Tag Archives | Ubisoft

Hey Ubisoft, Stop Messing With PC Gamers

Ubisoft already uses some of the worst digital rights management for its PC games, at times requiring a steady Internet connection to play, but this week the publisher made things worse with mixed messages to players.

PC gamers are upset with Ubisoft over its treatment of From Dust, a strategy game that launched last month for the Xbox 360 and this week for PC. On its forums, Ubisoft first said that the game wouldn’t require an online connection for each play session, as long as players signed in once after installing the game. But then, Ubisoft removed that forum post, and instead said players would have to connect to Ubisoft servers every time they fired up the game.

From Dust players are also reporting crashes, a lack of graphical customization settings and a limited frame rate of 30 frames per second, Rock Paper Shotgun reports. A Ubisoft forum moderator is telling players that they can pursue refunds.

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Ubisoft Joins the Used Game Punishment Party

The act of charging $10 to play a used video game online is slowly spreading through the video game industry, with Ubisoft becoming the latest publisher to sign on.

Starting with Driver: San Francisco, Ubisoft will require a voucher, cutely called a “Uplay Passport,” to play its most popular new console games online. One voucher is included with each new copy of the game. Buyers of used games will have to pay $10 for a new voucher.

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We Dare: The Brilliance of Horrible Marketing

I don’t know if my Twitter feed is a good indicator of something going viral, but right now it’s lit up with people talking about We Dare, a Wii and Playstation Move party game that Ubisoft describes as “fun and flirty” and “sometimes kinky.”

A trailer for the game lives up to the creepy concept: Two guys and two girls huddle in front of the TV and play a bunch of mini-games with a sexual bent. In one instance, two partners gnaw at the base of a dangling controller to mimic waterless bobbing for apples. In another, one of the girls bends over her partner’s lap for a spanking, Wii Remote tucked into the backside of her skirts. All the while, the actors giggle with convincing awkwardness. (The trailer is embedded after the jump to protect the innocent.)

But here’s the rub: We Dare was announced a month ago, and the Internet barely noticed. Ubisoft’s disaster of a trailer has brought far more attention to the game than the concept itself.

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No More Xbox 360, PS3 Manuals for Ubisoft

It’s an old joke in video game culture — or perhaps culture in general — that nobody reads the instruction manuals. Realizing this, Ubisoft announced that it will stop including printed manuals with its games for Xbox 360 and Playstation 3.

The move is ostensibly an attempt to go green while reducing production costs. Along with scrapping the manuals, Ubisoft says it’ll start shipping games in polypropylene cases made only of recycled materials, reports CNet.

I don’t care much about any of that. To me, the move is more of an acknowledgement that the way we learn to play video games has drastically changed since the advent of home gaming consoles.

As a kid, I relished reading those little staple-bound booklets. You never knew what you’d find in there. The Super Mario Bros. manual revealed “secret tricks” — basically, chain-stomping Goombas and using Koopa shells to take out surrounding foes — and the Double Dragon manual had stylized illustrations of all the characters, which somehow made the 8-bit game seem so much cooler. And because old-school games were never very good at exposition, the manuals provided otherwise non-existent plots to Atari classics such as Berzerk.

None of that is necessary anymore. Games are considered a failure if they don’t teach you how to play within the game. If you need help, you’re more likely to consult GameFAQs than the instruction booklet. Fancy illustrations and written plot summaries aren’t necessary when the games themselves are spectacles of light and sound, with professional voice acting.

So, knowing things will never be the same as in childhood, I welcome Ubisoft’s decision. And yeah, I suppose it’s nice that the environment’s getting some love, too.

(By the way, if you’re feeling nostalgic, Vimm.net has a growing archive of old video game instruction manuals, which is where I got the above image.)


Ubisoft to PC Gamers: You Must Play Online

Count Ubisoft’s latest anti-piracy plan as another ill-conceived scheme that punishes legitimate players.

Gamespy reports that the publisher will allow unlimited installs of its future PC games, but Ubisoft’s servers will handle saved games and authentication. That means you can’t play without an Internet connection.

In way, it’s a forward-thinking plan. Ubisoft’s looking ahead to a time when Internet connections will be everywhere, so you’ll never have a problem proving you paid for a copy of the game. Storing saved games online also means you can start playing on your laptop from where you left off on your desktop.

The big problem is we’re not yet in the age of ubiquitous Internet connections. Sure, you’ll have no problem playing at home — unless your Internet connection goes out for whatever reason — but this scheme rules out airplanes, remote areas or hotels that don’t have Wi-Fi. Ubisoft is betting most people don’t play in those situations, but it’s not fair for the publisher to make that decision. At the very least, Ubisoft game boxes should have big warning labels so players know what they’re getting.

One other concern: Ubisoft’s authentication servers aren’t guaranteed for life, and 10 years from now, players could be shut out of the game they bought. In fact, last time Ubisoft tried online authentication with Assassin’s Creed, some players had trouble immediately after purchasing.

In any case, is this really a fool-proof method for stopping piracy? If it was, I’d think other publishers would be using the same methods. Even Steam, a major platform for PC gaming that uses online authentication, has an offline mode.

The funny thing is that, in 2008, Ubisoft released Prince of Persia for PC with no digital rights management, apparently fed up with its past failures to stop piracy. I don’t know the results of that little experiment, but I guess Ubisoft figured it’s more profitable to penalize their paying customers than to let pirates roam free.


Ubisoft Strikes 2 From the Holiday Lineup

splinter_cell_conviction_upIf you were hoping to find Splinter Cell: Conviction or Red Steel 2 under the Christmas tree this year, too bad.

Ubisoft said today that both games will be pushed back until the fourth fiscal quarter — corporatespeak for some time between January and March of 2010.

These aren’t small-time games. Conviction is the fifth game in the popular Splinter Cell series, which focuses on steathily hunting down enemies from the shadows. Red Steel 2, a Kill Bill-inspired hack-and-shoot, is a marquis title for the Wii’s MotionPlus, a peripheral that makes motion controls more sensitive and accurate.

When Bioshock 2 was delayed a couple weeks ago, I prayed aloud for the end of the infamous holiday game glut, during which publishers release all their top shelf titles to cash in on shopping season. It’s a strategy that’s worked for years, but it tends to inundate game fans, only to hit them with a drought in the summer.

Things have changed in the last two weeks. Before then, we all knew the industry was deflating, because this year had no Wii Fit, no Grand Theft Auto IV and no Mario Kart Wii to carry everyone along. Console sales have been better, too. But when the NPD finally blamed June’s poor sales on the recession, it was a wake-up call even though everyone knew what was happening.

Now, we have publishers retreating into 2010, and that’s fine with me, because there’s a silver lining: Ubisoft CEO Yves Guillemot noted that in these summer months, Call of Juarez and Anno met sales expectations, and they “demonstrate that good products are continuing to sell well.”

Well, duh. If publishers can carry that mentality into 2010, the whole year could be a lot of fun.

(By the way, all’s not lost for holiday gifting. Running through Gamespot’s upcoming release list, I found a dozen games that interested me personally, due for release between mid-September and mid-December. Three games per month is just fine, thanks.)

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Ubisoft Goes DRM-Free for Old Games

prince_of_persia_-_the_sands_of_time_2003The folks at Good Old Games, or GOG as they like to be called, sent me a beaming press blast today about how they’ve brought megapublisher Ubisoft on board. The Web site’s stock in trade is old video games for download — Duke Nukem, Freespace, MDK, etc. — so now they’ll be getting titles like Beyond Good and Evil and Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time.

But here’s the hook: GOG’s offerings don’t include any Digital Rights Management, so players are free to install as many copies as they want, wherever they want.

Ubisoft has stumbled with DRM in the past. Last summer, legally downloaded copies of Rainbow Six Vegas 2 for the PC wouldn’t work because they lacked an authentication disc (duh), and the company resorted to an illegal crack from a warez group to fix it (d’oh). A few months prior, DRM rendered Assassin’s Creed unplayable for some rightful owners as it unsuccessfully tried to authenticate over the Internet.

So when Prince of Persia was released for the PC in December, Ubisoft threw its hands in the air and abandoned DRM for the game. Ars Technica suspected that this was just a way for the company to build evidence of how much money they lose without copy protection.

I don’t know whether that’s true, or whether the results from Prince of Persia had any bearing on the deal with GOG, but it’d be great to find out. Unfortunately, the handful of questions I sent Ubisoft’s way have so far gone unanswered.

In any case, I’m not keeping my hopes up for a drastic change in Ubisoft’s philosophy, but I’ll post an update if I hear differently. I suspect the company is willing to play by GOG’s rules in order to get the content out there. The site launched a public beta in September, and its as good a source of revenue for dated PC titles as Ubisoft is going to get. Besides, if there was any danger of widespread piracy for those old titles, it reared its head a long time ago.

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Prince of Persia: A Touching Tale of Two Characters

Prince of PersiaSometimes, even the best games don’t reach out and touch me. The Halos, Half-Lifes and Grand Theft Autos of this medium provide an interesting window on the world, but their characters are often mere reflections of the player. For that reason, those games have a hard time conveying raw, emotional impact.

That’s why Prince of Persia–Ubisoft’s new reimagining of a venerable gaming franchise for the PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, and PC–is so refreshing. The game carries quite a few flaws and frustrations, but it’s the rare title that offers a little feeling along the way.

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