Leading up to this major server failure, as mentioned in the article from this summer, they haven't released any major titles in many months and the games they have been working on have all been older, obscure titles. Even being part of their beta program, the game clients being ported from Windows have been going incredibly slow with some titles having been in-development for seven or eight years. Following that article in June, Linux Game Publishing responded that they were very much alive. Michael Simms, the CEO of LGP, additionally said, "We have had a couple of staffing issues on the admin side of things, which explains most of our silence, but work is progressing on more than one unannounced title. We will offer further updates as and when there is news to update you with."
Since the start of October, however, Linux Game Publishing has been completely offline. Their sole server for Linux-Game-Publishing.com went down due to a hard drive failure and at the same time their backup system apparently failed too. However, not only did their main web-site go down from where you can order their ported Linux games, but so did TuxGames.com and HappyPenguin.org, which are also owned by LGP / Michael Simms. Perhaps the biggest hit though is that their web-based Digital Rights Management implementation was on this single server too. LGP introduced a game copy protection system in 2008 for their ported titles to reduce piracy and it relied upon communicating with Linux Game Publishing upon launching to authenticate the license. Since the server outage, many LGP customers with these copy-protected games have been unable to play their purchased titles. The system isn't supposed to require an Internet connection each time the game is launched, but evidently it's not working out so well that way. Those using LGP "game rentals" have also been affected.
When the LGP server initially went down along with their backup system, they expected the full recovery to be done within a week. A week later it was then reported that the hard drive in the server had its firmware corrupted. A week after finding out their HDD had its firmware corrupted, Linux Game Publishing said that this Western Digital hard drive had suffered from chemical degradation on the surface, which made the data recovery process slower and harder.
These hard drive recovery efforts went up through early November, meanwhile they said they had some older backups around as well. However, they opted against restoring an older backup since this would mean new LGP customers would still be unable to access their games due to the copy protection issues. So they would rather have all LGP customers be without access rather than just those who ordered new titles following their last backup. It was said on 4 November, "As such, rather than give ANY user a problem with their legally purchased game, we will be keeping the site down for the next few days while the final stages of data recovery are performed. All going well, we hope to be back up towards the start of next week."
Well, the site is still down as of today. After the hard drive failure, corrupted firmware, and chemical degradation, file-system damage was discovered. Last week it was reported on their down web-site (where these updates have appeared) that they hoped to have the services back up next week (this week), but so far there's no sign of it coming back up. On the 15th it was said they began reconstructing their database after the file-system recovery. I emailed Michael Simms a day and a half ago asking how things were going, but so far I have yet to hear back.
This downtime has obviously resulted in a number of unhappy customers and then to Linux Game Publishing this also means they haven't been able to sell any of their titles now in what's going on two months. After we broke the news about Linux Game Publishing's DRM system, the company addressed some of the Linux gamer criticism on their blog and further detailed their copy-protection system. Their blog is obviously down, but fortunately they had posted this on their Facebook page.
The first and most important issue I would like to address is that no, you do NOT require internet access to install or to play the games, you do not need a disc in your drive, and you do not need to enter in your key or password every time you play. These are all myths. You need to enter a key and password (and optionally your email address) when you install the game, and that is it. You do not need to worry about it again.
Our system uses a policy of ‘Innocent until proven guilty’ which means that you can ALWAYS play your game, unless the system knows for a fact that there is a reason you shouldn’t. This is the opposite to most DRM systems, which assume you do not have the right to, unless you prove you can.
As Phoronix readers have shown, the system isn't that nice. Others though are reporting their games at least starting up, but it takes a while. Even a freelance developer that has been quite involved as a contractor for LGP is no longer confident in their DRM solution. There's even a disgruntled LGP customer now threatening to release a universal patch that would completely bypass LGP's DRM wrapper, if LGP is unable to get their server restored this month.
We certainly hope LGP is able to get back their online infrastructure shortly and with a redundant backup system. If there's a lesson to be learned, if you are developing an Internet-based DRM solution and have an online store, you better be making multiple backups should your backup system suffer from hard drive failure, firmware corruption, chemical degradation, and file-system damage. After that they will likely need to work to restore confidence in many of their Linux gaming customers as well as business partners whose games they are porting. For the good of the Linux gaming community, let's hope their "unannounced titles" being worked on are worth the wait.