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PostPosted: Fri Jul 13, 2018 2:06 pm 
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I've been really curious about this for a while, wondering why more homebrew makers don't give the option of buying just the ROM of their game.

Is it piracy concerns? That the ROM will get passed around and no carts will be sold? To me it seems like a missed opportunity, even if the ROM does get passed around some, that is more eyes on the game. And even if only a really small amount of those people come back to buy a cart after getting the ROM, seems like that would be more than the 0% of those people that would buy it with a cart only option. With the proliferation of flash carts, it just seems like kind of a waste to not make the ROM available for purchase.

I feel like the hardcore homebrew collectors will always snap up the cart releases, but that seems like such a smaller target when potentially a lot more people could be reached with a ROM being sold as well.

I did buy the Lizard ROM, because, coming from a speedrunning perspective, I really need to be able to play on flashcart, for save state practicing purposes, and that is not possible with a cart only release. So for me personally, I would most likely prefer to buy just the ROM in most cases, but I might be an outlier.

So I was just curious to hear what other people think about this subject.


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PostPosted: Fri Jul 13, 2018 2:18 pm 
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Quote:
Is it piracy concerns?


Yes.

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PostPosted: Fri Jul 13, 2018 3:28 pm 
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Owning a PowerPak, I would definitely be more inclined to buy homebrew games if I could get a ROM to play on it. With a flashcart, spending extra to cover the cost of manufacturing and parts seems kind of silly if you're not a collector, and I would rather just spend the $10 or so the developer would have gotten from the sale and have that go right to them.

Personally I don't see anything wrong with just distributing a ROM. Lots of PC games are distributed DRM-free without issues.


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PostPosted: Fri Jul 13, 2018 3:48 pm 
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As a non-collector and someone who prefers emulating, I very much appreciate ROM releases.

I do have a small collection of homebrew carts, but I've (privately) dumped all of them, because I'd rather play the ROM. Though... there's 2 left I still haven't gotten around to reverse engineering and emulating yet.

I agree with NovaSquirrel in that in most cases I'd rather just pay directly to the developer. There are some that I really do want as cartridges, but I'd say about half of the homebrew I own already I'd rather have just bought a ROM if it was available. Because of that regret there's definitely been more than a few homebrew that I would have bought as a ROM that I passed on because they were only as a cartridge.


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PostPosted: Fri Jul 13, 2018 4:47 pm 
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"Selling ROMs": Distribution of copies of a computer program in ROM image form through the Internet for a fee.
"Buyer": Someone to whom a ROM is sold.
"Mass infringement": Distribution of a work to a wide audience without permission. The media often refer to this using the loaded term "piracy".

So the problem is that developers of indie games for retro consoles are reluctant to sell ROMs for fear that buyers will commit mass infringement. Might traitor tracing techniques help deter buyers from infringing? The first is to include the buyer's name as a gift message on the title screen or the credit screen that precedes it. Then to track down who leaked a ROM even after having blanked the name, you can build the ROM using other techniques that I've posted about over the years:

  • Keeping prototypes secret
  • Source code shuffling for both buffer overflow detection and traitor tracing. I applied a shuffling preprocessor to the source code of Concentration Room and demonstrated that by changing the order of variables and subroutines in each source file of the ROM, a simple NROM-128 game can theoretically be built as more distinct ROMs with identical behavior than atoms in the observable universe squared. Reassemble and relink each ROM using the serial number as a random seed, and you can track down which ROM was sent to each buyer.
  • Watermarking through shuffling, NOP insertion, mirrored PPU and mapper port addresses, alternate instruction encodings (including occasional unofficial opcodes), subtle graphics changes in noisy areas, adding the buyer's personal information to random signs in the game, etc.
  • FBI Anti-Piracy Warning seal in indexed color


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PostPosted: Fri Jul 13, 2018 4:57 pm 
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I don't really want to go deep on the issue of piracy, but I would like to say that nobody buying your game is a much worse problem than people making copies of your game. These two things are very much related to each other, with both positive and negative feedback both ways, but solving the former is a lot more important than solving the latter.

If you're going to implement anti-piracy devices, they should be done only as much as they serve the goal of increasing sales. Deterring piracy by itself does not actually help you.


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PostPosted: Fri Jul 13, 2018 5:00 pm 
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I do understand the piracy concerns, but I believe that people who won't pay for a ROM are even less likely to buy a cartridge, which is often significantly more expensive, due to the hardware, manufacturing, shipping, and so on.

I don't really buy homebrew cartridges because shipping and taxes are incredibly prohibitive in my country, but I would pay for the ROMs if the game was interesting and the price was right.


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PostPosted: Fri Jul 13, 2018 6:45 pm 
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rainwarrior wrote:
I don't really want to go deep on the issue of piracy, but I would like to say that nobody buying your game is a much worse problem than people making copies of your game. These two things are very much related to each other, with both positive and negative feedback both ways, but solving the former is a lot more important than solving the latter.

If you're going to implement anti-piracy devices, they should be done only as much as they serve the goal of increasing sales. Deterring piracy by itself does not actually help you.

^^^ This, a thousand times over.

Anyone who says "I don't release my NES homebrews in ROM form because of piracy" is deluded. It is guaranteed someone will dump the game and distribute it, it's just a matter of time. All the lack-of ROM release does is lose potential sales, and irritate players/buyers. There's a ton of very legitimate and good reasons why someone would want the ROM -- biggest being the convenience of using an emulator.

I feel the exact same way when it comes to pure software titles (e.g. PC games that have DRM and all sorts of other nonsense in them): they will get cracked, it's just a matter of time.

If anything, in my experience, keeping it nice and simple for players/buyers makes them *happier*, and simultaneously relieves the technical complications of junk like anti-piracy schemes causing technical problems (and oh how they do!). It's a win-win as I see it. But hey, I'm just one guy.


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PostPosted: Fri Jul 13, 2018 9:39 pm 
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koitsu wrote:
It is guaranteed someone will dump the game and distribute it, it's just a matter of time.

Yeah, in this case you don't even need someone with reverse engineering skills, just someone with access to your game and a Kazzo (if you didn't spend all the extra hardware development time on a custom mapper).


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PostPosted: Fri Jul 13, 2018 9:41 pm 
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NovaSquirrel wrote:
if you didn't spend all the extra hardware development time on a custom mapper

Speaking of which, I can think of one reasonably decent excuse not to release a game as a ROM, or at least to be very careful when doing so. If your game uses custom or unemulated hardware, like the DT128M16VA1LT in Paprium (nobody's emulated that yet, have they?), there's not much point releasing a ROM because nobody will be able to use it.

There's a bit of a continuum here - maybe your game uses only standard hardware and works fine in most emulators, but ZSNES barfs, in which case a warning might suffice. Or maybe it uses a custom layout that Snes9X can't guess, and you need a cartridge folder. Or maybe it uses the hardware in interesting or at least unprecedented ways and only works properly in (say) higan v095 and up. Or maybe it uses something like a Super FX chip overclocked to 43 MHz and left in slow mode (so as to obtain fast memory access without taking the chip out of spec), in which case a ROM would perform worse than a real cartridge in most emulators. On another note, support for even stock special chips on the SD2SNES is still very incomplete, and no other flash cart comes close...

Most homebrew doesn't run into this sort of thing, of course.


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PostPosted: Fri Jul 13, 2018 9:56 pm 
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NovaSquirrel wrote:
koitsu wrote:
It is guaranteed someone will dump the game and distribute it, it's just a matter of time.

Yeah, in this case you don't even need someone with reverse engineering skills, just someone with access to your game and a Kazzo

Say you 1. spend $35 on a Copyright.gov registration, 2. sell copies of your game (be it a cartridge or a ROM) only to billing addresses in your home country, and 3. use traitor tracing to ensure each copy is unique. Then you can find who bought the copy that was leaked, lawyer up, and go RIAA on the pirate's @$$. And because you have a registration, you can potentially be awarded thousands of dollars.


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PostPosted: Fri Jul 13, 2018 11:08 pm 
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In that hypothetical scenario your game was still dumped and distributed, so which quoted point are you targetting?

Even in that hypothetical scenario, knowing the address of who bought the dumped copy doesn't necessarily tell you who dumped it. There are services that provide say... a Japanese address (if a person doesn't ship outside Japan). I buy a good, give them that address, and then the service ships the good that arrived there out of country to me.

Edit: And just to close a potential hole, yes, the billing address and not just the shipping address can be proxied too.

You could try to argue that the person in your country that shipped it out of country did so knowing the out of country person would dump it, but I think you'd have trouble in that hypothetical case.

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PostPosted: Sat Jul 14, 2018 1:47 am 
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as somebody who comes from the world where the "cracking scene" is alive and kicking and possibly even the largest "section" of our community. For the uninitiated, if somebody uploads a file of a demo/game/tool or 'thing' hell if somebody uploads code to a public github, it will be downloaded, assembled if need be, have a 'intro' slapped on it and uploaded to the BBS's and CSDB for all to gawk at, within 24hrs, usually by multiple 'groups' in an never ending points war between them.

Every C64 release has a download option, and when somebody buys a physical release they expect to be instantly emailed a digital file. I mean if that email doesn't hit in under 6hrs prepare to be bitched about on a forum.

To be fair though the C64 community now has a lot of options on how people wish to consume the content. Some people are original hardware only, some see that the SD card based solutions are 'better' or 'livable' and prefer them, some are emulation, be in on pc/mac/linux or retroarcade, or android phones or now even C64 Mini etc And they expect to be able to consume C64 content in their preferred form. This is because on the C64 we have the ability to write disk images to real disks and we have flash carts and tap emulators and ways to write taps etc. The nes is a bit more limited, real cart, flash cart, emulator. Also the cost of said things is higher on the NES.

To me not having a Digital version would invoke a strong sense for piracy on the NES right? People will be happy to live as a child again being able to "dump" the ROMs and be the the ones to release said ROM, like that did back in the day?

It guess it comes down to "what you want to achieve", if you are a purist and you want people to play it on the pure hardware and your goal is to make and release a "real" NES game. Then physical only makes sense.. if you want to make a game for people to enjoy then placing a high entry barrier on getting it makes no sense. On a high profile C64 release I would expect a physical release to be about 20% of sales ( not counting the download with physical naturally ). Some games even release for free and then due to demand go on to offer a variety of physical options and still sell 800+ copies. If your game is good people will want a physical copy and make room on a shelf to hold it. Without a solid review network, marketing, known brands its impossible for people to know if your game is worth the shelf space and the $60 + postage to get it.

Is the fear - "won't have enough to make even due to minimal orders", I can see that if you have to buy 300 of something, you want to make sure that you are going to sell all 300, and so having a cheaper options of download means people buy that and you are left holding the bag. On the C64 we solve this problem in 2 ways
- only make a physical copy when there is demand
- we have publishers whom stock disks/tapes/boxes etc which means they can share the min numbers over multiple releases.

Another point of difference my be how the market is/or at-least is perceived. The C64 market is a players market, while the NES is a collectors market?

I would love to try Sydney Hunter on the SNES, but at $50 for the box + probably some insane postage to get it to me on the far side of the world known as EcksEcksEcksEcks* I'll pass, it doesn't seem to be worth it. The $10 C64 digital version is something I plan to indulge on when Hunters Moon is complete however ;) The C64 only got a download once all the physical copies had sold, maybe other NES publishers do this, just they haven't sold out yet?

Basically not having a ROM release seems total madness to me..

*discworld joke


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PostPosted: Sat Jul 14, 2018 2:21 am 
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Piracy is unavoidable. End of discussion.

If you are selling offline software, you are a charity case.


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PostPosted: Sat Jul 14, 2018 3:19 am 
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Sydney Hunter was leaked before the official release somehow.


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