This past weekend was the Game Maker Community Jam, a 72-hr game development competition sponsored by Yoyogames. I didn’t participate in this one, unfortunately, due to my license for Game Maker Studio being revoked. Here’s what happened:
Back in January, I participated in Global Game Jam, at which I obtained a free, time-limited license for Game Maker: HTML5, then in beta Due to bugs that I encountered with Game Maker HTML5, I had to start over twice after my project became corrupted, for reasons still unknown but hopefully long since fixed by Yoyogames. I ended up completing my project that weekend with my old standby, Game Maker 8.0 Professional. I just barely got it done, but had to sacrifice a lot of sleep and many features that I’d hoped to include as a result of the time/work lost due to the project corruption bug.
A few months later, in April, Yoyogames released Game Maker: Studio beta, which I downloaded, and I began using it. I played with the Studio beta a bit during Ludum Dare 23, but quickly realized that a 48-hr competition is no time to be discovering a new version of a tool, so again I fell back to a stable release, this time Game Maker 8.1. After LD23, I began porting my project, Bactarium, to Studio, refining it along the way.
Some time later, Game Maker Studio concluded its beta testing, and released 1.0. My beta license stopped working, so I had to buy Studio. Yoyogames had made an offer with their Global Game Jam that participants who tried out the HTML5 beta, which they had offered to GGJ participants for free, would be able to get 50% off when it was finally released. So, when I went to their web site to purchase my license, I was expecting to have to pay something. However, when I entered my old HTML5 license, the store allowed me to download the core Studio 1.0, as well as the HTML5 add-on license, for free.
Apparently this was in error, but at the time I had no way to know this, no way to claim the 50% discount that I should have been entitled to. I assumed that Yoyogames was being really gracious to people who participated in the HTML5 and Studio beta program — maybe I was getting two discounts and they stacked? In any case, I would have been willing to pay for the product if the site had been set up to take my money, but it wasn’t, and it didn’t require me to pay anything. The HTML5 license I received at GGJ apparently entitled me to download the GM:Studio 1.0 core, plus the HTML5 module, all for free. I was of course thrilled.
So I downloaded Studio 1.0 and used it, working on bringing Bactarium into Studio so that I could port it to Mac OS X and HTML5, and worked on a few other tech demos as well to familiarize myself with the new features. Things have worked fine up until last week, when I went to download and install the latest update. After installing, when Studio launched it told me that no license was detected and I needed to enter it. Figuring the license data had gotten blown away by the upgrade for some reason, I went through the license recovery process and re-entered my license key. However, Studio refused to accept my key.
I opened a ticket with Yoyogames helpdesk, and promptly received a response within 24 hours, informing me that my license key was no longer valid, as the HTML5 license that I had from Global Game Jam had expired. OK, I can accept that, no big deal. The communication from Yoyogames helpdesk further explained that they would be sending out coupon codes within about a week to people who participated in the beta, so they could get their discount. So, basically, I could choose to wait up to a week for the coupon code, or pay full price now. I would have thought that the old license key itself would have been the discount code, but oh well. I’m electing to wait.
Waiting put me out of participating in the GMC Jam this weekend. Oh, I suppose I could have worked in 8.1 again, but by the time I received the notification from the Yoyogames helpdesk, I’d lost enough time that it didn’t seem like a good idea to try to throw something together. I had other things to do this weekend, so I did them. No regrets about any of it, but it would have been better if the logistics had worked out a little better. I don’t mind the license expiring, since I’d expected it to anyway, and I don’t mind paying for my license, but not being able to purchase with the discount because Yoyogames didn’t think to distribute the discount codes prior to expiring the beta licenses is a bit disappointing.
So, today’s Monday. I still have not received my coupon code, but as they had said it would be happening sometime in the next week, I’ll try to be patient and wait for it to come by Friday, hopefully. I’m really hoping it’ll come through soon.
One concern I now have is that, in reading up on the way Game Maker currently works, apparently you need to connect to Yoyogames server at least monthly to re-validate your license. This anti-piracy measure goes a bit too far in my opinion, and potentially hurts legitimate users. Copy protection crackers will always find ways to defeat such measures, while legitimate users will always be at risk of having their license killed in error, thereby denying them access to software on their own hard drive, that they paid for.
I can understand why Yoyogames feels they need to control licenses with a phone-home system tied to a remote killswitch, however the potential exists for legitimate users to be left in the cold if Yoyogames decides to kill an old version in order to force everyone to upgrade to their latest. If Yoyogames ever decided to stop supporting this version of Game Maker, or discontinue Game Maker entirely, or go out of business, all the paid-for licenses of the product potentially go bye bye.
It’s one thing to stop supporting an old version of a product, quite another to shut down license servers, effectively killing off the old version so that users are forced to upgrade. To be clear, I’ve seen no indication from Yoyogames that they plan to ever do this to their customers, only that they now have the mechanism available to them that allows them to do so. I sincerely hope that they never do this, as the backlash from the community would be substantial.
I would hope that as a last measure that they’d release some patch that permanently unlocks all licenses so as to prevent this from happening, and if they don’t then I’m sure the cracker community likely will, although this would technically violate the EULA as well as laws such as the Digital Millenium Copyright Act.
It’s Thursday, and I’ve woken up to find the coupon code from Yoyogames waiting for me in my inbox. They’ve changed things up a bit from the original offer, and it’s about the same although I think it works out better from a certain standpoint.
Originally, participants in Global Game Jam were going to get Game Maker HTML5 1.0 (when it was released) for 50% off the originally announced price of $199. Yoyogames was selling beta licenses for half off, so essentially GGJ12 participants were getting access to the beta for free, and paying the same price for the finished product that the beta testers were paying anyway. This was nice because A) you didn’t actually have to pay anything for a beta, and B) you could try before you buy for a few months.
Somewhere along the line, Yoyogames changed their mind about their products and pricing. Game Maker HTML5 1.0 was never released; instead, it was folded into Game Maker Studio, becoming an optional $99 add-on.
As a result, the original deal no longer made any sense. So instead, Yoyogames has substituted Studio. With the coupon, you get the $99 Studio core for free; and if you want the HTML5 module, you pay full price for it.
Comparing to the old deal, this is better in two ways:
- You get Studio, which can build to Windows and OS X for free, and you can stop there if you want to.
- For the same cost as the original deal, you can buy the HTML5 module and have three build targets instead of two.
My old complaint still stands, that they should have issued the coupons and given developers a week or two to use thembeforedisabling the temporary licenses. On the other hand, apparently those licenses were only supposed to have been good for two months, and I think I got about 6 or 7 months out of mine, and I’m definitely not complaining about that. All in all, a week’s worth of inconvenience is still a week’s worth of inconvenience, but I’m glad that in the end, they’ve given developers who worked with the beta something worthwhile.