Nier: Automata is a multiplatform game that I know almost nothing about at all, other than it was released relatively recently and that the PC version of the game was shipped out with some rather frustrating bugs. Apparently the game on PCs doesn’t actually ship with true 1080p resolution and has some severe frame rate issues. But, because this is a PC game we’re talking about, a fan going by the handle Kaldaien went ahead and released a patch that seems to fix these issues. There is just one problem.
Kaldaien’s patch checks to make sure the game it’s patching hasn’t been pirated. And that caused something of an uproar on the Steam forums.
On neoGAF, Kaldaien explains that “Nothing malicious happens if you fail this check, you’re just presented with an infinite license screen that you can click Accept on but since you don’t respect licenses the license doesn’t respect your click.” In short, you can’t use the official mod if you pirate the game.
On the Steam forums, this news caused quite the commotion. The thread that originally shared the mod burst into arguments and insults, and Kaldaien himself even got temporarily banned from posting, allegedly because he called someone a “pirate moron.” The thread has since been removed from Steam, but reactions to the piracy check can be found all around the web. Some people actually feel entitled to use the mod no matter how they obtained the game.
The negative reactions got fairly vitriolic. One the one hand, yeah, it’s the internet, what else would you expect? But frankly much of this looks very misguided, based in large part on a misunderstanding of why Kaldaien included the piracy check. With most of the angry responses suggesting that Kaldaien was taking some kind of moral stance or, as one comment suggested, simply wanted “to be a prick”, it was actually done to keep the modder from suffering more headaches.
“My anti-piracy measures actually have nothing to do with my personal views on individual piracy,” Kaldaien wrote on neoGAF. “I don’t condone the practice, I don’t generally think highly of people who do it, but this is not done to punish them. It is to protect me against asset injection of copyrighted material.” On Steam, Kaldaien said, “I will not be thrown under the bus when some user uses my software to inject DLC they didn’t purchase.” It’s also worth noting that locking pirates out means Kaldaien doesn’t have to waste time trying to troubleshoot problems with people that don’t even have the game legally.
So, there’s that. But how pissed are any of us, even those of us that think copyright protectionism and DRM are misguided, supposed to be? Whatever the motivation, this amounts to a fan making a mod for a game and trying to police the legitimacy of purchases on the publisher’s behalf. This is, in some ways, the sort of thing a publisher should want. Nier: Automata, by the way, shipped with Denuvo DRM… which was cracked shortly afterwards. While there are workarounds for the FAR mod’s piracy check, if it’s causing this kind of an uproar then it must be having some effect. What if this shows that a motivated fan-driven modding scene can actually help protect the investment of game publishers on their behalf? That would be a good thing, I think.
It could help on many levels, in fact, including in that it could demonstrate even further the value a modding community can have to a game publisher. If stories like this drive publishers to be more modder-friendly, and therefore drive the modders to be more publisher friendly, the end result might be an overall better ecosystem for the end customer. There are some gamers out there that will pirate no matter what, but that doesn’t mean they should expect the true fans modding those games to be on their side of the piracy argument.