Upon reading The Witcher 2 publisher Namco Bandai's pro-Ubisoft-DRM spiel, we imagine a decent many of you probably did double-takes as you put two and two together over and over again – always reaching the same confounding result. The Witcher 2. With DRM. Does. Not. Compute. After all, developer CD Projekt heads up Good Old Games. That's about as anti-DRM as you can get.
Namco Bandai and CD Projekt are separate entities, however. And fortunately, this is one instance where left hand and right aren't quite in agreement.
“Our distributors commented [on] the Ubisoft-like DRM securilty solutions, and we’re receiving a massive feedback about applying such in The Witcher 2,” read a post on CD Projekt's Facebook account. “There’s nothing to worry about, as nothing is decided yet.
“And still, it’s a private opinion. You know CD Projekt RED’s opinion about DRM, right?” the developer added, referring to Good Old Games.
That tree-demolishing gust you just felt? That was thousands of Witcher fans breathing a collective sigh of relief. Thank goodness, too. Geralt's not the handsomest guy around, but his ugly mug's still a far prettier sight than a big, game-obscuring “Connection lost. Please wait.” screen.
Going to the dentist sucks. It’s like mouth hell, with tongues of flame replaced by regular tongues, drills, needles, and toothpaste so awful-tasting that it makes us want to wait 30 hours before eating instead of 30 minutes. But until the day we invent super-powered ray guns that blast our teeth clean in the blink of an eye, the dentist is – sadly enough -- our only option. That, more or less, is how Witcher 2 publisher Namco Bandai feels about Ubisoft’s almost universally reviled DRM system.
"I will be very honest. I think it's a good [approach] for one reason: I have no alternative today. Is the best one? Certainly not but as of today if I can make something else I'll do it, but it's better to do something than not do something,” Namco Bandai Partners VP Olivier Comte said. “At the moment they are doing a good strategy.”
He added, however, that Namco Bandai’s doing everything in its power to craft a better, smarter successor to the DRM throne. Even then, though, the publisher still sees gray skies ahead.
"I'm convinced that whatever system you put in place you can be sure that two hours before putting it out it'll be cracked in Russia. I think that the combat against piracy is very complicated because it's very complicated to explain to a 12-year-old that drag and dropping a file on a PC is piracy - he was born with this,” Comte explained.
Between the rainbow of racial slurs on Xbox Live and now this, it seems like the solution to all of gaming’s ills is simple: eliminate all 12-year-olds. Thoughts? Seems pretty sensible to us.
PC gaming’s certainly not dying, but by the same token, we recently saw a big-name PC-exclusive game roaming about our local wildlife reserve. The poor creatures are all but extinct these days, and piracy’s not doing anything to help. Fortunately, according to Avalanche boss Cristofer Sundberg, things don’t have to stay this way.
“If we constantly keep on delivering console ports and not games design for the PC player, the PC market will suffer from bad sales, piracy and bad DRM solutions. I strongly believe that most PC players are online players and online games are so much easier to design that we both protect the developer against piracy - and the consumer against a limited game experience,” he told CVG.
"As PC sales constantly dropping, there is a small group of very dedicated PC players who deserve a game designed for them and I strongly believe that PC games and console games are two completely different games.”
Now that’s speaking our language. However, it’s one thing to talk big, and another thing entirely to bite the bullet and risk financial well-being by taking action. Avalanche’s most recent game – while excellent – lacked any discernible PC-only features and had no online component to speak of. If we had an actual, real-life PC-exclusive game in place of every “PC gaming should be” or “PC gaming shouldn’t be” quote from a major developer, we’d feel a lot better about all the cash we’ve used to stoke the flames of the money furnace that is our PC. As is, though… well, there's a reason why people think PC gaming is dying.
Many of you may be of the opinion that the only good DRM is no DRM, but Sega’s take on the tech world’s most reviled acronym is definitely a step in the right direction.
Here’s how it works: super-spy RPG Alpha Protocol will require an online connection precisely one time for an initial activation – after which, you can play the game on a boat, in a moat, in a box, with a fox, or in other less Suess-inspired locales. Better still, for those stranded on desert islands or other areas that have somehow avoided the Internet’s dominion, there’s an official workaround. The only drawback? Installs are limited. However, deactivating installs will be as painless as possible.
Here’s the kicker, though: Sega’s guaranteed that it’ll release a patch that removes the DRM entirely within 18-24 months. In other words, if Sega’s servers ever kick the bucket, Alpha Protocol will still be alive and kicking. Other game publishers have implied that they’ll employ a similar strategy, sure, but Sega’s the first to look us in the eyes and actually promise it.
It’s not ideal, obviously, but we can live with it. Now, we promised ourselves we wouldn’t beat a dead horse by rambling on about a certain other type of DRM that’s been flooding the news streams lately, so we’re going to be as subtle as possible about it. UBISOFT SHOULD DO THIS. Now then, honest opinion: is that too subtle? Should we maybe add some neon lights?
Ubisoft's new always on Internet connection DRM hasn't won any fans here at Max PC, but we do applaud the company for at least taking a stab (pun intended) at making amends to paying customers who were shut out because of a DRM server attack.
The game company wrote registered customers; "Following the recent temporary game server outages which may have caused disruption to some Assassin's Creed 2 players on PC only, we would like to reward your patience if you have experienced any problems by offering you some additional content - previously only available with special editions."
The special edition content was previously exclusive to those who ordered the Black Edition of the game, but apparently some users are now reporting that Ubisoft is even giving the option to trade up to a free game. Examples given include Hawx, Heros Over Europe, EndWar, Shaun White's Snowboarding or Prince of Persia.
It's not as good as offering to patch out the DRM, but is this peace offering enough for you to forgive Ubisoft?
With colossal mega-publishers like EA and Activision, it’s rare to hear a less-than-positive peep from even the company janitor, so we have to applaud EA for keeping the first amendment alive with corporate blogger Jeff Green. But you won’t see any standing ovations from us, because while EA’s taken a big step forward in that regard, its Command & Conquer 4 DRM counts as a few hundred steps back. Don’t believe us? Then just ask EA blogger Jeff Green!
"Booted twice—and progress lost—on my single-player C&C4 game because my DSL connection blinked. DRM fail. We need new solutions," Green tweeted. “Welp. I've tried to be open-minded. But my 'net connection is finicky--and the constant disruption of my C&C4 SP game makes this unplayable."
“Yeah, Steam's ability to have off-line play is the clear, better model when talking about SP games," he added. "However, C&C4 experiments w/what a 'single-player game' is--given it's constantly uploading progress/stats for unlocks. It's complicated. I think if we think of C&C4 as an 'online-only' game--which it basically is--then maybe we'd adjust our expectations accordingly."
For the uninitiated, Command & Conquer 4’s DRM functions similarly to Ubisoft’s recent digital rights management disaster in that it requires a constant Internet connection to function.
So, videogame publishers of the world, do we have this “always-connected DRM” phase out of our systems yet? Because if you’re expecting our anger to cool while we warm up to your DRM over time, it’s not gonna happen. It’s like when little kids are playing, and one of them adds a series of increasingly ridiculous, self-serving rules to the game. You know what the other kids do? They find a new friend.
Make no mistake, we are living in the future. In a matter of moments, we can publish our thoughts, communicate with people on other continents, or start downloading more information than we can ever consume. We are presented with hundreds of great offers every day—each with a thousand caveats. We hear about hackers stealing identities and kids being sued for copyright infringement, and even a New York socialite slap-fight taking place in an anonymous forum can take the national stage. The future is odd, indeed. To help you get some of it straight, we sat down with various lawyers and asked: How do our rights work in the digital age? Can you get in trouble posting messages about someone online? Are there exceptions to copyright? Is it legal to back up your ebooks? Not all of these questions have clear answers, and some answers don’t make much sense. We might be living in the future, but the legal system was designed to deal with the increasingly obsolete present.
In addition to squashing a number of bugs and shining up the game’s UI, a recent patch stripped Battlefield Bad Company 2’s Steam version of its – most would say – unneeded SecuROM DRM. After all, Steam’s a big PC gaming platform now. It can take care of piracy protection itself.
Sadly, if you didn’t acquire your copy of the game from Valve’s storefront, consider yourself stuck in the bad company of SecuROM for the time being. But hey, here’s this nice list of changes and upgrades to take your mind off that depressing reality. Better than nothing, we suppose.
Seven more of your Earth-days have passed, which means it's time for another No BS Podcast. This time, the gang talks about Intel's 6-core Gulftown processor, Steam for Macs, and Ubi's new DRM. The Star Destroyer vs Enterprise font springs eternal, as we take a number of your calls about this pressing issue. Finally, Gordon tells us all what he thinks about the new A-Team, and why it's not alright to say "brah."
Do you have a tech question? A comment? A tale of technological triumph? Just need to get something off your chest? A secret to share? Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org or call our 24-hour No BS Podcast hotline at 877.404.1337 x1337--operators are standing by.
Earlier, we brought you word that Ubisoft’s much-maligned DRM servers were on the fritz. “But why?” you probably wondered before continuing to stay far, far away from them. Well, what goes around comes around, it would seem, because Ubisoft’s declared that its servers are under “attack.” PC gamers who are both tech-savvy and prone to semi-militant protest? Who’da thunk it?
“Ubisoft would like to apologize to anyone who could not play AC2 or SH5 yesterday. Servers were attacked and while the servers did not go down, service was limited from 2:30PM to 9PM Paris time. 95% of players were not affected, but a small group of players attempting to open a game session did receive denial of service errors. All players with an open session during the attack were not affected,” said the publisher.
But it gets better. You see, a scant few hours later, the servers came under fireagain.
“Our servers are under attack again,” tweeted a Ubisoft rep. “Some gamers are experiencing trouble signing in. We’re working on it and will keep you posted.”
Ubisoft, as much morbid glee as we’re deriving from this twisting train wreck, we think you might want to consider slamming on the breaks before your credibility ends up on the list of casualties. We accept sincere apologies, you know. Actually, we’re surprisingly open to anything when there’s no DRM involved. Ok, not those kinds of things. Oh, wait, you mean those kinds of things and not those kinds of things? Well then, that changes everything!