Ubisoft Launch: Ghost Recon Online Comes To Early Access

By Graham Smith on January 15th, 2014 at 3:00 pm.

Look, that guy's invisible! This *is* buggy.

Steam Early Access is for games that are unfinished and in beta. Or alpha. Or games that are finished but need a little bit of testing before the developers feel comfortable saying that. Or for games where the developers have run out of money and need the extra funding to keep going. Games that are broken outright, games that are updated regularly, games that might never be finished. Indie games. Mainstream games. Games by Ubisoft that first launched into beta in 2012. Games like Ghost Recon Online.

The free-to-play shooter has been in beta since launch and available only through uPlay thus far, but is joining Steam’s Early Access service this Spring. If you live in Canada, it’s already there, which makes Ubisoft the first major publisher to get involved with Early Access.

Here’s the launch trailer from August 2012:

I haven’t played it since shortly after launch, but at the time Ghost Recon Online was a solid first-person shooter with some interesting ideas. Those mostly revolved around its unusual array of scifi weaponry, which coupled the genre-typical submachineguns with things like microwave rays which could be used to discourage camping. It was an interesting take on a Counter-Strikey formula, but hamstrung at the time by the embryonic uPlay and by its own launcher and installer.

Hopefully – presumably – those things have been fixed since, as an Ubisoft game coming to Steam doesn’t normally mean it leaves their proprietary systems behind. In any case, if Early Access is a way of stalling certain types of players from getting involved while any teething issues with the new release are fixed, I guess that’s a good thing.

As the Early Access service becomes more varied, I wish there was a uniform way for the games that use it to communicate their current condition to players. A progress bar on each game’s store page showing an estimate of the percentage of development complete would be useful for customers trying to make purchasing decisions. I don’t begrudge any game their spot on the service, but right now there’s no at-a-glance method to differentiate between Ghost Recon Online – a wholly functional, two-years-in-beta, essentially feature-complete game – and something earlier in its development like the promising Maia.

I’ve reached out to Ubisoft to ask for more detail about using the service.

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36 Comments »

  1. skyturnedred says:

    I liked it when I first played it, but for some reason the game runs really poorly on my current spec. Unlocking stuff seemed to be faster than other games, which was nice. No idea how the game is today, though.

  2. kevmscotland says:

    Well I’d say Jim Sterling Called it.

    He did a Jimquisition episode on monday regarding early access and how it was only a matter of time before AAA developers find it as a way to milk us for cash to fund games now aswell.

    And here we are 2 days later.

    • bills6693 says:

      Yep. I’m already on the fence over early access already – basically promoting unfinished games – although I can understand both the reasons for devs putting it up there (need money to finish development, people being really keen to get your game, getting people involved in testing and feedback because you can’t afford to hire people to do these jobs). And I understand why people buy into these games (hype and wanting to get into the game asap, wanting to have a hand in influencing the way the game develops to make it better, wanting to support the developer so they can finish the game) even if at least the former is probably very flawed.

      But these really don’t apply much to AAAs. Their defining feature compared to indies is that they release:
      1) Feature complete and polished
      2) In a finished state, ready for instant enjoyment
      3) After extensive testing
      4) With a big budget giving it lots of oomph and great gameplay

      Wait… these are not the features of an Early Access game. Since when were publishers not able to fund internal testing and development and needed to rely on cash from early access and free testers? None of the typical reasons devs put games on early access really apply to AAA devs unless the publisher is literally going bankrupt – which ubi clearly isn’t.

      This just smells of money grubbing – which really the whole alpha thing does for AAAs, steam or no steam. Publishers, take that huge budget from your overpriced games and spend it on some bloody testing yourselves!

      • spamenigma says:

        Its worth mentioning that in this case the game is F2P. So still no money has to change hands if anyone did want to play this via steam (I would assume being the norm for F2P on steam). So not exactly direct money grab, but certainly more exposure for those who want to spend money on the usual crap that comes with F2P games…

        • kevmscotland says:

          Well being a F2P game it’ll have a cash shop, all F2P games do, and I’m willing to bet even as a early access title that the cash shop will be fully functional and charging real money for the pleasure of ‘testing’ the system.

          This wouldn’t be the only game guilty of such a thing, but it does upset me no end that people are willing to part with money for microtransactions in unfinished titles, or thats its perfectly acceptable for developers and publishers to do so.

      • Baines says:

        To be fair, those four things aren’t always features of AAA games, either. The only one guaranteed is the first half of #4.

        Feature complete? Generally, but not always. Polished? Generally, but less often than being feature complete. In a finished state? Arguably less often than “Polished.” After extensive testing? Maybe or maybe not, and there is no guarantee that issues found will be fixed before release anyway. Big budget giving it lots of oomph? Largely the single defining aspect of a AAA game. And giving great gameplay? Maybe, but not guaranteed.

        Don’t forget that games like Aliens: Colonial Marines and Sim City were considered AAA titles.

    • Kaira- says:

      I knew Fallout 2 was the beginning of it all.

    • derbefrier says:

      I don’t know who that is but any idiot paying attention to the top seller list on steam should have seen this coming.
      Its too late to stop it though. Its been figured out that people will willingly throw money at, and ruthlessly defend early access games with all their might. Big developers would literally be the biggest idiots in the world if they didn’t start taking advantage of this.

      I have a few of them myself but I decided after I bought Sir you are being hunted I wont by games anymore unless they are finished. Then I got a gifted copy of star bound for Christmas but after this one I swear no more early access for me!

  3. Cytrom says:

    If only other ubisoft titles would abandon uPlay.. I would actually play some of them. Well mostly just far cry 3.

    • basilisk says:

      It feels silly asking this question over and over again, but what exactly is wrong with Uplay? Sure, it’s not the best client ever made, but I honestly don’t see anything particularly bad about it. Definitely nothing that would be a reason to ignore some really good games.

      • bills6693 says:

        I personally have had endless problems with it refusing to believe it is connected to the internet. In many games that basically makes them unplayable as you need to be connected to use all but the most basic of features. HOMM for example needs to be connected or else you can’t play the campaign… which is the whole point, isn’t it?

        Its basically an ‘almost’ always online DRM system.

        Also I hate their stupid achievement/reward system. Do achievements, earn points and spend the points on unlocking stuff we’ve gated off from your game. What??? If you earned points for getting steam achievements and used those points to unlock a new hero in DOTA 2, a new ship in FTL, a new character in Super Meat Boy, a new weapon in TF2, a new unit in Wargame or whatever, that was made for the game and then cut out so you had to get achievements, people would be pissed at that too.

        • basilisk says:

          The always on hooks (which indeed used to be there) have been long since removed from pretty much everything. As far as I know, Uplay now requires a single online DRM check upon first launch, and there’s a fairly reliable offline mode after that.

          And the unlock system is just fluff, really. Those are not achievements, by the way (that’s a separate system), and are always progress-based, which makes them impossible to miss if you just play the game. Also, I believe the rewards are almost always cosmetic, so it doesn’t really ruffle my feathers. Ubisoft’s games tend to have way too much cosmetic stuff on top, and it’s virtually always completely worthless.

          • bills6693 says:

            I can say with near-certainty that while the ‘always online’ thin was removed, from many games it wasn’t really. Like I said, HOMM (Or Might and Magic Heroes or whatever they renamed it to) can be launched offline… but then you can’t do anything. The campaigns all require you to connect to the internet. You can play a skirmish, but thats it. And not at all engaging. Thus it stopped me playing that game for weeks, and by the time it was finally working again I just had enough.

            Anyway, my games already have DRM in the form of steam. Why, ubisoft, is that not enough for you to know I’m not a pirate? Why does launching my games from one DRM platform force me to go to another DRM platform to launch my game from? If it were a choice – e.g. you can buy from uPlay and play on uPlay, or you can buy on steam and play through steam (or in this case just buy as its F2P), that’d be great. Competition for steam, good. But thats not the case at all, and that annoys me.

            Just like with any DRM, another layer of inconvenience, however small, is unnecessary for me as a paying customer. Steam is generally accepted, and I accept it, because it also adds a lot of convenience too, much more than it takes away (for me at least). But uPlay does not enhance my experience, it only serves to hinder. I am the one that pays money so why is it me that is hindered, while I’m sure pirates get an easier time. Of course again, less applicable to this game as its a multiplayer so not really pirate-able but for most games that play singleplayer… seriously ubisoft, come on. You know I’m not pirating because I bought through steam, so why do you insist on adding another layer of DRM of your own?

          • basilisk says:

            It’s something of a chicken-and-egg situation there. Lately Ubi have been adding various network features to their games that go through Uplay, such as leaderboards and stuff (FC3, Rayman Legends) or the whole layer of “social events” in ACIV. And apparently/presumably they do need the client for that, because it’s providing their proprietary equivalent of Steamworks. It would make little sense to develop Uplay and non-Uplay versions of games with those features, and it’s perfectly understandable if they don’t want to rely on Steamworks for them. (On the other hand, CoJ: Gunslinger is Steamworks only, so there must be quite a bit of leeway in the company.)

            But yeah, Uplay and Steam have never played very nicely together (I’ve stopped buying Ubi titles from Steam for that reason). And yes, some games never really needed Uplay in the first place for anything other than the infamous always-on DRM (like PoP: Forgotten Sands, for example). But that’s Ubisoft for you. They never get things quite right on their first attempt, no matter what it is they are doing.

        • Ninja Foodstuff says:

          There’s something really insidious about it. Hey! We’re launching your game, while we do that, why not check out this advert for another game?

          Hey! Congratulations on playing this game! Why not check out this advert for another game?

          Which mainly annoys me because this happens more often than it needs to thanks to ubisoft games crashing regularly.

      • Spoon Of Doom says:

        It might be anecdotal evidence, but I’ve had a whole bunch of serious issues with it that I have never experienced with either Steam, Origin, Desura or even Impulse (still not used to calling it GameStop client). Issues like bought games not appearing in the library for days or weeks, UPlay forgetting that I own games for a couple of days, forgetting that I have games installed and forcing me to manually uninstall every UPlay game, UPlay itself and then reinstalling everything to get it working again and all kinds of fun things.
        And that’s on top of the “normal” hiccups that other services also sometimes have, like the program hanging now and then, being generally slow when it’s in a bad mood and such stuff.

      • wazups2x says:

        I’ve personally haven’t had any problems with Uplay. I actually like Uplay more than Origin. At least with Uplay I can still buy my games on Steam.

  4. The Random One says:

    I recon there’s nothing wrong with that, but there’s not a ghost of a chance that I’ll put my own money ontheline.

  5. Cinek says:

    So… that’s kinda like Crysis 3 / Crysis 2 multiplayer, only with worse graphics?

    No thanks.

  6. JarinArenos says:

    Oh f- me. There goes the neighborhood. And the early access neighborhood was already looking pretty seedy.

  7. Gap Gen says:

    Ah yes, the Pwnic Wars. Terrible casualties, many good men teabagged.

  8. RedViv says:

    Its Mightily Magical that Ubisoft only now becomes the first big one to publish a game on Early Access. Like, to the Xth degree!

  9. OnionPowder says:

    This isn’t even Ubisofts first Early Access game on Steam. The Mighty Quest for Epic Loot has been on Steam for a few months now.

  10. misterT0AST says:

    you might not believe this or not care, but this game is really unusual, slow and strategic, with quick sudden bursts of action. The weapons you can “buy” with in-game/real currency are really few and really cheap (unless they change something in the monetization model, which they could) and you can buy a new piece of equipment EVERY 2 GAMES.
    The starting equipment of the class you choose is more than enough to own faces anyway, and you never see players who pay super geared up with weird equipment, it’s all pretty standard stuff. I played a few weeks without spending money and had a blast with it.

    It feels really really unique, and when I installed it just to please my younger cousin, I didn’t expect it, but it’s really fun even for me, who hate modern shooters.

    Don’t dismiss this as a generic cod wannabe, it’s not. It’s all about finding good spots in the map and sneaking behind your enemies’ position. Very static, almost trench-like warfare.

    • dsch says:

      Yes. Teamwork and intelligent use of devices and cover are essential, and the game is set up to support this (built-in voice comms, map, HUD displays). Grenades, special ammo, and armour inserts are quite cheap using XP (as I remember). A top-tier weapon took me maybe 30 hours to afford.

      Also, it’s a third-person shooter.

    • Max.I.Candy says:

      Thanks! Just what I needed to hear. I’ve usually enjoyed the way the Ghost Recon MP games feel, and actually prefer them over some other online shooters. Looking forward to giving this a go tonight.

    • CrazyPaladin says:

      Actually meh, played it a long ago, dropped it, then play it during summer again and drop it again. Once you got used to Ghost Recon Future Solider(which is a still bad port on PC), the game feels way too slow paced and delayed, there’s even a delay when you stop sprinting and start to walk, I’m not saying there’s no delay in other games, but they had to actually put a timer, which makes it feel like a year before you can stop sprinting. Cap point takes a min and you have to spawn all the way back to your base, just some rant about the pace. But otherwise the gameplay feels solid, the gun play is ok, equipments are interesting but kinda lack variety, the strategic aspect, well let’s just say it’s better than almost any other modern shooting game out there.

      Oh also ubi like tripled the price of guns that you can buy with no-iap currency a while ago, you would love developers do that don’t you.

      Overall I would prefer Ghost Recon Future Solider over this any day, now only if it was a good port and more people played it on PC then, sigh

  11. JustAchaP says:

    I actually enjoyed this game, its great for when you’re working together with friends. But the lag got a bit too much for me as I would die in cover.