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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
Posted by patrickklepek
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.

Staff
Posted by BlueKranz

I was really looking forward to the PC release as much as you guys were, but I hear nothing but negative comments about the PC port of From Dust. :( Is it really this bad to cause all of this kerfuffle?

Edited by brianbeatdown

Ubisoft must really hate their paying customers. The ONLY people it affects are those who pay. It doesn't prevent piracy at all.

Posted by SomeJerk

The PC port of From Dust is locked to 30 frames per second.

Just sayin'.

Posted by LJO1989

Yeah I think I'll just pick up the 360 version

Posted by Funkydupe

If all PR is good PR, Ubisoft must be doing extremely well. If not.. then.. oh man.

Online
Posted by PatVB

I agrer with Patrick completely. Ubisoft has a right to put DRM on their games, but they should never lie about it.

Posted by JoeyRavn

The saddest part of these aggressive DRM schemes is that they are more hurtful to the legal user than to the pirate. From Dust has been "available" for download on all of the well-known torrent trackers and P2P sharing sites for days now, free of the problems Ubisoft DRM gives.

Posted by Demoskinos

Hey, for the icing on the cake in all of this the TF2 preorder hat was even shitty!

Posted by Typographenia

Nice write-up, Patrick. I was looking forward to this title, but Ubi just continues to kick buyers in the back of the knees. It's unfortunate that the dev ends up being caught in the crossfire because of this.

Edited by Sooty
@SomeJerk said:

The PC port of From Dust is locked to 30 frames per second.

Just sayin'.

That doesn't really bother me in a game like this. It would annoy me greatly if it was an FPS, though.
 
I'm more annoyed about the DRM and apparently poor mouse controls. Bah.
 
and this DRM really is awful. I couldn't play co-op Conviction one evening because the servers went down. That and we had to mess around with port forwarding just to connect to their pointless fucking servers.
Posted by DaBuddaDa

The cranked out, no effort, capped at 30fps, anaglog stick emulating mouse movement, shit-on-you-fans PC "port" is the real injustice here.

Posted by phrosnite

Ubisoft will never learn. Just f-ing stop making PC versions of the games! Just stop! I don't want your half-assed ports!

Posted by Curufinwe

I wonder if this puts Jeff off from getting the PC version.

Posted by ValiantGrizzly

Ubisoft lied, and that's obviously an asshole move. But what I don't get is the outrage at always-online DRM (remember the Diablo III news a while back?). Isn't everyone who plays video games pretty much always connected to the internet? I mean, you surely are if you're playing From Dust, which is a digitally distributed game. It honestly feels like whining over nothing. What's wrong with being connected to the internet? I'm connected to the internet right now. It feels good.
 
Bad mouse controls and a capped framerate, however, those are bad things. Sounds like I'll be playing it on PS3, if I ever do at all.

Posted by crusader8463

A PC game made by Ubisoft that fucks over the consumer? I'm shocked and amazed! Truly! Words can't describe my surprise at this Revelation!

Posted by BigChief

Wow, I was interested in the PC version for this, but no thank you. If there's one thing I like more than being treated like a criminal by my own games, it's being lied to about it.

Posted by Tebbit

Review consensus: "From Dust is a fun title, but better controls would be a huge advantage. This is a game that would benefit from mouse control.

Ubisoft, two days from launch: "Hey, did you guys rip all the data from the 360 version of the game, and send it to Valve? Great!"

Edited by Carneous

"[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,"

I wonder if they are seeing increased sales as a result? If not, is it really worth alienating legitimate consumers?

Posted by Zippedbinders

This whole situation just reaffirms why I don't buy Ubisoft games, they simply don't know how to treat the games they have or the people who want to play them with any form of respect

Posted by SpicyRichter

So I can't play this during my 15 hour flight to Japan? Bummer

Posted by dyong

Okay Ubisoft, I've had enough. I'm never buying any of their games ever again. From my point of view, they don't make games anymore, just DRM!

Posted by devilzrule27

DRM doesn't bother me really.

Posted by Veektarius

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.

Posted by sirdesmond

I just do not get so much of the stuff that these larger game publishers do. Why not just making it clear from the get go exactly how it was working, or better yet, why not just leave this type of DRM out because it is a low cost game that is being distributed mostly through Steam to begin with (and people will still and have still pirated it)?

Oh well, I got it on 360 and enjoyed it there. I just hate seeing the PC always getting hosed.

Posted by Ooame

I'm done with Ubisoft, i haven't bought a game from them in ages because of this reason and i bought From Dust believing that it wouldn't have this horrible DRM.

Posted by smellylettuce

I'm hoping all of this will send them a message about how PR should operate. As it is, they appear to be bumbling around with no direction and no idea of what they're doing. Much like an episode of the Three Stooges where they work for a game publisher and one guy is in charge of PR another in charge of shipping and release logistics and the other pissing willy-nilly on commuter jets (sorry French people). Oh the humanity!!

Posted by Jaqen_HGhar

I don't care about the DRM at all, as I have never had an issue with any DRM whatsoever. I know why I should hate it, but I am not going to stop buying games I want in order to "vote with my wallet" and get this kind of DRM out of games.

I am disappointed in the port however, due to the lack of graphics options, FPS cap and just marginally better controls. You get used to it, but then I could have gotten used to using a gamepad instead and gotten it on 360. At least there you got achievements to lengthen the game.

That being said, I liked playing it, and had a lot of fun on the final level. Which I am probably going to load up now and then to mess around in.

Posted by crusader8463
@digitalsea87: Lots of people game on Laptops and in places that they don't have access to a stable connection, if one at all. Some other people, like myself, have access to shitty ISPs that have intermittent internet that comes and goes on a whim. When I'm in the middle of single player game and have all my work thrown out the window because of some stupid DRM that does absolutely nothing but make playing the game a pain in the ass for me I get mad and I refuse to play games that use it.
 
If this DRM actually stopped piracy then sure, I can see them making a case of putting it on even if the above reasons fuck over a ton of people, but the fact is it doesn't do anything but piss off and annoy people that buy the game legitimately. The guy on piratebay.org is just going to download the cracked version and never have to deal with any of that crap and have a better game experience then the guy that bought it legitimately.
 
That's not even bringing up what happens in several years time when they shut down the servers to support the game, and we are now all stuck with a broken game that won't even start.
Posted by ShockD

...
Damn shame.

Posted by shinluis

Oh man, I don't even care anyomre. I bought splinter cell for my Mac and had SO MANY problems with ubisoft's anti piracy shenanigans, some lame-ass emails who didn't solve a things and weeks without a single response from them before I could play it. By the time everything got solved, I didn't even wanted to play the single player anymore. Tried to play co-opand then guess what, not working either. It gave me such a headache that I will actively not buy anything Ubisoft releases for pc/mac anymore, its just so much trouble, so silly, and so idiotic of them to do it. Ubisoft can make great titles and distribute some very good games but.. just.. its not worth the trouble.

Posted by MideonNViscera

I'm gonna be honest here. I don't give a shit about this game, but if I did, I wouldn't be crying over this shit either. I have lots of games that while I could play them with no internet, I sure as hell never would. How often does your internet go down?

Edited by skrutop

I'm glad to see how vicious the fanbase, and this article, are towards Ubisoft. The way that Ubisoft handles DRM reeks of the type of groupthink that occurs in larger organizations. I work in a large organization at a huge corporation, so I understand how stupid decisions get made when multiple groups get involved in making them. It's aggravating for my customers when they have to deal with solutions that don't fit their needs, nor really provide any value to ourselves either.

Posted by Solemn

Ubisoft never fails to ram potentially good PC games into the fucking ground. 

Posted by TheVideoHustler

This is America and Ubisoft knows this. They can do shit like this but we'll still by their games. So why should they give a fuck

Posted by Marz

It's a shame that this is a fairly crappy port of what looked to be a game primed to take advantage of PC hardware and control scheme.   Glad i went with Bastion this week instead.

Posted by Abigailnn

:(

i was considering buying this game too

Edited by BigStupidFace

People will always find ways to crack games and there will always be people who want to download these games for free. If for whatever reason the process required to play for free becomes too difficult, the pirates aren't gonna go "aww gee, I better buy it then" they're just not going to bother playing it.

I would be interested to see if the "clear reduction in piracy" of their titles matches a clear reduction in people buying their titles.

Edit: 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"

Posted by patrick
@digitalsea87 said:
Ubisoft lied, and that's obviously an asshole move. But what I don't get is the outrage at always-online DRM (remember the Diablo III news a while back?). Isn't everyone who plays video games pretty much always connected to the internet? I mean, you surely are if you're playing From Dust, which is a digitally distributed game. It honestly feels like whining over nothing. What's wrong with being connected to the internet? I'm connected to the internet right now. It feels good. Bad mouse controls and a capped framerate, however, those are bad things. Sounds like I'll be playing it on PS3, if I ever do at all.
Steam doesn't require a constant connection and can be used off line as is the case with most of the digitally distributed games there. 
 
There are some upfront problems with it in that there are people that don't have a reliable connection. Thanks to my old router, my connection cuts off whenever the microwave goes on. This in turn gives a concrete advantage to people who pirate or crack their copies. There's also a matter of principle that you could compare to a government constantly monitoring your activity. Obviously if you had nothing to hide, there wouldn't be a problem, regardless you'd still take issue since it feels like an overstepping of boundaries.
Posted by DarthB

Fuck. After playing the demo on 360 I was really looking forward to how this game turned out on PC because this game seems like a perfect fit for a mouse controls. Damnit all to hell!!!!

Posted by dezm0nd

I am gonna aquire a power-up, return it to my village and dance to keep the evil DRM at bay. But seriously, Ubi Soft are numpties when it comes to PC gaming.

Posted by Skanker

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.

Posted by Spekingur

Ubisoft - not run by gamers for gamers.

An important part of development is asking the question "What do I, as a gamer, want?" rather than "What do I, as a developer/publisher/lawyer, want?" - another important part, naturally, is to come up with the right answer.

Posted by Nux

Well that sucks.

Posted by Shuborno

Ubisoft will learn nothing from this.

Why? Because despite this DRM, customers will still buy the product.

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

Posted by MuttersomeTaxicab

No complaints here. I eyeballed From Dust and Bastion.

I chose Bastion and won in spades.

Then I picked up Avadon.

Later, maybe I'll boot up Dosbox and play some Populous.

Posted by Jayzilla

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)?

Posted by mbr
@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.
Posted by Origina1Penguin

That is really shitty on Ubisoft's part to lie about it. I completely understand the anger. Online-only, even just for a few seconds to verify, takes away freedom from players and makes laptop gaming frustrating or even impossible.

That said, I enjoyed the PC version of From Dust. It provides full camera control (360 only has two angles and zoom levels) and controls more precisely that the 360 version. Anyone complaining about the controls don't know what they're talking about. I am severely disappointed in the lack of graphics options, but the game looks good and runs without hiccups. I also only had to log into uPlay one time and then it remembers you. The uPlay thing works much like The Sims 3 launcher so you basically launch a launcher through Steam, but it's super quick.