Back in the mists of time (or 2006, whichever happened first, I forget), Ubisoft used this anti-piracy aberration called Starforce (or however it’s spelt).
It pissed off everyone under the sun and, some people say, nearly caused Ubisoft to go bankrupt (after all, who’s going to buy a game that might break your PC, burn the cat AND eat your first born, all during the install procedure?).
The system was finally binned and, in a startling show of goodwill, Ubi started releasing games with either simple disc-checks or no protection what-so-ever.
Roll on January 2010 and history looks to be repeating itself.
The veiled threats from last year about inventing some form of ‘unbreakable copy protection’ have finally bubbled to the surface in the form of the current favourite of a persistent Ubisoft.com connection, cannily explained in a FAQ, as follows…
What are the key elements of this platform for PC gamers?
Although a permanent online connection is required, this means that a CD/DVD is not required to play the game after installation. The protected game can be installed as many times and on as many computers as you like. Saved games are also synchronized online so the user can continue playing from any location with the game installed.
How many players can the server system support?
There is no limit to how many players can play at the same time. For each title, we carefully study the demand and allocate servers accordingly. We will also of course allocate back-up servers in order to be able to respond to fluctuations in demand. Ubisoft provides 24/7 monitoring of its servers.
How many computers can I install the game on?
There is no limit to the number of computers on which you can install the game. However you can only play with your individual Ubisoft account on one computer at a time.
Can I play my game from another computer?
Yes. As long as the game is installed on the PC, you can play from any computer and your Ubisoft account will recognise your last saved position as well as automatically save any updates.
I am in a strict environment with lots of firewall rules etc. Can I still play the game?
If you can access the Internet from the computer, you can play the game.
What if Ubisoft decides not run these online services in the future? Will my game stop working?
If any service is stopped, we will create a patch for the game so that the core game play will not be affected.
What will happen if I lose my Internet connection when I play the game?
If you lose your Internet connection the game will pause while it tries to reconnect. If the Internet Connection is unable to resume you can continue the game from where you left off or from the last saved game.
Will I need to be online the whole time when I play the game? Including for single player?
Yes. You will need to have an active Internet connection to play the game, for all game modes.
Will this platform use unique keys?
Yes. Unique keys are verified throughout this system.
Will this affect the performance of my PC?
No. The services that we offer run only when you start the game and there are no background services.
Do you have to be a member of Uplay to use this service platform?
This system requires you to have a Ubi.com account. A Uplay and a Ubi.com account are the same. You don’t need to use Uplay to use this service platform, but if you wish to do so, it’s very simple.
Do you plan to implement this system on home consoles?
This system is for PCs only.
Will this system be available for every Ubisoft game?
Most upcoming Ubisoft PC games will make use of this system.
For an idea of how feasibly awful this may be, consider every single digital distribution problem (availability, connectivity, restrictions, limitations, lack of resale etc.) rolled into one, then painted with the nice thick, tarry brush of cynicism, brought about by the general lack of trust in a huge publisher getting this right without it being one big, happy shareholder-pleasing, stock boosting exercise.
In short, in its current state, this can only end badly…