Ubisoft’s backwards DRM

Written by David Frampton @ 4:21 am, February 18, 2010

Ubisoft recently announced a new digital rights management system for their PC games. Ubisoft publishes Assassin’s Creed 2, and though not yet available on the PC, some reviewers have now received copies of the game.

These pre-release versions use the new DRM system, and early reports are that it’s worse than at first feared.

So what’s the problem? The big technical issue is that the game requires an active internet connection. Not just for multiplayer, or for installation, or even for launching the game, but always. If you unplug the cable or the network goes down, the game actually exits. It even loses some game progress, making you start again at the last checkpoint.

It should be pretty obvious why this is a bad thing. You can’t play the game if your PC isn’t on a network for one, which in the case of my Windows machine, is always true. Perhaps others aren’t as paranoid about XP’s security flaws as I, but it also rules out playing it on most flights, or when out of wifi range on a laptop.

And then there is the whole ‘what if their server goes down’ thing. And the ‘what if they change the DRM later and stop supporting the old one’ thing. Which happens, BTW. Google ‘drm server down’. The internet is littered with such stories. Also, imagine trying to play if your connection is at all unreliable.

I should briefly mention, that as these products are still not released, Ubisoft has a chance to fix things. They’ve made it pretty clear they don’t think anything is broken though. As can be seen in the quote at the bottom of this PC Gamer article.

So until they change their tune, I am boycotting all Ubisoft games, on all platforms. You should too.

This isn’t just about the problem itself, or how it will effect you or me, this is a clear signal from a games publisher that they don’t trust customers, and are quite prepared to offer a lousy experience to prove it.

Don’t believe them when they tell you it will actually solve the piracy problem, either. I’d be surprised if this new DRM wasn’t cracked and rendered useless within a day or two of going live. It won’t stop the pirates at all. It’s just a pointless gesture, pushed on customers without any regard for how it will affect them.

This isn’t good for anyone, and if we let them get away with this behavior now, it will stick around. We’ll see it picked up by other companies too.

So don’t buy Ubisoft games. Buy something from Blizzard, they’re doing it right.

Why I pay for software

Written by David Frampton @ 10:42 pm, February 16, 2010

On twitter recently I mentioned how I had once or twice been in the unfortunate situation of having to use GIMP and/or Inkscape. I also said they are fine if you have nothing else available.

This, of course, led to an amount of outcry from a few people defending these two software packages. It was all very civil, and actually kind of not as vocal as I had expected. But it was there. It’s always there. Then, of course, I was asked to explain what the usability issues are, and to file bug reports.

I don’t want to get into the specifics of what it is that makes me want to throw my computer out the nearest window whenever I have to use these applications.

And not having to explain this, is exactly why I pay for software.

I pay for someone else to tell the people who make it why it sucks. And I pay the people who make it to fix it.

Photoshop might be insanely overpriced, buggy, have an unnecessarily steep learning curve, have no free bug fix updates, an arcane copy protection system…. but at least I don’t have adobe on my back demanding I tell them about it. Or telling me to fix it myself.