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Ubisoft DRM Problems Remain Unsolved 430

ocean_soul writes "More than three weeks after the release of The Settlers 7, with the controversial 'always on-line' DRM, a lot of people still can't connect to Ubisoft's DRM servers. The forum threads where people can post if they are unable to connect keep growing daily. One reason for the lack of fixes or responses from support seems to be that the people responsible were on vacation during the Easter holiday, despite the promise of 24/7 monitoring of the servers. The moral of this story seems to be that it is a bad idea to buy a game just before a major holiday." Or perhaps that it's wise to avoid games with such DRM altogether. So far, Ubisoft hasn't shown any sign that they're reconsidering the requirement of a constant connection. They've recently said it's "vital" to the success of their games and promised that their DRM would "evolve and improve" over time.
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Ubisoft DRM Problems Remain Unsolved

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  • $60 per month (Score:5, Interesting)

    by tepples ( 727027 ) <tepples@gmail.BOHRcom minus physicist> on Sunday April 18, 2010 @12:34PM (#31887688) Homepage Journal

    They've recently said it's "vital" to the success of their games and promised that their DRM would "evolve and improve" over time.

    Improving the DRM won't improve the game itself. A game would have to be pretty damn good to make me pay AT&T $60 per month for the ability to play it on a laptop. I've bought exactly one game published by Ubisoft (Lumines for PSP, a franchise that Ubi has since lost to Disney), and if anyone working at Ubi is reading, I'm not buying any more until your company starts considering laptops without mobile broadband.

  • IANAL, but... (Score:4, Interesting)

    by ticklejw ( 453382 ) on Sunday April 18, 2010 @12:39PM (#31887724) Homepage

    ...where are all the class-action lawsuits? Here's a place where people should be suing the hell out of a company. Why isn't this happening?

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday April 18, 2010 @12:40PM (#31887726)

    This is because idiots keep buying them. People need to stop buying their PC games, and if they REALLY want to send a message, put their piracy statistics through the roof. Download the game 4 or 5 times. If Ubisoft ever removes the DRM from the game, then show them it's appreciated by buying a copy, and putting a nice spike in their sales graph. All the people at the top ever see are graphs and fancy numbers. Show them it doesn't work through those.

    This is what happened with Spore, and EA has since realised that they can't treat customers that way anymore. They are now removing DRM from their games shortly after launch.

  • by Spatial ( 1235392 ) on Sunday April 18, 2010 @12:42PM (#31887748)
    If piracy is as widespread as they say, and if pirated copies really detract so heavily from sales, then the sales of this game should be abnormally large. Are they?

    I realise that's hard/impossible to measure, but it warrants some discussion.
  • Average? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by headkase ( 533448 ) on Sunday April 18, 2010 @12:46PM (#31887786)
    If any of their games were selling particularly well I'm sure they'd be shouting from the rooftops: "See it works!" But they're not so I imagine its for the par at least. What will be really interesting is the five year outlook, I've already decided to do my part to kill Ubisoft: I will never buy another one of their games, theres always something else to choose.
  • by times05 ( 1683662 ) on Sunday April 18, 2010 @12:53PM (#31887830)
    I just had a great experience with Ubisoft DRM a few weeks ago. I decided to replay Farcry 2, which I really didn't play that much when I bought it a year or so ago. I'm military, I move a lot, can't find the stupid booklet with CD key, so being a legitimate customer who BOUGHT the damned game I go on their site and ask for help. Game apparently needs a CD key that activates itself online and requires registration and account creation (which I did create, and logged in with that account...). Their reply summed up is "Send us 5$ + S&H and we'll send you a new CD key. Check/cash/money order will do". My reply was taking 5 minutes to find a 24k cracked .exe file that allowed me to skip through all their BS. That was the last game I buy from Ubisoft. This new DRM scheme is even worse. For me for example, I deploy, I don't have internet everywhere. Which means I can't play an uncracked version of Settlers 7. I've never even played Settlers, I don't know what it is, nor will I ever get exposed to it because I know of their retarded DRM schemes. I imagine that this will turn away a lot of other paying customers from Ubisoft franchises. PS: Farcry 2 sucks, no wonder I played it for an hour when I bought it a year ago.
  • Game Copy World (Score:3, Interesting)

    by linzeal ( 197905 ) on Sunday April 18, 2010 @01:01PM (#31887898) Homepage Journal
    I use Game Copy World [gamecopyworld.com], esp on old DRM that requires the CD/DVD to be in the drive all the time. There is simply no reason why we should be tolerating DRM on any media, it would be like requiring a Captain Crunch decoder ring to read a book.
  • by Kohath ( 38547 ) on Sunday April 18, 2010 @01:02PM (#31887906)

    The question seems to deliberately misunderstand the situation.

    They are willing to accept lower sales of the game and offer a less desirable product because they consider it preferable to having their games pirated. I'm not sure why you'd think that decision would lead to lots of extra sales of the game. Even a small boost in sales makes this a worthwhile effort for them.

    They also don't want pirated PC copies of their game competing against their console sales. Consoles are where the money is, largely because of piracy on the PC.

    Maintaining this DRM seems like a good choice if it accomplishes those goals.

    Keeping people on internet forums from whining about things is futile. Why even try?

  • Re:IANAL, but... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by sjames ( 1099 ) on Sunday April 18, 2010 @01:07PM (#31887956) Homepage Journal

    Don't file a class action, take them to small claims court. If they can't be bothered to show up, they can just accept the default judgment for the plaintiff. If they do show up, it'll cost them much more than the proper refund would.

    All you'll get for a class action is a rich lawyer and a coupon for a glorious $5 off of another non-working game. If a class action suit does get going, opt out and go to small claims anyway.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday April 18, 2010 @01:08PM (#31887958)

    In fairness, it did take a few weeks for a good crack to come out, and I think there are still a few rough edges. The good news is most of that time seems to have been spent creating cracking tools, so the Settlers crack is coming along quite a bit faster.

    Of course, maintaining this DRM *after* a 100% working crack is released would be astoundingly, pointlessly stupid. So I'm sure they'll do that.

  • by moonbender ( 547943 ) <moonbenderNO@SPAMgmail.com> on Sunday April 18, 2010 @01:08PM (#31887960)

    Well, FWIW, the system has worked in so far as there is no scene release of AC2 yet. Didn't see that coming; I figured that whatever Ubisoft would do, it'd be trivially cracked in a few days at most. Nope.

    From my limited understanding, the DRM really uses challenge/response data that is necessary for playing the game, ie. actual game content in a very abstract form. So simply bypassing the server check or trivially emulating it isn't enough, the game requires the data from Ubisoft to be playable. Consequently, there is a community project (for lack of a better word) where legit copies of the game are used to find the right responses and associate them with the requests the game sends. Allegedly (I haven't tried) the database is now -- weeks after the game's release -- big enough to complete the game, though I guess it might still hang in a few places.

    So, hats off to Ubisoft. Of course, whether or not this whole BS will result in more copies of the game sold is an entirely and unrelated question. I'd assume that any additional copies sold due to the DRM are more than offset by the horrible PR the DRM caused. AC2 is probably a pretty good game, but whenever the game is mentioned all people talk about is the DRM. (Penny-Arcade on Splinter Cell: "And, since only the 360 version is available, we can talk about the actual game as opposed to the copy protection.")

  • by tick-tock-atona ( 1145909 ) on Sunday April 18, 2010 @01:23PM (#31888080)
    Predictably, if you bought the game you might be better off with this torrent:

    1 - Unrar offline server folder on desktop;
    2 - Edit your "hosts" file in "C:windowssystem32driversetc" by opening it with notepad and adding the folowing lines, then save: static3.cdn.ubi.com ubisoft-orbit.s3.amazonaws.com onlineconfigservice.ubi.com orbitservice.ubi.com ubisoft-orbit-savegames.s3.amazonaws.com

    3 - Then run "ipconfig /flushdns"

    4 - Finally, run server.exe and start your game.

    (Enter an id and password (what you wanted). Do not register)
    Keep the same ID and password for next time, in order to resume play where you left off.

    http://thepiratebay.org/torrent/5496065/Assassin_s_Creed_2_Crack_(Final_and_complete) [thepiratebay.org]

  • by Nf1nk ( 443791 ) <nf1nk@NoSPAM.yahoo.com> on Sunday April 18, 2010 @01:26PM (#31888110) Homepage

    Now more and more x360 games are coming with one time only codes that you need to unlock a significant portion of the game. Forza 3, for example, had a bonus track area and a ton of bonus cars. mass effect 2 had a very effective character locked out by default but was unlocked with a one use code. I would expect that in the near future this trend will accelerate.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday April 18, 2010 @01:37PM (#31888202)

    And the problem with the traffic fatality situation is that people get into car accidents, and the problem with heart disease is that hearts are not indestructible. True, but not helpful in terms of finding a solution.

  • Re:IANAL, but... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by jimicus ( 737525 ) on Sunday April 18, 2010 @01:39PM (#31888216)

    How come so few US people even seem to consider the small claims route? Is it really awkward in the US or something?

  • by ThePhilips ( 752041 ) on Sunday April 18, 2010 @01:42PM (#31888252) Homepage Journal

    Let them stop porting the games.

    There would be then more coverage of free and indie games. And that's good.

    I can't help but think that consumerism took over the gaming and majority of people presume that only large corporations are capable of making interesting games. Sooner the myth gets busted, better.

  • by st0rmshad0w ( 412661 ) on Sunday April 18, 2010 @01:45PM (#31888306)

    Customers who bought the games for consoles don't seem to be having any problems.

    Well that's just lovely then.

    I don't play console games, I can't stand the controllers.

    But please quit the bullshit that my PC needs to have an active internet connection to run a fucking game! Part of why I even BUY games that are even worth playing as single player is because my network connection is often for crap (no matter what Verizon's CEO wants to tell you) even though I live in a city, and if I want to play a single player game chances are its because my network is flaky or that I'm somewhere without net access.

    If they want to demand network access DRM, then THEY can pay for the connection required.

    If their product doesn't work due to their retarded DRM scheme it should be legally returnable, and that's what people should be doing. Send the crap back. Demand you money back. If you don't get it, go to your state's attorney general.

  • Think hard, then name a half dozen DRM schemes that have lasted for years, and STILL WORK. I'll bet you can't do it.

    I'm *NO* fan of DRM, but I accept your challenge...

    -CSS on DVD's has been cracked and anyone who knows to look for any number of apps employing DeCSS can bypass it, but it's enough that commercial apps like Roxio and Nero won't do it, and a search for copying DVDs will yield 1,001 apps that either don't live up to their promises or install malware, so while it's possible, I'll give it half-credit because Joe Sixpack will have to do a decent amount of research to figure out how to do it properly.

    -The DRM on WMA has held up pretty well; it had been cracked in the past, but AFAIK the latest incarnations of it are still largely intact. Whether that's a "they did it well" or "no one cares" issue, I can't tell, but the bottom line is that I'm unaware of an app that will unlock a song rented from Napster To Go if I download one today.

    -While I've seen rips of iTunes videos leaked on a few torrent trackers, by and large I haven't seen a widely distributed app that will crack the DRM on the videos from iTunes.

    -While not technically 'years', the comments on slashdot articles about the PS3 lead me to believe that games for that system are extremely-challenging-at-best to pirate. Is that true?

    -iLok seems to be holding up pretty well; a few apps have been cracked, but it's no an app-by-app basis instead of a system-wide crack.

    -Torq and Serato both have proprietary hardware that's used to enable all the features of the applications, and I haven't seen cracks for either that enable them to use generic ASIO sound cards.

    -This one is pure speculation, but I'm sure that there are extremely high-cost, industry specific applications that are DRM'd and haven't been cracked. I'm sure Boeing doesn't use AutoCAD to design airplanes. I'm sure ConEdison doesn't use off-the-shelf software to regulate electricity output across Manhattan.

    A bunch of half-examples? yes. Do they half-work? I'd say so.

  • Demand a Refund (Score:3, Interesting)

    by purduephotog ( 218304 ) <hirsch&inorbit,com> on Sunday April 18, 2010 @02:23PM (#31888696) Homepage Journal

    Of course since the game has been opened, it can't be returned. It would be interesting to go the Credit Card approach that the item was not substantially as promised and provide the attempts at resolution that have been made.

    Execute a chargeback, and then when you're in the clear destroy your copy of the disk.

    (Personally then go outside and get some fresh air, but not everyone can do that)

  • by MartinSchou ( 1360093 ) on Sunday April 18, 2010 @03:14PM (#31889098)

    One of Denmark's leading national news papers, Politiken, has a really fun review of Settlers 7:
    Don't buy this outstanding game! [politiken.dk] (Danish article Translated article [google.com])
    Even rated the game 5 out of 6 but the DRM 1 out of 6

    And then they followed it up with one entitled " New Copy Protection Punishes The Law Abiding [politiken.dk]" (Machine translated article [google.com])

  • by Jedi Alec ( 258881 ) on Sunday April 18, 2010 @03:32PM (#31889240)

    Soon, Ubisoft will learn their lesson and go console-only. Some other publishers have already learned this, but Ubisoft is apparently giving the PC one last chance.

    Excellent. The demand for good pc games isn't going anywhere, so we'll just spend our money on a company that makes games that actually *work*.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday April 18, 2010 @03:53PM (#31889416)

    If they stopped porting yet another Madden sequel, then good (yes, I know Madden is console only, but it is a good example). That means that there will be a vacuum in the PC market and indie game companies, people who make games which have no DRM (perhaps a CD key to access multiplayer stuff at the most), and whose offerings are original and high quality will fill the void.

    I'm all for seeing another Origin Systems coming to be who makes offerings which are truly original and entertaining, and not just another FPS with yet another type of undead, alien or Schutzstaffel officer at the business end of your weapon. There are some decently original concepts, but the big game companies are mainly into sequel-itis.

    Then the big companies had a game that could be outstanding in its own right, but the game was so rushed, it ended up being mediocre at best, although almost anyone who played it realized that given 3-6 more months, it would have been a hit by itself.

    Don't forget one of the the biggest factors: Consoles are popular, but virtually every household, business, and dorm room has a PC. Since PCs come with some type of 3D hardware, it isn't too difficult to write a decent game on the platform with good graphics. Some indie vendors have done pretty good things that run on very low hardware specs. Torchlight is a good example of this. Even with piracy factored in, which can be throttled by having CD-keys to access the multiplayer servers (similar to how Neverwinter Nights 1 did things), a decent game would bring in a lot of cash.

  • by twidarkling ( 1537077 ) on Sunday April 18, 2010 @03:54PM (#31889424)

    Actually, pirating sends a damn better message than not buying/playing. Pirating says "You made a good game, which I want to play, but something in your system has made me not want to reward you." In most cases, that something is DRM. The other alternatives are usually "price," or something. However, "It's a terrible game" isn't one of the options considered."

    If you don't play it at all, the message usually comes out instead as "You made a game that isn't worth my time." Thus, no message about the DRM is sent on an individual basis. Instead, you're commenting on the quality of the game. If you're *lucky,* they'll expend more resources in making a better game.

    Hell, I'm usually tempted to download games I've no intentions of playing, simply to bump the numbers.

  • by init100 ( 915886 ) on Sunday April 18, 2010 @04:15PM (#31889592)

    What worked with music stores and DRM were customers complaining and significantly raising the stores' support costs. After some time this caused many music stores to put pressure on the music labels to remove the DRM, which took some time, but finally the labels agreed.

  • by jnork ( 1307843 ) on Sunday April 18, 2010 @04:17PM (#31889610)

    *scratches head*

    I've had excellent luck with Steam. Not perfect, but I very, very rarely have problems with their protection scheme. I get more game crashes than DRM problems. If I lose my connection to Steam the game lets me keep playing in multiplayer mode, I just might be missing some features (TF2 loadout), and it re-synchronizes after I reconnect and gives me credit for whatever I've accomplished.

    I don't exactly have my finger on the pulse of the community but I hear very little about their awful DRM scheme.

    You didn't specify if your bad experience was with Steam or with COD. If you didn't like the game, or had particular problems with it, can't answer for that, sorry. Never played it myself. If you had problems with Steam I'd say you're in the minority.

    I can't really get from one person having problems with the platform to everybody leaving en mass. If anything Valve seems to have found a very good balance between copy protection and user experience. I can't speak for everybody, but to me it's transparent enough that I can live with the occasional glitch. I tolerate it because it's tolerable. MHO, YMMV.

  • by Pteraspidomorphi ( 1651293 ) on Sunday April 18, 2010 @05:06PM (#31890004)

    I agree. Almost all games I play these days are either on the PC or on the Wii; Most of them independent or small studio games. There is no interesting games guide like the list of nominees for the IGF awards.

  • by TheRealGrogan ( 1660825 ) on Sunday April 18, 2010 @06:02PM (#31890382)

    Yeah, but I generally don't want "pretty good things that run on low hardware specs". There are already plenty of games for folks satisfied with that... Nexuiz for one example. Even a graphics whore or "content tourist" like me had to admit Nexuiz is a blast, after giving it a chance for a whole 5 minutes. It's multi platform and can be compiled locally too. They are probably at the limits of what they can do with that old Quake engine. (You can only sew a limited number of arms on an old octopus)

    I'm mostly into gaming for the graphics, and indie developers without budgets to have studios stocked with professional graphics artists and equipment can't really do it. No offense to people who work really hard with what they have and do a great job with it, I do appreciate that effort, but I'm spoiled. I didn't spend 2 grand on PC hardware to play "world of goo" or similar.

    I have certainly lowered the bar for what I'll tolerate in terms of DRM (I used to hate even one time "product activation" but had to learn to live with it. Then, I even started to tolerate Steam because I realized it also came with convenience), but I won't tolerate what Ubisoft is doing. I was looking forward to Assassin's Creed 2 but I have not and will not purchase it, or anything from Ubisoft ever again. I used to like Ubisoft, because their games were relatively hassle free.

    If the day ever comes that game studios finally rip the teats off the cow they are milking and stop supporting the PC platform, I envision hardware vendors like ATI and Nvidia sponsoring some game development. Something like that happening could give a good indie studio the budget they need to make something really nice that could make money for everyone, and pave the way for future titles.

  • by Kalriath ( 849904 ) on Sunday April 18, 2010 @09:03PM (#31891570)

    Actually, pirating sends a damn better message than not buying/playing. Pirating says "You made a good game, which I want to play, but something in your system has made me not want to reward you." In most cases, that something is DRM. The other alternatives are usually "price," or something.

    No, it tells them "I'm a cheap bastard, and don't want to pay for your product. Please make the DRM stronger so that I cannot succeed at this."

    Well, that's what they hear anyway. It also happens to be true in a lot of cases.

  • by Tukz ( 664339 ) on Monday April 19, 2010 @02:47AM (#31893324) Journal

    Of course we (Steam customers) care about DRM.
    Sure, Steam is itself a DRM system, but an acceptable one.

    The DRM Ubisoft is using is one a completely different scale than Steam's DRM

  • Clearly the game was a runaway success, but the DRM was just not strong enough.

    It never is.

    Or, in case I'm wrong, it almost never is.

    So rather than making good games, is the game industry really in the business of inventing and attaching to games the DRM schemes which win the arms race against crackers?

    It seems that if you limit your talent pool to paid staff whom you subject to performance reviews, and the cracker army enlist the free time of passionate volunteers, the cracker army may be smaller in terms of wall clock hours, but it has better morale. If Sun Tzu is as correct as he is well known, we should expect the crackers to win, right?

    (In terms of human motivation and organization, the crackers work similar to the open source movement, I think)

"An open mind has but one disadvantage: it collects dirt." -- a saying at RPI