The Needles: Michael Pachter, Ubisoft and the Perils of Rights and Wrong

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Well, people look at a game like Goo and they think, "Look at how small-scale that game is. There's no way it's worth $20!"

Which isn't a problem. Hey, think what you will, especially if you've never made a game. People who listen to music don't usually know the time and work that go into writing, recording, and releasing it.

But then the shoulder-devil pops up and says, "Well, the internet is like a Best Buy with no locks or cameras or security devices. You could just walk in and take it, and no one would ever know."

Andy Chalk:
Most of these arguments make my point: Meaningful conversations about DRM are all but impossible because people are so deeply entrenched in their positions and refuse to even poke their heads up for a look. I'm not even trying to talk about DRM or piracy here; I'm just talking about talking about it.

Try to look at the matter objectively and ask yourself, why are some game publishers so reliant on heavy DRM? What are pirates doing, and why are they doing it? Are there better ways to accomplish our goals? And be honest about that one: Are you really fighting for copyright reform, lower-priced games and better customer relations, or do you just want free games? These are the kind of humps we have to get over if we want to get away from this entirely unsatisfactory status quo.

You know, it's a recurring fantasy of mine that a rich billionaire will drive up beside me as I'm walking down the street and hand me a big sack of money. Realistically, that's unlikely to happen. You're quite right I -want- everything for free, in much the same way I want to be immortal or be able to fly, with little discernible effort on my part, but I don't -expect- any of these these things, nor take steps to accomplish them, much less consider stealing. Although, my hands aren't entirely clean in this regard. I have a number of downloaded songs, and a no-cd crack for Fallout 3, though I -did- buy the game first, I just dislike having to load up my cds. I don't in general endorse pirating however.

So, fair enough:

Why are the pirates doing what they're doing?

I suppose that's easy enough, in this thread alone we've been given several reasons, citing cost, a desire to try before they buy, moral scruples (or lack thereof) and indignity toward the craven use of DRM itself. Reasons all, but not justifications. Still, it's a why, non?

Why are some game publishers so reliant on heavy DRM?

They're reliant on DRM, because, I suppose they see it as the best way to protect their interests in the face of Piracy. Although I've often felt like it, I don't think it's a deliberate attempt on the companies' part to 'punish' the purchasing user, the feeling stems from the often restrictive or even draconian nature of certain types of DRM, but it's not the intention. In this, yes, they're right to want to protect those interests (legally and 'morally'.)

Are there better ways to accomplish our goals?

If by goals you mean, what can we as consumers do about it, well, that one stumps me. I mean...I guess, just continue to buy your games as usual, or if you feel the price is too high, or you dislike the DRM or even the company making the game then don't buy.

But...I guess I'll ask you that Mr.Chalk: What can we as consumers do? Pirates on the whole are individuals aren't they? I mean, I know there are sites and the like, groups, but, how exactly are you supposed stop your next door neighbour from downloading illegally? A strongly worded letter? Are we to become watchmen, ever vigilant, reporting cases of piracy as we find out about them? I'm fairly sure I've got a few friends who do pirate extensively, do I report them to whatever authorities takes care of these things? Not a pleasant thought, even if what they're doing is wrong.

Well, the big question is "Who owns the game after the consumer purchases it, the company, or the consumer?"

It's also "what does ownership imply?" If games are "software" then the precedent is there for the kind of access you don't have to it.

Like Photoshop. If your company buys it for you, they pay one price. If they buy it for the whole office, they pay a much higher price. If they buy it for you and give it to the whole office, they pay a price of a different kind.

DRM hurts legit customers. Pirates couldn't care less cuz they circumvent it. Therefore, all these big bucks are only going towards convincing legit customers that the pirate experience is better anyway.

Take the example of the amazingly short-sighted publisher who limits install of a certain game to 3 installs total. The 'legit customer' is forced to abide by these foolish restrictions, or buy the game and just download a cracked copy because IT WORKS BETTER.

Sexual Harassment Panda:

You've taken a few things out of context, but nevermind, I will try to clear things no particular order. I'm also no good with splitting up a post into small quote, no idea how that is done.

Just enclose the desired passages for text within (quote) and (/quote) tags (replacing the parentheses with square brackets).

Alright a new skill, if this goes well I'll add it to my CV.

We will also never completely cure disease, never prevent all traffic accidents, never learn all there is to know about nuclear fission, or bake the perfect cake. But we try, and we get closer.

Mine were examples of illegal activity, and the limitations in fighting them, was it your turn to use a shitty analogy? DRM might be slowly becoming more sophisticated, it doesn't mean it's not a losing battle...only time will tell.

Allowing a publisher to put DRM on their product is like allowing you and I to have locks on our cars--no, it won't prevent the most determined thief, but for the most part it pretty effectively keeps other people from using your car without permission.

Again, I think there is a distinction between stealing a car and copying some data. Anyway, if we're using the "games are like cars" analogy, pirates are cruising around having a good time, whilst legitimate users are stood on the sidewalk kicking their tyres in frustration.

Because it's not about WHO is stealing. It's about the fact that there IS stealing. The internet isn't like a political map, with boundaries and borders and customs agents. It's like a giant pool of information. Pee in a little bit of the pool and it gets everywhere. People pirating copies means pirated copies are out there, regardless of the individual offender's reason for getting one. The distribution of pirated copies is the concern moreso than the individual offender's rationale.

Noting that the internet is worldwide is relevent, because the law, isn't consistant across the planet. In some places piracy is legal. I feel that "WHO is stealing" is worth noting too, is your market people with money or people without? Can't bleed a stone...

Analogies can be acceptable insomuch as they accurately draw attention to a particular aspect of an issue--without also introducing incorrect associations. The illustrative devices a person chooses for their analogies provides insight into how they view the issue. In your example, the gaming companies are painted as behaving in a violently illegal way. In my example, they are painted as authority figures regarding their product (which they are, allowing a potentially parental "my house, my rules" way of things) who are too broadly applying a punishment.

I've already said that my example was silly, silly by design. The horse is dead, no need to keep beating it.

That will change when someone robs your house, I'm sure. You'll take SOME measure to try to deal with it. I sincerely doubt you'll just go, "Oh, well, can't stop every crime," and go out and by new things without so much as a call to the police.

I've been robbed, it's no picnic but it's not worth getting stressed about, didn't turn my home into a cctv guarded fortress as a result. Anyway piracy of a product that you have made public isn't like someone breaking into your private home.

Widgets are exactly that. A widget is simply a representation of ANY product which someone creates and sells to another. It doesn't matter if I'm distributing a personally-written fan-fic or if it's a next-generation RPG with billions of fans. The laws and ethics surrounding it don't change based on how many people want it.

I've understood every example you have given me, I also understand the law. I'm not trying to be rude, but it really feels like you're repeating yourself under the assumption that I just can't comprehend it. I get it...just not sure I agree.

You do get accustomed to things, that's why divorce settlements get so damn messy, which I mention only to point out that the law can infact be a complete ass, and should not be looked upon as something that is morally and ethically sound.

[quote]Again, we're back to the major distinction:

- Some DRM measures are unnecessarily restrictive, and can interfere with legitimate customers enjoying the game. This frustration can be compounded when people see that some of the more savvy pirates are still managing to get access.

- As long as the developer/publisher is making the game and owns the rights to it, the game is THEIRS. They could add or subtract whatever they want until such time as a sale is made--at which point both buyer and seller are contractually bound by what the package says is in there and what rights are entailed in the purchase.

- Nothing the publisher does or demands is forced upon the player--the player reads the package, sees the terms of the license, and either chooses to agree or not. If they choose "not," their only recourse is to go be entertained elsewhere. Nothing in any way provides them any sort of "right" or "expectation" or "entitlement" or ANYTHING that excuses or allows illegally obtaining a copy of the game.

So, 3 different statements being made:

1) "I do not like some of the DRM measures being taken by some publishers."
2) "As an intelligent consumer, I do not have to excuse, defend, or support these measures."
3) "But I still really want the game, so I'll just get it without paying for it so I don't have to deal with the DRM (or the pricetag)."

And #3 is where things go into the immoral, unethical, and illegal categories.

This is fair enough, just more explaination of arguably dubious laws.

It's not "the more savvy" pirates who are getting access, it's anyone who wants it, the DRM has been defeated. If I buy the game, install it on 1 computer, keep the damn thing to myself and end up suffering connection errors that make the game unplayable, and I patch it just to play something I've paid for...I've broken the law. As I have said...the law is often a complete ass.

edit - I managed to botch the quoting...not fixing it now though.

Sexual Harassment Panda:
- snip -

Okay, so it's apparent that you believe your beef to be with the law.

However, it's also quite apparent that your primary issue is with one particular form of DRM - that being used by Ubisoft, which can cause paying customers to be unable to play in the case of connection errors (on either side).

1) No one is defending that style of DRM, specifically or in general. It's too problematic, and is apt to cause a lot of heartache due to potential problems with server hardware/software, ISP hardware/software, and player hardware/software. Just too many points of failure to be practical in the long-term.

2) The law isn't specifically defending that particular style of DRM, either.

3) What we (and the law) are saying is that Ubisoft has the absolute right to put that ridiculous DRM on their products if they so choose. Hell, if they wanted, they could require that you have a dancing leprechaun supervise you while you are playing the game, as long as they make that information readily available before purchase.

4) Even using leprechaun DRM doesn't change the fact that using the program WITHOUT it is a violation of the agreement the player "signed" when installing. And that's the rub--the player must agree to it in order to rightfully play the game.

5) None of this changes the "wrongness" of breaking the DRM to obtain a game FOR FREE, though it's used as a popular justification for not wanting to pay.

(I personally think there's less legal/moral problem with someone who BUYS a game and then wants a way to play it without bizarre restrictions--but when a hack/crack becomes available, it's just more likely (due to human nature) that people will use it to get or give free copies.)


- If a company doesn't mention these DRM measures on the packaging of the sale box, and the store won't allow a refund on the software (when the player discovers the DRM upon trying to install), that's where we're seeing legitimate legal grievance. Of course, the player should be arguing to get their money back, NOT to get the game for free.

Ubisoft's legal right to be stupid aside, what are they thinking? There are still far too many companies in the games market for them to be saddling their products with this kind of user hostility. Once it's down to a monopoly, then maybe they can start treating the end user like the guy in the gimp suit but for right now, this is reducing their sales. Forget the people who were not inclined to pay anybody for anything, right now people who were willing to pay for games they enjoyed are finding Ubisoft's games less enjoyable and will be more likely to buy from someone else.

I no longer buy THQ games for similar reasons -- I became particularly incensed with them after a game I owned was subsequently patched to become unplayable unless I was logged into their network. Granted, I could have re-installed and then stopped short of the patch in question but it seemed simpler to just uninstall it and leave it uninstalled.

There is a certain amount of faith in the user community. Players agree to licenses they never read on the assumption that the company isn't making stupid demands of the end user. I have no doubt when I installed the patch to the THQ game, the license I didn't care about anyway did include my consent to their new rule over my gaming, and I'm sure their lawyers would be quick to point out that if I agreed to the license I have no legal complaint against them. As usual for lawyers, they are missing the point. I will never agree to another THQ license, since I will never buy or install another one of their games.

Ubisoft seems intent on painting themselves into the same corner.

Let me put it this way, if Ubisoft goes out of business, meaning no servers and online verification, how do I play the game I paid a bunch of money for? I as a consumer have the right to MY property indefinatly. Some of us do play old games, some of which are a decade or more old, and I feel that is our right.

I agree. I don't particularly care how game producers protect their products; someone will find a way to bypass their security and a good number of people will pay for the product anyway.

I am of the opinion however that when I pay for the game it should be, if anything, more accessible to play than a pirated version. Crap like this 'have to be logged in' business to play a single player game kills me.


- If a company doesn't mention these DRM measures on the packaging of the sale box, and the store won't allow a refund on the software (when the player discovers the DRM upon trying to install), that's where we're seeing legitimate legal grievance. Of course, the player should be arguing to get their money back, NOT to get the game for free.

This is a fairly focal issue however. When you're watching the TV spot for the game or some review on gamespot they don't usually mention the hoops you'll have to jump through in order to install/play it. Else it'd be like when those chips came out with Olestra and no one wanted to buy them because of the lengthy list of side-effects.

While I certainly understand that the commercials don't draw attention to it, that's for several sensible reasons. Firstly, the same game on multiple platforms doesn't have the same DRM on all of them, and having to explain each would take more time than the commercial slot allows. But also, there's nothing that says an advertiser has to list the drawbacks of their product (aside from FDA regulations, due to the sensitive nature of those products).

Now, the PACKAGING in which the product is sold--that's another matter entirely. If it's not clearly stated on the packaging that these things are present and can place strict limitations on gameplay, it doesn't matter what's in the EULA--the buyer should know BEFORE purchase.

I don't think certain bits of uniformity would go amiss in the gaming industry... a uniform format to packaging that spells out system requirements, DRM restrictions, play styles/controllers/etc available, all in the same sort of chart--like foods do with the nutritional information. But it's getting companies to agree to it that's the problem.

I agree that companies have a right to protect their content, but what they're doing is wrong/stupid in my eyes. Always-on DRM is not a solution, and I'd exercise my right to not buy the game and give out about it.

There must be some compromise between trying to weed out pirates, and negatively influencing those who legitimately pay for games.

Can you not just have a CD-Key, and have that connect with your Ubisoft account online? Maybe the CD-Key only becomes active when you buy the game -- like key codes for topping up your mobile phone; as to deter Key generators etc?

Another idea is what Arkham Asylum on the PC did, letting you play the cracked copy until about halfway through the game, much like an extended demo?

Anyway, my internet is fickle, and I refuse to have to be online to play a game, so I'll just vote with my wallet and stay away from games that do so.

You see, the problem with the argument "They'll stop with DRM if you stop pirating" isn't really going to fly. You know why? Because both sides are blithering idiots, and insist upon fighting a losing battle.

Pirates and crackers see heavy DRM as a challenge to their cracking skill. So naturally, they work extra hard to crack it. Users who are either too lazy to go through with the DRM, or too cheap to buy the game, see the free, easy installation and download it.

So, then the game companies, seeing the rising piracy rates, dramatically jump to their feet, sending Ramen Noodles flying, and bellow "THIS CALLS FOR TOUGHER DRM" and then spend money and time making DRM that could've been better spent improving the game. And the cycle continues.

I also call bullshit on the argument "If you don't want tougher DRM, don't buy it", because we all know how THAT goes. For example, Modern Warfare 2. It ships with no dedicated server support, a lukewarm campaign, and broken multiplayer. It's one of the best selling games of the year. As are it's massively overpriced DLCs. Unfortunately, the majority of the gaming public will throw their money at a game if it has a brand name stuck on it, hence why we see all these unoriginal sequels.

Oh, look how cute I'm being, collectively spitting on the shoes of 90% of the online public. I suppose I'd best stop myself.


If a night-club decides that the only way to ensure nobody gets shot inside is to have full-body strip searches at the door, then they're free to insist on that policy. And the fun-loving club goers can either wait in line to be probed just to see how cool it is inside or they can go somewhere else. It would also be 100% illegal and morally wrong to break in the back-door to avoid said strip-search. The proper way to object would be to go next door and tell your friends that the night-club in question sucks monkey tits.

So to all the "hackers" out there, you're douchebags. Pay for your stuff like everyone else.

And to the software distributors - DRM sucks and pisses off your customers, so keep trying to find something else.

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