Interoperability for games is fundamentally flawed reasoning
Posted Aug 24, 2005 18:33 UTC (Wed) by FlorianMueller
Parent article: On the defense of piracy enablers
The EFF has deservedly lost the cast against Blizzard, and I stand by my criticism of the EFF's (and CCIA's) siding with the bnetd developers.
It's absurd to apply the concept of interoperability to a computer game. No one who (i) plays computer games and (ii) knows how the games business works would view a game client and server the same way as two productivity applications.
The word interoperability contains two Latin roots: "inter" ("between") and "opus" ("work").
There is no "between" because, for commercial and conceptual reasons that should prevail over any fundamentalist perspective on "freedom", a game client and a server must be treated as a unity. Reverse engineering and interfering with a protocol between a game client and a server can lead to a variety of negative effects, such as:
- circumvention of copy protection schemes
- cheat programs (which take a lot of fun out of the game)
- denial-of-service attacks against the server
- security risks for other people on the service
- manipulations of the gameplay concept (scoring, rules etc.)
I am developing a client-server game myself, and I don't want any of the above to happen. I believe that people don't need to interfere with my program. I'm the designer and author and owner. It's everyone's choice to use it the way I offer it. Take it or leave it, but don't tamper with it. If I don't want people to play my game by other rules than the one that I believe, for design considerations, to be right, then that's the legitimate right of an author and designer.
No one in his right mind can make a case for a pressing need to interfere with a game. That leads to the second word, "opus", i.e., "work". Yes, interoperability is indispensable for a productivity application. That's where if you weigh the pro's and con's of reverse engineering of a protocol off against each other, the conclusion will be far more likely to be that the public interest in interoperability prevails.
An entertainment product, however, is not a productivity case like accessing PDF files.
I have to point out that I worked with Blizzard Entertainment as their German consultant and representative (1995 until 1998), and I know Blizzard's senior management. They want to give gamers value, and they were always reluctant to use traditional copy-protection schemes (such as errors on the medium). Some of you may remember that when battle.net was created (for Diablo I), there were those services like Mplayer and TEN that charged gamers a monthly fee. Battle.net provided a much more gamer-friendly business model (you buy the game once and never have to pay any fees), and that business model would have been irresponsibly destroyed if the EFF had succeeded in court.
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