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Should PCGamingWiki include information on how to mod games to unlock DLC/preorder content?

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Some games have content that are designed to be locked behind paid DLC or are preorder rewards. Often the game content itself (textures, models, code, missing console features) already exists in the downloaded PC game files. These could be accessed by hex editing certain files to provide access to the content, or in some instances downloading unofficial patches. Should we include these unlocking instructions? Or is it piracy?

We currently have a piracy policy: https://pcgamingwiki.com/wiki/PCGamingWiki:Editing_guide/Wiki_policy

The intent of this policy is to prevent PCGamingWiki being labelled as a piracy website and harming our visibility on Google and our partnerships. But preventing PCGamingWiki from giving this unlocking information harms the average PC gamer - for example, KOTORII Content Restored Mod unlocks unfinished content - if we banned unlocking copyrighted content, wouldn't this also fall into the same category?

I am very interested in hearing your thoughts before we come to a policy decision. Please respond below and please cite examples where possible.

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I'd argue that no, PCGW shouldn't list these sorts of things for current and "active" games (as in the developer still actively works on it and releases content for it).

This is in essence similar to the controversy/discussion around Mass Effect 3 and its "on-disc DLC" that were technically "on the disc", but not accessible without forking over some additional cash.

In this particular case (Control), we're talking about an outfit available only for pre-orders for now (meant as a pre-order incentive) as well as another outfit limited to console platforms only.

We have no idea the developer/publishers future intentions of this content, and it is very likely that this content will later down the line be sold separately to players, or used as another incentive (e.g. when the game hits Steam). I don't think it would sit well with developers/publishers if PCGW flagrantly included instructions on how to access content locked behind a paywall for free, and it could be argued as actively encouraging piracy as well.

In this particular case I don't really agree on the "harms the average PC gamer" perspective either, as the average player isn't harmed by not having access to the two outfits in question (or e.g. the on-disc DLC of Mass Effect 3 that were mentioned previously).

 

I think an exception can be made and allowed for cut content that was never intended to be finalized and released. I can also see how stuff like pre-order DLCs exclusive to a certain vendor or platform might be seen as acceptable if enough time has past since the release of the game in question (but it would basically involve years as compilation editions that includes previously exclusive content can be released even years later).

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i agree with Aemony here.

Stuff that is on Disc/about to be released at a future time on the disk or not should not be included imo. (Outfits, Weapons, other cosmetic stuff, Future upcoming DLC (Whole new Levels, Maps, Singleplayer DLC and content))

Stuff that is just not officially unlocked due to licensing like in FF XIII-2 or Lightning Returns (Couple Outfits missing due to licensing) i am fine with including these since they would never get released or are planned to.

In the case of Man of Medan i am torn between both due to the Curators cut being on disk and already being downloaded aswell just needing the DLC on Steam with no additional download does unlock it and was in this case preorder only. That one is hard for me since it's supposed to be a free dlc later this year anyways and also is technicly the way a second playthrough should be played as. 

 

So it's kind of a game by game basis or simply not allowing it at all. Allowing it for all of them would be clearly wrong imo and not just hurt the reputation of the site but also make us not any better than other shady websites unlocking DLC and paid content in their pirated games.

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While it is truly ironic that copyright law, both in the US and globally, is such that illegal actions like piracy are what it takes to preserve video gaming history, I don't feel PCGW is equipped to 'fix' this aspect of gaming.

16 minutes ago, fayaine said:

[snip]

So it's kind of a game by game basis or simply not allowing it at all. Allowing it for all of them would be clearly wrong imo and not just hurt the reputation of the site but also make us not any better than other shady websites unlocking DLC and paid content in their pirated games.

Therein lies the tricky part. If we allow exceptions on a game-by-game basis, who decides? What are the criteria involved? How does PCGW legally back up such a decision should the copyright holders come knocking?

Not allowing info on how to unlock DLC or preorder content at all is the simplest, least-complicated option I see.

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I think circumventing a developer/publisher's monetization plans makes it a grey area.

2 hours ago, fayaine said:

Stuff that is just not officially unlocked due to licensing like in FF XIII-2 or Lightning Returns (Couple Outfits missing due to licensing) i am fine with including these since they would never get released or are planned to.

In a case like this, I can see it being more acceptable since the developer/publisher have no intention of ever releasing the content on the platform.

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I think what others are saying seems to make sense. I remember years ago, I posted stuff on adding the PS3/Mac exclusive DLC to PC versions of Batman Arkham Asylum, and ultimately that ended up being okay (there's a similar thing out there for Arkham Origins but I never got around to messing with it). I think the deciding factor might end up being asking the publisher/developer like how someone did for BAA. If we can get an okay from them, it's probably okay.

Otherwise, I'm not sure, aside from maybe in the case of abandonware, where the dev doesn't even exist anymore.

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I'm all for unlocking of "on disc" content for everyone.  You paid for the game as it is; if there's content that's arbitrarily locked "on-disc" (on release) unless you pay an additional cost for, then that's anti-consumer and the publisher shouldn't be respected for it, as they're not respecting their customers.

If paid DLC comes out after the release of the game and was not in the game files on release, then sure, it can stay locked away even if it can be unlocked via file editing (which seems to be 50/50 in my experiences, sometimes patches include all the content, other times DLC content is not downloaded unless you purchase it).

For others: "Abandonware" or unpurchasable games? Unfinished content? Finished but unreleased content due to licensing/region restrictions?  These all get my vote towards providing instructions to "unlock" content for them, even if some of these err on the side of piracy.

Aside from that, the real problem is moderating select things.. which results in the only solution of not allowing anything in the first place, except for that example of KOTOR2 unfinished game content.. which was before the "DLC" times.  It's unfortunate, but I can see some publisher being their corporate greedy selves and trying to come down on PCGW in response to an article instructing users in how to unlock a 50¢ outfit..

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I think it can be done in select cases. Like for instance, Deadpool has been removed off of Steam, and I would love to get the DLC but I can't without paying a private seller a ton of money. If there was a way to get that DLC by modding the game, then it should be shown, as its the only way to get the DLC. Or something like Call of Juarez: The Cartel, where you can't get the game or the pre-order DLC anymore. If that content can be hacked, then definitely post about it.

I don't see it as piracy because companies aren't selling the DLC and the game anymore, therefore my only way to get that content is through either private sellers or hacking the game. Its not like these games are still for sale, so really there should be no problems with cases like this. Once you get into games being sold, and DLC that is being sold currently, that definitely is piracy. So I suggest to do this for only select cases where we can't get access to the game's DLC if the game and/or DLC has been delisted.

Its scummy that these companies can legally sell you content already in the game files, but two wrongs don't make a right.

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3 hours ago, AlexKVideos1 said:

I think it can be done in select cases. Like for instance, Deadpool has been removed off of Steam, and I would love to get the DLC but I can't without paying a private seller a ton of money. If there was a way to get that DLC by modding the game, then it should be shown, as its the only way to get the DLC. Or something like Call of Juarez: The Cartel, where you can't get the game or the pre-order DLC anymore. If that content can be hacked, then definitely post about it.

I don't see it as piracy because companies aren't selling the DLC and the game anymore, therefore my only way to get that content is through either private sellers or hacking the game. Its not like these games are still for sale, so really there should be no problems with cases like this. Once you get into games being sold, and DLC that is being sold currently, that definitely is piracy. So I suggest to do this for only select cases where we can't get access to the game's DLC if the game and/or DLC has been delisted.

That's pretty close to the strictest publicly-available definition of abandonware - as created by pirates, might I add.

Regardless, such actions are still illegal. While I don't agree with the legality behind such things, I don't think PCGW should be getting involved with politics. The site is here to fix games, not - and I'm speaking my own personal opinion here - as a base for political issues individual staff members, myself included, perceive as needing 'fixing'.

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I think there are cases where including such instructions make would sense.

For example, the preorder DLC for Spec Ops: The Line can be unlocked by simply modifying some .ini files, and this is akin to the wiki's current (unspoken) rules on including instructions for how to bypass DRM.

DLC for Lego The Lord of the Rings was only released on PS3 and X360, but you can mod the PC version (and probably the Wii version) to get said DLC. 

Despite being logical inclusions, they still count as piracy. That is the unfortunate reality of how ethical ≠ legal.

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1 hour ago, SirYodaJedi said:

For example, the preorder DLC for Spec Ops: The Line can be unlocked by simply modifying some .ini files, and this is akin to the wiki's current (unspoken) rules on including instructions for how to bypass DRM. 

This is the written rule on bypassing DRM:

Quote

Bypassing copyright protection and fixesLink

Applications and files made to bypass a game's copyright protection (ex. No-CD patches/cracks, keygen programs) are considered related to pirated content and subject to all its restrictions as stated above. Note that officially developed or supported patches/applications by the developer/publisher that remove copyright protection do not fall under this definition.

However, the only case where such unofficial patches/workarounds are fine is for fixes. There are some restrictions:

  1. The game has a crash, error, or game-breaking bug which prevents it from running correctly/at all, and there are no other known legitimate fixes available. The only known fix is to bypass the copy protection.
  2. The fix can only mention that the copy protection needs to be bypassed. Do not give a link to the patch/application. Also, do not give the name of the exact patch/application that needs to be found.
    • Denoting the copy protection bypass method type is fine (ex. "A No-CD patch is required to run the game").
  3. Finally, do not give details on how to install/use the patch/application and how to fix any issues that come up while using said patch/application.

If there is confusion in the validity of a fix that requires bypassing copy protection, contact a mod or admin (either through PM, the wiki's IRC channel, or the wiki's Discord server).

Technically speaking, at a first glance that Star Wars: Dark Forces section might be in violation of that rule and would need editing to be aligned with the rule as it is written.

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On 9/10/2019 at 1:02 PM, Aemony said:

This is the written rule on bypassing DRM:

Technically speaking, at a first glance that Star Wars: Dark Forces section might be in violation of that rule and would need editing to be aligned with the rule as it is written.

It is vaguely written with regards to copy-protection bypassal that doesn't require a separate download. If it required a no-cd cracked exe or a external patcher, then it would be clearly breaking the rules. But just copying files from the disc?

niKxvFl.png

Or should we remove *any* links to unofficial downloads that remove DRM, even when that isn't the primary intent, such as with the Unreal 227i patch?

https://pcgamingwiki.com/wiki/Unreal#OldUnreal_227_Patch

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2 hours ago, SirYodaJedi said:

It is vaguely written with regards to copy-protection bypassal that doesn't require a separate download. If it required a no-cd cracked exe or a external patcher, then it would be clearly breaking the rules. But just copying files from the disc?

niKxvFl.png

Or should we remove *any* links to unofficial downloads that remove DRM, even when that isn't the primary intent, such as with the Unreal 227i patch?

https://pcgamingwiki.com/wiki/Unreal#OldUnreal_227_Patch

It's a more complex discussion and one not relevant to the topic described in this thread, but the general gist, or underlying reasoning, of the policy is arguably to prevent PCGW from providing instructions to users how to bypass/circumvent/remove DRM, as such a thing might not be legal in all countries worldwide.

In that sense, merely providing instructions on how to "copy files" etc would be in violation if those instructions were provided with the intention of knowingly and directly circumventing the DRM of a title. So it comes down to, among other things, whether the need of the disc is due to DRM or if it is due to some form of requirement at the time (e.g. needing the disc to offload some data from the HDD to keep storage requirements low).

Beyond that, No-CD patches and the like have usually been ignored (as in, PCGW "looks the other way") when they've been bundled with other fixes if the overall fix itself if beneficial to users. A balancing act, basically.

The vagueness of the current policy is both to our benefit and our detriment, both because of its current nature where it allows for flexibility and difference in interpretations.

 

Take my two comments on that Star Wars: Dark Forces section as an example. My previous 4 months old comment was made when focusing on the initial sentence of the policy, and took a hard line judgement based on that. However this time around, I instead focus more overall on what the policy is actually intended for, and especially on the third restriction: "Finally, do not give details on how to install/use the patch/application and how to fix any issues that come up while using said patch/application." In this case, I'd interpret the "install/use" portion to mean that providing detailed instructions in the way that the Star Wars: Dark Forces section does might have it violate the policy as well.

This is all sorta moot though, since I haven't (intentionally) actually bothered to fully contemplate and look into the matter with Star Wars: Dark Forces since that section involves DOSBox, and I am uncertain of how that changes things around (I am not a user of DOSBox, so I am not familiar with its limitations or restrictions that might be relevant or affect the matter).

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To be honest, it likely needs to be assessed on a per-title basis, especially for games released after the rise of digital distribution.
For older games, it seems more cut and dry as to whether it would be allowed or not, though there are still some areas that would require discussion.

As I posted in the Discord, (where this is copied from, though this is cleaned up a bit more,) I'm thinking we could categorize content unlocking into a few categories:

Do not mention:
-Unlocking paid (nor previously paid and now delisted) content.
-Unlocking content directly included in the game files that used to be paid or would have likely been intended to be paid judging from the same content being paid for console releases.
-Unlocking content not directly included in the game files that is available on other platforms, whether it is paid or free on other platforms.
-Unlocking content that is free on other platforms, and is included in the game files for the PC release, but does not include story elements. (Cosmetics don't affect gameplay; not worth the trouble.)
-Unlocking preorder exclusive content.
-Unlocking content that is specifically intended to be platform-specific to non-PC platforms.

Maybe mention that it's possible to unlock the content, but do not mention how to do it:
-Unlocking content that is free on other platforms, and is included in the game files for the PC release, and includes story elements. (Gameplay altering/changing content that's already in the game; it was just never released and doesn't seem to be intended to be released at a later date.)

Free to mention:
-Unlocking content that is included in the game files but never released by the time final DLC and patches are released. (Assuming the content isn't released and isn't paid on other platforms.)
-Unlocking content that is included in the game files but was never fully completed. (Cut content. Best to discuss on a per-title basis though as it may not be worth recording on PCGW.)
-Unlocking content that was part of limited time promotional offers. (Assuming generic codes from the promotions can be used indefinitely, and no purchase was necessary as per the promotion's rules. Cosmetic-only content may not be worth recording on PCGW, though other items that may affect gameplay may be worth recording.)
-Unlocking bonus content that was included with physical copies of games but may not be included with digital copies. (For example, Evil Genius' bonus content? Stuff like that where it was seemingly intended to be free for everyone, but just wasn't distributed with all copies of the game.)
-Unlocking bonus content that was only ever provided for free download. (For example, scenarios for RollerCoaster Tycoon made by the developers and officially released by them for free.)

I put a bit of work into separating these out, and tried to stick to keeping the policy on piracy in mind.
While there are some things that may fall under "do not mention" that could theoretically be okay, it's a moot point; the whole point of the policy is to eliminate (or at the very least limit) PCGW's liability.
As much as it sucks that it could mean the loss of content in the future (no matter the relative status of that content) that's the way it has to be.

Any thoughts on this list?

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