Wait, what? Did we really just write that headline? No, that can't be. But it is! It only took the dismayed cries and raised pitchforks of every PC gamer on earth, but Ubisoft has finally heard our plight. In a scant couple of weeks, From Dust's supposedly non-existent DRM will be given the “ashes to ashes, dust to dust” treatment. So then, this is it, right? The beginning of a new era, with Ubisoft and our beloved platform leading the charge hand-in-hand? Er, not quite.
At this point, it's no longer a matter of whether or not the metaphorical car will end up in a horrible twisted flaming wreck. That's been plainly obvious for months. Now it's a matter of how. And, hoo boy, things are going downhill fast. First, From Dust's PC port suffered a month-long delay shortly before a trouble-free console release. But then Ubisoft promised a reprieve from its “always on” DRM nonsense, so at least that was something. And the painfully predictable twist? The DRM does require an Internet connection, the port's in terrible shape, and our tolerance of Ubisoft's apparent disdain for PC gamers has been dead all along.
PC gamers the world over face-palmed hard enough to create a seismic event when they heard that Ubisoft was planning to seriously cool Driver: San Francisco's engine with a heaping dose of its reviled “always on” DRM. There was anger, which led to hate, which... well, we wouldn't be surprised if a few new dark Jedi were born of this whole incident. Ubisoft, though, claims to have finally heard our plight. But has it? Has it really?
Well now, this is unfortunate. After Ubisoft's despicable “always on” DRM made its not-so-triumphant return in Driver: San Francisco, the world's entire supply of vaguely sensible people was forced to ask: “Why?” Why keep forcing such an obviously reviled substance down PC gamers' throats? Why turn a deaf ear when gamers are having children for the sole purpose of teaching them to curse your name? Well, because it works, apparently.
Supply and demand. Our faithful old economic system lives and dies by it, and Ubisoft's series about living and dying (mostly the second thing) is carrying on accordingly. If you're hoping to take a nice murder vacation through some exotic new locale, however, know this: Ezio's back for one last stab at greatness (and, you know, stabbing); Assassin's Creed III this ain't.
Being an assassin requires watching, waiting, and heaping gobs of patience. So, by that logic, Ubisoft seems to have assumed that PC gamers are the greatest assassins of all, seeing as we've been standing out in the cold since November. But now – finally – we'll soon be able to vent our frustrations in the healthiest way we know how: relentless stabbing.
Ubisoft's New Year's resolution must be to stop pissing people off with with crappy DRM checks, because as our sister site PCGamer.com reports, the developer has decided to ditch its controversial DRM system.
Prior to the update, you needed a persistent Internet connection in order to play games like Assassin's Creed 2. If a storm knocked out your ISP or if your router went on the fritz, the game would pause, even if it was a single player game. It was a stupid DRM scheme on a number of levels, one that was introduced with Settlers 7 last year.
You do still need an Internet connection to authenticate Ubisoft games when they're first booted, but at least now if your connection goes belly up, you can continue to play, just like all the pirates who plundered their copies from BitTorrent.
Two Assassin's Creed games. Two years. Two delays on PC.
This time around, Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood's had the poisonous delay dagger slipped between its ribs, and won't come out of its feverish coma until Q1 of 2011. The game's console versions, meanwhile, are parkouring like it's 1499 en route to a November 2010 release.
Ubisoft didn't offer any reason for the delay, instead opting to bury the news at the bottom of a press release about its upcoming console multiplayer beta. When Assassin's Creed II took its tumble, though, the publisher cited technical issues. We're guessing something similar's at play here as well.
Here's hoping we'll at least get a little time shaved off our sentence to Ubisoft's DRM hell out of all this. Happily, the publisher actually opted to use Steam DRM for its recent RTS, R.U.S.E. However, just as we began to plan a giant parade/party – complete with a 12-foot-tall “All is Forgiven” cake that, mostly jokingly, we were going to hurl off a cliff the second Ubisoft's Internet connection dipped – Ubisoft declared that its DRM would still be the rule for most of its games. R.U.S.E., unfortunately, was just an exception.
When a publisher starts extolling the virtues of Ubisoft’s Alcatraz-level DRM lockdown, it doesn’t matter how far you read into their words; at the end of the day, it spells trouble. And so it was when Witcher 2 publisher Namco Bandai declared Ubisoft’s system functional – if not exactly ideal. Shortly afterward, Witcher 2 developer CD Projekt attempted damage control by vaguely stating its intentions, but that backfired -- leading many gamers to fear that the dark fantasy sequel had truly gone over to the dark side.
Fortunately, CD Projekt Red CEO Adam Kiciński has released a statement that paints a much clearer picture of The Witcher 2’s DRM situation.
“Given the concerns expressed by players and growing media speculation, we have decided to make public our internal DRM policy,” he said. “Although we are the game’s developer, we obviously won’t be making a unilateral decision on the DRM protection that is applied to The Witcher 2. Nevertheless, our internal rules and guidelines should reassure players.”
“As per our policy, we will do our utmost to prevent the adopted DRM solution, if any, from making life difficult for those who acquire legal game copies. I can’t imagine using any protection that would deprive game fans of any of the pleasure that will come from playing the game, as has been the case with other notable PC game titles,” he explained.
“Notable titles,” of course, likely include Settlers 7, Assassins Creed II, and Splinter Cell: Conviction, among others. Which means that avoiding the example set by those games is part of CD Projekt’s company policy, for Pete’s sake. So take a deep breath, everyone. The Witcher 2 is in good hands.
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.