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From Dust, DRM and Why Ubisoft Can Only Blame Itself

Players are furious with the publisher over its handling of From Dust on PC. They should be.

Those three dots are Ubisoft's forum moderators. That wave is made up of Reddit commenters.

What the hell, Ubisoft? Just a few weeks ago, everything seemed so simple.

"Ubisoft lied to us. The DRM requires you to have a constant internet connection, when they explicitly said this would not be the case."

"The DRM on this ass nugget is hilarious. I suggest you all get the fucker taken off. Stop slaughtering this game Ubisoft."

These are just a few comments pulled off From Dust's Facebook page, as fans take Ubisoft to task.

Ubisoft's DRM policies for PC games are handled on a case-by-case basis. The rationale behind each decision is sometimes difficult to figure out, but at the end of the day, it's Ubisoft's right to swing one way or the other, just as it's the right of PC customers to complain about the policies Ubisoft enacts. And complain they have.

Up until today, we were under the impression From Dust wasn't supposed to have DRM. Just a few weeks back--my email from Ubisoft is dated July 28--the company said From Dust would be an exception to the always-on Ubisoft DRM rule.

"I can confirm that From Dust will not require online connection to play the single player campaign and challenges," said company spokesperson Alex Monney.

Hackers were able to take down Ubisoft's login servers, a move done out of DRM protest.

This would be different than Ubisoft's handling of another upcoming Ubisoft product coming out on the PC, Driver: San Francisco, which would require an Internet connection to boot up and a constant connection to keep playing. Vocal concerns over this type of DRM, principle aside, stem from an incident where hackers brought Ubisoft's authentication servers down, stopping some users from playing Assassin's Creed II. This DRM was then stripped in favor of an online login. After that, no online connection was required. This altered DRM found its way into newer PC releases like Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood.

Still, Ubisoft hadn't settled on a consistent policy. Maybe it considered From Dust special; a new game from Out of this World developer Eric Chahi isn't something players would be as likely to torrent. Ubisoft has consistently cited piracy and DRM's effectiveness as the driver behind its DRM policies.

"[We have seen] a clear reduction in piracy of our titles which required a persistent online connection, and from that point of view the requirement is a success," said an unnamed spokesperson to PC Gamer last month.

On one torrent search engine site alone, there are nearly 2,000 players downloading a "cracked" version of From Dust. Piracy would happen anyway, but it's easy to see how much of that would be fueled by From Dust unexpectedly having DRM.

It doesn't help that, by all indications, the PC version is coming up short in a bunch of other areas, too: the frame rate is bizarrely capped to 30 frames-per-second and the camera control hasn't been optimized for a mouse.

"We are aware of some confusion over the inclusion of DRM in the release of From Dust on PC," said the company in a statement on the official Ubisoft message boards.

That would be an...understatement.

"To prevent any on-going confusion we would like to clarify From Dust PC will release with DRM requiring a one-time only online activation," continues the statement. "After which you will be able to play the game offline."

It's sort of "one-time only."

"After you have signed in and the game is running, you no longer need the internet connection for that session and can disconnect and play offline you so wish," said the company.

The key phrase here is "for that session," whereas Ubisoft's original statement suggested "no sessions."

Besides the DRM issues, the PC version has a capped frame rate and poor mouse controls.

Technically, Ubisoft has some wiggle room from its original statement. You don't need to be online in order to play the singleplayer or challenge modes, but you do need to be online to access them at all. It's a frustrating splitting of hairs. Given Ubisoft's communication issues with DRM in the past, however, if that's what it really meant, it should have been more upfront from the very start. It's not like players aren't used to this stance before.

"When we first introduced the connection requirement last year, we stated that our decision to implement it into our PC titles would be considered on a case by case basis and this remains true," said Ubisoft representative Dominic DiSanti last month, when I asked about Driver: San Francisco's DRM. "We will assess each future PC title and strive to offer the best gameplay experience possible while also ensuring that we are protecting the amazing work and effort of our talented creative teams."

ROOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOAR!

PC gamers have a point when it comes to fears potential servers woes could prevent them from playing, but I'm sympathetic to the profound effect piracy's had on PC gaming, and I'm hard pressed to find too many instances where someone would find themselves without a connection.

That said, Ubisoft has no one to blame but themselves for this situation. It's not like its consumers haven't been actively asking for clarification on the DRM issue. The reason most of Reddit's gaming section has been flooded today with stories about From Dust's DRM is because the users feel lied to. If there's anything Ubisoft should have learned at this point, having gone through this combative cycle several times before, it's to be upfront. Consumers may push back, they may bitch to the heavens, but Ubisoft could say "We told you what to expect."

In that respect, Ubisoft failed.

Some users around the Internet are claiming Steam is offering refunds to upset users over the DRM. I've contacted Ubisoft about this but have not heard back. If you've managed to secure a refund, let me know, but when I submitted a customer service inquiry to Steam about the possibility of a From Dust refund, a representative basically told me it wasn't possible:

"As with most software products, we do not offer refunds or exchanges on games, DLC or in-game items purchased on our website or through the Steam Client. We will make an exception and refund preorders as long as the request is received prior to the release of the game. This only applies to preorders purchased from your account, preordered titles received or sent through the Steam Trading system cannot be refunded."

For now, PC users will continue raging. And while I think they're being a tad hyperbolic, they have a point.

Patrick Klepek on Google+
328 Comments
Edited by Rapid

When I heard about this on reddit, I was first surprised by Ubisoft's lying to Valve and its customers, but also not surprised.... (Oh Ubisoft thought people would not notice your poor wording?)

Posted by TwilitEnd656
@BigStupidFace said:

and the whole "you dont need a connection to play, you just need a connection to start playing" thing is laughably disrespectful. It's like a car park saying "free entry to car park!..... p.s. parking not free"



More like "Free entry to car park! Just park your car five blocks down and push it into a free space. We hope to see you again!" 
Either way, it's completely nonsensical and serves absolutely no purpose than to bend customers over and have their way with them.
Posted by Koshka

I'm not for this whole always online DRM thing usually, but why isn't everyone up in arms about something like Starcraft2? I love that game and play it constantly, but there wasn't this type of uproar about it. I really can't quite figure out what Blizzard does to make everyone not care and then Ubisoft does something similar (that's easy to hack around) and everyone is pissed off so bad.

I know they lied, but I'm saying with many of their games.

Posted by Shenanigans19

The mouse controls bother me the most about this game, bugs the hell out of me how the camera always wants to move around when the cursor is anywhere near the edge of the screen, can't seem to keep the camera still.  Played for about an hour and was getting annoyed enough that I just quit. I'll probably still try and finish it just need to get past the shit controls.
 
 DRM doesn't really bother me that much, I'm never without a connection. It is a bullshit move tho for them to lie about it. Just give it to us straight, you are going to get ripped a hell of a lot worse for being shady than just being honest.

Posted by darkjester74

Yeah refunds on Steam are pretty much a myth, save for cancelling pre-orders.
Posted by HeadNodShy

@Veektarius said:

This news post panders to the anti-DRM minority, where the issue of a required internet connection has literally no impact on the average user, and concerns about authentication server availability are conjured out of principle rather than likelihood. If you want to take Ubisoft to task, do it for the shoddy port, when more than one member of the staff explicitly said that PC was the place this game could really shine.

I just don't understand how artificial limits on how I can play a game are validated by people that wouldn't have bought the game regardless of DRM.

Posted by Boiglenoight

Always on DRM is fine until something goes wrong, on either end. At that point, the only people affected are those who paid for the game, while those who didn't continue to play the cracked version. That's not right, find another solution.

Posted by AnotherSomebody

I've said this a thousand times at this point, but the only people who are hurt by these awful DRM solutions are those that actually pay for the game. The way paying customers are able to enjoy and experience the game is greatly hindered every time a company decides to do this, but give it some time and the "swashbucklers" find a way around it and go about on their merry way. It may take some time to manifest itself, but I wouldn't be surprised if these draconian methods eventually inspire MORE piracy as opposed to hindering it, or least create a dramatic loss in sales. For example, I know specifically I will not be giving Blizzard any money for Diablo III so long as it requires a constant Internet connection to play. Does that mean I'll pirate it? Not necessarily, but I know I won't be buying it either.

Posted by HeadNodShy

@Jayzilla said:

I know that DRM stays on your comp always and I don't like that. My first game that I knew had DRM was Spore. What is the reason that people don't want the always on the internet form of DRM? How is it different than always having to have an internet connection for an MMO or multi-player(<--- real question)?

The difference being that there is no need for you to be connected to the internet once you've authenticated that this game was purchased (I'm even iffy on that). Once you've told the publisher that this a real copy, you shouldn't need to be connected in a single-player game. People that live in rural areas or just have bad internet (drops in and out intermittently) will get booted out of games like AC II. Allegedly that changed with an update but every time a story like this comes out it makes me less likely to buy their game.

If you go to a cottage or go on a trip (plane, car) and you have no internet, you won't be able to play From Dust because it needs to talk to Ubisoft first. That's the problem with that scheme.

Posted by Diablos1125

This is all kinds of gross

Edited by atomic_dumpling
@Shuborno said:

If you look at the Steam Top Sellers right now, From Dust is sitting right at the top.

I suspect most of these people were lured into preordering the game. Also, there was/is a nifty TF2 hat - though people who buy games mainly for TF2 items are plain idiots anyway.
Posted by HeadNodShy

@AnotherSomebody: I hope you didn't buy Starcraft 2 then.

Posted by CaptainFish

Patrick, in the paragraph next to the ROOOOAR image (Beginning with: "PC Gamers have a point"), you ended with, "with a connection" when I think you meant "without a connection".

Posted by foggel

Now I don't even want the 360 version. Buying this game at all would be supporting these lies.

Posted by HeadNodShy

@Koshka: I wish I knew. I know I was unhappy and didn't buy the game because of it.

I guess it could be similar to the EA/Valve thing where Valve could be wrong but they have so much goodwill from the last decade that EA can't do anything "right".

Posted by mnzy
@Jayzilla said:
I know that DRM stays on your comp always and I don't like that. My first game that I knew had DRM was Spore. What is the reason that people don't want the always on the internet form of DRM? How is it different than always having to have an internet connection for an MMO or multi-player(<--- real question)?
I think part of it is that DRM takes away rights from your posession, the game you bought.
My Quake 3 CD will probably work in 20 years on some machine. I own that forever.
These authentification services will be gone and you're fucked.
Posted by Napalm

I support piracy on a per-game basis. 
 
Pirate a Ubisoft game today and enjoy the experience without the bullshit!

Posted by Nekroskop

It's like they don't want PC sales at all. Blaming it on piracy*pfft*. Blow it out your ass, Ubi.

Posted by Toxeia

I understand the point of DRM. I sympathize with publishers and developers who lose money because of people who pirate their games. I get it, I really do Ubisoft. Here's the problem though... it only matters to people who buy the product legally. The Ubisoft Launcher that's used to connect to the internet can be easily circumvented.

The only way I can see piracy being halted (honestly, at best it would be delayed) is to require an always-on connection to a server that actually serves the gameplay. In-browser applications where access to actual game files is restricted is the only way to effectively combat it. Even then it's only a matter of time until someone hacks the server, grabs the game files, and tosses together a home brew server for the game letting people run the game via local host.

If you look at it from the other side though, I firmly believe that if you pirate a game there's an extremely slim chance you would have ever bought the game. Piracy's a symptom of people not having income. Back in highschool EVERYONE was pirating music, games, programs. Once they get out into the work force suddenly they buy everything they want to use. Part of it is they want to support the company that produces a product they deem worthy of using. The other part is buying a license of legal copy of a product is supposed to be easier to use. You don't need to deal with cracking the copy-protection.

In the end DRM only serves to alienate the demographic who supports the game and can/is a motivating factor in piracy.

Posted by PJ

There's a simple solution. Buy the game(as you should) and then crack it it the alwasy on DRM bothers you.

I personally don't see a problem with doing so since you've already payed for the game.

Or there's an even simpler solution. Buy the games on a console if you have one.

Shit like this is what comes with PC gaming. PC gaming is a real shitfest to be honest. I really dont blame the companys for putting some kind of DRM on their games since the extreme majority will pirate the game on PC. You can look at it from a different p.o.w. aswell. Since the game is going to be pirated anyway theres no need for DRM and thereby not inconvenience the people that bought the game. I can see the logic in borh arguments and neather is better then the other. Well the second argument is more consumer friendly but the people investing in the company thats making the game won't see it that way and that's the real problem.

DRM in PC games are more of a statement then someting to protect the games from being stolen. In the history of PCs there has been not one game that has been pirate proof and there never will be. The people cracking the games are far greater in number and most likely intelligence then the people making the DRM-

And I for one like to see companys keep trying with DRM because the day they stop is the day they stop supporting PCs as a gaming platform. And nobody wan't that.

Edited by Ghostiet

About the refunds, it might be possible - didn't Steam offer refunds after the whole GTA4 bullshit?

Also, the best part? Ubisoft already came up with a reasonable idea to battle some form of piracy in The Forgotten Sands - the game checks every once and a while the validity of your copy and if it turns out something in the .exe or other files doesn't match up, the game makes a switch somewhere in the game stop working or changing the timing in such a way it's impossible for you to finish. In a completely random point of the game, so you can play it up to the very end and it turns out the last door can't be opened.

Posted by Irvandus
@pat4327 said:
I agrer with Patrick completely. Ubisoft has a right to put DRM on their games, but they should never lie about it.
I also agrer it's realy messed up that they lied about it. I would have been fine if it had drm and they said so but because of this I'm not going to get it.
Posted by mrangryface

TBH it comes down to this for me. Its not about the constant connection to the internet- that's ..well I KNOW im connected to the internet all the time, reliably. HOWEVER, I can only count on a few companies to provide the level of service REQUIRED to ensure this kind of DRM will not get in the way of me playing the game (STEAM/Blizzard).

So Diablo III requiring this stuff? meh- Blizzard is good for it. Ubisoft or EA? not so much from my experience.

Posted by jay35

http://www.rockpapershotgun.com/2011/08/18/ubisoft-edits-forum-keeps-from-dust-drm/
UbiSoft are liars and hypocrites. Boycott their games. It helps that most of them suck anyway.

Posted by Skanker
@mbr said:
@Skanker said:
I'm surprised people on Reddit were able to find the time to complain about From Dust in between all their karma-whoring posts.   "Look what I just found in the attic/basement""Anybody else remember this game that everybody played?""Look what I/my significant other/my child just made!"  Holy moly what a terrible place.
Get out.
You first.
Posted by Blubba

I hate it that people are saying that they won't buy the game just because it's published by Ubisoft. I'm sure the men and women who actually made the game never wanted this DRM bullshit either!

Posted by bhhawks78

This is the FOURTH game I would have bought at full price if Ubisoft DRM wasn't such bullshit.

Now I will only buy their pc games when they have sub 5$ steam sale, and console games used/gamefly ONLY.

Making sure I give them the minimum amount of money short of piracy.

Funniest part is DRM like this is what has caused my old roommate to stop buying games altogether and just pirate everything. Honestly I'm 1/2 steps away from joining him.

Posted by spilledmilkfactory

Dick move, Ubisoft. I hope they don't pull this kind of crap with Might and Magic Heroes VI

Posted by Rattle618

I love how these assholes manage only to screw with the people that pay for their games, cause: 
 

 
Take a hint publishers, this kind of DRM maneuvering does not work.
Posted by DiGiTaL_SiN

RAWR

Posted by Ghostiet
@Rattle618 said:
I love how these assholes manage only to screw with the people that pay for their games, cause: 
 
 Take a hint publishers, this kind of DRM maneuvering does not work.
Exactly, I remember maybe one game when it took a bit longer - PoP: The Two Thrones. And it could be bypassed if you had an nForce motherboard. Even AC2 relented after two weeks tops.
Posted by Mumrik
@PJ said:
Shit like this is what comes with PC gaming. PC gaming is a real shitfest to be honest. 
 

Huh? PC gaming is usually a 100% trouble free experience for me outside of a few smaller indie games here and there (Frozen Synapse devs should be ashamed). 

As for people complaining about this - I sympatise with them. Between misleading the consumers and then dropping in some of the worst DRM out there AND doing what sounds like a horrible port Ubisoft has lost a sale with me. This game screams for mouse controls so I don't want it on my 360 and now I don't want it on my PC either.
 
Let's not make this about piracy. Piracy is a very complex issue both in principle and in a platform comparative perspective. There's a shocking amount of especially 360 torrents going (but also Wii and PS3), so between that and used game sales I think the console side has the same caliber of problem with lost sales - thus the online pass stuff.
Posted by Elusionar

I played the game 1 day before it was out at one of my friends,(I am prety sure that he had a ofline pirated version) 
 
I dont like DRM but it still not quite as bad as Starforge.
Posted by Vextroid

I'm still going to get this, 99% of the time I'm connected to the internet and with my hardware (at least with the graphics card) I wouldn't have reached over 40 let alone 60FPS.

But it DOES suck that they lied about the DRM and the game can't be tweaked to look and play better with those with beefier rigs. Also no decent mouse support? Did Ubisoft get the RE4 PC porting team again?

Posted by Protonguy

What a bunch of asshats.

Posted by Mumrik
@Veektarius said:
This news post panders to the anti-DRM minority, where the issue of a required internet connection has literally no impact on the average user, and concerns about authentication server availability are conjured out of principle rather than likelihood.  If you want to take Ubisoft to task, do it for the shoddy port, when more than one member of the staff explicitly said that PC was the place this game could really shine.
The more people play on laptops instead of desktops, the more they play without internet or with unstable wifi connections.
Posted by atomic_dumpling
@PJ said:

Buy the game(as you should) and then crack it it the alwasy on DRM bothers you.

Bad idea, here is a better one: Don't buy this game. Don't pirate this game. Don't crack this game. It is as simple as that.
Posted by Scotto

I'm actually disappointed that I bought the 360 version a couple of weeks ago, because now I'd rather they not have my money for this game on principle.

DRM is a failed concept. Completely failed. The fact that a cracked version of From Dust is on the torrents already, is a testament to that fact.

This game, like all others, is following the usual storyline for DRM-protected games - the actual paying customers are encumbered with shitty restrictions that continue to infringe on the definition of what "owning" something should actually mean, and the pirates enjoy no such problems.

The fact that they lied about this DRM, and have now tackily tried to retcon history to make it seem like they never said what they originally said, just makes it worse. They have even subsequently had the stones to say that people may have been "confused" about what the DRM restrictions were going to be.

- Scott

Posted by barinelg

You would think that companies would know to be upfront about stuff like this. Setting up a situation that basically lies to your consumer will only cause more headaches and fuel more piracy of the title in question. 
 
Shot themselves in the foot with a bazooka.

Posted by KoolAid

1: I was talking to someone who was playing this game on the PC. I ask him if he liked it despite all the problems I keep hearing about. He asked what problems? When I said always online DRM, he laughed and said this was a cracked copy. it was cracked over a week ago. I guess this is not that effective....

2: So this always online DRM just means you have to login to play? I was under the impression that you needed a constant internet connection that was always checking back with the severer. If this isn't the case, then gamers are splitting hairs just as much in their complaints that you have to be "always online". Just to be clear though, having to login to play single player still sucks balls.

3: This article is superior in every way to the corresponding article on Kotaku. It's better written and more informative. The Kotaku article is just a whinny forum post with better production values.

Posted by Yanngc33

Ubisoft fucking sucks, apart from Assassin's creed and some good downloadable games, they specialize in shovelware wii games now.
Also, HOW THE FUCK DO YOU MESS UP MOUSE CONTROLS. Point and click, drag and drop, mouse at the edge of the screen, camera moves.
Come on Ubisoft, i want to love you but you're making it real hard

Posted by PTZen

Not to mention the god awful port it is... Locked framerate, no graphics options, no anti-aliasing, screen tearing everywhere, upscaled assets, keyboard and mouse controls are horrible.

I'm sure as hell never pre-ordering any Ubisoft game from now on. I'll just wait and see how it is before purchase

Posted by MisterMouse

bahh DRM...  and it doesn't sound like Ubisoft is handling the problem well.

Posted by louiedog

Point taken, Ubisoft. Now we know to never pre-order anything you publish because you lie to make things look more favorable. 
 
This DRM doesn't have any impact on me. There aren't any situations where I play games offline and if I did I'd make sure to have a copy of the game's crack on my hard drive just in case. I have no qualms about cracking a game that I purchased just so that I can play it. Still, who knows what other surprises Ubisoft might throw in, so I'll wait for copies to be in the hands of people before I even think about buying a Ubisoft product on the PC.

Posted by Jimi

My internet connection can be real shitty. Before the game came out I checked that there would be none of this DRM on it and found that it would have a one time activation which is fine so I preordered it on steam. It's safe to say that I am never going to preorder a ubisoft game again.

Posted by GenghisJohn

Why do companies even bother with PC games anymore?

Posted by vonFlampanker
@Napalm I think it was nice of Ubi to make the game not worth pirating due to framerate and controls. One less thing on the radar.
Posted by TheHBK

It doesn't help the game is a crappy ass port.

Posted by Vitor

@GenghisJohn said:

Why do companies even bother with PC games anymore?

Because PC exclusive games like SC2 can still sell in the millions.

It's only poorly ported multiplatform games that tend to not sell as well as they feel unnatural on a KB/M setup - even plugging in a 360 pad doesn't help. Also, PC game sales being only 5-10% of total multiplatform sales are BS as that doesn't take into account Steam and other digital outlets.

Valve makes a killing on that service and many Indie devs do too. The Super Meat Boy and Darwinia teams have said they had an awful experience with XBLA, and made far more money from the PC steam version.

Posted by SpunkyJunky

I have no problem with DRM in principle, but in practice this kind of DRM bugs me for several reasons: 
 
1. Unreliable servers. No server for anything is ever 100% secure. No exceptions. Downtime is an inevitable event, due to required maintenance or otherwise.
 
2. What about people wanting to play this in the future? What if say, 10 years on, somebody wants to dig up a game with this type of DRM, just for old time's sake, and find that the servers were shut down and could not play it? You are cutting off future generations who may want to try this. 
 
3. Not everyone has internet access 100% of the time. It is a bad assumption on the part of the dev/publisher. What if I was up on a trip to the cottage and wanted to play for a bit? What if I lived in an area where bandwidth is capped really small and/or the connection spotty? This may be a rare event for most of us, but they are scaring off some fans who would have gotten it otherwise.