Ubisoft – How Did It Come To This?

This has been covered in the news a lot lately, but I’m still not over it and feel it deserves a place in our Rants section. I’m talking about Ubisoft’s truly bewildering (read: INSANE) new DRM system. I strongly oppose the principle of it, and fear what it may mean to the future of PC gaming, especially if other companies start considering similar plans…

Ubisoft have a pretty good track record, if you ask me. They’re renowned for their creative ideas, and have released some of the most original and downright fun games in the past few years. Titles like Assassin’s Creed, the Prince of Persia series and Splinter Cell games have all been very successful, and rightly so. That’s why it pains me so much to think of their stupid, ignorant bigwigs who run the company’s less creative departments, and their incredibly short-sighted new DRM system.

Let me explain the basics of it. First, it only applies to PC games – if you own a console, you’re able to play those pretty much hassle free and enjoy them the way they were designed to be played. However, if you want to play the (frankly, often superior) PC version of some of their newer games, you have to jump through a few hoops. It’s not an unusual requirement to have to register an account with a game publisher in order to play a game these days – EA do it, Rockstar do it, Microsoft do it… Ubisoft have decided to take that concept a step further, though.

Not only do you need to have a registered account, and be logged in whenever you boot up a new game, but you need to have a constant connection to their servers to continually play, even if its a singleplayer game with no multiplayer component. If your connection drops out (for any number of mundane reasons), or if you are on a slower speed than what they deem ‘necessary’, you will be kicked out of the game and shown a temporary ‘Connection Lost’ screen, whereby you’ll have to wait for the connection to be re-established so you can continue playing. THIS IS INSANE. So let me get this right, Ubisoft…I have paid for your game, I have registered an account with you, I’m logged in before I can even reach the menu screen, and now that I’m playing, you want to continually check and re-check to make sure I’m a legitimate customer by having me report to your little boy-scout server every 10 seconds? Really? This is no doubt the result of endless brainstorms and meetings titled ‘How to End Piracy’, and this is the utterly mind-boggling conclusion you guys came to?

This is what happens when you lose connection. The ONLY choice is to Quit Game. Thanks, Ubisoft.

This is what it feels like to play an Ubisoft game now: I’m sitting in my chair at my PC, and there’s an old man in a suit behind me, watching. He has a clipboard and a pen. I boot up my game, and he taps me on the shoulder and reminds me that I need to login. I login, and the old man, satisfied, ticks a little box on his clipboard. The game boots up, I hit ‘New Game’ and start watching the opening cutscene. The old man taps me on the shoulder and asks me to show him the receipt for the game. I see no harm, so I put it on the desk next to me for him to see, and get back to enjoying the cool CGI intro. The man ticks another box on his chart, and stands back to watch again. 3 seconds later, he taps me on the shoulder again. You see, the old man has alzheimers and he has forgotten where I put the receipt, and if I had one at all. He’s forgotten that I already proved to him that I’ve paid for the game. And he continues to forget. He constantly taps me on the shoulder and asks to see the receipt, to make sure I’m logged in, and that I have paid for the game. He wants me to enjoy the game, clearly, but he also wants to make sure he can see my receipt at all times, to be safe. If my desk-fan happens to blow my receipt and it drifts under my desk out of his line of sight, he’ll go into a mad rage, he’ll drag my chair away from the desk so that he can stand rigidly in front of my screen, blocking my view of the game until I collect the receipt from the floor and show him it again. Satisfied, again, he’ll return to his place behind me and continue to observe me as I play, and he’ll keep forgetting that I’m a legitimate customer of his, he’ll keep nudging me and checking, and I’ll keep showing him the receipt and prove again and again that I have fucking paid for this game and I would appreciate it if he would leave me the FUCK alone so I can fucking PLAY it!

Gaming is well on the road to becoming the pinnacle of entertainment, yet why does this Big Brother style invasion of privacy seem so archaic? Surely, there’s a better way?

Serial keys are fine. If you think they’re too easy to fake, then use longer, more complicated keys. I certainly don’t mind entering a long key to prove I’m a paying customer if it means I can play the game I have bought. Why is this not enough? Where does a system like this go next? It simply feels as though Ubisoft don’t trust their customers. Their DRM servers have already been hacked, so the pirates are still able to play the game, and with less hassle than those of us who have bought it. Ubisoft, your system does not work, and its time to come up with a new bloody idea.

The most irritating fact in this whole matter for me personally, is that I have played 2 games with this new DRM system in place: Assassins Creed 2, and Prince of Persia: The Forgotten Sands. I didn’t see the ‘connection lost’ screen once, during both games. This probably means I have a stable, fast internet connection (thanks Virgin Media), but after about a week of Assassins Creed launching, I got an apology email from Ubisoft, which they must’ve sent round to everyone who had bought the game. It had a few free codes to some DLC that was originally intended only for people who bought the special edition version of the game, and they said their servers were having technical difficulties.

Not everyone has fast broadband yet, as sad a fact as that is. And I do occasionally feel like free-running across the Venetian rooftops while sat on a boring train. But as of right now, I can’t. And neither can you.

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