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Ubisoft DRM servers attacked again

Tue 09 Mar 2010 11:50am GMT / 6:50am EST / 3:50am PST
Online

Hackers target login servers but Ubisoft claim 95% of customers unaffected

Ubisoft has revealed that the problems with the company's newly implemented DRM solution for new PC titles are due to ongoing attacks from hackers and not as a result of high demand, as previously implied.

According to the latest Twitter updates the servers were under attack again yesterday, with some users experiencing trouble signing in. Ubisoft claim that 95 per cent of players remained unaffected and that login servers were fully re-established at 1am CET.

Ubisoft also claims that Assassin's Creed II and Silent Hunter 5 "are withstanding the efforts to crack them" and that "no valid cracked versions exist". Most torrent sites do contain links to both games, but Ubisoft claim these are incomplete versions.

The two games were released at retail on Friday March 5, with the first attacks occurring over the weekend. The DRM requires players to be permanently connected to an internet connection, even when playing offline, which has caused outrage amongst many users.

Ubisoft implemented the system following heavy piracy of their PC titles, most notably the original Assassin's Creed.

"At the moment, if you release the PC version, essentially what you're doing is letting people have a free version that they rip off instead of a purchased version. Piracy's basically killing PC," said Ubisoft Shanghai creative director Michael de Plater.

23 Comments

Robin Segitz

11 0 0.0
Do they not see it? Every legitimate copy that doesn't work day one is a pissed off customer tomorrow! Do they REALLY think this is the way to "combat" piracy?

Posted:4 years ago

#1

Bruce McNeish
Senior Programmer

10 0 0.0
I wonder if the "incomplete versions" were actually put up on the torrents by UbiSoft themselves? I guess it is better to flood these channels with demo versions to help hide any possible pirate versions.

Posted:4 years ago

#2

Sergey Galyonkin
Marketing Director, EMEA

24 0 0.0
Robin, I think it is even more. One pissed off customer today is ten lost sales tomorrow. Because that customer probably has friends :)

Posted:4 years ago

#3

Robert Dibley
Lead Render Coder

4 0 0.0
What is the way to combat piracy then Robin ?
Most things have been tried, all have been beaten, sooner or later.
Ubisoft probably wouldn't care if they had to stop producing PC games entirely, as they'd sell more console games - after all, if you want to play something, and it is only available on console, what choice do you have ?

Console sales of many games are now 20+ times higher than PC sales, so why bother with all the hassle, the extra testing, and the mass piracy ?

Posted:4 years ago

#4

Jeff Wayne
Technical Architect

83 37 0.4
Consoles suffer from mass piracy also Robert. The number of units sold under console format may simply make a publisher not care versus those sold in the PC market - I don't know. It's easier to implement this sort of drivel on the PC format also anyway and they may well be simply using it as a testbed for future plans in the console market. That's when the real tears will start flowing when the gaming masses are affected!

The best idea I've read from anyone so far with regards any real effectiveness against piracy and rewarding the consumer is to ship the game with a usb key or some form of hardware dongle that the game requires to even load. If it was a usb key, it could come with extra goodies for the honest customer.

I'm sure the cost of the little hardware dongle versus the cost in terms of money and reputation of these current braindead DRM schemes is negligible!

Maybe software houses could take a lead from indie developers (Braid for example) and just dump their publishers and sell their games over Steam instead. Security, general acceptance in the PC gaming community and no overpaid middle man. It's win-win!

Posted:4 years ago

#5

Michael Abraham
game designer

37 0 0.0
"mass piracy"? - i don't think it's quite as bad as some people are making it out to be.

and just stopping all pc development isn't the way forward either, since it's still a profitable platform to develop on, and besides, if people wanted to i'm sure they'd find a way to pirate/crack console games. most of the people out there cracking the stuff are quite clever people who are able to overcome millions of pounds and years of security system development, often within only a few hours. (although if the established companys all stopped pc development, it'd mean a large surge for the indie scene as they'd suddenly be at the forefront of development for the platform).

piracy is always going to be out there. - as long as there's people selling games with some form of security, there'll be people who will go out of their way to circumvent it, just because they feel like it. i think the best solution is to just learn to tolerate it and focus on giving a great game experience for the majority that will pay. that's the most important group afterall. keep simple things like cdkeys and disk-in-drive checks, and this will stop the non-tech-saavy from sharing one copy between all their friends. these are established enough that most people don't even think about them, and they don't have any major delay/restrictions on the user being able to get into their game and just play it.


edit:
jeff: that sounds like a neat idea, though it'd only take a matter of time before people work out how to replicate/fake the data on the USB stick, and then you'll have ppl selling them alongside the people who sell DVDs outside the cinemas that they pirate-recorded. though perhaps the actual fact it requires a physical object would be enough to slow down the transfer rates such as to have a noticeable effect.

on the other hand, we have programs that emulate dvd drives these days (i think nero even comes with emulation software now), so people might just develop a USB drive emulation system.

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Michael Abraham on 9th March 2010 1:40pm

Posted:4 years ago

#6

Stephen Wilson
graphic/web designer

21 0 0.0
It does make you wonder why Sony, Microsoft et al don't just add a keyboard & mouse to a console as standard equipment in addition to the controllers. This would allow them to capture the more adult sim & strategy games from the PC altogether and take away the support nightmare that the PC seems to sadly have become, returning us to the "level playing field" in terms of gaming once occupied by such retro platforms as the Amiga & Atari ST.

Do they really believe that in this day and age adding a keyboard and mouse would make consoles seem "uncool" and too technical?

Edited 3 times. Last edit by Stephen Wilson on 9th March 2010 1:51pm

Posted:4 years ago

#7

Sergey Galyonkin
Marketing Director, EMEA

24 0 0.0
I don't think hardware dongle will work. We had this kind of protection like fifteen years ago - it was cracked anyway, but pissed off legitimate users.

What I think would help is to design PC games in way, that gives legal consumer an advantage over pirate. Of course MMO is obvious, but I don't think you're limited to MMO here. Frequent updates, coop multiplayer, DLC, competitive events and so on should work.

You're not designing console game around mouse and keyboard or Excel-like interface, so why should you design PC games around gamepad and singleplayer experience on a big TV?

Company that will understand that you shouldn't port console games to PC or vice versa will make millions someday.

Oh, wait, it's Blizzard :)

Posted:4 years ago

#8

Anuj Malhotra
Studying Business Management

31 0 0.0
I would normally never condone piracy, however having bought AC2 on the ps3 months ago and seeing one of my closest friends devastated by not being able to play her PC version for two nights out of the three she's owned it having looked forward to it for months, I've suggested she return the game stating the DRM as the reason and find another means to play it (on my ps3 for example). I somehow doubt 95% of users are unaffected.

This kind of DRM only hurts the loyal consumer and in turn Ubisoft (she's so mad at it she vowed never to buy another ubi game), the only way to ensure it doesn't continue to be this way is to vote against it with your purchases. Ironic that loyal consumers are having to combat DRM in the same way some publishers are attempting to combat piracy... with a non-tolerance policy.

Posted:4 years ago

#9
What I don't understand is why I see comments that are anti-Ubisoft, and comments that are anti-DRM, but no comments attacking those performing ddos attacks on Ubisoft's servers.

If it wasn't for the crackers and hackers, there would be no need for DRM. A very vicious circle, and the legitimate customer is the one that suffers, but if it wasn't for the ddos attacks, they'd presumably all be playing happily, right?

Posted:4 years ago

#10

Urs Schaub
3D modeller

13 5 0.4
@Miles

I had the same in mind.
Imo it's the wrong way to show that UBI is on a misguided course.

@Robert, try to think about a bit more why publishers still release on PC these days(they could have stopped it years ago.), the reason is easy...very easy.

And btw Piracy on Console is a big problem too, but the relation(Customer/sales/pirated is not that high currently...not yet, but give it more time.

Wouldn't it be cool to have only 50/5Kb bandwith again to let publishers think their games don't get pirated?(Which was never true in the first place.)

Posted:4 years ago

#11

Jeff Wayne
Technical Architect

83 37 0.4
Miles, the DoS attack showed that Ubisoft had no backup plan whatsoever in the event of something affecting their 'always-on' server. Not only is it of huge concern that the game is tied to whenever Ubisoft decide to turn off their server with no guarantee of a patch to bridge that, but there is no backup plan whatsoever in the event of something affecting the server in this early stage!

The 'always on' server is the critical point of failure here and if it falls down for whatever reason then that translates to legitimate customers being unable to play the game that they legally purchased. Some would argue that it took an unacceptable evil to unmask an unacceptable evil.

As for pirates and the likes being the reason for DRM, well yes of course but no DRM exists yet that successfully combats piracy. The only DRM that exists is of an ilk that drives legitimate customers bananas all the while the pirates play away merrily unaffected by such concerns. This fact is almost surreal!

Posted:4 years ago

#12
Jeff - my point is that they shouldn't need a back up plan. And shouldn't need the DRM in the first place.

As for your last paragraph, that's not actually true. There's been nothing so far that I know of that has eradicated piracy, but most of the DRM solutions combat it to some degree.

It is never right for the legitimate user to be disadvantaged. But the cause, in this case, is firmly those who are attacking the servers. There could be better solutions to the attack than are in place, for sure, but the point I made is that there shouldn't need to be.

Posted:4 years ago

#13

Lee Ward
Education

8 0 0.0
I'm looking forward to the day that Ubisoft turn round and say "Sorry but we're turning the licence servers off, we need to repurpose them for newer games. From [date] you will no longer be able to play Assassin's Creed II, Silent Hunter 5 or any other game with the protection in place".

Those attacking the servers are going about showing their disagreement with the system in completely the wrong way, this only serves to cause money better spent on future titles on defending their licence servers instead.

Ubisoft are employing DRM techniques used in extremely high-end CAD software like Pro-ENGINEER or AutoCAD (Macrovision FLEXnet). Get disconnected even though you are fully licenced? Lose progress made since last save. It's rather disgusting to think that you've paid to play/use something that, due to the way licencing works, will cripple itself if it so much as breifly loses connection to the licence servers.

The fix here is to provide online access and additional benefits to legitimate users (which includes second-hand purchasers as they've bought a legit game rather than turning to piracy - second hand != piracy). Right now, legitimate users are for very good reasons turning to piracy.

I hate freeloaders as much as the next person, but punishing the legitimate end user (like me who also attempted to play ACII) isn't the answer. Casual sharing (which is what they're trying to stop) isn't the problem, it's the mastering houses and the ilk that sell their stuff from the backs of their cars or computer fairs that pull in the most profits.



On a similar note: I remember reading reports of FACT busting pirate gangs on GP and I enjoyed reading and looking at the photos resulting from the raids. Don't see a lot of those anymore, but those should get more publicity to show what happens when you pirate games, movies and music or any software. I'm sure it would to some degree deter warehouse piracy, and discourage casual users from attempting it for fear of what happens to the warehouse operations happening to them.

Posted:4 years ago

#14

Philipp Nassau
Student - Business Administration (M. Sc.)

51 19 0.4
I'd like to add a very basic thought here: Where is the advantage in buying a game instead of pirating it?
Right now, the situation is as follows: Most games are still bought from stores, even though digital distribution is evolving quickly, mainly driven by Steam and Apple on the micro-level. Buying from Steam still creates a bit of a hassle for certain kinds of users (credit cards are not that common in some areas), so you can be sure that for the next couple of years we will still see a lot of games going over a counter. Now, with 20mbit+ connectivity you can download a 2GB game in about 15 minutes. Any time of the day. Pirated copies are just more easily accessible than legit copies. Now add the fact, that DRM has grown to a point where it actively annoys the consumer and diminishes the experience where a pirated copy does nothing but work correctly.
Where's the value added by buying? DRM in it's current form can't stop piracy as the people downloading the game never get in touch with it. They don't care if there's a multi million dollar protection on the disks, they copy the cracked executable and enjoy the game. And experience shows us that there will always be someone to crack it, just for the fun of it.
We will have to think of ways to either devalue pirated copies (meaning: creating the fear of being caught) or add value to the legit copy (DLC, support(!), extras in the box, come up with something clever). The first idea is far from realistic, with new filesharing systems it will become nearly impossible to track a download and even if one can track it to an IP, the legal issues about who is responsible are huge.

Personally I think we only really have to care about a mid term solution. There's a very real possibility that cloud computing could reduce piracy drastically because the game never leaves the servers. If nothing else proves effective, this could be the solution or at the very least a fallback. At a point where noone even has a high end graphics card anymore because all hardware power is supplied by the cloud one wouldn't even have to care too much about leaks.

BUT to actually comment on the ddos-story: It's a storm Ubi brought on themselves even though the attackers are the immoral party here. They could have expected that. As for the pirated copies being "incomplete", I have my doubts about that. I don't enjoy AC/SH very much so I won't buy it and downloading and playing it would make me feel like a thief, but I'll definitely ask some of my neighbours about it. I'm almost certain some of them already beat ACII with a pirated copy.

My english teacher accounts for spelling errors which I'm sure I've made, unfortunately not a native speaker.

Posted:4 years ago

#15

Pierre Vandenbroucke
Assistant de production

47 0 0.0
If I remember well, even some of the online music stores stopped DRM protection (I'm thinkink of ViginMega.fr and iTunes for sure maybe some others).
In the music industry, it showed the weaknesses it had, and the disagreement of the users.

I don't understand it is not clear for the game industry.
-Anti piracy methods have always been challenges for pirates (dreamcast's GD rom, gamecube's small DVDs, WEP key, and so on)
With high-end anti piracy, you attract hackers' attention (especially boasting your game is piracy-proof)

I agree with few statements above :
-When will ubisoft stop the support of those games, wha if I still want to play?
-A good CD-key system, a lot of online gaming/elements(DLC, bonus) so that you can make regular key checks (but not permanent connection required, I wanna play on my laptop on holidays)
-Make us feel like we're happy to legally own a game!

Posted:4 years ago

#16

Robbie Kazandjian
Director

14 0 0.0
forcing permanent internet connection is crazy! What if you want to play cos you cant browse/ work cos your internet connection is down! (As just one of many reasons...the laptop one being another key one)

Posted:4 years ago

#17

Kyle Rowley
Senior Gameplay Designer

24 15 0.6
Re: Not being able to play the game when Ubisoft close the servers down.

After a year or two (post hype and new release fever has gone), I'd imagine Ubisoft will disable the need to connect to their game servers in order to play. Majority of games sales take place within the first few months of release, so I'd imagine they won't be losing many sales due to piracy that far into the games shelf life.

Posted:4 years ago

#18

Philipp Nassau
Student - Business Administration (M. Sc.)

51 19 0.4
I highly doubt that, it's just that the required bandwidth and hardware power will be significantly less once the hype has ceased and therefore Ubi could easily afford to keep a few servers running. I mean, the variable costs of one unit are virtually nonexistent, every unit sold still provides some extra profit. We have seen something like you described with multiplayer focused games like UT, but there it's been of nearly no effect because the master servers still check CD-Keys.

Posted:4 years ago

#19

Aidan Fitzpatrick
Artist

48 2 0.0
"At the moment, if you release the PC version, essentially what you're doing is letting people have a free version that they rip off instead of a purchased version. Piracy's basically killing PC,"

Well I would say that Ubisofts DRM policy is ripping off the paying customers, by giving them an inferior experience to pirates. If Piracy is killing the PC, then DRM like Ubisofts' are gleefully hammering the coffin shut.

Posted:4 years ago

#20

James Ingrams
Writer

215 85 0.4
Stardock (Galactic Civilizations, etc), CD Red Projekt (The Witcher) and various Eastern European publishers are doing very well without onerous DRM. GOG.com is going from strength to strength promoting it's retro titles as not having any DRM, amongst other features. There is no sign at all, when no or little DRM is used, that sales automatically become minuscule.

One of the things no one thinks of with regards piracy, is how it seems to have taken off since PC games went to DVD case and 20 page manuals with a 50 page pdf manual on disk. Back when games came in big boxes with posters/tech trees and 100 page main manuals with maybe an additional 30 page weapons/spells manuals too! (even 3D shooters could give you a 20 page 'back-story' or even a graphic novel!) Back then, I worked in games retail, and it was amazing how PC gamers got excited by things like the weight of the box as much as the game. Back then PC gaming was more of a hobby than past-time for PC gamers, and they were proud of their collections, with tech trees etc tacked to walls over their PC!

If you look at the most famous PC games, like X-Com, Civilization, Railroad Tycoon, Falcon 4.0, Wing Commander, etc., all came in big boxes with big manuals and extra content!

Now we get 'collector's edition's being snapped up, and yet still these don't have enough quality content (posters, novels, whatever) to stop many still going for the digital equivalent!

I would also like to point out how few PC games get demo's any more... I wonder how many download a torrent just to 'demo it' themselves - and if it's good then go out and buy it....?

PS: Can we get hard sales numbers from Ubisoft for these titles in three months? Because we cannot have a proper debate about things like this when sales numbers are so hard to come by!

Edited 1 times. Last edit by James Ingrams on 10th March 2010 5:26pm

Posted:4 years ago

#21

David Skoumbourdis
Senior Analyst / Programmer, Journalist

4 0 0.0
Pirates/hackers are doing the wrong thing and are certainly the problem I agree with everyone stating that, but what Ubisoft is doing is punishing the legitimate end users for the actions of the dishonest. It's way too extreme a measure and I certainly won't be buying their PC products as long as they employ this system - even as a professional and a strong believer in IP rights I can't support this.

I think EA's approach to combating piracy and encouraging purchases of new software is a better solution. Even if one obtains a hacked copy, you aren't getting the full experience.

I appreciate the fact that Ubisoft is still bothering with the PC market, but this isn't the way.

Edited 1 times. Last edit by David Skoumbourdis on 10th March 2010 10:21pm

Posted:4 years ago

#22
David - isn't it exactly the same in all other areas of society though?

I need to have lock and an alarm where I live for me to be able to get insurance. Each month, I pay money to an alarm company and an insurance company, just to be able to live in a place that I am already paying for. None of that would be needed if it wasn't for the actions of the dishonest.

I have to pay extra for my car as it needs an alarm. This wouldn't be needed if it wasn't for the actions of the dishonest.

If I buy a CD in a supermarket, I have to wait for extra time at the til whilst they take off the security tag. This wouldn't be needed if it wasn't for the actions of the dishonest.

I have to queue at train stations to have my ticket checked. This wouldn't be needed if it wasn't for the actions of the dishonest.

I need a password to be able to protect my wifi connection. This wouldn't be needed if it wasn't for the actions of the dishonest.

And as for airport security....

etc etc etc

Edited 2 times. Last edit by Miles Jacobson on 11th March 2010 12:32pm

Posted:4 years ago

#23

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