Lowtax mourns at the National Something Awful Front Page cemetary. Here lies the SA writers of the past. May God have mercy on their souls. It is my difficult job to announce that six of the seven writers that update on Thursdays were struck and killed by a bus last weekend. Their lives were tragically cut short while boarding the 8AM Greyhound to Comic Con when another bus jumped the curb and hit a line of people waiting to board sending bits of plastic superhero outfits and eye glitter everywhere. Their ashes have been scattered at the Adult Swim booth. Funeral arrangements have been made for Saturday.

What this means is that you're stuck with me for today. Lowtax has laid upon me the terrible burden of putting words on this web site. I am the go-to guy. When this site needs updating I am always ready to heed the call, mainly because I don't go anywhere, have anywhere to go to, or have anyone to go anywhere with. I'm a triple-threat!

I was watching TV the other day and one of those celebrity poker tournaments came on. I was trying to find some old basketball games on ESPN Classic but it seems that the most classic thing they air over there is World Series of Poker tournaments from 2004. I was thinking more along the lines of seeing Larry Bird and Magic Johnson instead of a fat asshole shuffling cards but they are the big television producers, not me.

While Michael Ian Black was impressing the crowd with his ability to make a poker tournament even more painful to watch, another D-lister mentioned the charity organization they were playing for. This enraged me. Why is it that celebrities have to play for charity when they go on game shows? I'm sure some comedian has already covered this but I'm serious here. Is there some moral or ethical standpoint that says that celebrities can't compete for cash?

Well, they are already rich and famous so there is no way they would need the money! Are you kidding me? That's why they agree to go on these shows in the first place. They need the exposure. These are the celebrities that can't say no to anything. Colin Mochrie agreed to star alongside Rosie O'Donnel in a video that plays at a bread making exhibit at Disney's California Adventure. You're trying to tell me this guy isn't hard up for some dough? Haha dough.

You will never see any regular person go on a game show and play for their favorite charity. Nobody even has a favorite charity. Most people are bandwagon givers. I know I am. When the yearly natural disaster strikes I am ready to give, as soon as Something Awful tells me to. I'll tell you what. I'm going to go on the Wheel of Fortune and play for a charity. When Pat Sajak asks me who I'm playing for I'll say, well Pat, today I'm playing for the Kathy Griffin charity. I'm going to do my best because she really needs this.

That's why today I want to talk about software piracy. I read Shacknews every single day of my miserable life. I check it once in the morning to see what patches just came out for games I don't have, and once at night to read Chris Remo's daily novel about console gaming. I tell you man, PC gaming must be going out of style because every day that Late Night Consoling gets bigger and bigger. It takes up more space than the rest of the Shacknews updates combined. I don't know why the last guy was fired because they never let out any details about it. Unlike ShackNews we are upfront about why people are fired. We say they were hit by buses.

I like Chris Remo and his little column which is soon to be developed into a major motion picture. He also posts little updates throughout the day. I think he's the only one who updates that site while Steve Gibson and Marteen Goldstein count all their Internet money while whipping Remo and screaming, "They just released a patch for Galactic Civilizations 2. THE PEOPLE NEED TO KNOW." It used to be about the love of developer diaries guys, not money. You fuckers sold out...

Her thong is sticking out of her pants. Pretty cool stuff here guys. One update that caught my eye was an interview with Michael Russell, QA manager for Ritual Entertainment, on videogame piracy. Russell, who seems to be striving to be the next Major Nelson, recently stated on his blog that support requests from people who downloaded illegal copies of Sin outnumbered legit support requests on a magnitude of 5 to 1.

For the last five weeks, support requests for the pirated version of the game outnumbered support requests from legitimate purchasers. Last week, the pirates outnumbered the true customers by almost five to one. It takes time and resources to track down solutions to people's problems. I spent seven hours searching for answers to one guy's problem just to find out that when I asked him a question regarding a setting, he was checking on his friend's machine for the "right" answer and then on his machine and if the two didn't match, he was reporting the "right" answer so I wouldn't know he had a pirated version.

I really pride myself on the level of service I have been able to provide to our customers, but it is really disheartening to see the number of people who not only stole our game, but then steal my time in an effort to truly get something for nothing.

In response to this maudlin cry for attention Chris Remo decided to interview him.

Mike Russell: I've been in this industry for seven years, and I've seen the effects of piracy. I've seen studios close as the result of it, I've seen people lose their homes. I guess I'm more vocal than a lot of people because I've seen the personal side of it, and it's just sad that we have so many people looking for a way of justifying it.

While I really like Shacknews and have absolutely nothing against them, I have to say I didn't like this interview. Remo lobs softball questions at Russell and doesn't challenge anything he says. When you state that you've seen people lose their homes because of software piracy you really need to bring some numbers to the table. I'm not saying it never happened. But I would have asked him some follow up questions.

Who lost their homes? Which studios were shut down? Were they shut down because of piracy, or because they made terrible games? Remo asks none of these questions. And then there's the most important question of all. Why the hell are you not asking for legit Steam IDs when someone requests support? Oh poor me, I spent seven hours helping a dude who had a pirated copy of Sin! I've got a simple solution for you.


No shirt, no shoes, no Steam ID, no service. It's that simple. When I call my cable company they ask for my driver license. When I call my ISP they ask for my account number. There's no need to get up on your angry Internet soapbox and write about how the PC industry is going to collapse because you're unable to manage your time correctly. It's a blatant cry for attention about an issue that could have been handled quietly.

Russell doesn't want to put up any barriers between him and the customer. Well, buddy, you might have to put up some of those barriers. You want people to log onto a server just to play your fucking game. But God forbid they verify their copy of Sin to figure out why it's screwed up.

YO touchstone, how do i get dis xvid to play thnx The interview and his blog entry raise even more questions. Russell states on his blog that the copies of Sin that we buy pay his salary. Well, you still got your salary right? Did your boss come to you and say, "Well piracy is pretty high this week so we took a couple hundred bucks out of your paycheck. It's the piracy tax. Sorry friend, these are hard times we live in."? Yeah, we know it pays your salary. What's your point?

Russell goes to depict a grim future for PC games. As more and more people pirate games more and more developers move their games to consoles. You know, everybody and their mother have been predicting the fall of the PC game industry since the dawn of time. Guess what? It hasn't happened yet! The PC section at almost any computer store you go is as large or larger than the Xbox, PS2, and Gamecube sections combined.

Even if the PC game industry is collapsing maybe it's for the better. People are sick and tired of bugs, copy protection, and the endless onslaught of patches. I know I am. I buy a game and I have to have the CD in the drive, connect to some server to authenticate, and then download forty patches to make the damn thing work.

And if more PC game developers are moving to consoles, well, their bad habits are moving with them too. More and more buggy games are being released for consoles only to be patched later. I don't want the PC games industry to move to consoles, I want the PC game industry to just die where it stands. If the industry collapses, it's probably because of the industry itself, not the couple hundred morons downloading your stupid game on Torrentspy.

I thought Steam was this magical platform where developers are finally going to be freed from the slave-like conditions of working with a traditional publisher and make a fair percentage on their game because they don't have to waste money on pointless things like CDs and boxes and stores. If that's true, wouldn't the gobs of money you receive for your game on Steam outweigh these so-called losses from piracy? Valve gets boners for showing off Steam stats every other week. I care a lot about how many minutes people are spending playing Counter-Strike. Why not release some figures on how much these developers are really making on their games? Maybe it's not all it's cracked up to be if piracy is making such a dent in the bottom line.

Only 15% of games break even and an astonishing 85% lose money. You're breaking my heart here. Do you think games like FIGHT CLUB have anything to do with it? Did publishers sit around the board room deciding on whether or not to make the Scarface game and think, "I really hope 100% of our games make money this year!" I'm so sorry Ice Age 2 the video game didn't exactly sweep the industry by storm. Those damn pirates! If only they weren't downloading games, WarPath could have been a hit...

I've got some wild claims for you. Video game makers are making money hand over fist. Piracy has no impact on game sales. Everything is fine. Of course I have nothing to back up these claims. Fuck it, who needs that shit.

I have no idea how much piracy affects the PC game industry. I don't even care that much. I don't pirate games either. I don't even play games anymore. I buy them for the instruction manuals so I have something to keep my mind off my distended colon while I sit on the toilet. I really have no concrete stance on the piracy debate. But you've got this crybaby QA manager saying the industry is going to collapse because of piracy, and then you've got Warren Spector saying that anyone who worries about piracy is full of shit. Who knows?

And who the hell thought it would be a good idea to make a sequel to Sin anyway?

The discussion continues at PBS.org/frontline/. There you'll find extended interviews, links, and updates on this and other Frontline stories. PBS. Be more.

– Hassan "Acetone" Mikal

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