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Ambrosia and Registration

Now that Ambrosia is gone, new registrations are no longer possible, and due to their expiring codes, using legitimate license keys has become difficult. We may hope to see a few of their games revived in the future but at present, only the original releases are available. Perhaps this case study on Ambrosia's registration algorithms will be useful to some.

The Old System

In their earliest days, ASW didn't require registration, but they eventually began locking core features away behind codes. All of their classic titles use the original algorithm by Andrew Welch.
Given a licensee name, number of copies, and game name, the code generator runs through two loops. The first loop iterates over each letter of the capitalized licensee name, adding the ASCII representation of that letter with the number of copies and then rotating the resulting bits. The second loop repeats that operation, only using the game's name instead of the license holder's name.
Beginning with Mars Rising, later games added a step to these loops: XOR the current code with the common hex string $DEADBEEF. However, the rest of the algorithm remained essentially unchanged.
The resulting 32 bits are converted into a text registration code by adding the ASCII offset of $41 to each hex digit. This maps the 32-bit string into 8 characters, but due to the limit of a hex digit to only encode 16 values, codes only contain letters from the first 16 of the alphabet.
The following chart shows an example using a well-known hacked code for Slithereens.
 Iteration 1 ('A' in ANONYMOUS) Name: Anonymous Code = $0 + $41 Number: 100 (hex: $64) -> << 6 ... -> Code = $FD53 FFA0 Game: Slithereens + $64 ^ $DEAD BEEF >> 1 Add $41 to each digit: Registration -> $41 + $F = $50 = P -> Reverse string -> ------------ $41 + $D = $4E = N | AKPPDFNP | ... ------------ 
Here is a Python implementation of the v1 system:
Once you have the bitstring module installed via sudo pip install bitstring, you can test the output yourself with python "Anonymous" 100 "Slithereens".

The New System

As Ambrosia's Matt Slot explains, the old system continued to allow a lot of piracy, so in the early 2000's they decided to switch to a more challenging registration system. This new method was based on polynomial hashing and included a timestamp so that codes could be expired and renewed. Ambrosia now had better control over code distribution, but they assumed their renewal server would never be shut down...
They also took more aggressive steps to reduce key sharing. The registration app checks against a list of blacklisted codes, and if found to be using one, the number of licenses is internally perturbed so that subsequent calculations fail. To combat tampering, your own information can get locally blacklisted in a similar manner if too many failed attempts occur, at least until the license file is deleted. Furthermore, the app attempts to verify the system time via a remote time server to minimize registration by changing the computer's clock.
You can disable the internet connection, set the clock back, and enter codes. There's also a renewal bot for EV: Nova. But let us look at the algorithm more closely.

64-bit Codes

The first noticeable difference is that registration codes in v2 are now 12 digits, containing both letters and numbers. This is due to a move from a 32-bit internal code to a 64-bit one. Rather than add an ASCII offset to hex digits, every letter or number in a new registration code has a direct mapping to a chunk of 5 bits. Using 5 bits per digit supports up to 32 values, or almost all letters of the alphabet and digits up to 9 (O, I, 0, and 1 were excluded given their visual similarities).
The resulting 64 bits (really only 60 because the upper 4 are unused: 12 digits * 5 bits each = 60) are a combination of two other hashes XOR'd together. This is a notable change from v1 because it only used the registration code to verify against the hashing algorithm. Only the licensee name, number of copies, and game name were really used. In v2, the registration code is itself a hash which contains important information like a code's timestamp.

Two Hashes

To extract such information from the registration code, we must reverse the XOR operation and split out the two hashes which were combined. Fortunately, XOR is reversible, and we can compute one of the hashes. The first hash, which I'll call the userkey, is actually quite similar to v1's algorithm. It loops through the licensee name, adding the ASCII value, number of copies, and shifting bits. This is repeated with the game name. An important change is including multiplication by a factor based on the string size.
The second hash, which I'll call the basekey, is the secret sauce of v2; it's what you pay Ambrosia to generate when registering a product. It is not computed by the registration app, but there are several properties by which it must be validated.
The chart below visualizes the relationships among the various hashes, using the well-known "Barbara Kloeppel" code for EV: Nova.
 TEXTCODE: ------------------ | L4B5-9HJ5-P3NB | ------------------ HASH1 (userkey): | calculated from licensee name, | copies, and game name BINCODE: ---------------------- 5 bits per character, /-> | 0x0902f8932acce305 | plus factors & rotation / ---------------------- ---------------------- / | 0x0008ecc1c2ee5e00 | <-- XOR ---------------------- \ \ ---------------------- \-> | 0x090a1452e822bd05 | ---------------------- HASH2 (basekey): generated by Ambrosia, extracted via XOR 

The Basekey

The basekey is where we must handle timestamps and several validation checks. Consider the binary representation of the sample 0x090a1452e822bd05:
binary basekey (above) and indices for reference (below): 0000 1001 0000 1010 0001 0100 0101 0010 1110 1000 0010 0010 1011 1101 0000 0101 b0 b3 b7 b11 b15 b19 b23 b27 b31 b35 b39 b43 b47 b51 b55 b59 b63 


Timestamp are encoded as a single byte comprised of bits indexed at b56,51,42,37,28,23,14,9 from the basekey. In this example, the timestamp is 01100010 or 0x62 or 98.
The timestamp represents the number of fortnights that have passed since Christmas Day, 2000 Eastern time, modulo 256 to fit in one byte. For example, 98 fortnights places the code at approximately October 2004.
Stored as a single byte, there are 256 unique timestamps. This is 512 weeks or about 10 years. Yes, this means that a code's validity rotates approximately once every decade.
After the code's timestamp is read, it is subtracted from the current timestamp (generated from the system clock or network time server if available). The difference must be less than 2, so codes are valid for 4 weeks or about a month at a time.
Of note, Pillars of Garendall has a bug in which the modulo is not taken correctly, so the timestamp corresponding to 0xFF is valid without expiry.

Validity Check

The last three bits, b60-63, contain the sum of all other 3-bit chunks in the basekey, modulo 7. Without the correct number in these bits, the result will be considered invalid.
To this point, we have covered sufficient material to renew licenses. The timestamp can be changed, the last three bits updated, the result XOR'd with the userkey, and finally, the code converted from binary to text.

Factors for Basekey Generation

I was next curious about code generation. For the purposes of this write-up, I have not fully reverse engineered the basekey, only duplicated the aspects which are used for validation. This yields functional keys, just not genuine ones. If the authors of the EV: Nova renewal bot have fully reversed the algorithm, perhaps they will one day share the steps to genuine basekey creation.
One aspect validated by the registration app is that the licensee name, number, and game name can be modified to yield a set of base factors. These are then multiplied by some number and written into the basekey. We do not need the whole algorithm; we simply must check that the corresponding regions in the basekey are multiples of the appropriate factors.
The regions of note in the basekey are f1 = b5-9,47-51,33-37,19-23, f2 = b43-47,29-33,15-19,57-61, and f3 = b24-28,10-14,52-56,38-42. The top 5 bits and f3 are never actually checked, so they can be ignored.
Considering f1 and f2, the values in the sample basekey are 0x25DA and 0x1500, respectively. The base factors are 0x26 and 0x1C, which are multiples by 0xFF and 0xC0, respectively.
Rather than analyze the code in detail, I wrote a small script to translate over the disassembled PPC to Python wholesale. It is sufficient for generating keys to EV: Nova, using the perfectly-valid multiple of 1x, but I have found it fails for other v2 products.


Here is a Python implementation for v2: and
With bitstring installed, you can renew codes like python renew "L4B5-9HJ5-P3NB" "Barbara Kloeppel" 1 "EV Nova" (just sample syntax, blacklisted codes will still fail in the app). There's also a function to check a code's timestamp with date or create a new license with generate.
As earlier cautioned, generating basekeys relies on code copied from disassembled PPC and will likely not work outside EV: Nova. In my tests with other v2 products, all essential parts of the algorithm remain the same, even the regions of the basekey which are checked as multiples of the factors. What differs is the actual calculation of base factors. Recall that these keys were created by Ambrosia outside the local registration system, so the only options are to copy the necessary chunks of code to make passable factors for each product or to fully reverse engineer the basekey algorithm. I've no doubt the factors are an easy computation once you know the algorithm, but code generation becomes less critical when renewal is an option for other games. I leave it to the authors of the Zeus renewal bot if they know how to find these factors more generally.
To renew codes for other games, keep in mind the name must be correct. For instance, Pillars of Garendall is called "Garendall" internally. You can find a game's name by typing a gibberish license in the registration app and seeing what file is created in Preferences. It should be of the form License.
Finally, a couple disclaimers: I have only tested with a handful of keys, so my interpretations and implementations may not be completely correct. YMMV. Furthermore, these code snippets are posted as an interesting case study about how a defunct company once chose to combat software piracy, not to promote piracy. Had Ambrosia remained operational, I'm sure we would have seen a v3 registration system or a move to online-based play as so many other games are doing today, but I hope this has been helpful for those who still wish to revisit their favorite Ambrosia classics.
submitted by asw_anon to evnova [link] [comments]

Space Engineers Feb 2019 public test UNOFFICIAL survey results (data dump)

Results are from 71 valid responses (86 responses total but 15 hadn't actually played the test) Thanks to all that submitted responses!

Graphical results

New block comments

Progression tree comments

Cargo ship / random encounter comments

New spawning system comments

Temperature mechanic comments

New chat / inventory size comments

Overall test comments

This is a pretty amazing update. Nice job, Keen! I look forward to seeing the full release. Here are a few things I really like, in no particular order:
With that said, there's still room for improvement:
I also have a few things I'd like to see in future updates:
And to everyone at Keen Software House, seriously, great update. I love Space Engineers, and I love to see it improve. Keep up the great work!
submitted by lilbigmouth to spaceengineers [link] [comments]

SOS to Mr. Sterling - Why Denuvo is Cancer

I believe Denuvo is cancer. Making such a statement is quite the bold claim, I assume. This post will go into detail as to why I believe this is the case. This thread is relevant to this subreddit based on Jim's video "Sonic Mania Comes To PC With Spicy Denuvo DRM"[1]. My intentions with this post are made in the hope that it resonates with everyone here (Jim Sterling, particularly) to speak out against this cancer.
First, we will need to understand what Denuvo is. A quick search on Google gives us this Wikipedia[2] entry:
Denuvo Anti-Tamper, or Denuvo, is an anti-tamper technology and digital rights management (DRM) scheme developed by the Austrian company Denuvo Software Solutions GmbH, a company formed through the management buyout (MBO) of Sony DADC DigitalWorks.
So the following things are established: Denuvo is a anti-tamper AND DRM solution provided by Austrian company Denuvo Software Solutions GmbH.
This makes sense, however the term "Anti-Tamper" might stick out for alot of people here. What does that mean and why is Denuvo considered "Anti-Tamper" rather than being just any other DRM measure? This article from Eurogamer[3] might give us some insight:
(Context: Apparently a representative from Denuvo is responding to the author of this article)
It's tech that acts as a forcefield around whatever DRM the game has - such as EA Origin. To use Denuvo's language, it prevents "debugging, reverse engineering and changing of executable files". Literally, it stops tampering. Exactly how it works is Denuvo's trade secret.
"Anti-Tamper is fundamentally different from DRM," I (the author) was told. "For example, if you add anti-tamper to a title without a DRM such as Steam, then Anti-Tamper is completely inert (AKA useless). Anti-Tamper only works in combination with an existing DRM system."
From what I can understand- this is Denuvo's official stance on why they apply this term to their product. I'll address it later in PART TWO of this thread, but for now, lets take it at face value.
Next, lets try to understand how Denuvo works. Unfortunately, this is where my sources on this subject are going to get dicey, since (AFAIK) Denuvo never officially provided details and no major gaming/tech publication explored into this topic. Therefore, we'll have to look into the underbelly of reddit (crackstatus) to learn more, from users like u/goldcakes [4]:
First of all, Denuvo is NOT a shrink wrap anti tamper system. Developers must integrate their code with denuvo, including marking non-performance-impacting but essential functions for Denuvo's obfuscation. For example, this may be a function that initializes the engine. It should only be run once, so making it slower doesn't really impact overall performance.
Essentially, Denuvo protected binaries come with some parts empty, that must be downloaded from the Denuvo servers after successful authentication. However, Denuvo's servers have at least dozens (if not hundreds or more) of variants for each function.
What do I mean by processor environment? It's basically any slight differences you may have with your processor. It's not just what processor you have, but what revision it is. Two i5s with the exact same model numbers, but manufactured on different dates, can have different revisions, like bug fixes or small optimizations.
So, after successful authentication that is verified by Steam or Origin, Denuvo then patches your binary with specific codepaths that will ONLY work on your specific processor.
So, to put it into laymen's terms: Denuvo is a DRM system that integrates with a game. Denuvo sets up "functions" (basically "triggers") that checks with both a server (provided by Denuvo) and then later checks with your particular CPU to ensure the game is being run on the original, authentic machine.
HOWEVER- within this same reddit thread contains contradictory (and IMO more enlightening) information from the user u/throwawaycracker00 [5] which I believe clarifies the original post:
I've looked at past versions of Denuvo. It uses a modified version of VMProtect 3 to virtualize many game functions,
Before running game code, it will call a DRM library which is specific to the underlying platform, such as Steam or Origin and others.
Besides VMProtect, some versions of Denuvo also have integrity checks, and random chunks of useless code and obfuscation inserted throughout the game code. Compared to the virtualization this is an insignificant problem, especially if you were to see what the obfuscations look like. Standard compiler techniques are sufficient for recovering most of the code, both obfuscation and virtualization.
From what I've seen, both now and in the past, it gets some encryption keys from Steam through a ticket, which serve to function as a temporary license for your PC, this license contains hardware id, expiration date, and possibly a code decryption key.
So, to put it into laymen's terms: Denuvo is a DRM system that calls upon a DRM library based on whatever the underlying platform the game runs on (Steam, Origin, etc). Denuvo integrates "integrity checks" and useless code at an attempt to obfuscation to prevent users from "tampering" with the game files (executable?). Denuvo also contacts a server to send you a "temporary" license for your PC, allowing you offline play until it requires another re-authentication.
Its important to note that u/throwawaycracker00 's post contains information contradictory to u/goldcake 's post, with comments such as:
Your timing checks idea is feasible and has been done on some platforms like ARM that are more predictable than x86. While feasible in principle, it's incredibly hard to do it reliably and have stable code.
And also he mentions that:
This is a throwaway account
It is important to stress the following: Information regarding the specifics of Denuvo is sparse, not explored by large gaming/tech publications and is mostly left to posts made by unreliable forum users. The best I can do is gather what I can find, regurgitate information and link sources together. Take all of this with a grain of salt.
Hopefully, all of this information gives everyone here a basic understanding of what Denuvo is.
Based on information of Part One of this thread, I will provide my personal list of reasons.
1. Denuvo is DRM - The "Anti-Tamper" moniker is PR Bullshit.
Whenever you go looking around for information about Denuvo- you're bound to see the "Anti-Tamper" term thrown up. Even in the Eurogamer article I linked, the Denuvo representative tries to propagate the following idea:
"Anti-Tamper is fundamentally different from DRM,"
One issue I already have with this terminology is the fact that the difference between "Anti-Tamper" and "DRM" seems pretty moot. The strict definition of DRM (Digital Rights Management) can be contested, but I believe most people would agree with the following definition from[6]:
Digital rights management is a far-reaching term that refers to any scheme that controls access to copyrighted material using technological means. In essence, DRM removes usage control from the person in possession of digital content and puts it in the hands of a computer program.
Preventing the "debugging, reverse-engineering and changing of executable files" is in itself restrictive because it prevents the user from making modifications to their copy of the game's executable on their own machine. This is DRM. Even u/throwawaycracker00 shares the same sentiment:
I don't know why people call Denuvo not DRM, it's as much DRM as all the other protectors that came before it, and it has custom code written for Steam that is used in all Steam games, and the same for Origin games. It seems to me to be a PR stunt.
I believe Denuvo re-categorizing their system as "Anti-Tamper" is their attempt at confusing users to thinking Denuvo is acceptable. Because it supposedly isn't DRM. But it is, if you take a deeper look at how it works. Thats PR bullshit.
2. DRM that prevents executable-level modification is bad for PC Gaming.
Certain Denuvo games allows the user to modify the game files- such as MGSV. This is true. However- it seems that Denuvo intentionally prevents executables from being modified, inevitably leading to certain consequences, such as making projects like Multi-Theft Auto impossible.
For context, Multi-Theft Auto is a multiplayer modification of GTA:San Andreas that implements multiplayer in a game that originally was designed for singleplayer. This modification required reverse-engineering of the game's code to create- including it's own executable.
PCGaming has always been about modifying, extending and sharing gamefiles- all the way back to games like the original Quake (Team Fortress). A future where DRM can restrict users from modifying executables is also a future where projects like Multi-Theft Auto become alot harder- if not impossible.
In my eyes- this is bad for everyone. The consumer sees no benefit, yet publishers would feel happiness in this restriction existing. Thats bullshit.
3. Denuvo uses some form of online-activation for offline videogames.
The details are sparse on this- yet based on my research this seems to be the case. Games that have Denuvo authenticate your copy by connecting online to a server that offers you a temporary license. The problem is that this happens even for games that should be playable offline with no internet connection.
Let me ask everyone here a question: If you can't play a game without contacting a server every (lets just say) 2 weeks or so- do you actually own the game? Obviously the counter-argument exists for online-only/MMO/Multiplayer games, but is it valid for offline, singleplayer games?
I say no, because I shouldn't have to deal with temporary authentication licenses just to play the games I legally bought. It's like you're on parole and Denuvo are the officers representing game publishers- yet people who obtained pirated/cracked versions of these Denuvo-protected games are not restricted in this way. Thats bullshit.
BUT IT DOESN'T STOP THERE FOLKS! Because of the way Denuvo works, shady people tried to make money by offering "activations" of Denuvo games by emulating the Denuvo activation servers. Thats right, if you think CD Key re-sellers were shady, then take a look at threads like this:
Now THATS bullshit.
4. Denuvo does not have the moral high-ground based on allegations from VMProtect.
Remember VM Protect? It may ring a few bells. Specifically, this article from TorrentFreak[7], where according to drVano (a developer of VMProtect):
“A while ago, this company released a protection system of the same name but the most remarkable thing is that they absolutely illegally used our VMProtect software in doing so.”
“Everything went well for Denuvo until we notified them that their VMProtect license had been canceled due to a breach of its licensing conditions. Options were offered for solving the problem, including paying modest compensation to us. Our proposal was ignored,” drVano says.
In a nutshell, Denuvo is being accused of using pirated versions of VMProtect in order to create its own anti-piracy software.
This is all relevant because Denuvo is trying to position itself as a solution that aims to protect rights-holders against the evil horde of piracy (Atleast thats the impression you'd get from reading online)- yet engages in shady behavior itself. Hypocrisy is bullshit.
5. Denuvo doesn't benefit the consumer. It's relationship to the user is CANCEROUS by nature.
Denuvo isn't designed to be uncrackable- even they admitted it in the Eurogamer article:
"Every protected game eventually gets cracked,"
Instead- its designed to make it inconvenient, annoying and difficult to crack. Which is all and good if it had 0 downsides to the end-user, which doesn't seem to be the case. From allegations of it killing SSDs[8] (in the interest of fairness, there have been tests done by users indicating this to not be true[9]), from it degrading game performance[10] or it's semi-online nature[11], Denuvo's impact on the end-user experience is questionable at best.
More importantly- Denuvo doesn't benefit consumers in any tangible way. Compare Denuvo to possibly the most successful DRM solution: Steam-protected videogames[12]. For clarification- Steam by itself is NOT DRM! However, Steam/Valve does offer DRM tied to Steam known as "Custom Executable Generation" thats opt-in for any game on Steam and is easily implemented. Users usually do not mind Steam games that are tied to Steam thru CEG because Steam (as a platform) offers conveniences such as connecting to friends, steam workshop, VOIP, steam groups, etc.
Denuvo in contrast- offers nothing. It exists to benefit publishers (Ergo- itself) and works by being installed with your games. This is not a beneficial relationship- which explains why users are not happy to learn when they found Denuvo inside Sonic Mania with no warning[13].
That is why based on this and all previous reasons- Denuvo is cancer. I can only hope that this post was atleast informative- thanks in advance if anyone actually read all of this.
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~ Thread is subject to change for grammastructure errors, new information or mistakes of claims/facts/sources/etc.
submitted by MrGaytes to JimSterling [link] [comments]

[Table] IamA guy who quit his job and gambled everything on an indie game Kickstarter - and passed his goal yesterday. AMA!

Verified? (This bot cannot verify AMAs just yet)
Date: 2013-08-11
Link to submission (Has self-text)
Questions Answers
You had me at David Lynch, What types of influences from Lynch will you be bringing into Tangiers? Three specifics from Lynch that I can jump on - the conversation at the start (near the start? between the two women) of Inland Empire, and how wonderfully disconnected it was. Theater scene in Mulholland Drive. Whole texture and ambiance of Eraserhead. Ofc won't be cutting and pasting those in, but the emotive effect of those scenes, and some of the techniques will be going (and are) in to Tangiers.
Fav movies. lynch is always playing with good and evil, also with key masters who lead the way. is there sort of a good world in tangiers? I think we'll be stepping out of the way of Lynch's good and evil, going more for an amoral watch. When it comes to those sorts of themes, we're sticking ourselves in with the more Burroughsian slant of control and freedom.
So, for DND terms, you're focusing more on the law and chaos axis as opposed to the good and evil axis? Sounds interesting. DND idea of law pushed to a grotesque, almost Kafka-esque level, I'd say.
Just listened to that "Kick that Habit Man" song and it's cut-up lyrics are perfect for that machinery level video! :D. :D I wonder how much it would cost to license...
Was there a particular work or event that inspired you to create Tangiers, other than the general influences you list on your Kickstarter page? Nothing that I'd put down as a specific moment, but a time spent in a psychiatric unit was when I said "right, I'm turning everything around and devoting myself to something". Looking at others work, I think it might be David Cronenberg's videodrome that made me want to be creative! I loved that film (and still do) so much!
An excellent film - certainly one of my favorites, and one that has never been equalled IMHO. Thanks! But I'm hoping for a Notch level of success and wealth, so hopefully a second Kickstarter will not be nescacary.
Care to expand on that experience? I've also spent some time in a psychiatric unit and would be grateful to hear of them. One day, but I'm not quite ready to expose myself that much just yet :)
Thanks for taking the time to answer my questions. Congratulations on hitting your goal, and best of luck! No problem!
Necessary. That's the word you're looking for mate. Not trying to be rude or anything. Thanks. I'm entirely incapable of spelling that word (and a fair few others) for some reason... I generally rely on a built in spell check, but I'm using someone elses PC at the moment and they seem to have that disabled.
Your pitch video reminds me of Garth Marenghi. Was that intentional? Hahah, not really. The dodgey lighting is because I... inadvertantly left a loaf of bread on the other end of the sofa. It was distracting and I had to mask it somehow.
Well the game looks great. Well done on reaching your target. I hope the bear pit makes a cameo appearance, that place always felt like game environment! Hah! You have to stealth through without being asked for 20p.
I'm interested because an older family member is going to run a campaign soon to try and fund getting his childrens music album animated. He's asked for my help but I'm not really any more savvy about this than he is! With press, I put together an initial collection of 100 writers, sites and journalists, researching those who would be specifically interested. Send personalised emails to each one of them. Did so in three waves, taking on board feedback with each one. Include a link to a press-kit with good copy for any articles and any visual materials. If no response, I tried again a week and a half later, with some slightly new information and approach.
Being a fellow Bristolian, are there any plans to introduce some Brizzle-specific elements to Tangiers: - Banksy graffiti that you can use to help your game if you get stuck, - Roni Size-esque music, - a level themed around Portishead (with associated quirky music), - some Grommits - or a vacuous hellish level called Cribbs Causeway / Oceania / The Mall? Not been able to get hold of Edge - there doesn't appear to be any contact information on their site at all!
Great job on getting funded by the way, Tangiers isn't my usual kinda game, but the artistic style and game elements suckered me in. I know a dude who works for Edge (the UK Gaming magazine) who I could point Tangiers to if it might help funding the final couple of days, or have you hit them up already? There'll be a lot of Bristolian influence - especially in the architecture and how the architecture to a degree spells out the history of the place. We've also got the arches :)
Aha, OK, I'll Facebook my mate (old school friend but not spoken in a while so can't promise anything) and point him towards you guys and cross my fingers. Cheers Prupert. If he does it'll be a big big help :)
The stretch goal for enhanced character dynamics sounds amazing to me. Is there any chance that you could include it in some form of DLC should the game do well enough upon release? Potentially, if enough people request it. We're going to be building up to a big free expansion six months after Tangiers, and then general extra releases and features for atleast the following year. (All dependent on it giving us enough money to eat though!)
Congratulations on getting funded! My out-in-left-field question is, will anyone be able to mod or create maps for it? No mods or maps. But! We're using Unity, and some short time after release, we'll be putting together all of our stealth code and AI into a tool kit, which we'll be releasing for free :)
Free as in freedom? Or free as in beer? Both! Free beer and we give you the recipe.
Did you have game dev/programming experiance prior to the kickstarter? If no, I'll have some followups. This is the first game I've worked on, though I've dabbled on and off in programming, level design etc for years. Solidly working on it for 12 months to get myself up to speed before getting the project in a position where we're ready too launch and actually complete it within a year. On a coding front, we're 2 months away from being robust and feature complete.
Have you ever completed a game or program? Nope.
Will you be contributing code to game? Yeaup, and most of that side is complete.
Are there other people helping you make the game? If yes, I'm curios how you are paying your programmers? Did you give them a salary of some sort, payment from kickstarter, or maybe a % of the sales? If we get enough to bring someone with a more dedicated focus on the code, then it'll be someone I'm already close to(a lot of people from school etc went into coding). That'll be a mix of Kickstarter funds to keep them alive and with the occasional treat, and then % of sales. Team is already four of us - Myself, Michael whose more of an assistant, Catt (artist) and Joseph (music)
Was it hard putting that team together? How did you find them and build your team? Putting them together, I wanted people I would be comfortable with, so it came from friends of friends or direct friends. Michael I've known forever, had him in mind from the start. The other two came from sending loose specs, seeing what they came out with, seeing if that matched my line of thought. Those two did... and very well, quite a few others didn't.
I've dabbled with driving a car and I'm going to start a kickstarter to turn me into a Nascar driver! Good luck! I hope it goes well for you.
What do you expect your main role/job to be as lead dev? Are you going to be contributing an equal amount of code? Or do you plan to delegate tasks and test things? As a lead dev, I'm going to be working on the management side as much as the creative one (though that does ofc include managing consistency etc). With resources so tight, I need to make sure that we make best of everything we have, efficiency is key. If we get a dedicated coder, then I'll be letting go of that side almost completely, though still sorting out the scripting of any one off events.
I'm assuming the game is going to have some form of music? If yes, is the musician a friend as well or did you hire him? If you did hire him, how did you find him and what does that cost? Musician was someone my better half knew. Sent over a few keywords and concepts that I wanted the soundtrack to embody. The few tracks he sent me matched what I wanted to express perfectly.
How long to you expect the project to complete? We've got 12 months to complete the project, we have been working on it for sometime already.
What do you have planned for the future if the game is a success or failure? If it fails, will you try again or...? If its a success will you be reinvesting in the studio or a new game or maybe going on a big vacation? The game won't be released until it's a success as a game - but the faith of our backers rests on getting it out within that 12 month period, which we're mindful of. If it is a failure at market, then I've no idea what I'll do - depends on why it failed. If a success, everythings going back into the studio.
Thanks for answering all my questions. I'm looking forward to the finished product! Thank you! Were they satisfactory? Wasn't sure if you were trying to catch me out on anything heh.
Yeah, they were satisfactory! I wasn't try'n to catch you on anything or bust your balls. I was/am genuinely curious about the dev side/business side of it all! :-D. Cool! I get paranoid about how the whole "first time developer" thing comes off - but people have been pretty cool about it actually :)
Talk technical to me! What sort of tools you use, how do you prepare graphics and audio, interesting programming problems you ran into, etc. Also, dogs or cats? Using Unity as a base (what Indy dev doesn't these days?). Antares Vizio, a visual C# interface for most of the coding, because it lets me debug and reprogram when the game is running. Back to standard C# where Antares is lacking. Graphics workflow goes two ways betwen us - I whitebox levels, Michael turns that into a loose set of architecture, I add the definition and back to Michael to texture. I get quite impatient, so it keeps me moving from task to task. Strangely that doesn't apply to programming - I can code solid for a day and not notice the time pass!
The whole words mechanic in the game came from a design quirk. In the game, spoken language materialises into the world, and you can use it as a tool. This idea came from accidentally applying physics properties to a debug indicater, lol.
I'm full on cats. Michaels agressively dogs.
You said that the cut-up technique is in part inspired by Dishonored, which was my initial impression as well. As you know, Dishonored had its opinion about the type of gameplay favored by its player: In a sense, high chaos players, who preferred more bloodshed, were punished by a much more negative story progression and a fairly cruel ending. It was Dishonored's way of disapproving of typical FPS gameplay, something I found myself disagreeing with. Will Tangiers be making similar value judgments of players' performance? No. I'm staying away from any moral (appropriate, given the Burroughs influence) or gameplay judgement. The balance and challenge with having the world change is to make it change in such a manner that it allows more opportunities for the styles of play that cause the change.
A problem I personally ran into before deciding on what I wanted to work on (though I never brought it near your level) - assuming you had several ideas for a game, what was the second best idea that Tangiers won out over? Immersive Sim/Social survival horror in space. Think System Shock meets Pathologic. 14 days where everything is going wrong on a spacecraft, as people get killed off they split into different factions, etc. Manipulations and intrigue. But: Everything is driven by the AI, your social interactions fueling much of the late game. Towards the end, it's you and maybe 4/5 other people trying to survive. Their dispositions are driven by your interactions with them earlier on. Some might betray you for personal survival, others might sacrifice.
Didn't make it because there's no way I actually could just yet.
Oh man, that sounds GREAT. I hope you're keeping that one filed away. When I feel I'm able to do it, I'm jumping right to the challenge. Could be a good few years though ;)
THAT SOUNDS AMAZING! It's so sad we never got much System Shock other than Dead Space which was meant to be System Shock 3 apparently but really isn't. I spent the entirity of Dead Space thinking "damn, this -almost- feels like system shock". Then I read that it wa-
Toughts on piracy? How worried are you about Tangiers being pirated? I don't really think it's worth the effort, worrying about it. People who will, will... I can't stop that. If people are curious enough to play the game, I'm thankful that I've grabbed their attention to be honest :) I hope though, that the personal element of the project comes through, and people enjoy it enough to later buy the game (even if they wait for a steam sale :P )!
I read somewhere that you were influenced by Throbbing Gristle and Cabaret Voltaire. I was wondering, if true, would these influences be indicative of Tangiers' soundtrack? Also, are there any other musical influences to the project? We're taking heavy influence from those two groups, especially from the paranoia and fragile nature of Cabaret Voltaire's instrumentation. Extracting similar from the first two Clock DVA releases. Also see Oophoi and Lustmord as our other strong points of reference. A big blend of early industrial and ambient.
Excellent. Thank you so much for the link. It's nice to see an approach to music not typical of gaming. Fits perfectly. Cheers. One of the characteristics that I'm aiming for with Tangiers is that it's outward looking, or rather it takes more inspiration from outside the medium than it does from within. While, of course, understanding that it is a game and not a film or whatever.
How and where did you first learn Programming? What other skills are needed to finish a game? Are there any tutorials or websites that helped you out tremendously? (Including those when you first started and graduated from) First learnt programming when I was 12. Gone back to it every couple of years on and off. Spent a year before starting Tangiers intensively re-learning, bringing myself up to date and competent with that and other skills.
What program did you use to create your game? Would you make more games? Using the Unity engine, it's a fantastic piece of kit. Basic version is free and there are LOADS of great tutorials for it (and the coding side) up around the site. This alone makes for the perfect starting point.
What is the potential of indie gaming and would it survive in the future? Just me and Michael. No payment what so ever at the moment. Would recommend monthly though, atleast in the UK you can go through PAYE, maxing tax paperwork a lot easier.
If it is monthly payment, money coming out of your pocket would be a huge blow, wouldn't it? And having less money would be a great deterrent. Don't quite follow the monthly payment question... bit sleepless still (been traveling back home today), rephrase it for us? :)
How did you arrive at an estimated delivery date of August 2014? Looked at what we've got already, how long it'll take to finish the coding side off. Then looked at how fast we are with our workflow and area design, and extrapolated that. Then added an extra month as a (inevitably used) buffer. Bearing in mind that we're working 70 hour weeks at a minimum during this.
70 hours, bloody hell. Considering how many articles I've read about the man hours of game developers, I'm not particularly envious to be on that side. That's what we've maintained so far. During the campaign at the moment, with a few exceptions we've been doing nothing else. Waking up and falling asleep to the Kickstarter page!
How did you price the kickstarter? Does it just cover the development and for living costs during the development? What is your plan after its been finished? Living off the revenue of the game? Make another game? Find a new job? Kickstarter covers the costs for us to live and compensation for our freelancers (who are as excited about this as we are, and are going very below rate). Also covers overheads such as software licenses, backer rewards and taxes. On release, we hope to sell enough to feed ourselves! If we can get the game out properly and market it, then we plan on supporting it with free updates over the following year (a big stand alone one six months in), while phasing into development of a second title.
What was the point in your job where you quit? Did one particular customer cause you to snap? Not customers, I've always been pretty cool with handling the difficult ones (always been the guy people send in their way actually!) It was mostly down to being on the verge of getting my own store, but events outside of my control taking it away, and then pushing me down on to the bottom of the ladder again (arbitrary redundancies, restructuring, etc). Had another one of those and that lead to the "fuck this" moment.
For those who are wondering: "redundancies" is a British euphemism for "people losing their jobs". The American word "firings" comes close, I think. Hah! I didn't realise it was a UK only word. It's generally a diktat from head office - in this case it was "Get rid of the two staff with the lowest length of service in this store". Ignoring any performance measures, etc. Harrumph.
You've mentioned that you'd like to get a third developer on the team, and that is what you'd be doing if you get funded beyond the 35k goal. Now that we're moving up beyond the initial amount, at what point is the third developer definitely in the picture? It's not mentioned in your stretch goals but your recent update/comments suggest in the 40k range? And do you have an idea as to whom it would be? Also, congrats again. :D. Original plan was for a full time developer, and that would require the 60k range. That was my... dream scenario, can be a bit of a blue sky thinker haha. At the moment, I can probably get someone else in at £47k, albeit working half-time. Who? There's a few people available. Waiting on seeing how much resources we've got before I start talking to them :)
What inspired you to create this game? Was it planned when you quit your job? Is there any advice you'd give to someone who is planning to create and indie game in a similar manner? Main advice would be that you can do it, and should learn everything. Don't rely on other people to come up with graphics, animation etc - the more you learn about that yourself, the more self sufficient you will be. You'll find people, but don't wait for them.
I just wanted to congratulate you. I really like the concept of the game. You had me at cut-up. Can you explain a bit more how you plan to incorporate the technique into the game/gameplay? How about Dream Machines as save or teleport devices? Link to Experimented with a few different design ideas, much with the teleport/dream machine concept. They seemed a bit too... gimmicky in terms of gameplay mechanic? Like they'd be better suited for a puzzel game, or portal style central focus. Instead, we're going similar to Dishonored's Chaos system. The more you interact with the world, the more cut-up it becomes. Fragments of areas you interacted serve to rebuild future locations, both affecting aesthetics and game flow. Mostly procedural, but guided slightly.
Teleport in the sense of fast travel between major areas...or like the make campfire mechanic in Red Dead Revolver. Ah, I see. We're not going to be putting any fast travel in the game - The actual, on foot travel, and the events and areas you come across are a major part of Tangiers. Following on from that, it's a very forward moving game - it should feel more like a road movie than the back and forwards of Skyrim etc.
Ok that makes sense then. Again, I just wanted to say I'm so glad you got your funding. I'm really looking forward to your updates and eventually release! Fnord! Thanks few23! Looking forwards to the journey ahead of us :)
Do you need a composer? I'd like to help. Link to We've already got someone on board, but thanks anyway :)
Guessing either exclusively Steam (blech) or hopefully just a binary package? Steam seems open to various licensing packages - plenty of games that are available DRM free + on the platform, and there's the humble bundle as well...
, just to put you under MORE do you deal with Linux piracy? How, why, and with what philosophies will you cope with your largely free-to-acquire, fund us! - type games fare? Re: Piracy - Don't really care about that too much. It's essentially unavoidable, and one of the reward tiers is that the game copies are DRM-Free. If the big guns can't stop it with all their resources, no way that I can!
But piracy on Linux is obscure, but not unheard of by any means. And, how pissy will Steam be if you offer separate binaries under different pricing/licensing packages? Not going to be steam exclusive, primary release will be the DRM free distribution. Aiming for Desura as a platform for that, but also have access to a private server option.
Did you ever have trouble motivating yourself to do the massive amount of work this must've took? Also, how'd you go about learning programming? Did your previous job involve it, therefore making it part of your career? Or was it sort of just a side interest for you? No trouble motivating myself - the fact that I was actually working on something that I enjoyed was incredibly rewarding. With programming, up until I was about 16/17, I wanted to become a programmer. Back then, it was pretty much all I did when I wasn't at school! I was suprised at how quickly I picked it all back up again, and got to speed and a level of competence after all these years... there's been very few roadblocks on the coding side of things where we are now.
How do you think enough people saw your project? Did you advertise? Is this the first time you posted to reddit? It's split three ways betwen word of mouth, Kickstarter's own promotions and press coverage. Not the first time I've posted to Reddit, but it is the first time I've gotten any replies :D.
What's your history with art and the avant-garde? Did you study it previously? Nothing formal on that front, though it's something I've been immersed in for (most) of the past decade... I've got a whole bookshelf just on books related to Dada, hehe.
Do you plan any Futurist (as in, Italian Futurism) influences in your game? Seems right up your alley. If you haven't already, read the futurist's manifesto. I enjoy a lot of the Futurist aesthetic, not so much the underlying concepts - too steeped in bravado for my liking. In many ways it's direct opposition to Dada, which I connect far, far more strongly with.
Why did you choose that 'Tangiers' is going to be the name of your game? Does the city Tangier (morocco) has something to do with it? The city Tangier had a big role in William S. Burroughs writing, especially within Naked Lunch, where he wrote a large portion of the novel. Took form as the absurdist and grotesque interzone. The (slightly archaic) name "Tangiers" was originally a sign post pointing to Burrough's own influence; thought it would be appropriate considering that we're very influenced ourselves. As development progressed, "Tangiers" moved from a non-diagetic name to encompassing the game world itself.
You know what's weird I just watched the episode of 30 rock where Tracy Morgan has to get a tattoo of his wife Angie and gets the idea to just sharpie over it and make it say Tangiers. Do you find this weird? Haha, I find it weird how many people that happens to! You must be the third or fourth since we announced the game? :D
What would you have done if you hadn't reached your goal? Absolutely no idea. Can juggle having no income (not that I'm making anything off of Tangiers, less than minimum wage to cover food and rent basically) for a certain amount of time, but not for that long. Without the Kickstarter I'd be evicted quite soon and then downward spiral.
So I just saw the page and to be honest it looks amazing. one question though why did you choose the name Andalusian? ( just asking out of curiosity) Luis Bunuel and Dali had a surrealist film - Un Chien Andalou. (An Andalusian Dog). It was one of those key moments in discovering art for me.
Considering you say the game has been inspired by Thief, was first person a thought in the start? Then it became where you wanted to show the creepy spider-y player character moving around? Is it more Thief because you can be nonviolent or do ghost walkthroughs without touching an enemy? Will taffers be involved? There's been periods where I've gone into experimenting with first person, but from the start it's been in third. Firstly because it fits better with the aesthetic and the general direction of the game - seeing yourself in relation to the world is a big part of the emotive connection. The world has a... lesser impact when you're seeing it in first person, converse to what would be expected... Secondly is a personal reaction, of sorts. Up until relatively recent times, I was a pretty hard core angry internet man about PC gaming and "Consolization", with first person being an absolute must for any level of immersion or enjoyment! Having matured out of that foolishness, it's a challenge I set purposely set myself to incorporate. Nonviolence and ghost walkthroughs are very much inherited from Thief. A lot of the ambient "feeling" of the game comes from it... in so many terms, I'm looking at Thief as the bar I want to reach close to. And Taffers? There might be a sly easter egg or two? ;)
What will you do if your next game doesn't make as much money as this one? Sell out and fill my third one with mass market appeal.
What's your history with stealth games? I know Tangiers got inspiration from the Thief series, but have you played other titles like Splinter Cell, Hitman, and Dishonored? Played a lot of stealth games, though I veer towards the more open, Thief type approach. The other approach is to have very rigid, very finely defined situations - these stealth games feel more like a puzzle game, I don't really enjoy that to be honest. Absolutely loved Dishonored - one of my favourite games in the past 10 years. Beautiful in almost every way.
Congratulations! My questions is about quitting your job and making such a great change in your life, how did you feel? what was your motivation? On quitting my job, I felt a great sense of relief. As the weeks and months went by though, it became a fairly claustrophobic sense of determination as money tightened to next to nothing. Main motivation was a build up of stagnation, that one shift where you reflect upon things and realise that you are going absolutely nowhere unless you take the plunge.
Can you name a project on Kickstarter that deserves way more support than Tangiers? Also, can you name a project that should not have gotten any support at all? My favourite project at the moment is Fran Bow.
Link to
Wonderfully quirky dark point and click adventure game, with a certain childlike charm... comes across as a bit over the top in parts, but talking to the developers behind it it's incredibly personal and exposing.
Obviously since you quit your job, game development must mean a lot to you. What's been the most rewarding part of this process and what are you looking forward to the most approaching the release of the game? The single most rewarding part was pulling all the rough prototypes (every character is a capsule, etc) together and "put the graphics in". Seeing everything to the abstract to something that actually felt like a game had me smiling for weeks.
I'm in a similar situation you were up to four months ago. I'm working a dead end retail job dreaming of a dream almost too unrealistic. Except I aspire to compose music for games and movies instead. Would you advise others with such dreams to take your gambling approach to success, or should they try a safer route since most people won't be as lucky nor skilled are you are? Always, always find a safer route. As a tip to becoming a composer - build relationships with game designers or at-least the community before pitching to them. I get maybe 3-5 pitches a day for that! Always appreciate the interest, but in all honestly I'm far more inclined to work with someone I know (of), even if loosely.
Congrats. Learn everything - Coding, Level Design, Graphics, Animation... even if you don't intend to do so in the actual project, it gives you an invaluable understanding, and means you can atleast create placeholder assets when nesacary.
To someone who wants to become a game dev whats your advice would be for him? And be personal. Don't go into it wanting to recreate your favourite game. Draw on everything you can, and make something unique :)
Last updated: 2013-08-15 21:35 UTC
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