Author Topic: Producing Commercial/Copyrighted Games for Vectrex32  (Read 634 times)

gliptitude

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Producing Commercial/Copyrighted Games for Vectrex32
« on: August 23, 2016, 12:35:27 PM »
Vectrex "homebrew" programmers have varied in how they choose to release their new game programs. The availability of Vectrex flash cartridges enables games to be released electronically and instantaneously, often for free. But some developers prefer to release the games on dedicated cartridges, often with electronic edition signitures unique to each cartridge ROM. They sell these game cartridges and they restrict the use of the software to those who have purchased cartridges.

Is there a method for protecting software made for the Vectrex32 hardware?

Could a non-interfacing game-dedicated Vectrex32 cartridge be made more cost effectively than the current development cartridge, for the sake of publishing a commercial game in physical form?

The "commercial" aspect is quite thin in terms of actual profit, but I think for many programmers who choose to fully develop a robust game, the official and physical release and distribution is really essential to justifying the effort; achieving the childhood dream of making a video game..

Vectrex32

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Re: Producing Commercial/Copyrighted Games for Vectrex32
« Reply #1 on: August 23, 2016, 12:45:39 PM »
There is currently no way to "copy-protect" BASIC programs on the SmartCart. If you have any ideas how such a thing could be done, I'd be interested in hearing them.

The SmartCart is a powerful platform with a BASIC interpreter running on it. It would be an even more powerful platform without BASIC. But it wouldn't be any less expensive; I'm not charging for the software and the hardware components I'm using are not cheap.

- Bob

gliptitude

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Re: Producing Commercial/Copyrighted Games for Vectrex
« Reply #2 on: August 23, 2016, 02:01:06 PM »
I guess the game authors could just put a password registration system in their game programs, without requiring a revision to the platform.

I'm not currently a programmer or having a problem of my own about this issue. I'm just trying to imagine and troubleshoot the prospects for a great new game. It seems like most, if not all, really polished and complete Vectrex games have been produced with the goal of a dedicated physical release, even when they have also been released as free binaries.

I understood that the Vectrex32 SmartCart is a powerful platform with quality components and priced accordingly. I only imagined that a more limited read-only version might be possible in order to publish a game in physical form, that some components could be eliminated or reduced in this version to reduce cost, to the point where it might be reasonable for an entire processor-on-cart unit to be manufactured for the permanent function of playing only one game. .. For some reference of what the market has been, Vectrex homebrew games may cost around $70 and sell 150 or more copies at this price. A really robust game with unique cartridge hardware could probably justify a higher price than this.

.. Or maybe, if it ever came to that where someone made such a game and had such a concern, the more expensive components could be repackaged as a console add-on that accepted other removeable physical media.
« Last Edit: August 23, 2016, 02:06:53 PM by gliptitude »

Vectrex32

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Re: Producing Commercial/Copyrighted Games for Vectrex32
« Reply #3 on: August 23, 2016, 02:10:36 PM »
It's not so much that they're "quality" components - just that they're expensive. The dual-port memory chip is, I suspect, a low-volume chip, so its price (about $15) is out of proportion to its abilities. The microcontroller I'm using is very new and high-end so it's expensive for a microcontroller. But by "expensive" I mean $10 or $11.

I could save some money by going with a cheaper microcontroller. But there's still manufacturing and assembling the PCB, and that price won't go down.

- Bob

Vectronic

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Re: Producing Commercial/Copyrighted Games for Vectrex32
« Reply #4 on: August 23, 2016, 02:15:40 PM »
Gliptitude: I've given that some thought too, as I would like the developers to be compensated for their work and always try to support them directly. I do know you can list a download for sale through certain websites - but how do you stop people from copying and redistributing the file once it is downloaded? The Vectrex community is pretty good at making sure this doesn't happen (at least publicly, online). One way I have thought to combat this is to individually number each downloadable ROM/BIN so that you know who is abusing the system. I know this isn't exactly fool-proof, but it would certainly dissuade copy/distribution. (Or be extra sneaky and hide that number, or word phrase, in the source code like some info in the original GCE games so if you ever come across a downloadable version online, you'll know through sale info who is doing it and refuse to sell to them or such). Yes, this would mean you may have to sell one ROM at a time at certain sites, or list however many ROM/BINs (1,2,3,4,5,ect) at the same time for purchase. A password system I though was a good idea, but people could just share passwords with the ROM/BIN and we're back to square one. There may be no way to prevent it, but a few ways to catch the people doing it. Just some thoughts on IP protection, which I myself care about. I hope my thoughts and insight help.

gliptitude

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Re: Producing Commercial/Copyrighted Games for Vectrex32
« Reply #5 on: August 23, 2016, 02:59:50 PM »
Yes I pretty much have the same idea as you, Vectronic.

I guess I break it down into two issues though. There is the obvious issue of protecting copyrights, which I think we've already discussed an adequate solution to. But the other issue to me is the material token of completion. Certainly part of the excitement of homebrew video games is the experience of acquiring a new game that looks just like a game from 30 years ago. It is amazing that you can purchase a new Vectrex, NES or Atari cartridge in 2016!

I don't believe this is exclusively a function of "collecting". I think rather it is also ultimate gratification for the author of the game: product in hand. It is gratifying to me too, as the end user - REGARDLESS OF COST OR VALUE. It is part of the cult of the whole thing.

In a way this might all be contrary to the open concept of this device and the idea of a revolutionary new platform and community. (i.e. both copyright protection and physical media might be viewed as counter-revolutionary).

Well I definitely don't mean to change the course or cause the redesign of this brand new hardware. I only wanted to get the idea out there, if it might positively influence future developments. .. It will be a more interesting discussion after some people start programming for it.

I wonder if this will appeal to the established (assembly) programmers, or if it will be more of a new class of programmers?

hcmffm

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Re: Producing Commercial/Copyrighted Games for Vectrex32
« Reply #6 on: August 23, 2016, 04:10:49 PM »
Interesting and important discussion. Perhaps each produced SmartCart could have a unique ID which cannot be modified. When ordering, the person ordering would need to tell the unique ID and the delivered game would run on that single SmartCart, only. (Assuming that the SmartCart "understands" programs with plain sources and source-code protected programs).

Vectrex32

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Re: Producing Commercial/Copyrighted Games for Vectrex32
« Reply #7 on: August 25, 2016, 11:45:58 AM »
I have started a discussion in the Feature Requests forum about this: http://forums.vectrex32.com/index.php/topic,11.0.html

- Bob

MartyMcFly

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Re: Producing Commercial/Copyrighted Games for Vectrex32
« Reply #8 on: August 25, 2016, 12:50:13 PM »
Another solution could be to put a passthru connector on the V32SC in order to let developers hookup their cartridge on it. They will act as a sort of memory extension and could be developed on the cheap. The disadvantage would be a lot of extensions proturing from the Veccy (it always could be worse though ^^). But one can 3D print a stylish enclosuring resembling a floppy drive which will house the V32SC and a passthru connector for cartridges. This would make for a very stylish Vectrex accessory! These cartridges will just be memory extensions and could also use custom (totally optional) chips (aka SuperFX which sent calculations directly to datalines of the SNES cartridge connector without the SNES seeing the difference with a regular cartridge).
« Last Edit: August 25, 2016, 05:43:43 PM by MartyMcFly »

gliptitude

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Re: Producing Commercial/Copyrighted Games for Vectrex32
« Reply #9 on: August 25, 2016, 05:25:36 PM »
I like McFly's idea and the SNES analogy is identical to what I was talking about with a non-interfacing vec32 cart permanently devoted to only one game. .. I thought that maybe such a "game distribution Vectrex32 version" might be more cheaply produced than the current version, (which you could consider the "developer version"). But Bob indicated that that really wouldn't be the case.

ChadTower

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Re: Producing Commercial/Copyrighted Games for Vectrex32
« Reply #10 on: September 16, 2016, 04:17:08 PM »
There may be some overthinking going on here.  If we consider the fact that any improperly distributed ROM could only be played by people with a SmartCart then that really limits the amount of people who would have any interest in the piracy.  It's not like people can take one of these games and put it on a regular flash cart or play it in an emulator.

Even if a closed SmartCart were developed to be sold as an end product it still does require the architecture of the SmartCart.