MMX and Uplay
- by Kalah
With that out of the way, it's time to move on to the critique:
1. We don't like Uplay. We don't like the concept. Why? Basically, the main problem is that you are completely reliant upon someone else's software or hardware. Much like online systems such as Steam, any problems they have will be transferred to you. The Ubisoft servers have a habit of going down, and this means that for an indeterminate amount of time, all those magnificent "special features" will be unavailable to you. The Dev Blog mentions cloud saves and social features. Good luck getting hold of them if the servers go down. If all game features were local, i.e. on a disc, you'd have full autonomy: whether Ubisoft are having hardware trouble or not, you have access to all features. This is why I believe this route, the online features, to be fundamentally flawed. It sounds good in theory, but the infrastructure is still trying to catch up with the game developers' designs. I'm not even going to get started on the potential security issues...
2. Autoupdate. In the article mentioned above, Limbic say that Uplay will auto-patch the game when an update is released. It sounds great, and very convenient... until you think about it carefully. What it means is that if you want to start the game and be connected to Uplay, in order to connect with your friends, get extra stuff/points etc... the game is automatically updated. What happens if there's a 200MB patch waiting for you, you have a slow DSL line and all you have time for is a quick half-hour game before dinner? You see, I experienced something similar the other day with Steam: I started up XCOM and just wanted a small mission to have some fun before bedtime, but Steam forced me to update the game first... and the update wasn't exactly small - it took more than an hour to download. The bottom line is: I hope the Uplay Download manager can be set to disable auto-patching and let the players choose when to update their games. We also need patches to be released in single-file format (.exe or .zip or whatever) for players with slow/no connections, so they can d/l it at work or some other place, and then take it home on a USB.
3. One-time activation. It's the lesser of two evils, so to speak. Ubisoft had to back down over their "always on DRM" solution, and this is a way they can keep at least some control over the online system. Most of us can accept the one-time activation policy as a compromise, but some cannot, for obvious reasons: what if the gaming PC is not connected to the Internet? I asked the developers of Heroes VI what they could do to help those players this applied to, and the answer was: "nothing". No wonder they got fired and went bankrupt.
Another inherent flaw in the online activation scheme is: what if Uplay is down when you try to activate the game? This has happened before, causing some fans on the official forum to rename it "Udon'tplay", rather fittingly, and also causing Ubisoft to perform a much-needed server upgrade. One wonders if this thing will never happen again. With MMX too being dependent upon Uplay for activation, you will be unable to install and play your game if the servers happen to be down at the time.
We hope Limbic (being a fairly smart bunch of people) will make every effort to satisfy the fans in these regards.
For more information about Uplay, check out Wikipedia.