EA.com's Editor In Chief Attacks DRM; Ubisoft Hits New Low

We'd like to begin our coverage of the latest DRM idiocy in gaming by apologizing to Ubisoft. After reading about some of EA's recent bright ideas and the constant connection EA's Command and Conquer: Tiberian Twilight requires in order to play the single-player game, we realized we'd unfairly painted Ubisoft as being uniquely stupid, out-of-touch, and clueless. With EA on board, this constant-connection concept is something we gamers need to worry about and vote against financially.

The one great thing about Ubisoft is that the company doesn't sit on its laurels. It wasn't enough to pioneer invasive DRM in single-player games; Ubisoft now requires a constant connection in single-player game demos. I downloaded and installed the Settlers 7 demo yesterday, patched it up today, and ran it, only to encounter the following error: "An internet connection is required to play this game. Failed to connect to the Ubisoft master servers. Please verify that your internet connection is functional and try again."

The Settlers 7 Demo is a 2.6GB download of Screw You

Not only was my Internet connection functional, Windows Firewall was disabled, Ubisoft's launcher was set as an exception *anyway* (just in case something snafu'd), and I confirmed that my system was configured to run in my router's DMZ. There's literally no firewall whatsoever sitting between my rig and the Ubisoft servers, but the demo can't connect.

We're (nearly) past the point of mockery. DRM schemes that attach to a commercial product can at least be marginally defended on the grounds that they exist to safeguard a company's financial investment. Demos may be an investment in the sense that they take resources to create, but the entire purpose of a trial product is to address the legitimate desire of consumers to try before they buy. To that end, it's in the best interests of the company to make trial versions available to anyone who wants one. Potential customers who can't access the demo of a product due to malfunctioning DRM systems certainly aren't going to drop real money for a broken program. In this sense, I suppose Ubisoft is doing gamers a favor by showing them just how poorly the authentication system functions.

EA's DRM Drives EA.com Editor Batty

It's absolutely beautiful right up to the point you're kicked to desktop.

If you've payed attention to computer games much over the past 20 years you should remember Jeff Green. Green helmed Computer Gaming World for nearly a decade; he's currently the editor-in-chief for EA.com. He took some time recently to play Command and Conquer: Tiberian Twilight, and tweeted the following about his experience (in chronological order.)

  • "Booted twice--and progress lost--on my single-player C&C4 game because my DSL connection blinked. DRM fail. We need new solutions."
  • "Yeah, Steam's ability to have off-line play is the clear, better model when talking about SP games."
  • "However, C&C4 experiments w/what a "single-player game" is--given it's constantly uploading progress/stats for unlocks. It's complicated....I agree with what you guys are saying. A better solution would be to cache progress/stats for upload later."
  • "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."
  • "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."
  • "The story is fun, the gameplay is interesting and different at least--but if you suffer from shaky/unreliable DSL--you've been warned... the online connection killed it for me personally--my router is too shaky. :( Not a fan of this scheme."

Jeff is one of the older salts around in PC gaming and he's not known for being a hothead or rushing to conclusions. An intermittant web connection is bearable if you're surfing the 'Net or even watching video (provided you let it buffer first). The fact that a dodgy connection makes games unplayable and kills the fun from advancing is further proof that players that encounter these sorts of issues don't suffer through it ad nauseam; sooner or later they just plain quit.