A Programmer's Dream

Gaming For Gamers

Posted by Stephen Wrighton on 23 Feb 2010

Or, why I hate UbiSoft....

I'm a gamer. I like video games. Much in the same way that I like cartoons, anime, comic books and all forms of speculative fiction in general. I've been a gamer since we purchased our first gaming console back when I was around five years old. Fundamentally that means that I've been a gamer for nearly as long as my little brother has been alive.

My wife puts up with it with her usual loving patience. I don't generally play games while my kids are awake, but once they're down for the count, I can often be found shooting up zombies, flying through space or ruling my galactic empire with an iron fist.

Frankly, I never really thought that I would ever stop being a gamer.

Yet, UbiSoft is trying their best to make it that way.

They have a new DRM scheme (and I'm amused that we always talk about DRM in the same way we discuss PONZI, as "schemes") in which the system is required to be ALWAYS online, or else you can't play the game. At all. Even though the game in question is a single player game.

Think about that. This is UbiSoft saying that they will control your gaming experience and if you don't have the internet? Oh well, you shouldn't have purchased our game.

Worse is the idiocy inherent in the "benefits" that UbiSoft is proclaiming far and wide in regards to the customer-hate which this DRM fundamentally is.

Their first benefit is the fact that you can install this game on as many PCs as you desire. Which is funny, as I was always under the impression that that was always the case. Of course, there are some DRM schemes which breaks this, and only allow a limited number of installs per copy (see Spore) but that's anti-customer as well. The truth of the matter is, that I should be allowed to install any game I purchase on as many of my own devices as I desire. Once I purchase a copy of the software, where and how I install it is no longer any of the developer's, much less the distributor's, concern.

The second benefit is the fact that you will no longer need the disc in the tray in order to play the game. Which is something that Steam has conquered quite well, and users do not need to be online all the time in order to play a Steam game. What's sad is that we shouldn't need to be slaved to an internet connection in order to do something which is just logical in the first place. I'd be pissed as anything if I had to keep a disc in the tray to use Microsoft Word or Visual Studio. Frankly, I installed the game, the entire game, onto my PC. There's no reason I shouldn't be able to place said disc back into storage so it would not get damage.

The third benefit that UbiSoft is touting is the concept of saves in the cloud. Which is insane and pointless drivel. If I want my game save data to be shared between computers, I can easily tell the game to save data to the shared drive on my network, or I could even move the files manually.

Of course, the thing that truly angers me is the fact that this system, basically violates the Right of First Sale. For those concerned, it is the Copyright Act of 1976, 17 U.S.C § 109. This doctrine is the legal right to sell or give away a lawfully made copy of a copyrighted work without permission. This DRM scheme breaks that law. It is DESGINED in such a way that I would be unable to give away or sale my legally purchased copy of the game. And regardless of what EULA's claim, the Courts have ruled that the Right of First Sale do apply to software that is purchased as opposed to licensed. I.e. if I go to GameStop, Walmart, Amazon or any retail outlet, then I am purchasing a copy of the work, as opposed to a company licensing 30 instances of Word for the PCs in the company. Bauer & Cie v. O'Donnell and Bobbs-Merrill Co. v. Straus were both U.S. Supreme Court cases regarding this, and the 2008 ruling in Washington in Timothy S. Vernor v. Autodesk Inc. upholds this right in regards to software purchases.

Remember, I'm a developer as well here. I make my living building software, so these issues are of great importance to me.

And I think this is bad customer service as well as a losing strategy for a software company.

The thing is that this is not going to stop piracy. It's not. Consider, Winzip, a shareware program whose trail never expires, so users can effectively use it for free (once one gets past the "nag" screen) forever, is pirated software on zero-day sites. Pirates have all the time and energy in the world to crack the DRM, while the publishing company has limited resources to create it in the first place.

This is not going to stop piracy. Worse, the only people who will enjoy the ability to play an offline game will be those who do pirate the game. Think about that; the only way to get an enjoyable play experience if you have any type of spotty internet connection (and who of us doesn't?) will be to pirate this software.

And that's even before we get into issues of latency, DDoS attacks against the authentication servers as well as just pure unadulterated too many requests for the server to handle. Then there's the issues involving people with dial-in modems (sub-(a)DSL speeds which are the lowest that they will support) or that are not on an "unlimited" connection to their provider (which frankly, the internet providers dream that we will go that way). That's even before we get into their "promise" that they will release a patch to bypass the DRM if they ever do away with the authentication servers (my question is, if they do not have the revenue to power the servers, how will they have the funds to pay the developer to build the patch?).

So, here's my stance: I will not buy another UbiSoft title.


They have lost a customer for life, and there is nothing they can do to change that now. Even if they send me a game free, I will merely melt the disk enough so that is unusable, send it through my CD/DVD shredder, and then mix the remains in the detritus I scope from my cat's litter box.

That is what their games deserve.

They have shown that not only do they dislike their customers, but they are hostile towards them, and actively desire to insult them.

Why do I say that? Well outside of the whole breaking of the Copyright Act of 1976 and the Doctrine of First Sale, when one looks at the FAQ for this abomination, one sees this:
Why the need for a permanent Internet connection? Why no “offline” mode?
The online services platform authenticates with a Ubisoft account and a permanent online connection allows us to verify that no one else uses the account at the same time. We know that services such as Steam offer an offline mode but this option is not as efficient in its protection against piracy.
There at the bottom, where they talk about Steam, it states: "this option is not as efficient in its protection against piracy."

The stance UbiSoft is STARTING from, is that its customers, the ones that purchase the game, are going to steal it. That is what they are saying, they are calling everyone who plays their game a thief.

Frankly, I get peeved when the "Greeters" at Walmart attempt to stop me (and I do mean attempt, because I always ignore their requests to stop, and can't wait for one of them to actually touch me in an attempt to get me to stop), as I see it as the company believes that I'm stealing. I see it as an accusation of theft and defamation of my character (while it may not be enough to be upheld in court as defamation, I still feel it to be a defamation).

And there's no difference here. This is UbiSoft accusing me of wanting to steal their video game. This is UbiSoft accusing everyone out there of wanting to steal their video game.

So, my solution to that is simple: their software will never again be installed on my hardware.

Tweet me @kidananubix if you like this post.