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Indie RPG Developer Details Why Ubisoft's DRM Will Be Effective

| 27 Feb 2010 21:17
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Pirates may have a pretty big task ahead of them to crack Ubisoft's new DRM scheme.

Jeff Vogel has been successfully running his own independent RPG studio, Spiderweb Software, since 1994, so he knows a thing or two about a thing or two concerning videogame development, including the effects piracy can have on a new release. In a recent blog post, he details why he feels Ubisoft's new DRM scheme that requires players to constantly be connected to the internet to play (which is still scheduled to ship with Splinter Cell: Conviction, Prince of Persia: The Forgotten Sands, and other future titles by the way) could possibly deter pirates long enough to have an actual effect.

According to Vogel, there are three specific ways that pirates could crack Ubisoft's DRM scheme, but they all have significant drawbacks or impossibilities associated. He writes:

1. Make your own, free saved game server and alter the application code to use it.

This means a lot of work and expense, both to duplicate Ubisoft's game saving code and to set up and maintain the servers. Won't happen.

2. Trick the Ubisoft servers into believing you have a legit copy, so that they will let you save your game.

OK, the hackers will probably eventually come up with a keygen program. This is tricky, because the software that generates the keys will be in Ubisoft's hands, far from prying eyes. But they could possibly do it, given a bit of time. But if they ever figure out you have a fake or duplicate key (and I bet they have their ways), poof. Your account and saved games disappear. I don't think this will work.

3. Hack the game to not need to save games on a remote server.

This means a hacker has to figure out the saved game format, somehow jam into the application new code to write the saved data and new code to read it, TEST IT, and get it to work. Doable. But it will take time, and I bet you'd get some bugs in the process.

Vogel relates the new DRM to something like World of Warcraft or playing Modern Warfare 2 online. If you disconnect, you're done, and all saved info is handled by the servers rather than being kept on each user's machine. He calls the system "clever," and though he sympathizes with what Ubisoft is trying to do, he also feels it is "amazingly harsh" and admits he, like most people on the planet, wouldn't buy a game with the new DRM scheme attached. I personally have a brand new PC that I'm raring to fire up some new games on, but not a single Ubisoft game that uses this new DRM will grace my hard drive as long as it's still spinning.

Of course, these are just theories, and who knows what enterprising pirates might come up with someday. However, as Vogel says, the intention is simply to delay the pirates as long as possible, and Ubisoft might be able to do that for a little longer this time.

For those unware, Vogel's Spiderweb Software makes really cool, deep RPGs with core gameplay similar to that of Baldur's Gate or other classic RPGs. He just released his latest game, Avernum 6, for Windows, and it's also available on the Mac. RPG fans owe it to themselves to at least click over to see what he's got going on.

Source: Jeff Vogel's Blog

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