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.

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