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Future Ubisoft Games To Require Constant Internet Access 497

Following up on our discussion yesterday of annoying game distribution platforms, Ubisoft has announced the details of their Online Services Platform, which they will use to distribute and administer future PC game releases. The platform will require internet access in order to play installed games, saved games will be stored remotely, and the game you're playing will even pause and try to reconnect if your connection is lost during play. Quoting Rock, Paper, Shotgun: "This seems like such a bizarre, bewildering backward step. Of course we haven't experienced it yet, but based on Ubi’s own description of the system so many concerns arise. Yes, certainly, most people have the internet all the time on their PCs. But not all people. So already a percentage of the audience is lost. Then comes those who own gaming laptops, who now will not be able to play games on trains, buses, in the park, or anywhere they may not be able to find a WiFi connection (something that’s rarely free in the UK, of course – fancy paying the £10/hour in the airport to play your Ubisoft game?). Then there's the day your internet is down, and the engineers can’t come out to fix it until tomorrow. No game for you. Or any of the dozens of other situations when the internet is not available to a player. But further, there are people who do not wish to let a publisher know their private gaming habits. People who do not wish to report in to a company they’ve no affiliation with, nor accountability to, whenever they play a game they’ve legally bought. People who don’t want their save data stored remotely. This new system renders all customers beholden to Ubisoft in perpetuity whenever they buy their games."
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Future Ubisoft Games To Require Constant Internet Access

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  • Re:But why? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by commlinx ( 1068272 ) on Wednesday January 27, 2010 @08:05AM (#30915492) Journal
    I'm not a much of a gamer myself but it is ridiculous. Surely in offline mode they could cache authentication details a week at least. Anyway I guess everyone will realise eventually and just stop purchasing the crippled software, or just get a cracked version they can play offline and not bother purchasing a legal copy in the future.
  • Re:Blame piracy (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Jewfro_Macabbi ( 1000217 ) on Wednesday January 27, 2010 @08:06AM (#30915496)
    Or, if 80-90% of your potential customers are willing to expend the effort of piracy rather than purchase your product, perhaps your product is overpriced. You may not feel it is. You may feel entitled to greater pay for your work. The market cares not.
  • Re:Blame piracy (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Spad ( 470073 ) <slashdot.spad@co@uk> on Wednesday January 27, 2010 @08:13AM (#30915558) Homepage

    As a long term PC gamer and both purchaser and pirater of said games, I have to say that Steam has pretty much single-handedly ended the pirate side of my gaming experience. While I will still occasionally give in and download pirated copies of games where they're available in advance of the official release, I still end up buying them (and usually pre-ordering them).

    Over christmas, during Steam's insanely cheap sale, I must have spent close to £100 on all kind of games that I probably would never have played otherwise - frankly, for £3 or £4 even if you only play the game once you haven't really lost anything. I know Steam has its issues (Most notably the first sale ones), but I also think it's the way forward for games distribution in that it's very relaxed about how, when and where you play your games. I can install Steam anywhere at any time, download any of my games and play them without worrying about having discs or activiation limits (with the exception of a few retarded publishers who still insist on SecuRom or Games For Windows Live on their Steam distributed games) and if you plan ahead, you don't need an internet connection either.

    I know others will inevitably try and emulate Steam, but if they do it in stupidly restrictive ways, like Ubi appear to be doing, they're only going to succeed in failing and they'll have nobody to blame but themselves (although they'll obviously try and place all the blame on the pirates).

  • by the_g_cat ( 821331 ) on Wednesday January 27, 2010 @08:17AM (#30915598) Homepage
    I think the article missed one of the possible sources of annoyance, in that the games will not only need an active connection to the interwebs on your side, but also a listening Ubisoft server on the other side. What happens if Ubisoft's servers don't run, or happen to "not find" a savegame, or it gets corrupted or anything? Can we then blame Ubisoft and demand reparation? This strikes as such a bad idea on so many levels that it's hard to believe any company would go down that path. So, no more Ubisoft games for me, I suppose. (Oh, wait, the last PC game I bought must be at least 5 years old, and I much prefer playing table-top games (you know, the ones with social gaming built-in right from the start? ;-) ), or console stuff if it "has" to be electronic, so I guess I shouldn't feel concerned too much :-) )
  • Re:Blame piracy (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Vaphell ( 1489021 ) on Wednesday January 27, 2010 @08:19AM (#30915622)
    profit margins could be improved if only 2/3 of the game budget wasn't blown on marketing.

    i am all for the big players moving to the consoles if the pc market is too hard for them. By their attempts to gain total control they will destroy all benefits of pc gaming - mods, user created content, ease of multiplaying on lan, dedicated servers and what not.

    music industry behemots had to admit that unrestricted product sells better, it's time for the game industry to do the same. I see paying for digital stuff as an absolutely voluntary act of rewarding creators' efforts in case their product is excellent. Paying in advance is asking to be scammed with the worthless piece of shit. No amount of drm would force me to pay if i didn't like what i saw.
    Blizzard was an exception in my case, i bought almost every game up to 1st WoW. I knew they attract players with the quality alone because their copy protection was trivial to circumvent and yet millions were willing to pay - unfortunately they chose the same path of tightening the grip in case of upcoming Starcraft 2 and Diablo 3, removing offline lan, requiring internet during install even when there is no multiplayer available without their servers (single player will be hacked in 1 day either way).

  • Re:Blame piracy (Score:5, Interesting)

    by JasterBobaMereel ( 1102861 ) on Wednesday January 27, 2010 @08:19AM (#30915624)

    1) The figure of 80-90% piracy is generated by the industry, and since it is largely unmeasurable it is an estimate (i.e. made up) I suspect no-one has any real idea how much is pirated

    2) This is yet another layer of security, that the pirates will get round, and make easy for any one who wants to to get round

    3) The only people this will annoy is the legitimate paying customers..... however many are left

    This and similar anti-piracy schemes are why I stopped buying games (and playing them), it took too much effort to get the game working so I gave up, many people gave up and got the pirated version with all this stuff stripped out which meant that it "just worked" ....

  • by headkase ( 533448 ) on Wednesday January 27, 2010 @08:26AM (#30915680)
    This is *exactly* the line of bullshit that made me buy a console. There is simply less of it there for now: compare GTA IV on PC and Xbox 360. PC is just a stupid situation. So, already bonehead decisions by stupid out-of-touch executives have already stopped me from purchasing PC games. Please don't extend that to the consoles because then I'd have to stop purchasing games altogether. Notice I said purchasing, I'm sure there will be versions available that aren't stupid. Way to go Ubisoft: you just connected yourself with "bullshit" in *my* mind, so *my* money is forever out of your grasp until you become less stupid.
  • Re:But why? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by xeoron ( 639412 ) on Wednesday January 27, 2010 @08:31AM (#30915726) Homepage
    The only good idea about a central saved game info would be if they had plans for the concept "buy once and play almost anywhere" type of game setup.
  • by xigxag ( 167441 ) on Wednesday January 27, 2010 @08:33AM (#30915744)

    Game review websites and magazines ought to unite on this issue and give games failing scores if they do not allow for offline play when in self-contained single player mode.

  • Re:Blame piracy (Score:5, Interesting)

    by vlm ( 69642 ) on Wednesday January 27, 2010 @08:33AM (#30915750)

    Like I noted, this system has some parts of the code (savegames, possible game objects, etc) and requires ubisoft account login to play. It will require complete rewrite of those missing parts into the game and creating local equivalents to them. And no, you don't get to use c++ for this; you do it in assembly.

    At first glance that is totally the wrong way to go. Rather than writing new routines for the games in assembly, you write an emulator for in a modern interpreted language and add a line to your hosts file to point to A modern interpreted language is way faster to develop for, and if it runs slow, who cares you've got 100s of ms of "internet" latency to work around. I imagine there'll be a CPAN perl module for this within perhaps a week of the release.

    They could try to crypto sign the traffic between and the game. Now, the crypto auth part of the game executable is where you go back to the old skool tradition of binary patching machine language branches into jumps and nops.

    Bonus is you can use the emulator for presumably all their games not just one, plus you can trivially integrate in a nice savegame editor, savegame backup system, etc.

    This all seems terribly obvious to me, ergo I must be caffeine deficient at this early hour. All I'm really seeing is UBI wasting a lot of money to lose sales without affecting piracy? And they're creating yet another "big content" ecosystem where yet again, the "pirated" product actually provides a better end user experience than the "pay" product, aside from economic costs? Since this will tank UBI, I'm not predicting other marketing conglomerates copying UBIs idea, other than the usual tongue in cheek "I strongly encourage my competitors to also shoot themselves in their feet".

  • by mnooning ( 759721 ) on Wednesday January 27, 2010 @08:51AM (#30915878) Journal
    There are other ways to prevent software piracy without requiring constant internet access. Look up "Software Piracy" at the patent application section of the patent office. I have at least one proposal of my own. There are others. For one thing, having to go on line prevents parents with multiple children from enjoying multi-computer games with them. Allowing Big Brother to monitor what parents are doing with their children, or allowing what their children do, cannot be the right way to do this.
  • Re:Blame piracy (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Jackie_Chan_Fan ( 730745 ) on Wednesday January 27, 2010 @08:57AM (#30915912)

    Steam is very nice, and they have great deals etc. I find Steam to be the best compromise we the gamer can possibly put up with.

    I hope Steam does not change.

  • by Tim C ( 15259 ) on Wednesday January 27, 2010 @09:02AM (#30915950)

    admit to release low quality games that need additional promotion to be sold

    At least they're admitting to it; that's more than say EA do...

  • Re:But why? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by asc99c ( 938635 ) on Wednesday January 27, 2010 @09:07AM (#30915990)

    If only the mods went to +6. I think we've already seen evidence with Spore, which picked up a reputation for annoying DRM, and subsequently became the most pirated game.

    Surely it wouldn't be long before it would be cracked anyway - the crack would just have to modify the PCs hosts file to set, and run a mini activation server that tells the game your copy's legit.

  • Re:Blame piracy (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Vanderhoth ( 1582661 ) on Wednesday January 27, 2010 @09:12AM (#30916032)

    Carmel recounted seeing torrents with upwards of "500 seeders and 300 leechers" and receiving emails from some who bought the title after pirating it, but flat-out said that "the piracy rate was about 90" percent. "We're doing ok, though," Carmel said in stride. "We're getting good sales through WiiWare, Steam, and our website. Not going bankrupt just yet."

    Seems to be they don't mind too much and openly admit that piracy makes up a portion of the people who eventually bought the game. I still don't see how they can come up with this rate of 90%, it has to be an estimate there is no way to 100% know how many pirated copies are out there or being played. People could be downloading the game to try it and saying Not for me, others go out and but it. I'd bet the way they come up with 90% is by saying "Ok, we should sell 10000 copies of the game", then X time frame later they say we only sold 1000 copies, there must be 9000 pirated copies out there that's a 90% piracy rate.

  • Re:Blame piracy (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Hognoxious ( 631665 ) on Wednesday January 27, 2010 @09:22AM (#30916134) Homepage Journal

    I think the rampant PC game piracy (almost 80-90%) can be blamed for this somewhat.

    So we go from the current situation:
        Sales: x units.
        Piracy: 4x units.

    And instead we have:
        Sales: 0.0000000000001x[1] units.
        Piracy: 0 units.

    The words "Pyrrhic" and "victory" spring to mind.

    [1] I'm sure somebody, somewhere, will buy it - if only by mistake.

  • by emkyooess ( 1551693 ) on Wednesday January 27, 2010 @10:15AM (#30916760)

    I did manage to get a bank chargeback on my Cities XL blunder.

  • Re:But why? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by hairyfeet ( 841228 ) <> on Wednesday January 27, 2010 @10:34AM (#30916990) Journal

    Yep, soon we will ALL be pirates, simply because the pirated version will be the only one where you don't have to jump through flaming hoops while tapdancing and juggling bowling balls just to play the *&^&%&^% game!

    To see how this kind of BS DRM hurts customers just watch this [] (warning: Language NSFW but who can blame him) and pay close attention to the huge piles of game boxes behind him. Here is a guy who has spent thousands on games, simply to get shafted. But of course if he would have pirated he would not have had all the BS, because the pirate version "just works" unlike the defective by design retail version. How about giving us a good deal for our money, instead of taking our $60 and then bitch-slapping us for daring to pay you? How about that game companies?

  • Re:Blame piracy (Score:3, Interesting)

    by JasterBobaMereel ( 1102861 ) on Wednesday January 27, 2010 @10:54AM (#30917274)

    This is apparently where they got the figures from.... Although they got 80% piracy?

    The comment from one of the developers is significant

    2D BOY’s Ron Carmel : “by the way, just in case it’s not 100% clear, we’re not angry about piracy, we still think that DRM is a waste of time and money, we don’t think that we’re losing sales due to piracy, and we have no intention of trying to fight it.”

  • Re:But why? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by dlp211 ( 1722746 ) on Wednesday January 27, 2010 @11:41AM (#30918018)
    And completely screw the men and women of the US armed forces deployed to Afghanistan and Iraq. Not everyone can get a internet connection to their room and the connections that most can get aren't allowed to handle game traffic. So that makes this an easy decision on my part....I have to at worst pirate and at best purchase and patch...either way what I am doing is technically illegal.

    When will content providers realize that pirated software/media is not a potential customer. If they wanted to be a customer they would have been one in the first place.
  • by pnuema ( 523776 ) on Wednesday January 27, 2010 @11:58AM (#30918300)
    For the last ten years, I've spent, on average, let's say $500 a year on PC games. I consider it money well spent. I certainly feel like I've gotten my money's worth.

    I was an early adopter of Steam. If you are like me, and have not been a habitual pirate, Steam is awesome. I don't have to have boxes of games and manuals lying around, no more swapping CDs, my computers install all of their games on their own...Steam has made games so cheap I find myself buying some and never playing them. I'm collecting them like baseball cards, or candy.

    The point of all of this is I am the customer the gaming industry wants. I'm the one buying their games, and buying games for my wife and kids. They cannot afford to piss people like me off. Here is the part that everyone who works in the gaming industry should read:

    IF I HAVE ONE MORE EXPERIENCE LIKE I HAD YESTERDAY WITH MASS EFFECT 2, I'LL TURN PIRATE, AND NEVER LOOK BACK. I paid full price for a game, so I can listen to my buddies who pirated it talk about it for days before I get to play it, and when I finally go to unlock the game already installed on my HD, I can't play it because EA's auth servers can't handle the load THAT ALL OF THE PRE-ORDER SALES FIGURES INFORMED THEM WAS COMING. I personally view this as incompetence or indifference on a criminal scale. As a paying customer, for the first time I felt abused, and I'm not going to put up with that again.

    Clean up your act, EA. Come back to reality, Ubisoft. You are killing the golden goose.

  • Re:But why? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Fozzyuw ( 950608 ) on Wednesday January 27, 2010 @11:59AM (#30918314)

    Actually, I'm seeing some of this with Dragon Age: Origins and their DLC. I bought the game. I bought some of the DLC. Now, whenever I start the game, I get to the menu and click "Resume Game". I may or may not get a message that "I'm not logged into the game and some content might not be available". Last night, I didn't get the message (I usually do) but I loaded up, get into a battle with some Dark Spawn and see my Warrior (Alistair) running at the bad guys in his skivvies!

    Of course, seeing this was absolutely humorous, but also annoying as it didn't take long for me to figure out the game refused to load the special armor that came with the Pre-order of the game. The "some content might not be available" message I've seen before. Logging out and back in fixed the issue (the menu screen *said* I was logged in but in reality the game is actually trying to establish a connection behind the scenes) as it gave the system enough time to verify.

    Regardless, I'm more than disappointed by this (after my initial laughter as seeing a mostly naked warrior wade into battle and no one blinked an eye). I've payed for this stuff and yet the system is tied to this very annoying authorization system for a single player game.

    I'm not against DLC or micro-transactions. I'm fine with MMO games charging a subscription fee to maintain servers. But I'm pretty bothered that this kind of relentless activation is going on. It's a really poor choice and I certainly won't be buying any more DLC for DA:O. I'm done with that game once I finish what I've got.

    @Ubisoft, I certainly won't (knowingly) purchase any games "offline" games that require endless online authorization to play. And this comes from a Steam user. Steam lets me play my games offline. At least, all the games I currently have.

    Oh well. These game companies are really getting tin-foil hat about piracy these days when they should be looking at what they're doing to push people away from buying their games, like making them a PITA just to play them.

  • Re:dongle? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by StripedCow ( 776465 ) on Wednesday January 27, 2010 @12:43PM (#30919012)

    Yes it would be possible in theory, but good luck doing that for each and every game that comes out.
    It's a bit like saying a 1024 bit private RSA key can be cracked by sheer trying of all possible combinations. Sure, it can be done, but it'll take a lot of time. The comparison is also not fair because RTMP was never meant to be uncrackable, the specification was just not open.

    The point is that the dongle-scheme (when done correctly) is simpler and more user-friendly than the "always online" scheme, and also most likely offers better protection against piracy.

  • Re:But why? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by hairyfeet ( 841228 ) <> on Wednesday January 27, 2010 @11:22PM (#30929212) Journal

    GameCopyWorld [] is your friend, and I have never gotten a bug from them in many years of use, but I agree that it is total BS that we have to use them at all. It has gotten to the point where I refuse to buy games at release anymore, simply because there aren't cracks ready to go. I wait 6 months so that most of the patches will have been released and I can get the crack for the latest patch simply to keep my computer from being infected by DRM.

    And as a PC repairman I can tell your from experience with customers that the DRM used on games IS an infection, and is often more harmful than a trojan or spyware! Why is it so dangerous? Because NONE of the different DRM schemas actually support each other and will cause conflicts. I have found that pretty much anything + starforce usually equals disaster. The machine will become unstable, or worse if you have more than 1 DVD drive, or a DVD burner installed (and who doesn't nowadays?) it can destroy your drives! When you have starforce + SecuROM or SafeDisc you end up with the conflicts causing the drives to end up in PIO mode which will burn a modern DVD drive up VERY quickly, and I have had to throw more than a few customer's drives away simply from DRM conflicts burning them smooth up. I can't even remember the last time I saw a trojan or spyware do actually physical harm to a machine.

    And finally what really pisses me royally off is all this flaming hoop jumping, and risking the stability of our machines and possibly burning up our drives, does NOTHING to combat piracy! If anything the games are on the warez sites faster than ever before! So those of us that buy our games get treated like dogshit and kicked in the nuts while the pirates laugh their asses off and enjoy games without bullshit that "just work" and don't bone their systems! It truly makes me sick, but thanks to so many of the games coming from only a handful of houses anymore we really don't get a choice. So while I don't pirate I can honestly see why so many do, as they are tired of getting treated like shit or jumping through hoops just to play.

    Running a 64bit OS I pretty much have to crack all the time because I get that stupid "insert disc in drive E" bullshit even when the &^%*&%^ disc is IN the drive, just like on the video! But sadly we boycott and they just scream "look, it is proof the pirates are winning!" and fuck us worse. So I really don't see what we can do except take it. I prefer single player RTS and FPS titles, which means it is either get fucked or don't play. and I have NO desire to try to play with shitty console controls, so all I can do is sit here really pissed off at how badly we are being treated. THIS SUCKS!!!!!!

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