Mar 10 2010

Last DRM post for a while

I think this will be my last post about single player games requiring a constant internet connection for a while (unless Ubisoft patches out their DRM, which I don’t expect to happen).

I’m not inherently against DRM, but I do play single player games. I don’t like the idea of being required to be online to do -anything- not related to the internet, but CD-checks or one-time online activations are not things which have really bothered me.

There were two questions I had about Ubisoft’s permanently online DRM scheme:
– Would it work?
– Would it be accepted? (ie: Is this something I would just have to learn to accept?)

I honestly assumed that the scheme would work. Turns out, I was wrong. Over the past weekend, there were widespread outages of Ubisoft’s OPS servers, which are the DRM managing systems for AC2 and SH5. Ubisoft variously blamed “excessive demand” and “hackers launching a DDoS” attack for the outages. (Interestingly, Ubisoft’s apologies to their customers gives a time frame shorter than that reported by their customers, and I was unable to find a hacker group claiming responsibility for the DDoS attack.) So, for whatever reason Ubi was unable to keep their servers up, making the question of whether the end customer has a permanent connection irrelevant.

The object of a DRM system is to allow paying customers to use the software, while not allowing pirates or other non-payers access. As implemented, Ubisoft’s DRM does not work because paying customers are unable to play.

As to whether the system was accepted– I really have no way to find out. Certainly people bought, are enjoying, and are actively modding SH5. There’s also certainly a vocal group of people who probably would have bought SH5 but didn’t because of DRM. However, because modders have taken interest in the game, I think it’s probably fairly launched towards overtaking it’s predecessor SH3 as the most realistic WWII submarine simulation ever.

As a last tidbit, EA has apparently drawn the opposite conclusion as me as to whether this type of DRM system works… Tom Chick at Fidgit is reporting that Command and Conquer 4 will have a persistent online requirement. It’s disconnect screen looks eerily similar to SH5s.

Mar 04 2010

Draw your own conculsions…

I’ve been out of town for a couple of days, and it looks like now larger media outlets are covering the Silent Hunter 5 DRM issue.

Eurogamer, reported yesterday a “Day-0″ crack. Note that this actually suggests that this DRM scheme provides a 4-6 day deterrence to piracy, as the game was widely available as soon a 27 Feb 10. Ubisoft denies the crack entirely, but has issued a patch to the DRM system in the upcoming AC2, which suggests that some type of vulnerability was uncovered.

Mar 01 2010

More big game watching…

Although I write flash games, I certainly admit to playing big studio developed games. :) So, to the best of my ability I’ve been trying to follow Silent Hunter 5 release.

First copies were in user’s hands as early as Feb 27th, but on a large scale the game won’t be available until sometime on March 2nd, when Steam, D2D, etc begin to allow downloads. First players seem to be saying “Good, but not great” which isn’t surprising given the history of the franchise.

An extensive modding community is what seems to make hardcore sims have legs. SH3 and SH4 have extensive mods which address various issues ranging from the size of the stopwatch to making the games conform better with known historical performance and specifications. SH5 appears to support the modding community by providing a scripting engine and tools! Ignoring the elephant in the room, the long term future for this game is pretty bright.

Speaking of elephants, both at and on Ubisoft’s own forums, DRM remains a contentious issue, first players appear to be having little to no problem with the OSP system.

Interestingly, while trying to find coverage on the SH5 DRM issue, I ran across Rise of Flight, a WWI flight sim released last year by neoqb* which required users to log in online even to play the single player mode. With their next update, they’re introducing a “Login Offline” mode. Although players are still required to log in and validate their account initially, and to activate DLC, subsequent to that activation they will be able to play offline. This development apparently as a result of community pressure (quote from neoqb’s official blog, emphasis mine):

“Of course, the main gaming mode is still ONLINE, as it was initially designed, so not all game features will be available in offline mode. But this should address the main problems you asked us to handle, which is really our main priority. You can now spend (most of) your time within Rise Of Flight without connection to the internet.”

It will be interesting to see what Ubisoft ends up doing with this. Despite suggestions from the indie community that DRM-free leads to higher sales and better performance, Ubisoft tried that already with the 2008 release of Prince of Persia, sales of which were lower than expected. Still, PoP is far more similar to the contentious Assassin’s Creed 2 than the Silent Hunter series. It remains to be seen whether all PC gamers should be treated alike.

*- High fidelity WWI flight sim? And the first I find out about it is from a DRM discussion? I’ll give a nod to Tom Chick at for initially letting me know that SH5 was near release. However, I think the general gaming press does a very poor job of covering the industry except for AAA releases.