Stardock: Gamer’s Bill Of Rights

By John Walker on August 30th, 2008 at 12:20 am.

Heading to a brave new future!

It’s hard not to want to give Stardock a kiss on the nose. But as professional, aloof critics, we are required not to have favourites, ensuring we are as precise and astute in all things. It’s interesting to note how Stardock are aiming to be everyone’s favourite. Their latest effort: The Gamer’s Bill of Rights.

Stardock’s position is that, since the PC market has no central regulatory body, there should be a manner of constitution that developers and publishers should aspire toward. Their ten point list is designed as an attempt to capture what they should be. So before anything else, here it is:

The Gamer’s Bill of Rights:

1. Gamers shall have the right to return games that don’t work with their computers for a full refund.
2. Gamers shall have the right to demand that games be released in a finished state.
3. Gamers shall have the right to expect meaningful updates after a game’s release.
4. Gamers shall have the right to demand that download managers and updaters not force themselves to run or be forced to load in order to play a game.
5. Gamers shall have the right to expect that the minimum requirements for a game will mean that the game will play adequately on that computer.
6. Gamers shall have the right to expect that games won’t install hidden drivers or other potentially harmful software without their consent.
7. Gamers shall have the right to re-download the latest versions of the games they own at any time.
8. Gamers shall have the right to not be treated as potential criminals by developers or publishers.
9. Gamers shall have the right to demand that a single-player game not force them to be connected to the Internet every time they wish to play.
10. Gamers shall have the right that games which are installed to the hard drive shall not require a CD/DVD to remain in the drive to play.

It’s an interesting concept. But it’s not clear that this is entirely the ideal list. It’s hard to argue with a good number of the points, while others sound a bit like point-scoring by Stardock rather than anything more practical for promoting positive treatment of customers. Point 2, for instance: There’s not a developer in the land that gladly ships unfinished code. This is something that regrettably occurs, usually because of publisher pressure, or simply running out of any possible time. It sucks when it happens, and we all certainly loathe having to wait for a patch, but it’s not as if there’s anyone out there gleefully rubbing their hands together and crying, “Aha! They’ll buy my game with a dodgy bug in chapter 3, the idiots!” And publishers hardly have it as a goal.

Point 3 also surprises me. It’s obviously lovely to get updates post release, but I don’t quite see why this should be a guaranteed requirement. Kieron points out that this is an engineer’s list, rather than that of an artist’s – this is what Stardock’s people can do, so why shouldn’t it be what everyone can do? It’s an extrapolation that I don’t think can be so easily universally applied as Stardock might think. There are particular games for which post-release updates are relevant and superb. There are others that are self-contained, and would be meaningless. The latter do not deserve ridicule for disobeying a bill of rights

Point 5, I think, would be where most publishers would protest. Clearly there are issues of deceptive minimum system specs on games, but there’s also the considerable complication of systems being so impossibly varied that creating a fixed spec that will definitely apply to all can be problematic. No excuses here – falsifying min specs to boost sales is purest evil. But I bet your bum that the complaints would pop up here.

Of course, an unspoken undercurrent here is Stardock’s position that piracy is not PC gaming’s priority issue. 6, 8, 9 and 10 all hint at this, suggesting that common anti-piracy, pro-DRM traits should be removed. I’ll certainly not argue with that, not one bit, but I doubt people are going to fail to spot what they’re up to.

Sorry for being so negative! I’m really not. I think Stardock’s doing this is an excellent thing, and indeed PC gamers definitely do deserve a hefty chunk more respect, even dignity, from publishers. But of course the correct thing to do when given a list like this is to test it. So test it will shall. I think this is possibly the healthy beginnings for a constitution, to be bashed out by the industry. Industry – do that. Also, you do it too, below.

(Also, I wish Stardock’s name wasn’t so incredibly similar to Starforce’s. It really does catch me off guard each time. They are absolute opposites, and it’s very confusing to the simple-minded like me).

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83 Comments »

  1. Butler` says:

    I can see what they are getting at, but as you rightly point out, the list does seem a bit point-scorey throughout – even rose tinted.

    It’s certainly nothing to feel like you’re being overly critical of.

  2. Heliocentric says:

    I like the stardock chaps, but this is nothing more than propoganda. They can come back when the list is less self glorifying.

  3. someyoungguy says:

    point 9. i really wish i could play(and mod) my retail copy of HL2 on my desktop. i don’t have the internet at home though…

  4. Stromko says:

    Point 2 is definitely a major sticking point, even Stardock’s own Galactic Civilizations 2 shipped with crash bugs, and also became a much better, polished game once it was patched. They actually flipped this around and said it was a smart move to reward their registered customers by releasing a far superior patched version on Stardock, which would be hard to get for the otherwise easy to pirate release version.

    Stardock is practically the only developer that can even get close to meeting this entire ‘bill of rights’, probably because they make a lot of their money by selling non-gaming software and have the luxury of only developing and releasing games when they can take their time and make it a gem.

    It’d be nice if the whole list was really something the industry took to heart, but so long as the retail environment is the largest, most effective beta test that many games ever go through, that’s unlikely to really happen.

    Though I would like any developer who releases a crash-prone and incomplete game (for console or PC) and doesn’t fix it to face a war crimes tribunal. I still hold a grudge against Akella for selling me that godawful Sea Dogs II/Pirates of the Caribbean, and whoever made those abortions of Silent Storm sequels can just straight up burn in Hell.

  5. Jae Armstrong says:

    Points 2 and 3 directly contradict each other. If a game is finished, it cannot be added to by definition.

    Point 2 should probably be rephrased as “Gamers shall have the right to expect games not to be released in a bugged state” (still controversial, but hey), and Point 3 should perhaps become “Gamers shall have the right to expect bugs in a game to be patched to the best of the developers ability” (bear in mind that some bugs might require complete reworking of the game from the ground up).

  6. Robin says:

    Points 1., 7. and 10. seem a bit redundant with PC games rapidly migrating to digital purchase (and -for 1.- usually offering trials and/or demos).

    Point 3. well, what you said. Not every developer has a guaranteed income that can support extending games even when it would be nice.

    Point 4. is… well, what? An attack on Steam? There isn’t any distinction made as to why utilities like this are automatically bad. And last time I checked, Stardock administered their games through some sort of client program (which doesn’t support Windows 2000, helpfully), which surely violates this point.

    Point 5. is fine in principle, but hard to judge. Some people seem to have a high tolerance for loading pauses and inconsistent framerates. I first played through Oblivion with my GPU almost audibly weeping, but I wouldn’t extend the same leniency to GRID, which while normally butter-smooth seems to delight in glitching for a second just as I’m about to take a tricky corner. Grrr.

    Point 6. seems again to be more anti-DRM propaganda than impartial fact. As is point 8. Hey, and point 9! What games do do that? One-time authentication is enough.

    As for amendments to the bill, I’d suggest that PC developers recognise that other controllers exist than the Xbox 360 pad, and allow us to configure joypad controls accordingly. Devil May Cry 4 was a bad offender, and if Resident Evil 5 doesn’t improve matters Capcom are off my Christmas card list.

  7. Leelad says:

    Are they saying Steam is a bad thing?

    While some points would be nice if adhered to the whole thing is anal pie after the Steam dig.

  8. Nero says:

    While they are great points that I would like to see followed it will simply not happen. You will continue to see buggy games with no ongoing support, copy protection, pc gamers labeled as thieves and everything to make the life of a PC game buyer as complicated as ever while pirates has no need for activations and such crap. I will always be a PC gamer though.

  9. chaos4u says:

    im really supprised at the blase attitude here so far .

    after reading several forums on the comcast cap.

    and now a company that is trying to improve pc gaming and ensure that gamers are treated fairly.

    im disappointed to read comments like propaganda, and not appreciate the the royal treatment you get when you buy the game from the digital download store .

    i find this really alarming . it appears consumers have become a push over for what ever is handed their way .

    whether it be gaming, internet service, or cell phones it looks like the majority is willing to accept poor service and products.

    after stardocks article i was kinda expecting to see a rallying of support for better treatment. but after reading this article and these comments . it looks like people really do not care and will gladly pay for a lesser product and cheerfully ignore those who are offering better services and products.

    well hooray for stardock!! its good to see a company who wants to support their customers and will try to deliver a product that either meets or exceeds a high standard.

    yes i am excited by this because its about time a company comes forward and says we realize we need to satisfy the customer and deliver a quality product .

    so thank you stardock for trying to take a stand i hope you are able to live up to this standard.
    i hope that in time through your efforts people will realize that there is something to be said for a company who cares about quality . and the bar will be raised and we will all benefit from this.

  10. Stromko says:

    Robin: Stardock is required to patch their games, but Galactic Civilizations 2 and Sins of a Solar Empire can be played without a disc in the drive and without Stardock. I agree it is kind of an oddly specific indictment, although the EADownloader that opens up every time I want to use the Spore Creature Editor shows that Valve isn’t the only one, Gametap can take frustratingly long to boot up and deluge you with annoying ads, and I wouldn’t be suprised if Direct-to-Drive and other services are going to roll out the same sort of online DRM eventually.

    So point 4 isn’t JUST pointing a finger at Valve by any stretch, they’re just the most prominent and most successful purveyors of that DRM scheme. EA in time will roll out a massively more restrictive scheme, probably working along the same lines as Steam, because they think everything that sells poorly is because of piracy rather than the fact their developer-thralls swiftly have all skills and talent drained out of their bodies by a vampiric cabal of stockholders.

  11. kimliatach says:

    Here Here
    Chaos4u
    /seconded

  12. brog says:

    3 is ridiculous.
    Unless, of course, 2 has not been followed.

    2 is ridiculous too, of course, since it rules out business models like those of Mount and Blade, Dwarf Fortress, Cortex Command.. it needs to be modified somewhat. Something like “Gamers have the right to expect that a game is in the state it is claimed to be in.”

    (Not to object to these in principle, on the whole they are obviously good and it’s shocking that they haven’t always been followed. Just suggesting improvements.)

  13. Carda says:

    Point 2 seems to be aimed more at the publishers than the developers. Particularly Sega, who seem to have this anal tendency to provide the development team with just enough time to get the game to work, but not enough time to make it not suck (and anyone who’s played the most recent Sonic the Hedgehog game knows exactly what I’m talking about).

    I would gladly wait a few more months for a truly complete game than have a game that was pushed out early but incomplete… like it was delivered by C-section or something.

  14. rocketman71 says:

    How I wish someone forced Ubi, EA and the rest of those bastards to comply with this list. It would be a great day for PC gaming.

  15. Mickiscoole says:

    I think that the main problem with this is with the use of the words ‘finished’ and ‘adequate’ etc. Jump onto the Counterstrike forums and you will always find someone who believes that they should be able to run it on 100% graphics with a frame rate of 250, and any less is false advertising by valve or something.

  16. Andy Simpson says:

    I agree with people here in saying that on the whole, we should be all for a better deal for gamers.

    It’s just that it’s hard to take the implied altruism seriously when their list reads like a feature list for their newest product, and you realise that this “Bill of Rights” is a pretty thinly veiled PR stunt.

    The thing is, #4 was violated most notably by the launch of HL2, which brought Steam kicking & screaming to the masses.

    I think you could make the argument that in a world where that hadn’t happened, digital distribution wouldn’t be as mainstream as it is now, things like the Steam Community wouldn’t be nearly as useful.

  17. MeestaNob! says:

    I agree in principal with the majority of those points, it’s a list of things we should expect but sadly don’t receive due to being treated like fools by the industry. What’s worse is the notion that these ideals would be somehow easier to adhere to if we just wrote them down.

    The thing I most dislike about the list however is that a few of the points feel like Stardock grandstanding a little. Whilst the none to subtle digs at DRM and draconian piracy methods are appreciated, attacking quality platforms like Steam is not. While the idea of a Bill of Rights for Gaming sounds like a noble cause, using it as a cynical attempt to dig at competitors is petty and, in this example, slightly pathetic. This is amateur hour stuff, and they should reconsider before they try something similar again in the future.

    Much like an actor spouting off about apartheid or terrorism or whatever, I cant help but feel StarDock should STFU and stick to what they do best: making software.

    Just a small aside: One thing that might slip some peoples notice is that StarDock can afford to invest more time and money into creating bug free quality games thanks to their other line of shovelware that makes them plenty of extra money. With a lot of developers going tits up every few weeks, it highlights a big issue with the industry: lack of diversification. Most companies in other industries have varied products and investments purely as a precaution. Perhaps the smaller studios who are going out on a limb with their first couple of products should be giving themselves a safety net by creating simpler games (or other software) initially to get a solid base of funding. There’s too many Origins in the world and not enough Valve/Blizzard/StarDocks’.

  18. randomnine says:

    chaos4u: Stardock already do all this stuff, and bang on at length about how they do all this stuff. This is just further self-promotion on their part – there’s no actual call to action here, no progressive program to advance the industry, no collaborative effort to launch some certification scheme for Stardock Approved Awesome Games, no announcement about how they’re going to improve their own attitude to gamers. While Stardock are eminently heartable, this list is purely a bullet-point advert for their games.

    The only purpose of this list is to remind gamers of all the nice things Stardock do. Since they already do all these things, them saying “these things are important!” is meaningless – they aren’t going to change their behaviour for the better in any respect. On the other hand, as the points all tap into already widely discussed issues within PC gaming, the list won’t really affect public debate either.

    Stardock are lovely, but the bombastic rhetoric on display here is somewhat unsubtle.

  19. Al3xand3r says:

    Nice to see people here see how obvious the Stardock PR stunt is… Other websites reporting this took it seriously, even though they were skeptical about how practical the list is, ha.

    But, whatever, I still love Stardock for what they do, it would be nice if they made a serious suggestion in the future but until Microsoft does it as a requirement for “Games for Windows” branded titles, it’ll never be taken seriously anyway. And Microsoft won’t.

    Though, I don’t think Stardock should be blamed for having other sources of income. Other companies have superior sales with a larger amount of titles so they should be able to deliver everything Stardock does. It’s not like Stardock can afford to take a loss with piracy (and their other software is prone to piracy also by the way) otherwise they might as well give up on making games and just focus on their other business. What they do, any other studio can do also really, whether they only do games or not. Developing other types of software doesn’t make it easier to keep their games DRM free.

    Also, as far as I know, their patches are just as easy as their full games to pirate, so their success doesn’t rely on providing content or services pirates can’t get. I’d say that’s based solely on the quality of their games, the respect they give their customers by default, and the fact they know piracy can’t be helped in any other way so they waste no resources for that, instead they spend said resources for better games, better support, better overall products that can sell more. I guess.

  20. 2ds says:

    How about we edit this a bit

    The Gamer’s Bill of Rights:

    1. Gamers shall have the right to return games that don’t work with their computers for a full refund.

    2. Gamers shall have the right to demand that games be be obviously labeled if they are not complete. This allows mount and blade to exist and gives a person who buys something that is a half finished piece of shit some recourse.

    3. Gamers shall have the right to expect meaningful updates after a game’s release to fix any bugs.
    I don’t think new content should nesecarily be free, but I do believe if a game is obviously broken there should be an onus on the programmers to fix it if they are charging money for it.

    4. Gamers shall have the right to demand that download managers and updaters not force themselves to run or be forced to load in order to play a game.

    5. Gamers shall have the right to expect that the minimum requirements for a game will mean that the game will play adequately on that computer.

    6. Gamers shall have the right to expect that games won’t install hidden drivers or other potentially harmful software without their consent.

    7. Gamers shall have the right to re-download the latest versions of the games they own for a reasonable time after purchase. it’s a nice idea but i hardly expect a company that sells me something online to still allow me to download it off them 20 years from now. I’d like it but i’m not sure if it is realisitic. ea currently allows me to redownload my copy of mass effect for 2 years. If i can manage to make a backup of the game in that time i think if i loose it it is my own fault.

    8. Gamers shall have the right to not be treated as potential criminals by developers or publishers.

    9. Gamers shall have the right to demand that a single-player game not force them to be connected to the Internet every time they wish to play.

    10. Gamers shall have the right that games which are installed to the hard drive shall not require a CD/DVD to remain in the drive to play.

    Anything else you think should be edited?

  21. Will Tomas says:

    While you could argue that points 4 and 9 are digs at Valve, personally I wholeheartedly agree – for online games I understand why it’s necessary but I would at least like Steam to ask if I want to download updates for games. Also I went through a phase of not having the internet at home for months after moving house, and not being able to play the Orange Box because of this – even the single-player parts – I found intensely frustrating, and because Steam’s offline mode throws wobblies occasionally it wouldn’t even let me play the already installed HL2.

    Good list, although I agree that they’ve chosen a list probably only they would agree with among developers. Lovely idea though, it being an arguable PR stunt notwithstanding.

  22. Bozzl3y says:

    My 2 cents – to highlight something Carda mentioned, the list seems to mix a few points between developer and publisher, points which shouldn’t really be ambiguous. The list seems to have the best intentions “in spirit”, and from reading obviously between the lines the spirirt is fair and awesome. However, as a consumer who has a basic understanding of how the industry works, I’d be a bit happier thinking the spirit of this document would go to two separate documents; one for a developer, and one for the publisher of that developer’s work. As a consumer, I’d be happier knowing it’d be the publisher’s responsibility to publish a “finished” game, and I’d be happier knowing that (based on the comments mentioned by Wardell in the Gamasutra article about Stardock and GPG) it’d be the developer’s responsibility to support a game after it was published (to clarify- so long as the developer gets reimbursed for their efforts after a game gets shipped to the satisfaction of both the publisher and the developer to continue updating the product, then the developer should support that product for as long as they get paid).

    I can hardly see straight (damn cocktails), hope the above rambling makes sense.

  23. Bozzl3y says:

    Also, number 4 – only comes into play if the game is released and is bugged to fuck, in which case point 1 or 2 comes into effect. The game should still be playable as a single player game if the internet is unavailable. Steam lets you play the games you’ve got if you’re on or off the net, and if you’re off the net, then no updates are necessary.

    I think.

  24. frymaster says:

    someyoungguy: half-life 2 doesn’t fall under point 9:

    9. Gamers shall have the right to demand that a single-player game not force them to be connected to the Internet every time they wish to play.

    Key words: every time. Steam only requires a ‘net connection for SP games for initial decrypt

    Other points… is 4 supposed to be a dig at steam? I wouldn’t classify the thing as merely a downloader/updater so if so it’s missing the target…

    Point 6, yes of _course_ I agree with the point-behind-the-point – ie no rootkits – but as written it potentially applies to things like codecs and/or _any_ possibly third-party tools that a game might come with – how does a game developer prove something like punkbuster isn’t potentially harmful, given that for all they know it could be taken over by hackers a couple of years after the game is released?

    7 – so I have the right to continually delete then reinstall my games all day long, wasting the publisher’s bandwidth? Again, it’s a bit sweeping. And I’m not sure I agree with it as a “right”

    8 – If I go into a nightclub I get ID’d. I’m being treated as a potential criminal, until I prove my credentials. I have no problem with this.

    10 – It’s really not like there was a golden age they’re trying to hearken back to. Back in the 8-bit days you got code wheels and lenslocks and physical dongles and all sorts… why turn around now and say we have a “right” to have things different to how they’ve always been?

    All in all it seems it’s filled with lots of things that would make my life easier and fit neatly with the way stardock works, but which aren’t necessarily as big a deal as they make out and I don’t think are mandatory for all games.

  25. Benjamin Barker says:

    2ds pointed out what I was going to, that some of these are matters of labeling or disclosure– in a way that disregards how an indie developer might do business, it seems to me. The rest are either “buyer beware” common sense, or pointing out that DRM is annoying…

    The would be much more reasonable as “Stardock’s Top Ten Tips for Buying PC Games”. I’ll take it as that.

  26. cHeal says:

    (Also, I wish Stardock’s name wasn’t so incredibly similar to Starforce’s. It really does catch me off guard each time. They are absolute opposites, and it’s very confusing to the simple-minded like me).

    You’re not alone.

    Anywas yeah I disagree with a number of these “rights” and point 3 is plain silly. This even though I am a strict anti-DRM gamer and do very much support the efforts which Stardock and Cliff Harris are making.

    Also I’m drunk, sorry cliff if I got your name wrong or somthing.

  27. Darth Benedict says:

    If anyone has earned the right to brag about their treatment of customers, it’s stardock. Even steam seems draconian in comparison.

  28. Devan says:

    I think it’s important to read the article linked to, especially where it says that these are rights that gamers “can expect from Stardock as an independent developer and publisher [and] that it hopes that other publishers will embrace”. That’s why this list is primarily tailored to Stardock and is biased towards digital distribution.
    So this is not Stardock boasting “We do all these things, so we’re better.”, but rather “This is our commitment to our customers (and we hope other publishers will take inspiration from it).”

    For this list to be adopted as an industry standard, it would need to be more generic and universal, and less ambiguous.

  29. Drongo69 says:

    It may seem like “propaganda” or “point scoring”, but Stardock have every right to do so. Holy shit, they don’t treat their customers with contempt, and yet they still manage to turn a healthy profit?

    Radical!

    I have zero complaints about these points, they are all spot on. It’s ludicrous that this is not the default state of the industry.

  30. RedMage13 says:

    I see some people talking about #4 as an attack on Steam. While OMFG STEAM ROXORZ TEH BIG111!, it was hell trying to be able to play my games during the horrible, horrible period during which I had an 8kb/s download speed. When I started Steam, it would try to update itself, but it would always get stuck at about 40%, meaning that I couldn’t access any of my games.

    It’s not saying that Steam is bad, it’s just saying that auto-updating stuff can be bad occasionally.

  31. Muzman says:

    It’s a bit… nice in places. They might as well go right at the DMCA and its ilk, since its not legally binding.

    A well equiped militia being essential to preserve the medium against time, the right of the people to keep and bear copyright security breaking and circumventing software shall not be infringed

  32. Esha says:

    The only thing I don’t understand here though is why these are being taken as The Ten LoLs Commandments. I just took it as something that StarDock holds as their own ideals when shipping a project, they might not uphold them but those are their own “virtues”, which they try to follow.

    I suppose it might just be the Free Software fanatic in me talking, but everyone should have their own set of ideals. Those who’re involved in Free Software have similar, simply that people should share without placing expectations upon others. It’s more of an ideal than anything, and while there are licenses and goodness knows what else to back it up on a legal front, it all comes down to what we believe is right at the end of the day.

    This is just what StarDock believes is right for them, and what they expect that people will hold them to in the future. That’s great, that is. The only thing I think did them no favours was the whole “Bill of Rights” title.

  33. Darkelp says:

    Okay, so I understand what Stardock are doing, but I see a few loop holes. One which involves numbers 1 and 10.

    If this were to take affect, I could in theory go out and buy several games, install them onto a spare drive (or flash drive) and then return these products. I would of gotten the latest games for free. And I won’t have to worry about ant bugs because number 2 helps me out there. And I know I can get away with it, because number 4 means my copy will never be checked again to see if its a pirate copy.

    Okay so maybe this is alittle far fetched, but it’s quite possible in my eyes were these to be the standard for development companys.

    Plus number 5 feels abit redundant with website’s offering to scan your computer to see if it can run the latest games.

    I’m glad that Stardock are trying to create a set of standards for the industry. But as an avid gamer, and a gamer that doesn’t pirate any games, I gotta ask. Why weren’t we asked what we want a bill of rights to look like.

  34. Dorian Cornelius Jasper says:

    I don’t care if this is propaganda. Stardock’s already covered most of the points on the list, and it just goes to show that not only do they know what the customer wants, they’re already on it.

    A big raspberry in their competition’s face.

    And, frankly, they can already back these points up. I’m going to go against the grain, here. Instead of criticizing Stardock because they’re already a publisher that treats their customers better than the rest, I’m gonna smile.

    Treat this as a great big *Take That* at the other publishers. We all know they need it.

    EDIT: Oh, come on. Number 5 is about false advertising. Not all customers are savvy enough to realize that the box is probably lying to them. Thinking otherwise is basically blaming the victim, here.

  35. Azhrarn says:

    @Dorian
    Absolutely right about #5, and credit is due for Stardock here too, usually you can get their games to run quite decently on computers a good deal below minimum spec. (although that takes quite a bit of tweaking)

    Overal I think that this Bill of Rights is not a bad thing, there are other companies that come pretty close to this fulfilling many of the points on this list. (Valve only missing a few for instance)
    Also, you can say what you like, but Stardocks no-DRM policy hasn’t been bad for them. (You do need the game registered through Impulse or Stardock Central to get updates, but that’s not really DRM)

    GalCiv and Sins of a Solar Empire both sold well above expectations and even on some piracy sites you see calls from people that like the games encouraging pirates to purchase them, because Stardock deserves their support for not putting DRM on the software.

    My appologies for sounding a bit like a SD-fanboy, but I really like the company (and thanks to my tastes, their games too)

  36. SwiftRanger says:

    It sounds a bit pretentious but frankly Stardock can’t do much bad with it, it’s a good list in general, especially for the games Stardock tends to make (strategy stuff). A jab at Steam? Get over it, Steam isn’t the Holy Grail at all and nr.4 on that list only proves that; some folks might be okay with online activation for singleplayer games but a lot of others aren’t.

    Expecting free updates with new content for a story-driven singleplayer FPS may not always be necessary indeed although no-one has really ever tried it as well in that genre so why not give it a shot?

  37. Richard Slater says:

    The issue any developer is going to have is if the publisher starts getting uppity about releasing a game their hands are tied, loose the publisher, face penalties or release the game in an unfinished state. When it comes down to it, better an unfinished game than no game at all.

    Equally publishers have to understand that pushing developers to release a game that isn’t finished will result in lower sales because people will quickly find out that it is buggy or even worse not feature complete.

    Instead of “finished game” perhaps “feature complete” would be a better phrase.

  38. Phil says:

    Clearly it’s something of a PR stunt from Stardock, but PR for something that (1) you believe is a good thing, and (2) is something of a rarity in the industry, isn’t such a bad thing.

    As many others have said, point 3 is stupid. Updates are a “nice to have if it makes sense, or is genuinely necessary”, but absolutely not something that we should *expect* on top of a complete and stable product. More than anything else, that item is what makes this list seem overtly self-serving — Stardock have said on numerous occasions that they see updates as a prime motivator for people buying the product, so we pretty much expect *them* to do this, but to include it on some would-be “Bill of Rights” is just silly if they are intending it seriously.

    It’s hard to be too critical of something that mostly makes points that you wholeheartedly agree with, though.

  39. Guido says:

    Meh, too much negativity and too little time. Just very short…

    #2 and #3 contradictory? No, because yes, a finished game can be added to, if you define “finished” as “complete with all the features it’s advertised to have and no gamebreaking bugs”, as I’m certain SD do. Still, new features can be added, just look at SoaSE where they’re still working on the single player part. Those things don’t necessarily have to be free of course though, so #3 is possibly a bit too strong.

    #5, the argument that there’s gazillions of specs out there and singling out a good minimum spec doesn’t work … well, if a computer has the exact specs that are given as “minimum” and, as happened in UT3 (that I like otherwise) they get 10 fps in a shooter, that spells pure fail. Leave away the minimum specs if you’re overwhelmed by your own industry’s base, the hardware.

    #9 is indeed quite important, particularly for those of my friends who don’t have internet connections (yes, they exist). #6 and #8 then, just like #9, indeed show SD’s stance towards piracy, one I support, but not really one everybody has to like – they were the ones that made me buy SoaSE right after release though without even knowing how good the game is…

    Anyway, now this comment got way too long for my time. All in all, I think this bill of rights is a huge step into the right direction, but unfortunately the points are too utopian for most gaming companies – they haven’t discovered yet that the game industry doesn’t work like the cars or clothes industry. Just look at how EA tries to lock down second hand sales, they’re silly like that.

  40. thesombrerokid says:

    Point 2 is EXTREAMLY VALID! ever nvidia G80 > user had mass effect PC ruined for them because of this and wether they were happy about it or not, it was certainly a known bug or they were lying because the cards were listed inthe supported chipset and the bug was common enough to manifest itself within an hour on 99% of the cards

    @Guido
    2 refers to known bugged versions getting shipped with a mind to fixing them later 3 refers to ‘meaningful’ added content TF2 as an example.

  41. Rudolf says:

    point 4 is total rubbish, especially for online multiplayer-enabled games. You don’t want people storming your servers with a dozen different incarnations of your game. That’s why you HAVE TO update to join say…battlefield, tf2, wow, counter strike servers…Everything else doesn’t make sense.

  42. Jetsetlemming says:

    Rewrite:
    1. Gamers shall have the right to expect a trial or demo version of a game to try it before buying it.
    2. Gamers shall have the right to expect developers to make a good faith effort to not release broken games.
    3. Gamers shall have the right to expect patches and bugfixes for significant problems found after a game’s release.
    4. Gamers shall have the right to demand that download managers and updaters be capable of being turned off or set in “offline” mode.
    5. Gamers shall have the right to expect that the minimum requirements for a game will mean that the game will play adequately on that computer.
    6. Gamers shall have the right to expect that games won’t install hidden drivers or other potentially harmful software without their consent.
    7. Gamers shall have the right to re-download the latest versions of the games they own at any time.
    8. Gamers shall have the right to not be treated as potential criminals by developers or publishers.
    9. Gamers shall have the right to demand that a single-player game not force them to be connected to the Internet every time they wish to play without an option of going “offline”.
    10. Gamers shall have the right that games which are installed to the hard drive shall provide alternatives to requiring a CD/DVD to remain in the drive to play.

  43. suchchoices says:

    Stardock and Ironclad are developing `micro expansions’ for Sins of a Solar empire. The first one is $10 for two new structures and some turret upgrade techs. Talk about a bargain!

    Perhaps item number three in the bill of rights should be changed to read:

    3. Gamers shall have the right to expect to pay a disproportionately high cost for meaningful updates after a game’s release.

    Compared to valve’s stream of content updates for team fortress 2 – for no additional cost to those who already purchased the game – this reeks of cynicism and greed.

  44. Optimaximal says:

    Pld Jetsetlemming… Much more sensible and less SD-preachy.

  45. The Apologist says:

    I am kissing their nose right now. With tongues.

    @ those accusing them of self-promotion – I have written a charter like this before in an entirely unrelated field. If it is self-promotion, then whatever, but I doubt it. This just relates strongly to the way Stardock operate because they are a company with values – that’s they way they try and do things. Go them.

    @Chaos4u If it is a genuine attempt to do something positive, they will want to establish what is an expression of the common ground which they can occupy with many gamers and other developers and publishers with similar values. Stardock will know, having put something like this out there, that they now need those people commenting, and particularly those suggesting edits will be very welcome to Stardock, and hopefully they will iterate on this start.

    And I think Jetsetlemming’s list is the best I’ve seen.

  46. cliffski says:

    @Jetsetlemming

    Much better list. The stardock 1) is impossible, you cant take a customers word for it that the game doesn’t run on their machine, especially if its a singleplayer drm-free copyable one. If all games had release-date or earlier demos, then there would be no problem. I even started adding text on my buy pages urging people to try the demo first. Always, always, always try the demo first, unless you have a ninja PC.

  47. Dinger says:

    Note that all rights are “Rights to expect” and “Rights to demand”, not “Rights to.”
    Good list. Critical of Valve? Valve’s wrong on forced downloads. Stardock has already complemented Valve with the highest form of flattery: anyone see Impulse?
    But if you’re modelling it on the Bill of Rights, you might as well state principles, rather than applications:
    A. The publisher should only release games that will work in the conditions specified.
    –> that means complete games. I don’t care about a studio’s economic woes, pressure of investors, full-page magazine adverts. The game must be finished and functional to an acceptable level. You can pay to beta Mount and Blade if you like, but if large parts of it are broken, a reputable publisher should not be releasing it.
    –> That also means verifying that the min specs on there produces an enjoyable experience. Nearly two decades ago, when I worked in a testing house, we’d have to test every PC title that came through on a min-spec machine. Some things haven’t changed. Publishers and developers seem to develp on top-shelf rigs and shovel to the public.

    B. The purchaser is the judge of a game’s functionality. Configurations vary. My CPU fan may have jumped its mount. Whatever the case, returns of non-working games have to be allowed.

    C. A publisher should make no undue demands on the gamer’s hardware or internet connection. If a plumber comes to your house to fix the toilet, it’s not reasonable to expect her to go rifling through your bedroom. And if she wants to to borrow your car to go fetch a new toilet seat, well she better ask first. The same for a game. A game has no right to change anything on my computer not needed to play the game. If a game wants some multiplayer-secure spy software (punkbuster) installed, it better be optional and work without it as well, The same goes for my internet connection. Not everyone in the world has cheap broadband, and it is presumptuous to force the user to download a large sum of data.

    D. Publishers must actively support a project post-release. Yes, patches butadditonal content if possible. Many here don’t understand this too well. Here’s the deal: making games for gamers instead of pirates means catering to the market segments that don’t pirate everything. Many non-pirates (and I’m going to guess, a lot of pirates) will buy games that they invest a lot of time in. The retail market plays to pirates’ proclivities: a big spike in early sales, followed by bargain cuts and a trip to the discount bin in six months. Pirates, likewise, download early, and often. Online distribution can and does see sales over a longer period. While adding new (free) downloadable content (and Sins has had some major freebies before this $10 pack) won’t do much to convince a retailer to put the thing back on the shelf, it does spike online sales. I’m sure Valve, if they ever talked about such things, would be able to tell you in monetary terms just how much each TF2 update is worth.

  48. Azhrarn says:

    Dinger, I think it’s safe to say that Stardock Central (SDs original content management program) is about the same age as Steam (maybe even a little older, but unsure about that) Impulse is merely an upgrade/remake of that. Although it now does share more features with Steam by including the community pages and such. SDC already had launcher and shopping functionality.
    So both were probably developed independently, although I do admit SD probably took some pointers of Steam with their remake.

  49. tim e says:

    Has anyone asked Stardock if games published through their digi-downloader will be required to adhere to these rules?

  50. Al3xand3r says:

    @suchchoices:
    Knowing Stardock the updates will offer much more than you think in regards to how the gameplay is expanded. Besides, 3X of those expansions with a total cost of a “standard” expansion will most certainly offer comparable functionality. This only allows them to release faster instead of wait until they have enough content to put it in a box for triple the price.

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