News have spread across the web of late, detailing UbiSoft's new policy of requiring an Internet connection to play their future PC game titles. The response has been mixed, but consensus among gamers seems to be that the promised positives are outweighed by the negatives. In case you don't know what the story is, I'll outline it for you:
UbiSoft are planning a new DRM platform for their PC games, which requires gamers to be online to play most new UbiSoft titles. Even singleplayer mode. On the positive side, you will not need a disc in the drive, you can use any computer, and Ubi promise that the system will be able support an unlimited amount of players simultaneously. I'm not sure I believe that; we were promised an excellent Internet multiplayer function for Heroes V, but it never worked as well as intended. But I guess we can always hope. It will depend on how much resources the producers decide to put into this. So let's say it works ... here's the downside: The game will not work if you are not connected to the Internet. If you lose your connection, the game will pause and wait for reconnection. We have no information about the quality of the connection; i.e. we don't know if you need DSL or if dial-up will do ... but those players whose connection cuts out from time to time will have problems.
This is problematic. What if you don't have an Internet connection? UbiSoft's director of customer support, Brent Wilkinson, seems to think this will not be a problem:
Well, Mr. Wilkinson, let me tell you something: I am not connected to the Internet; my gaming computer sits in a corner in my bedroom. I am typing this on a laptop, and I don't feel the need to have both PCs connected to the web. Why should I? I play games on my big rig, and if I need to patch them, I just download a file onto my laptop and transfer it later. It may not be the best way to do it, but it's what I have chosen. And you dare to try and stop me? Do you expect me to be happy about this, and continue to buy your products with such limitations? Well, I can tell you right now: I will not. By focusing on "most people", you effectively eliminate me as a customer. I am sure I am not alone in feeling this way.
Celestial Heavens have made our position clear on numerous occasions: While we are strongly opposed to piracy of games, we are of the opinion that gamers should be free to do what they want with their game once they have paid for it. If you buy a game, should you be allowed to make a backup copy for yourself? Yes. Should you be allowed to install the game on all computers you own? Of course. Should you be allowed to play it offline as well as online? Hell, yes.
No, we don't think it should be legal for players to send copies of their games to friends, and we don't condone piracy in any shape or form. Yet we feel that the measures employed by game producers to prevent this are counter-productive. Taking away players' liberties, limiting the way the product can be used, is like trying to advocate abstinence to teenagers: it won't work, and it will prevent more sensible solutions from seeing the light of day. I recall the strategy employed by Stardock in the release of GalCiv2 - no copy protection at all, but online product registration (with a valid serial number) had to be completed for game updates to become available. Does this not sound more sensible than limiting the buyer's playing options?
Also, if there's one thing that gamers dislike, it is the nanny state. Being told over and over by meddling moms to go to bed instead of finishing one more level has resulted in players' developing an aversion to all sorts of interference. Forcing players to play online will not be received smilingly. It will cause the gaming community to respond with hostility rather than enthusiasm, boycott rather than increased spending, and active movements working to crack the code hindering players in doing whatever they want.
UbiSoft: This is not a good idea. Just drop it. Let us play your games the way we want, and we'll be happy to buy them from you. Otherwise, we'll buy games from somebody else.