model would reduce overall sales of the game, but that they would make a greater amount in the real money auction house on a more tightly controlled, presumably harder to hack “always-online” qausi-mmo model. Now I’m not saying that this is necessarily “better” than other forms of DRM, in fact it’s potentially much MORE insidious depending on your perspective, but I do think it is important to make that distinction and not just lump it in with other always-on models. I think doing that kind of distracts from the real issue (or at least what I perceive to be the real issue) about their crazy in-game economy and loot system.

        Okay that wound up really long and way too serious, now I want to talk about McDonald’s. I had some McDoubles the other day, they were delicious. The fries were pretty soggy though. 😦

      • Did you take those fries back? When I order from any fast food chain, I always ask for fresh fries. Nothing worse than old french fries sitting under the heat lamp for too long.

        Favorite fries by place:

        1. Five Guys

        2. McDonald’s

        3. Carl’s Jr. (Known as Hardee’s in other places)

        4. Wendy’s (Liked them better before the change.)

        Worst Fries:

        1. Burger King

        2. Arctic Circle (Local Utah chain. They use Yukon Gold instead of Russet)

        3. KFC (Those wedges are just nasty.)

        Oh yeah.. DRM sucks too.

      • NO because I was already home and it wasn’t worth the trip back by that point 😦

        Also you haven’t seen truly bad fries until you’ve seen KFC in England. I don’t know what the hell they do to their fries there but they have the absolute worst ones ever, totally bland, weird texture, get soggy within minutes, just completely awful. Also weird because with all of the complaints I can make about food in the UK, fries / chips is one thing they manage to consistently get right so it’s mind boggling how KFC’s are so bad. You can’t get mashed potatoes instead because they don’t have those in the UK either. 😦

      • I remember on one of the GOG videos they were talking about Piracy and The Witcher 2. CDProjekt was told over and over that a DRM release would just make the pirates job easier, but they did it anyway. Afterwards when looking at TW2 piracy stats they discovered that all those torrents being downloaded were cracked Steam copies not DRM free GOG copies. There is a kind of Street Cred among the hacking scene and pirating a DRM free game is like “stealing” a bunch of sugar packets from a fast food restaurant, you might make you cool with a few people but no one else will take you seriously.

        Food in the UK is a bit different, but no Mashed Potatoes? That’s criminal. That’s almost as bad as the Can of Hotdogs. I knew someone from England when I lived in California who had found a house there with an avocado tree in the back yard. In California this is considered a luxury perk, bet she gave all the avocados away because she tried one and didn’t like it. It seems that she boiled it to make the skin softer, but it was still too chewy, and then the inside was a soupy mess.

        And speaking of California, In-n-Out. When you order fries the guy in the back reaches into a bin of potatoes, grabs one and puts it in the slicer then the fryer. You don’t get much fresher than that.

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