Hunted Cow's Battle Dungeon may go down as one of the great iOS games that almost was. Or, rather, actually was, but for less than a week.

Battle Dungeon offered up gameplay in the vein of Outwitters [Free] and Hero Academy [Free], with a 3D environment, XCOM style action points and an RPG twist. The ability to level up characters and buy better equipment was balanced against a point-cost system in which having more powerful champions meant playing with fewer of them. It was an appealing package for anyone who wanted more "crunch" and micromangement out of their async strategy games.

Now it's gone.

Today, Hunted Cow shut down the games servers, putting an end to single as well as multiplayer (AI was on the server). In a press release that appeared on player's screens and is available on their website, they said that the shutdown was "due to high levels of server load created by large numbers of pirated copies of the game." That's right, so many pirates were using server cycles that they couldn't keep up with legitimate demand.

My reaction to piracy tends to be a shrug and a "what can you do," though it always bothers me more when indies get pirated. In this case, small company Hunted Cow is really hurting because they're not being jerks about it: they're offering legit players their money back, both purchase price (a solid $4.99) and any money spent on IAP (IAP was for players who didn't want to wait to field a small number of champions). That's stand-up of them, but it really sucks.

Hunted Cow's other iOS games, Tank Battle: 1944 [$0.99] and Civil War: 1863, are still available on the app store.

  • http://twitter.com/beekeo Brendan Keough

    I'm interested to hear more from the developers; presumably their server instances should scale to meet demand and I would look at pirates as potential IAP customers.

    • Adams Immersive

      Potential... but not necessarily actual. If the pirates were paying honest money, the servers would be paid for.

      • http://twitter.com/mguniverse Danny Perski

        I don't see why pirates would intentionally steal a game then later throw them a couple dollars when they are well aware that they don't actually have to.

      • http://twitter.com/beekeo Brendan Keough

        #1 - some people claim to "pirate" when demos are not available
        #2 - the game designers can force an update that gates content (whether new or existing) via IAP that cannot be stolen

        My point is that the problem of too many users (nice "problem" to have btw) is not unsolvable.

      • http://twitter.com/rocketcatgames Rocketcat Games

        Just chiming in: The "demos aren't available" piracy excuse is total bullshit. It always was a complete lie, but iOS just makes the lie way more obvious.

        On the other hand, piracy numbers seem really stable. There's a set number of people that will pirate any game. Often, it's people that will just play it once. If the piracy numbers are generally a set number, it's not so much an issue of piracy as a game just not selling enough legitimate copies. Due to this, we haven't bothered to think of piracy numbers since our second game.

      • http://twitter.com/beekeo Brendan Keough

        heh, I was being polite with the comment about demo-piracy, I agree with you.

        I still see this as a problem of long-term monetization support for your server costs. something is broken if too many users is a problem.

        If your game is good enough to hook these pirates for longer than a week (after which your server load will ease), find something for them to buy.

      • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100000474676350 Jaime Coston

        Yeah, see this is what I am reading from this. I am not defending piracy by any means, but I just can't swallow it as the ail every time it is used as a reason for poor sales. Sometimes poor sales are just due to poor sales.

      • http://iqsoup.com/ iqSoup

        Yep, there are plenty of devs making millions on the platform regardless of how much piracy is out there.

      • ducksFANjason

        I've never understood the "demos aren't available" excuse at all... Why is software the only domain where a demo is expected - indeed, required for some folks. It's one of the only avenues where you run into ridiculous demands like that. If I went to a restaurant and ate a steak and then didn't pay because I didn't like it, it wouldn't be an acceptable excuse to say "Well you didn't offer me a sample first.". Similarly, if I stole some shoes because they didn't let me go for a test-run in them first, that would be equally absurd. But for some reason there is this ridiculous notion that devs need to offer a free trial. What ever happened to just buying a product because it looks good and then just accepting the consequence of making what will ultimately later be an either good or bad decision? Especially when we're talking about sub-$5 app prices here people...

      • roy

        $1 games -> more piracy...makes the lie more obvious than ever.

      • M. Hoskins

        Latent guilt, and perhaps having more money on hand then when the pirated app was downloaded. Also, updates are not available for pirated apps. (At least not in any dependable, timely fashion.) Also, "try before you buy" does include buying at the end, or else deleting the app because you don't want it.

    • roy

      i'm a developer and i left a separate comment. pirates won't buy IAP's. they won't even pay $5 for the game to start with. server architecture for games is non-trivial. you can't just instantiate another server. servers take processing power, memory, electricity, etc. if you're just talking about the program, sure you could just instantiate another server, but the network traffic costs money and you have to have enough horsepower left over on the server to run the game with a good user experience. i honestly don't have the time it would take to teach you how distributed systems work. but even so, maybe you should consider that before you have a degree in computer science, making assumptions about how a server architecture should "just work" is sounding kind of rude to developers like me. games aren't web servers. we don't have years to get it right. games have short commercial lives and therefore have to get done "now". paying someone like rackspace to host for you doesn't solve the problem either. if you CAN create an ideal scalable game server distributed across an arbitrary number of nodes, you've also got to have some way of paying for those nodes to be up 24/7 and to keep that network throughput going. this expense is offset by sales. if you can't get sales, you can't pay for the servers. even if you can get through the technical issues and provide free gaming servers for all the pirates, they will obviously NOT be paying customers through IAP's as they've already proven they aren't by the fact that they stole the game. it takes a lot of extremely hard work to make a game. you should try it some time and get an appreciation of the effort involved.

      • M. Hoskins

        You make some valuable points on scalable server architecture and paying for servers, but I disagree with your point that pirates will "obviously NOT be paying customers through IAPs". Since IAPs go through Apples billing system, and there seems to be no way to "get around" it with cracks, people with pirated apps will often pay for an IAP to get those valuable features, since there's no other way to do it. Also, don't think that just because someone downloads a few pirated apps that they are morally bankrupt and do not pay for anything (although I would agree their ethics are somewhat challenged.)

      • http://www.facebook.com/look.mother.no.hands Shayne O'Neill

        All an IAP does is flip some switches in software. Apple doesnt let you download extra code to run (To be specific, IOS apps are statically linked) So you include all the IAP features and switch them off , and then check apples IAP system to see if they've brought the feature. The problem however is that ObjC is trivially easy to hack compared to C/C++ and its pretty easy to just turn on those features by code as part of the process of preparing the app for appcake or whatever the kids are using these days

  • JJE

    Just to be clear this game wasn't just on iOS. My suspicion is that they wanted the servers to work cross platform and that opened up an exploit. Personally I like to know where the piracy vectored in from. If from JB iOS then what is Apple's official policy for avoiding it. If from elsewhere, well, you get what you get.
    Honestly I haven't met any mobile MP game that hasn't turned into an unplayable gank-fest or worse.

    • http://twitter.com/nheagy Nate Heagy

      I want to know this as well. JB/Piracy rates on iOS appear to be very low…

      • shayneo

        For every app we sold last company I was at, we'd get around 10 apps pirated. Its about a 90% piracy rate, or at leaast used to be.

      • http://rekzkarz.com/ REkzkaRZ

        For every OVERPRICE app you sold, 10 people copied it b/c it was too damned expensive.
        Maybe?

      • shayneo

        99c for a full G729 voip client? Yeah really over expensive dude.

      • http://rekzkarz.com/ REkzkaRZ

        Price seemed reasonable.

        Just to chime in on the "piracy" propaganda.
        I know people (esp programmers/devs) feel strongly that piracy (ie copying) is bad.
        BUT
        I think freedom of speech and press SHOULD allow people to copy stuff, and that the monetizing of programming is backwards -- people should not be forced to pay to install software on their devices.

        They should be asked to pay for features to be 'unlocked' and for annoyances to be removed, and if the prices are too high -- then people will work around those blocks & do it themselves.

        I had some copies of software that I learned when I was younger, and when I was older & had money, I bought them (Adobe CS, Ableton Live, and many other programs).
        But then, when the softwares updated completely new releases within 1 yr of my purchase, I have no issues with downloading a copied/cracked version -- rather than paying $300+ per software.

        As for mobile gaming, I have not copied anything -- but I have no issue with people who do. Sometimes, you download & install, discover something is a POS, and then delete. Save $5 or $10 to learn that you didn't want it anyway. If it's something you really wanted, and you can install it for a reasonable price, and it holds it's value (ie it's not outmoded in 1 month), then I think many people will come around & buy it.

        Sorry to all devs who hate copying (or so-called 'piracy', which is a misnomer). There is room for disagreement on the topic, as well as different views on interpretation of "freedom", particularly "freedom of speech" and "freedom of media".

      • a21ozcoldcup

        Typical fucking worthless piece of shit kid these days and their usual bullshit, worthless retorts. Would you steal a fucking car because you personally believe its too expensive given the market trends? Nooooo. Don't be a fucking idiot on the fucking internet.

      • http://rekzkarz.com/ REkzkaRZ

        I'm probably older than you, doubtless smarter than you, and your rant shows that 99% of the people online are smarter than you.
        Here's a better example, you ignoramous -- if you could copy a car with zero difficulty would you? Why WOULDN'T you -- so the car designers can profit?
        If you're going to make an analogy, make a good one. Fool.

    • Rothgarr

      Where else besides iOS did this appear? I couldn't find any other platforms when I Googled it.... unless you are talking about the Facebook version... do people actually pirate Facebook apps?

      • JJE

        Upon further research what looked like a android version was just an iOS hacking link. So I guess the worst is true, it was iOS. Unfortunately I found a number of JB links where it was offered starting round Dec 1
        The devs have stated it was tested on android but not released.
        And I feel guilty when I wait for a $4.99 game to drop to 99¢. Sigh! I just don't see the point of pirating apps aside from the Lulz.

      • Mister Bump

        Piracy on iOS is massive. There are hundreds of thousands (if not millions) of mainly iPod touches that have been jail broken out there. And what's the main reason most people jail break? They tell you BS about wanting non Apple approved apps, but mostly that's just what it is - BS. People JB so they can pirate, pure and simple.

      • benexclaimed

        No, not necessarily. I've jailbroken for biteSMS multiple times and I'll do it again as soon as a jailbreak is available for the latest iOS. You don't know what you're talking about.

      • Mark Brown

        This is not true. I jailbreak for customization of the UI, the ability to tether, facetime over 3g, and other things apple / at&t wont allow for but should. Even though the option to steal apps is there, I still buy them.

      • http://rekzkarz.com/ REkzkaRZ

        People jailbreak so they can try out a lot of software without paying money for it. Often most of this software sucks and gets deleted after 1-2 uses. I don't see that as a problem, nor do I see it as "piracy". I see it as curiosity and investigation, and a sense of initiative.

        Devs might see it as something different, something annoying. Oh well, too bad.

      • http://rekzkarz.com/ REkzkaRZ

        Also, people jailbreak to 'tweak' the phone, to unleash the powerful 'computer' that's locked away behind iOS limitations, and for other features.

    • shayneo

      Apple gives us devs no tools to fix it. If we where given a real time UUID notification , or even a way to authenticate against the app store, it'd be fairly solveable, but at the moment there isnt a way for a server to know if the app is legitimate or not.

  • sizzlakalonji

    I left this post on the forums, but I figured I'd put it here as well:

    Here's another example of piracy screwing the little guys. I feel bad
    for the devs and really hope this hasn't soured their passion for
    creating games on this platform. Also, I must say that I'm disappointed
    with the author of the front page TA article saying that they have a,
    "shrug, and 'what can you do?'" attitude towards piracy. It's this type
    of attitude that leads to people feeling justified or even entitled to
    stealing these games. These are generally games that cost a few bucks.
    These are not 50 buck AAA titles where someone could delude themselves
    into thinking they're "sticking it to the man". These are developers
    who feel these thefts in their pockets. These are developers who often
    are a member of our community here at TA, and who frequently communicate
    with forum members. In my opinion, a shrug and "what can you do?"
    doesn't cut it.

    • http://toucharcade.com Eli Hodapp

      What CAN you do though? As stupid as it is to steal a 99¢ video game, there's an entire generation of kids now who find it to be totally acceptable to pirate things to the point that many of them don't even mentally connect downloading a pirated version of, well, anything, with theft.

      Any piracy argument typically ends in a complete mental justification in one of two ways:

      1. People insisting the only reason they steal is for "demonstration" purposes and if the developer didn't want them to pirate things they should have offered some sort of free trial- So it isn't their fault that they're stealing it.

      2. The price is too high, they don't agree with the IAP, or something else stupid that somehow ends in "Well I don't agree with _______ so instead of abstaining from ______ entirely I'll just steal it." Again, not their fault, because if the developers wanted their money they would've structured their entire business around the wants and needs of thieves.

      Since I first got internet connectivity in the late 90's, I don't think I've ever seen a piracy argument end in someone saying, "Wow, that's a good point, I won't steal from _____ any longer."

      The truly unfortunate thing about this situation is that it once again proves that even if you try to fulfill the exact demands of the "hardcore" audience, or what people claim they want, it doesn't matter because they're not going to pay for it anyway.

      • sizzlakalonji

        While I definitely understand and appreciate your points, I just don't think it's a good idea to send a message of ambivalence towards piracy no matter what the prevailing opinion seems to be. I'd certainly stipulate that this may be a generational issue, and that it may be my age that is coloring my annoyance at this sense of entitlement I see regarding the piracy issue. We just have so many great indie developers here at TA, that I hate to see anything that even hints at acceptance of piracy here.

      • Jerutix

        I wouldn't say that the writer of the post was condoning piracy, but I do see your point. Perhaps a phrase more like "Despite there being little we can do about piracy, we here at Touch Arcade are completely, 100% against any piracy of digital entertainment, especially when it hurts our community of indie game developers."

        The thing that stinks most is that this really is the most that can be done in 99% of situations.

      • http://toucharcade.com Eli Hodapp

        Isn't it obvious that this is our stance though? Why would we think anything other than this?

      • http://twitter.com/LCDDreams LCD Dreams

        YOU may think it's obvious, but you just said that kids these days don't connect piracy with theft. If your editors are practically saying as much, who's to think any differently? Not taking a stand on something like this can easily be interpreted by some as condoning it. If you don't want to take a strong stance on it, then you could just not share your opinion on it at all, Of course, it's your right to say what you want, since this is an editorial site, but there will be people who disagree.

      • Jerutix

        In my opinion, it is 100% obvious that you (Touch Arcade) are against piracy. It doesn't make practical sense to promote piracy and to try to make your living off the games that would then be pirated.

        I personally had no issues with the article, other than being sad for the devs. That being said, a clearer stance written into the article would have made this comment section about 60% shorter.

        Eli, we're all just bored people wanting to comment on stuff. 90% of the opinions we (communal we) post should be ignored.

      • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100003555712979 Leviticus TwentyThirteen

        I only visit Toucharcade to check out what are the new juicy stuff! Check it on the Appstore, oooohh 99¢ too pricey.. tweet m0st_unique and request for him to crack the game and BAM!! Hello free stuff!

      • http://toucharcade.com Eli Hodapp

        I think you might be reading into this a little far, it isn't a "We're A-OK with piracy" thing as much as it is a universal constant that pirates are going to pirate similar to haters, who like it or not, are always gonna hate. Most of the time it's not really worth getting worked up beyond just a sigh and thinking "This is why we can't have nice things."

      • sizzlakalonji

        You're probably right. I should probably hop off of my soapbox. ;)

      • http://twitter.com/jinchoung jin choung

        but there needs to be an acceptance of REALITY.

        you might not like lots of things but it does the world no good for you to shut your eyes tight, rock back and forth and pretend you're in your happy place.

        piracy is real. piracy is pervasive. and indeed - what CAN you do?

        this is not "acceptance". it's just fact.

      • http://iqsoup.com/ iqSoup

        Well said Eli. And of course Touch Arcade isn't pro-piracy. Give me a break people...

        But re: the "What CAN you do?" sentiment: I think there are some things a dev certainly could do to better prevent piracy--and there are things Apple could and should do as well. Of course the App Store isn't anywhere near as bad as Google Play, but there are still things Apple can do to help devs prevent piracy. Apple needs to be on top of this stuff--relatively low piracy its a big reason why the App Store is so much better than Google Play. Apple needs to be aware of that and put major resources into keeping that piracy down.

        One thing the devs could have done in this situation is have the game check with iTunes for a receipt every time the game boots up. The usual problem with using that solution is then the user MUST have an internet connection to play the game. BUT in this case the game is multiplayer and needs an internet connection anyways. The moments when you don't have Internet access are becoming few and far between--this could be a viable strategy for even single player games.

        With pirated music or video there's only so much you can do, but a game is a piece of software. Its dynamic and can have some pretty clever lines of anti-pirating code under the hood. There are fairly effective anti-pirating strategies out there, they just need to be better implemented by both Apple and devs. Especially with a game like this--where each pirate doesn't just steal the game but actually costs the devs money to support.

        Yes, a good pirate can probably find his/her way around any anti-pirating measure you put in place, but that isn't the point. The point is you make it difficult and inconvenient to do so. At a certain point if someone has to put 2 or 3 hours or 10 hours of work into breaking open your game they are much more likely to just pay a dollar or so to play it legitimately.

        We need to push on Apple to minimize piracy in the App Store. It'll mean better content and might even mean devs could actually charge more than 99 cents for their product.

      • http://twitter.com/BesherMaleh Besher Al Maleh

        Came here to post the same point. There are many measures a developer could do to prevent piracy, ESPECIALLY if the game is always online.

        Also, keep in mind that many of these pirates have no access to a credit card (3rd world countries, kids, poor, etc.) and would never have played the game if not for piracy. It's the developer's job to recognize that and put measures in place to prevent them from playing and overloading their servers.

      • http://iqsoup.com/ iqSoup

        Amen!

        But the problem here wasn't really that they were missing out on sales. That is less of a big deal since you probably weren't going to get those sales anyways. The issue here was that their servers were crowed with pirates and that was costing them money that they couldn't afford. I get that and sympathize for the dev, but that issue is quite easy to solve--unless I'm missing something. I dunno maybe I am but doesn't seem like a problem big enough to pull your own game over.

        I'd send out an update that changes the server login parameters. None of the pirates can readily update so right away you cleanse your user base from all the pirates.

        Then I'd deal with any pirates determined enough to delete the old version and pirate the new update by implementing some simple countermeasures. Have the server only allow one login per iTunes receipt. Make sure you check that receipt whenever you get a chance. Have a way to remotely block a particular device from ever playing the game. That way when you see that BlackBeard9213123 has a score of ten trillion points you just click a button and all of a sudden his device can't ever play the game ever--he's locked out from the serve no matter what. Stuff like that can really discourage pirates.

        Another would be to lock out regions or countries. For example, you look at your stats and figure that maybe two thirds of your pirates are in Asia. With some simple MySQL code (or whatever) you block most of Asia from playing your game (maybe you let Japan and South Korea play if your getting good numbers there).

        Sure some people might be able to get past any countermeasure you put in place--none of these solutions are going to perfectly protect you from piracy. But you're making it a lot more frustrating for them to do so and that's the point. A good percentage is going to give up and find a softer target. Its like a burglar--if you have a sign out that says "TRESPASSERS WILL BE SHOT ON SIGHT" and a German shepherd chained out front they will probably go find a different house to break into. Sure they COULD find a way to break into your house but chances are they will go find a softer target. People respond to incentives and disincentives--even burglars and pirates. This is something apparently the dev of this game didn't understand. Make it harder to pirate your game and less people will pirate your game. They will go elsewhere or might even just pay you 99 cents so they don't have to go through 5 hours of hacking just to play your game.

        My guess is as the App Store and devs will both get smarter about things over time--and especially as Internet access becomes even more readily available (easier to check receipts and such). We will see less and less piracy and then finally iOS games will start to have more realistic prices.

      • albinosalad

        I don't think there is an iTunes "receipt" that can be checked by the app. It is possible to verify IAP but then this becomes a form of DRM. Any DRM you implement will punish your legitimate customers, e.g. I game on my iPod Touch which doesn't always have an internet connection to verify my purchases.
        Even if all that were possible, the game only needs to be hacked once then the hack is leaked. The pirates only need download the hack. No real effort for them. As for the hacker, they enjoy the 'game' of hacking usually more than the game itself.
        It really is a no-win situation and has soured me to pursuing a career in game development.

      • http://iqsoup.com/ iqSoup

        If the game depends on online play (like this one) then the "internet connection" problem is a non-issue. Remember their problem isn't so much lost sales at it is having to support servers that are packed full of pirates. And if you had a game that you wanted to be playable without internet then one option is you could check for a receipt when there IS a connection. If no receipt then the game locks out forever. Sure people could get around it--turn off their wifi for example when playing the game. But the point is to irritate hackers--you don't necessarily need to stop them all. And piracy isn't all bad. In this situation it was costing devs lots of money but often it gives devs free advertising. I'm not condoning it but usually pirates wouldn't be paying anyways. These are people who spend considerable effort in order to avoid paying 99 cents for a game.

        The situation with Battle Dungeon is unique too--usually pirates don't cost you money out of pocket, they just represent lost potential sales. And remember that despite rampant piracy there are tens of millions of PAYING users on the app store. If someone can't attract a paying audience then maybe piracy isn't the problem, maybe they just didn't make that great of a game.

      • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100003555712979 Leviticus TwentyThirteen

        Piracy = good
        Paying for a game = bad

        Paying is like stealing from people especially if they find the game suck ass!! Piracy on the other hand is a good thing.. well its free! Free stuff is good o/

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100003555712979 Leviticus TwentyThirteen

      Hellz yeah!! Piracy owns the lil people!! BWAHAHA

    • http://No1453.org/ No1453 No1453

      "little guy"? On their web page Hunted Cow displays ten different game enterprises they are currently running.

      • Ryan Bach

        All but 2 of which are browser-based games with very small player bases and even smaller paying player bases. What on Earth would make you think this means they're some kind of fat cat developers and not a small indie studio?

      • http://No1453.org/ No1453 No1453

        sorry for doubting you, that is fairly little. I probably should have read more than the first webpage. :)

    • http://rekzkarz.com/ REkzkaRZ

      First, let's be clear: So-called "piracy" is a propaganda term which, IMO, is mis-used all over the 'net.
      Piracy of software is more comparable to photocopying a newpaper article or book (rather than buying the newspaper or book) than it is to pirates stealing stuff.
      Copying is different from real "piracy" b/c real piracy generally involves TAKING a product from someone and then the owner has nothing while the pirate has the product.
      With copying, it's just like having an mp3 and giving your friend a copy -- everyone benefits & no one loses the original. (In fact, musicians pay promoters & advertisers & radio stations to play their music so others can know them & like them & see their shows -- so copying an mp3 for some bands is like fan-promotion for them and is embraced.)
      With $1 or $2 games made by indie DEV's, as in this example, it wasn't the copying that harmed the game sellers -- it was THEIR SERVER TIME getting over-used by copiers (they claimed). Perhaps the DEV's might've used a different server-side authentication method to prevent this?

      From my POV, the flaw in the current system (limiting copying) is similar to the flaw we easily see in the laws the USSR & NAZI Germany had against photocopiers. Namely, making copies should be 100% open. 'Copy-protection software' often harms consumers for no reason, making them deal with horrible workarounds (Windows Registry, iOS 'locked out file-system) b/c of fear.

      One simple solution is --> reasonable pricing and *OPEN* software. Let people copy & distribute your software / music / art, but if people want to support your efforts allow them to easily contribute $1 or $2 to your success.

      With this different perspective, maybe you can see that those creating 'unshareable property' are actually the pirates? These organizations are attempting to extract more profit from their products by stopping the freedom of the public.

      If we were all children, these greedy playmates would soon be put in the corner for not sharing & not learning how to play nicely.
      BAD WINDOWS! BAD APPLE! etc

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Steve-Lang/546797695 Steve Lang

    No worries, here's the solution- all the piraters were obviously just 'trying out' the game, so just keep the servers active for another 48-72 hours, after which they will all either delete the game, or really buy it!

  • Gamer_Kev

    That really stinks that people would do that to them. I can't understand why people pirate games that are as cheap as they are on the app store. If someone can afford an iOS device, then they darn well can afford to pay a few bucks for a game. Stealing people's livelihood like that is really despicable.

    Though I don't have this game, I recently brought their tank and civil war games and they're a lot of fun. I really hope that this incident doesn't close them down. I'd really like to see more war games from them since they cater to gamers who still prefer old school turned based war games. A genre that's rather lacking on ios.

    When people pirate games, everyone gets hurt, not just the developers.

    • subshell001

      there are a lot of stolen iOS devices out there. you can't assume a person bought their device and therefore has the money to buy apps/games. it is disgusting, but true.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Joe-Burkett/100000210607581 Joe Burkett

    I have to chime in here, The devs should just add some lines of code to mess with the pirates, for instance devs like Westwood who made Command and conquer games if you had a pirated copy of the game your units would all explode 1 min into the game, Ive seen instances of that in some ios games and the devs are even funny about it , in this game they could encounter enemies they cant beat ever, or all the players go invisible something just ridiculous that only happens to the pirated copies of the game, then you will see them come on the forums complaining of a game breaking bug when really its no bug at all its just them admitting to there piracy....I think the devs should look at this or something like it to screw over the pirates rather then pulling there own game for good....

    • shayneo

      The problem is apple provides us no way of knowing if the app is legit or not.

      • http://twitter.com/bluescrn Dave Reed

        It's easy to detect a jailbreaker. It's probably about time that devs just lock out all jailbreakers, especially if it's the only way to secure an online game like this. Yes, a few 'legit jailbreakers' will suffer (those that jailbreak just for tweaks and non-apple-approved apps, and still buy games). But iOS piracy is getting really quite severe (I've experienced it myself with my own game). It's sad that so many people will buy a £500 phone, then steal £1.50 games...

        It's about time that Apple cracked down on pirates posting to Game Center, too, to clean up some of the mess of fake scores from hacks/exploits.

      • http://rekzkarz.com/ REkzkaRZ

        Or don't crack down and just build things with the awareness that, just like people copy books and music, software will get copied too.
        Copying is the *GREAT EQUALIZER* allowing poor folks to try stuff out also. Copying is not the criminal.

        So-called Jailbreaking is not criminal -- even the US courts say that people own their devices and can do what they want with those devices.

        Perhaps a better pricing model and a better product is a better protection vs piracy? For instance, I paid $1 to Appshopper to get rid of ads. I was happy to support them and I use that app all the time.
        If they wanted $20 to get rid of ads, I'd probably have cracked their app instead.

      • roy

        if you try to do that, apple will reject your app because it could break in future versions of their OS. it's not the developers' faults. it's the pirates' faults.

      • http://www.facebook.com/look.mother.no.hands Shayne O'Neill

        Apps are sandboxed. Most jailbreaking happens outside the sandbox. If you probe outside that sandbox, apple will kill your app. Sure you CAN, but its not allowed. Also not allowed: Verifying that the app thats talking with your server was one that was legitimately paid for.

  • http://twitter.com/Rob__ot Rob M

    I love to hate on pirates as much as the next guy but if you read the original post it says:

    "The high load revealed technical issues which we don't feel we can fix to the level that our paying customers deserve."

    This tells me that they didn't pull the game due to piracy, they pulled it because they are having technical issues.

    I feel like this article ignores that part of the post and just blames the pirates directly, which is not entirely correct.

    • Jason Bourne

      Having too many users is never a reason to shut down your game/company!

      • robmerrell

        I can't tell if you are being sincere or not, so...

        If they didn't plan ahead and are processing too much on the server, costs will skyrocket because of the requirements placed on handling that processing. From the article it looks as if they performing all multiplayer and single player AI on the server. Maybe it was too much for them to handle.

        I agree that on the surface it is a poor reason to shut down the game, but in the end it comes down to dollars earned against dollars spent. If costs are spiraling out of control the company needs to take the game offline until they can address the issues.

    • shayneo

      Last app I had on the app store, for every paying customer using our server, we had nearly 10 users who downloaded it from cydia. Our company went bankerupt.

      • http://rekzkarz.com/ REkzkaRZ

        a) what app was that, might I ask?
        b) how much did your app cost to dload?
        c) do you think the dloaders on cydia would've paid you for your app? Or would they just have skipped it?
        d) do you think cydia made your company go bankrupt (or bank-erupt as you wrote, which makes me crack up!) or could it be that perhaps people wouldn't have bought your app anyway?

      • http://www.facebook.com/look.mother.no.hands Shayne O'Neill

        It was heavily server based (VOIP software) and we had to pay patent fees for everyone who used it regardless of whether they paid or not. (Patents *suck*). Can't talk about the app in question due to an NDA (They also suck!).

        I don't know if they would have brought it or not, but we still had to pay whether they brought it or pirated it.

        We got enough sales that if there was no piracy we would have done fine. Unfortunately the massive server loads and a patent bill that we couldn't afford pretty much meant we had to close shop.

      • M. Hoskins

        Just wanted to make a technical point, Cydia is just the program to install packages, free, paid. Pirated apps can be downloaded from repositories added to Cydia by the user; Cydia is not responsible for this. (Didn't want people thinking Cydia was just for pirated apps.)

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=813155483 Michael Gargan

      It's a shame people aren't picking up on this more. They shut the game down due to poor code-optimization on the server and are merely using piracy as an excuse to save face.

  • MrSHakerEsq

    Piracy is killing gaming and denies the workers in the industry a decent livelihood. Hang your head in shame if you are one of these thieves.

    • M. Hoskins

      I hear the point often that piracy steals money from developers. Buut in cases where the app does not use server resources the developer has to pay for, the developer does not actually lose anything from piracy except for projected profits, with the "projected" part showing how dubious these somewhat imaginiary "profits" are.
      It's every developer's dream to write a single program, and then sell copies to a million people. This is also every author's, publisher's, and movie-makers dream, virtually free "copying" bringing money pouring in for a single product with no further investment of time required. Of course these entities see every copy unpaid for as a loss of money, but in truth one can not make the claim that this "lost income" is definitely real. Kind of a tricky point, but I hope my argument is clear.

  • Jason Bourne

    Why not just make the game free and sell more IAP to everyone?

    • http://www.facebook.com/look.mother.no.hands Shayne O'Neill

      IAP is awful. Wouldn't you rather pay $1 for a game and win fairly, than pay nothing and lose unfairly because some lazy idiot spent $10 to buy some overly buffed I-win-button and skillesly kicked your ass?

  • thedan

    If it's a client server app as indicated in the article, how can piracy be such an issue? The devs have complete control, they should not be allowing a non authenticated client to connect.

    • shayneo

      Apple doesn't provide a mechanism to know if the app is from the app store or from cydia. No authentication system in the world can fix that until apple provides developers with UUIDs of customers to cross reference with the handsets. They have no way of knowing if the app is legitimate or not.

      • http://rekzkarz.com/ REkzkaRZ

        They may not provide a mechanism, but surely a server can determine some data...? Heard an article today about how game companies are illegally collecting too much info on minors who dload their games -- minors legally must have an adult grant permission for their data to be utilized.
        Hard to believe their server couldn't do anything to authenticate?

      • http://twitter.com/BandaraStudios Cynthia Bandara

        I think shayneo is correct. I don't know of any system for validating legitimate purchases other than IAPs.

      • M. Hoskins

        It can be done, however, even if there is nothing provided by Apple to do it. Just adds more work for the developers, though.

      • http://www.facebook.com/look.mother.no.hands Shayne O'Neill

        Care to tell me? This is something the whole developer community wants to know.

  • jeffmd

    This all could have been avoided if purchases came with serial codes used to create accounts online.

    • http://www.facebook.com/look.mother.no.hands Shayne O'Neill

      I agree. Us developers have been asking for some sort of purchase reciept system from apple for a long time. But honestly, apple doesn't care.

  • xStatiCa

    On the positive side it is a good thing all the pirates didn't buy it or they would probably be refunding a lot more people. I suspect the problems are not fixable in the short term. It sounds like it would take a lot to get the server load issue playable for people.

  • alan12341234

    I find it awkward that a dev who can develop an awesome online game but fail to protect itself from privacy.

    If they can develop multiple complicated data transactions between devices and server, how much more effort to make all Purchases in IAP which would be very difficult to pirate as in other MMOs.

    • http://www.facebook.com/look.mother.no.hands Shayne O'Neill

      Customers hate IAPs. As much as they might be money making. A lot of us developers want to give our paying customers they game they brought. I'd rather reward skilled gamers than lazy people who just buy all the loot, and a lot of other developers feel that way too. But we have to make the rent and bills too. IAP might be the future, but that future sucks.

  • http://twitter.com/qqpewpew Aaron Conn

    why not find a way to distinguish between pirate and non and just filter the pirates out?

    • shayneo

      Easier said than done. There isn't a way to know at the moment. Apple provides no list to developers of who has a legitimate download (All devs get is a tally every couple of months of how many where sold) and they've even banned devs from peeking at the devices serial number to check if the app has been passing around.

  • http://twitter.com/tribalplague Gilbert Palau

    piracy doesnt seem to affect hero academy... they have the same type of game... why are they still up and these people don't?

  • shayneo

    Back in the bad old days of $30 music CDs in australia we used to have a rule of thumb for this sort of things "$30 for an international CD will barely scratch the paint on micheal jacksons latest porche, but $10 for a local CD means your local bass player gets to eat food tonight"

    • roy

      amen.

  • http://No1453.org/ No1453 No1453

    Ummmm..... If they could tell there were pirated copies connecting to their servers, why didn't they stop them? Something is being left out of the story (they probably closed for a reason other than piracy)

    • http://www.facebook.com/look.mother.no.hands Shayne O'Neill

      If you get 1000 purchases, but you have 100,000 people with accounts, its pretty obvious most of them havent paid.

  • http://No1453.org/ No1453 No1453

    Ummmmm..... If they could tell pirated copies were connecting to their servers, why couldn't they stop those connections?  Something is being left out of the story here.  (Business' don't just shut down after one week.  I suspect there was another reason for closing the business they didn't want to reveal.)

    • roy

      nothing is being left out. they said they saw the .ipa go up on a server, then the user count skyrocketed on their server without accompanying purchases. then it killed their server. end of story. their business isn't closed. go look at their site. they just took that game down because they couldn't afford to support a bunch of pirates with an expensive server for a small number of paying customers.

      • M. Hoskins

        Thanks for the explanation. Makes sense now.

  • roy

    i'm an indie game developer, currently working on a dual stick shooter. apple won't let anti-piracy code into your app if they find out about it because it makes your app less future proof and less compatible with different hardware / software (OS) combinations. piracy is always going to hurt the actual developers on the app store until apple decides it's ok to write copy protection into games. actually, it'll still hurt them even if they CAN put copy protection into their games, but just not quite as much. i know of multiple people who've had their games rejected because of copy protection. and, hopefully this example shows just how bad this can be for developers like me who are just trying to pay for food and rent.

  • M. Hoskins

    I have bought a number of apps from the iOS App Store that didn't live up to their descriptions at all; that were very disappointing. And even though Apple might deign to grant a refund or two, their stated policy is that once you buy an app, that's it. It doesn't take a lot of these apps to add up to real money (like $20).