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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.

328 Comments
Posted by frytup

I gave it a pass on Xbox because I thought it would be better with a mouse. At this point, I think I'll just give it a pass entirely.

Oh, well. Deus Ex comes out tomorrow anyway.

Posted by DJMattB241

Steam refunded my purchase!

Thank you for contacting Steam Support.

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.

As a one-time customer service gesture we can issue you store credit for the amount of your purchase into your Steam Wallet. The credit will also remove the title or item from your account.

Please confirm that you would like us to proceed with this credit.

Posted by Lind_L_Taylor

Man. Certainly a lot of vitriol.  I can understand no Internet/no game anger, but
is that all?  I usually don't give two shits if DRM is there are not, unless it is the
whole Internet connectivity thing (but even then I don't get worked up).

Posted by rockhardalibi

Was waiting for the steam release of this instead of 360. But if this is how they treat a game that seems so well suited to pc controls, the answer is not to buy at all. Just going over to a console to play only reinforces thier decision. And I'm not interested in helping to kill pc gaming. I'd love to support the devs but in this case, the publisher has done the damage.

Posted by Musou

I emaild Ubisoft asking for a refund (since Steam denied it) and they denied it too. BUT I just received another email saying that in a couple weeks they'll release a patch taking the always online DRM off the game. Let's hope they're not lying, again.

Posted by Sarkhan

I still don't undertand as in, people payed for the game. thay play at home and internet is...(for "everybody") and the people that whine.

Posted by Tuggah

My opinions of Ubisoft and From Dust have not changed one bit. I've got an Internet, yo.

Posted by Sarkhan

@Tuggah said:

My opinions of Ubisoft and From Dust have not changed one bit. I've got an Internet, yo.

This x100%

Posted by Sooty

From Dust you say? More like...From Torrent.
 
YEAHHHHHH.

Posted by SeriouslyNow

Eric Chahi just needs to go full on Indie.

Posted by redlitez76

ubisoft is a strange company.

Posted by EgoCheck616

@sofacitysweetheart said:

Didn't PC gamers eff themselves over by pirating all those games in the first place? Seeing these people trying to act sanctimonious is just sad.

Tell that to all of the millions of dollars made on Steam / GoG / Battle.net.

Go back to your hole.

Edited by 234r2we232
@EgoCheck616 said:

@sofacitysweetheart said:

Didn't PC gamers eff themselves over by pirating all those games in the first place? Seeing these people trying to act sanctimonious is just sad.

Tell that to all of the millions of dollars made on Steam / GoG / Battle.net.

Go back to your hole.

Exploiting the socially crippled is hardly a skill to be proud of :P
Posted by Onno10

Which pc gamers don't have permanent internet anyway, their internet is good enough to pirate all those vidya games, so it's just thiefs looking for petty excuses, again...

Posted by HolytheGoalie

@Onno10: No, the ones that don't have an internet connection CAN'T pirate games, therefore they would be forced to pay for an actual copy, except they wouldn't be able to play it because they DON'T HAVE INTERNET.

Posted by Burr

"...I'm sympathetic to the profound effect piracy's had on PC gaming..." 
 
The fact that a company like Ubi is willing to deal with PR nightmares like this just shows how desperate they are to try and at least slow down piracy. Thieves are the ones who got us here, we have to remember that. That being said, I won't buy the game because it's another shitty multiplat, not because of the DRM.

Posted by ocdog45

IMO thats what you all get for believing they would stick to their word.
Posted by bortx

Ubisoft is so stupid. Instead of paying for their crippled product I went and got the pirated version that works fine off-line. Its amazing how they are giving the pirates the upper hand by allowing them to offer a superior product for free. This DRM crap is actually driving sales away and works in reverse of their intended outcome. How could they not see this?

Posted by Ricola

Have stayed away from Ubisoft things for along time and i will continue to do so.

Posted by cassus

The shitty thing about UBI is that they have no idea what they are selling. They are selling somewhat of an indie title, made by a dude who has more or less a cult status with older gamers. We will pay for this game, there is no reason to DRM the fuck out of it. The loyalty around inexpensive games made with love is huge compared to soulless gigantic games that no one really cares about other than "it's the next one of those games, they make a trillion bucks, I'll just pirate it". You have something special here, UBI, don't fucking ruin it for everyone by being paranoid asshats.

Posted by Aranel
@Ricola said:

Have stayed away from Ubisoft things for along time and i will continue to do so.

Same, I go with devs that don't punish people for buying their products.
Posted by BiG_Weasel

And people want to know why PC gamers pirate games.  This is why, people.

Posted by Nettacki
@BiG_Weasel said:
And people want to know why PC gamers pirate games.  This is why, people.
Which in turn led to the making of these DRM schemes in the first place. Which led to even more pirating. 
 
Admit it: it's a vicious cycle that the pirates started.
Posted by Nettacki
@EgoCheck616 said:

@sofacitysweetheart said:

Didn't PC gamers eff themselves over by pirating all those games in the first place? Seeing these people trying to act sanctimonious is just sad.

Tell that to all of the millions of dollars made on Steam / GoG / Battle.net.

Go back to your hole.

Hey now, don't ignore all that money and sales lost to piracy. It's still a lot lost, and we only have those pirates to blame.
Posted by BiG_Weasel

The thing about it is, I've never seen a DRM that couldn't be hacked and then the software pirated.  Think of it as locking your car at night.  If someone wants your stereo, they'll smash the window in to get it anyway.  To me, just leave the car unlocked and let them have it.  DRM, like door locks, only keeps the honest people honest- it doesn't prevent piracy.

Posted by Sooty
@Nettacki said:
@EgoCheck616 said:

@sofacitysweetheart said:

Didn't PC gamers eff themselves over by pirating all those games in the first place? Seeing these people trying to act sanctimonious is just sad.

Tell that to all of the millions of dollars made on Steam / GoG / Battle.net.

Go back to your hole.

Hey now, don't ignore all that money and sales lost to piracy. It's still a lot lost, and we only have those pirates to blame.
I feel it's important to remember that piracy figures can never be related to sales lost 1:1.
 
In some countries it costs like $90+ for a PC game I believe. Fuck that.
 
Fortunately I don't live in one of those.
Posted by Nettacki
@Ygg said:
@Nettacki said:
@EgoCheck616 said:

@sofacitysweetheart said:

Didn't PC gamers eff themselves over by pirating all those games in the first place? Seeing these people trying to act sanctimonious is just sad.

Tell that to all of the millions of dollars made on Steam / GoG / Battle.net.

Go back to your hole.

Hey now, don't ignore all that money and sales lost to piracy. It's still a lot lost, and we only have those pirates to blame.
I feel it's important to remember that piracy figures can never be related to sales lost 1:1.  In some countries it costs like $90+ for a PC game I believe. Fuck that.  Fortunately I don't live in one of those.
That may be true, but in the end, it's still lost sales, even if it's not exactly 1:1. At the very least, it's some lost amount of income for every sold copy.
Posted by JohnZimmerman

i understand the need for DRM, but DO NOT punish those of us who bought the game.