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Post DRMatic Stress

I just euthanised Sam Fisher.

It was the right thing to do. I couldn’t let him go on like that, constantly trailing off mid sentence, sometimes for minutes at a time, before carrying on exactly where he left off. Or he’d pull himself into safety behind a piece of cover, only to get seemingly distracted, vacant stares as all around him was chaos. When he finally returned to reality, he would just as likely be somewhere entirely different to when he started.

I don’t blame him though. It’s not his fault he’s like this. It’s Ubisoft, with all their talk of good intentions and protecting their creative license, that have really killed him, not me. It wasn’t me who decided that it was time to fight the pirates at all costs, even if it meant that the only true victim would be the paying customer. It wasn’t me who waged this war over copyright infringement. I’m just collateral damage.

I’m well aware that my suffering isn't representative of the wider picture, but at the same time it’s certainly not an isolated event; I happen to be caught in the uncomfortable cigar shape caught in between the two large circles of the Venn diagram that is ‘People Who have Fast Internet’ against ‘People Who Can’t Play Ubisoft Games’. I could just get angry, hell I am getting angry, but damned if I’m not going to let you all know about it.

So, Ubisoft decided that, in an effort to combat piracy, they’d implement a DRM system so draconian it’d make us pine for the days of SecuROM. Requiring a constant internet connection, the ‘service’ provides a steady stream of data between your computer and the Ubisoft master servers. What this boils down to is that if you don’t have a fast internet connection, or, like me, you’re on a less-than-reliable wireless connection, you’re going to see this screen a lot.

There’s a bit of a character to that screen. It reminds me of an overbearing parent that doesn’t want me to play too many games. You’ll go an hour, maybe two, without anything, then, all of a sudden, it’s a polite, but curt ‘time to stop playing now.’ You ignore it, then a few minutes later it flashes up again, a little longer this time. ‘I’m warning you. Time to stop.’ Stubbornness arrives, you set your jaw, and continue. And then, for me, the sign comes back once more, but this time it’s here to stay.

The only cure is to shut down the game, because when it arrives like that it’s there to tell me that it’s just shut down my entire internet. I can guess a few reasons, primarily being that it’s overloaded my connection with data, but seeming as I can play any number of bandwidth intensive multiplayer games with no issues, it doesn’t seem right.

So yeah, that’s fucking annoying.

It ends up with a situation where, each time I load up the game, I’m playing connection roulette, wondering if I’ll be able to get from one checkpoint to the next without my connection conking out due to the horrendous barrage between my computer and Ubisoft’s servers. The game no longer feels like a single player experience to be enjoyed on my own. I’m not battling with Ubisoft, to see if I can get from one checkpoint to the next as fast as humanly possible without them deciding to shut me out.

Of course, such personification of a completely abstract and arbitrary system is hardly useful, but my anger at it is enough that I’m willing to create a face out of anything I god damn like. I’ve got half a mind to attack my chest of drawers; it’s been eyeing my like that for days.

The only course of action left to me was to delete the game from my computer, out of fear of my mental well being. Which is a shame, because I really did enjoy what I got to play of Splinter Cell.

All this has happened a week after grappling with the arbitrary nature of the Games For Windows Live connection. I’d been wanting to play multiplayer, and because it couldn’t connect, I couldn’t play. In the end, I didn’t really mind too much, if only because it made at least some sense that if I couldn’t connect to their online service, I couldn’t play online.

But that’s not the case here. I’m locked out of an entire game purely because Ubisoft can’t deal with the idea that the pirates that copy their games aren’t paying for them. What I want to know, as someone who hasn’t pirated their game, and yet has been landed with all this horrific DRM, is was it worth it? Did they see a significant rise in sales on these products with the DRM? Have they noticed any increase, hell, anything at all that’s different with these games compared to any they’ve published before?

Because if they haven’t, they need to get rid of this. Right now.

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Phill Cameron