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This is a flowchart to explain why people pirate movies.

Ubisoft, who publish games, have implemented a new DRM solution in reaction to the reported fact that too high a percentage of PC games are pirated. This new check requires you to be connected to the internet to play their games. This isn’t online, this is a single player game. Actually, it’s two games as announced, Settlers 7 and Assasins Creed 2. In the first case, the game saves as it quits, so when your connection comes back so does your game. In the second, the game will restore back to your last “checkpoint”, however long ago that was.

None of this actually matters. None of the mitagating circumstances Ubisoft have provided – “Without it the terroristspirates win”, “It hardly takes any bandwidth at all”, is all bullshit. My internet connection is just *not that stable*. Virgin Media are fine most of the time, and I know I need to bite the bullet and fix whatever keeps crashing the smoothwall box, but it’s really not the point. Being kicked out of Left 4 Dead, World of Warcraft, City of Heroes, anything I’m playing online; because I stopped being online is frustrating, but understandable. Being kicked out of a single player AC2 mission, or a Settlers game vs the AI, or a single player Prince of Persia level, or anything else at all because I stop being online is just stupid.

That’s not the major point, though. The point that ties it back to the first paragraph is this:

The pirates won’t suffer any of this.

A pirate player – with his eyepatch, his wooden leg, his parrot and his tricorn – won’t ever be kicked off a single player game because he’s not on the internet. The honest player who buys her copy and then has a quick game of Settlers on her laptop on the train? She’ll get kicked off when he goes under a tunnel. The pirate plays on.

The legal player who kicks his network cable fails the assassination and back to the desktop.

The pirate plays on.

The only people any of this shit hurts are the ones who pay for the software. They’re the only people who deal with “product activations”, with finding the manual that has the keycode, with DVD drives that don’t support the newest Securom systems; and, going back even further, they’re the only people who had to hold a matt black bit of paper up to the light to read the gloss black letters that let them start the game.

The pirates? Played on.

So I won’t be buying the Settlers 7, though what I saw in the open beta interested me. I won’t be buying AC2 for any system, XBox or PC. I won’t be pirating them either, though. In fact, from this point forward, I’m pretty sure that anything with “Ubisoft” on the box won’t be entering my collection in any way, shape or form. I’ll find another game to play on.

  1. I believe it was Settlers IV that worked out if you had a pirated game or not and just let you play. However, the mines would only ever produce ham, and not any minerals.

    An interesting way to deal with piracy, I’ll give them that!

  2. Oh dear, Ubisoft just keep taking backward steps. Just when it seemed they gained Clue, GR:AW2 had nary but a serial number that was only needed for online play, they then went a stuck a Limited Activation system into Anno 1404. (Guess which of those games sits on my shelf.)

    It’s a shame too, as I was hoping that after Anno bombed they’d realise that they were better off without crap DRM. I’d hoped I would be able to return to buying “The Ongoing Improbable Adventures of Sam Fisher” as I quite like that style of game. Looks like that plan has gone south and I shall have to relegate Ubisoft to the “Publishers My PC Avoids” list along with SouthPeak/TopWare (Two Worlds), and Valve (HL2). (And anything that uses Starforce, even after the redesign…)
    Any company that uses Digital Restrictions Management to treat customers like those lot aren’t getting my money. I’ll spend it somewhere else.

    EA would be in there too, but they distribute games for multitudinous companies and quite a few of them are free from DRM infestations. Including Bioware, whose approach is currently getting a significant portion of my gaming spend.
    To be honest, I expect Bioware to continue to get most of my money because most other publishers seem to be so clueless when it comes to how paying customers prefer their experience. i.e. without all the associated crap and requirements that many publishers feel the urge to burden their games with. As long as it’s going to require me to jump through hoops to play the game, I’m not buying it – and I’ve bought enough games over the years that I am able to be selective in what I buy. If there’s nothing new about I can just go revisit a classic. (I shudder to think how much time I’ve spent played the Baldur’s Gate series because no current games were acceptable. Again Bioware, and again DRM free.)

  3. Disconnected if you go through a tunnel? Come on, most of us don’t even have mobile internet connections. I started to get pissed off by online “activations” when I worked on cruise ships and had no net access from my laptop for 6 months at a time, but nowadays… if I wanted to play any of these games, I would have to find pirated versions.

    So of course, the obvious result:

    10 Life is made harder for legitimate users
    20 Legitimate users find a pirated copy (even if they have already paid) because it actually works
    30 Publisher notes that more people are using pirated copies, and concludes that more anti-user^Wpirate measures are needed
    40 GOTO 10.

  4. Was that the one that had a disc with a circular scratch in it? I know there was a game that did that and if it could not detect the scratch it would let you play on but do something silly to the game which might have been make a mine produce ham instead of minerals. 🙂

    On the point of DRM I totally agree. It only affects the persons that do not pirate which is really annoying. Once I tried an online game, you had to pay to play it (monthly fee) at least if you wanted to come above level 4 or 5 in the game. Having a tryout period before you had to play was a good concept I found and the battle system really interested me, but when my anti-spyware programs started screaming after I had installed it due to some really obnoxious DRM I uninstalled it directly and have not looked back since. Which is a shame because it looked like it could’ve been a game that I actually could’ve wanted to pay a fee for.

    This is why I like the DRM used on DragonAge where it basically only checks if I have the disc or not in order to be able to play.

  5. Brilliant! I totally, wholeheartedly agree. This holds also for software DRM. In particular, expensive scientific software (matlab and co) suffer from the same shortcomings. Legal users have to install a license manager, cope with internet disconnections etc. I even had one (legal) private license manager on my laptop (to be able to work without an internet connection), but even that piece of crap would crash now and then, preventing me from working.

    The pirates? They keep crushing numbers. 🙂

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