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back to article Hackers crack Ubisoft always-online DRM controls

Hackers have overcome Ubisoft's controversial DRM system that relied on constant connection to the internet for games to function. A crack for Ubisoft’s anti-piracy system published by a group called Skid Row allows gamers to circumvent the controls for games such as Assassin's Creed II. A message from the group on a gamers' …

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well done

Tip of the hat to them for showing that game DRM, nomatter how extensive, is fundamentally flawed in its implementation, and at the end of the day the 'pirates' win regardless.

I pay for my games, but on more than one occasion have not bought one I would have bought otherwise due to reports of OTT DRM. Atleast not after getting GTA IV and having it refuse to run on my system, after installing all the mal<cough>software that came bundled with it. Was it Securom or something that did the DRM on that? Ended up having to enter into a long and extremely frustrating exchange with them to basically circumvent their own system using their own workarounds so I could play my bought and paid for game.

Finally did so, and got it to run, only to discover that the game was pretty shit anyway.

Just another case of DRM making a game unplayable for the people that buy it.

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Flame

Well, what a waste of goddamn time that was.

I'm interested to see what kind of rubbish Ubisoft will come up with for their next DRM measure. I suggest some sort of subliminal message that hypnotises the user into killing themselves if they even think of pirating.

Mind you, EA scored a massive own goal in this regard a a month back. We had the beautifully DRM-free Dragon Age and Mass Effect 2 and then followed it up with the always-on DRM of C&C 4. Thankfully, the game was c*** so it wasn't an issue. Even the SecuROM obsessed folks at Gearbox *eventually* listened to their customers and removed SecuROM from the Steam version of the latest Borderlands add-on.

Steam is the only service to have got copy protection right, imho. Steam games get their copy protection, gamers get a store (with dubious pricing at times, but that's another story) a good match-making system and in-game communications overlay. You don't even have to be online to use your purchases!

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Silver badge

Steam is no answer

"You don't even have to be online to use your purchases!"

You don't PURCHASE anything on Steam, you rent it.

If you have to ask someone's permission before installing and/or using a product that's not a purchase.

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Silver badge

Sorry, but it is NOT a rent

I simply cannot agree with you on this point.

Steam is by far the least annoying of all online game selling stores.

Let's be clear on one thing : if YOU sold games online, what would YOU do to ensure that the person accessing your services was the one that had the right to do so ?

Steam does have online checks, that is true, I cannot deny it. But you can play offline.

More importantly, when you upgrade or change computer, you do not have to reinstall Steam OR your game folder from scratch. Steam lets you port your whole Steam setup to a totally different PC - all you need to do is log on with your credentials and bingo! - your games are there and playable for you.

Contrast that with EAGames, whose download center is absolute crap and needs to be reinstalled from scratch - and games re-downloaded (all 12BG of them) every time you so much as patch your graphics card. I abandoned that one in a hurry.

Ubisoft has certainly proven itself to not be even able to think of its paying customers in pursuit of failing to prevent piracy, so count them out of the user-friendly universe.

The only other service that has any chance of standing with Steam on the same level of useability and user-friendliness is StarDock with its Impulse service. Anything else is just a nuisance that either takes over your PC without any right to do so, or is so paranoid about piracy that any change to your PC configuration makes it fall dead.

No sir, I'm sorry but Steam lets you play your games with far less hassle than anybody but StarDock, and over multiple PC reconfigurations to boot.

In my book, that is called user-friendly, and proper customer service. The only real issue is the difficulty that Steam has in letting you give one of your games to someone else. That is pretty much impossible. But give them time, I'm sure they'll think of something.

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@Vlad

Yes, and that makes Steam different from all the other DRM nasties out there....how? I'm pretty sure that's what UBISoft's and EA's always on stuff is doing.

What I was trying to say is that if the DRM makes itself unobstrusive and beneficial to players, then I really don't mind it. I've yet to see a way that always-on and SecuROM make themselves beneficial to players.

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LOL!

"Steam lets you port your whole Steam setup to a totally different PC - all you need to do is log on with your credentials and bingo! - your games are there and playable for you."

No they're not. You need to "check them out" from your old computer first, otherwise you're stuck.

Anyway, nothing in what you said refutes my argument that Steam "purchase" is not purchase at all but a rental transaction. You cannot do anything with the games without permission of a third party.

As for "protecting their rights" - I do not have any intent to infringe their rights if they don't infringe mine, so they need no protection. Thousands of software products, a lot of them more expensive than games, are being sold in the world without any need for online authentication. That means the business model works without any need for post-sale control to be retained by the owner. It is their desire rather than necessity and that desire infringes MY (and YOUR, but you of course don't see this) rights.

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WTF?

Umm, no, you're talkign out of your arse

"No they're not. You need to "check them out" from your old computer first, otherwise you're stuck."

This is made up, and bollocks. I have my steam games installed on at least three different machines, and all I need to do to play them is to boot the machine.

It's great for slapping games on my laptop in a hurry before a long train journey too, precisely because of this. Best of all is stuff like Torchlight, which also copies your save files down from steam cloud, too.

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No, there is no checkout needed

Sorry to insist, but I have rebuilt my computer a number of times, and reformatted the OS dozens of times.

Checkout is simply not possible when you've nuked your OS partition, and that has never kept me from logging on Steam and playing my games.

Your technical arguments on Steam appear to be a bit out of date.

And the fact that you don't INTEND to infringe is no longer - unfortunately - part of the deal. On that point, I must concede that you are right.

As for ownership of the games I have, be they under Steam or on DVD, there is a marked tendency of the entertainment industry to believe that the individual only has a license, on that point I concede that you are also right and I very much resent this direction.

However, I maintain that, of all the nuisance schemes that exist today, Steam is certainly the one that has bothered me the least and has given me the best impression that it respects MY property.

The day they throw a switch and I can no longer play any of my Steam games (like EAGames already did to me with Battlefield 2142), then I will agree that you are totally right and I never owned them.

Until that day, it seems to me that Steam is playing fair. Yes, they potentially have the ability to lock me out of my games, that I cannot deny. But the days where games could not call home to check in are long gone, and nobody can go back on that.

We have to make do with the situation now, and right now Steam and StarDock are doing it best.

In my opinion, of course.

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At what point

Did the copy protection mechanisms in games out-innovate the games themselves?

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Since forever

This has been happening since the early 1980s. I played more than a few Spectrum games back in the day which were derivative, thrown together crap delivered with copy protection which had been given much more thought and development time than the game it tried to protect.

It usually took about 5 minutes for someone to crack those early DRM systems too, and the infinite lives hack would be in the pages of YS a month or two later. Besides, none of them were a match for a decent twin tape deck.

I'm sure all the other systems of the time had similarly pointless copy protection.

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Coat

THIS.

I remember some games for the venerable Commodore 64 and it's 1541 disk drive. The games would do some absolutely fiendish things with the disk drive's onboard ROM/RAM and make the hardware do some pretty crack-addled stuff, all in the name of copy protection. (for the non-retro computing folk: Commodore's disk drives were "intellegent peripherals", basically they had controllers that could accept programming and other instruction tweaks from the computer during runtime.)

Even then, games were cracked on that platform, and there was a similar arms race as well. At one point a couple games were not playable if your drive was slightly out of alignment, unless you had the cracked version.

Mines the dusty old one next to the C128 Programmers Manual stuff into a duffel.

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Multiface

would deal with pretty much anything that was'nt a multiload :)

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Good lord

I remember the multiface - an amazing little box of gadgets. I wasn't old enough at the time to fully appreciate everything it could do but the ability to modify the code of games directly for the purposes of cheating never failed to impress me.

And being able to copy from tape to disk with it was a lifesaver.

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Pirate

Pirates

The pirates will always win. I remember when they said they couldn't crack cubase's usb emulation and 10,000 hours later they had a usb dongle emulator. It seems that their are some dedicated hackers out there. What seems to sell a game is after market support for the end user. For example battle field 2 has supported its customers very well and has sold more than expected copies on the PC , instead of wasting time creating shitty DRM support the end user.

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FAIL

Only a matter of time

They're only punishing legitimate users with this rubbish and rewarding pirates.

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Unhappy

Plus...

Plus no Ubisoft games are available on Steam in the UK despite being available on Steam in nearly every other territory.

This will be the first game I've torrented in about two years since I started getting everything through Steam...

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Anonymous Coward

letters and/or digits

"Eventually we could see games with so many restrictions and requirements needed to play that they would be all but unusable to everybody but the pirates."

If by eventually you mean last year. Can't be fucked with PC gaymes anymore.

"noo you can't have a cd drive emulator installed if you want to play our game"

No? well bugger you then, I'm taking this shit back for a refund.

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FAIL

SecureRom and the Task Manager of Doom

SecureRom not letting you play because you have a CD drive emulator. Ok - can almost understand that (but then I only use it for work and have a separate PC that is my game PC).

However SecureRom 7 doesn't let you play if you have - at any time since bootup - run the SysInternals Task Manager (now owned by Microsoft - free on the website just google it - and still so much better than the built in one). It doesn't even have to be running any more.

I assume that SecureRom processes can't hide from the SysInternals Task Manager and so is counted as a "debugging" tool.

As for Ubisoft and the always-on connection then presumably they have tested their games on something better than my flaky Virgin broadband. I'm avoiding their games until they remove this ... or perhaps the Pirate's Hack might be useful to play a legitimate game.

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Pirate

Guess I won't be buying

Any SecureRom 7 protected software then. I have Sysinternals Task Manager sitting in the tray at all times.

Nor will I be buying any UbiSoft titles seeing as how I'm stuck on dial-up (America, fuck yeah! Outside the city, connection's shitty!)

Way to drive people straight into the loving embrace of the pirates. Yo ho ho, indeed.

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Thank goodness...

... I might be tempted to actually buy it now.

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FAIL

I stopped buying UBIsoft games

The restrictions in playing with a legitimate DVD were unbelievable.

The only way I could get Vegas 2 to run was using a crack. I found this little tit-bit on the UBIsoft official forums.

Will this encourage me to buy again? NO! because UBIsoft didn't fix it...... an evil despicable pirate did it!

UBisoft needs to wise up

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1 single word

Pwned

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Flame

Games only being playable by pirates already happens

Why I will NEVER purchase a DRM'ed game again.

1) I was one of many who had a DVD drive destroyed by the DRM on X2.

2) I bought Oblivion when it first came out. The version of Securom that it used then disliked certain models of DVD-Rom drive, among them my replacement DVD-ROM. I had to use a cracked exec and a torrented DVD image to INSTALL the game. The arseholes at the game store had refused to refund me, so that was my only option as I'm not one to destroy a £40 (I think) game disc out of hatred.

3) Couple of years later, installed the Demo of Crysis under Steam. At that stage Steam didn't mention if games used 3rd party DRM as well. For some bizarre reason EA insisted on having securom DRM on the demo. My system was well within the posted minimum requirement and just under the recommended. However the combination of Steam and Securom caused it to BSOD my computer. I was not the only one as the Steam forums were full of people complaining about the securom on Crysis. Granted, this being Crysis, it might not have been the DRM in this case.

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FAIL

Quelle surprise!

It's only us paying customers that have to suffer the DRM. I even know people who buy the game but download the pirated version...

It's notable that shortly after this genre of DRM announced by Ubisoft, that they also announced that they were mainly going to concentrate on sequels and franchises...

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Anonymous Coward

Put me on that list.

I pay for my games, (or my music, or movies, what-have-you.) I then crack them so I don't have to carry 50,000 optical discs with me when I take my laptop anywhere. All movies/tv shows/etc. I buy go into the ripper and get stored on my server. (This sort of fair use is, to my knowledge, still legal here in Canada...for the 0.5 seconds left until the US rams the DMCA down our throats in the form of ACTA.) If you paid for your goods, then it isn't piracy, it's fair use!

I just don’t buy a game until there is a working second-generation crack in the wild.

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Silver badge

Buy the game, play the pirate version

Did that with Painkiller.

Came back home with a shiny, collectors edition of the game and it never wanted to install.

It's quite a shock when you slip the official, paid-for disc, launch the setup and get a "Please insert dics 1" error message !

Painkiller was so locked up nothing would do to get it work, and the store has a policy about open games meaning it gives itself the right to refuse returns of open game boxes, so I was stuck with my game that refused to install.

Result ? I torrented it, and was finally able to play MY game.

Disgusting.

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Sweet!

I might actually buy a copy now!

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Thumb Up

Not just gaming

***"In general, it seems DRM restrictions in gaming are becoming more intrusive and creating problems for genuine customers, rather than the pirates who happily bypass these measures every time,"(Chris Boyd)***

This is a general truth regarding DRM and applies to just about any application where it is applied, not just games.

I cannot think of a single case where DRM has defeated the pirates, but many cases where it has inconvenienced, sometimes severely (as in the case of the Sony rootkit fiasco), legitimate users.

Poorly conceived and obstructive DRM "solutions" (and that's, pretty much, all of them). merely piss off legitimate users and make them *more* likely to resort to pirated/hacked/cracked products next time.

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FAIL

DRM is a waste of time

I detest the DRM being inserted into PC games these days. Why should it be so restrictive that I can't even play the game when my laptop is away from my wifi router?

I'm a gamer who plays all sorts, and so I still have everything going back to the NES hooked up and ready to go. 25 years on I can still play Super Mario Brothers. Assuming my NES doesn't break, in another 25 years I'll still be able to play Super Mario Brothers. No restrictions, install limits or constant internet connections required.

In 25 years if I put Assassin's Creed II into a PC (assuming I can find one with the right drivers, hardware, operating system, etc) it will likely refuse to play/install because I'm sure by then Ubisoft will have turned their servers off.

I'd also agree with Boyd's statement about the layers of shit^H^H^H DRM being placed into games. Bioshock 2 on Steam has Steam's restrictions, Games for Windows Live's restrictions and SecuROM's restrictions. Is that enough DRM for you 2K? And of course the game was cracked and released before the real thing had even hit the shelves once again proving that the legally paying customers are the ones getting the shitty deal.

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Unhappy

DRM Sucks

The UBISoft DRM stopped me buying Assasins Creed 2, and any other always connected DRM will have the same effect.

I buy most games from Steam these days and get annoyed at the inclusion of securom and the like in the steam downloads. BioShock 2 had three levels of DRM, Steam, Securerom and Games for Windows Live. Sheer bloody madness.

On the subject of DRM spoiling the experience for legit consumers; I purchased the Avatar BluRay and this was glitching in my Sharp BluRay player. Investigation proved this to require a firmware upgrade for the player ( the third in 12 months). Sharp advised that the film ditributor had changed the way the AACa (Advanced Access Content System) was implemented to stop pirates and that this was not compatable with the existing formware. What a way to treat consumers!

I'm ok with updating the firmware on my BluRay player, I'm guessing my 74 year old father won't be though. Sharp were rather cagy in answering my question about how long they will issue updated firmware after a model is no longer manufatured. Mmm, another raw deal there then :(

I'm honest and yet I seem to be the guy who has the most grief from this stuff.

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AACS

"I'm ok with updating the firmware on my BluRay player,"

It's not YOUR BD player. You only renting it with permission from AACS LA.

They can disable it at any moment (any time you insert a new disc or when the player connects to the net) without notice and without having to compensate you in any way. Your firmware "updates" may not be updates at all but revocations of your "licence" to watch any or all BD discs you already paid for.

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Silver badge

On getting screwed

I don't have any HD kit, but a quick Google for "avatar hd torrent" showed up a suitable number of links, and "avatar download" offered standard DivX for people who are more interested in the story than the image quality.

The dishonest people who wish to rip the film and post it to the freetards have evidently done so without undue difficulty. You, meanwhile, have had to update your player (again) with the worry of what will happen once your model is obsolete.

Well, here's a question. No need to answer. You buy a Bluray disc. It fails due to updated DRM. Do you say sod it and look for a download? If you do, would you stop at just the one film? After all, if a new breed of DRM is out, how many other new releases would fail? Should you have to purchase a new player just for some ineffective DRM? Why are YOU out of pocket, twice? The movie that doesn't work, and the player that might work but might need updating, if there is an update, if it will be continually updated, if... if... if...

Yes, Mr. Honest, you are getting screwed the hardest. Wonderful, innit?

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Unhappy

Where this will lead...

Is to users having many, many pieces of media, and *gasp* _NO MEDIA PLAYER FOR ANY OF THEM_.

Each one of the pieces will simply be a "license" to view the media on the player or device of choice. Buy up a copy of BlueRay this or HD DVD that, and download the torrent to view conveniently on your PC or through HDMI on your TV, in a format that won't expire, and you could even back up several movies/music/etc at a time to an archive DVD in case the hard drive fails. This leaves the original "license" copy (probably still in the shrink wrap) safely on a shelf and secure - scratch free.

Of course, once this becomes commonplace, DCMA IV will have to come out to squash this as we would no longer buy back catalog on newer media formats, eh?

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Bronze badge

DIVX lives again?

No not DivX, DIVX - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/DIVX_%28Digital_Video_Express%29

How long till you 'buy' BluRay discs that only work when the player is online and you've paid your subscription...

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Now can I can buy Assasins Creed II

This new always have to be on-line DRM, really turned me off, so I did not buy Assasins Creed II for the PC. Now this 'patch' is out I will quite happily buy the game... Thanks pirates for help out us legitimate gamers.

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FAIL

Ehh..

And you think Ubisoft will give a shit about whether or not you had to suffer their DRM, once you've given them your money?

How about making an actual stand against something you claim to oppose and not buying it AT ALL?

Mindless consumer sheep are the reason that companies continue to pull this crap and get away with it.

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Maybe...

"Eventually we could see games with so many restrictions and requirements needed to play that they would be all but unusable to everybody but the pirates."

Or more likely games will be released on consoles only.

DRM, Destroying PC gaming one game at a time.

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Thumb Up

flame warz

and this is why i love my console

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WTF?

What?

Your console is a low-tech POS, PC gaming is far superior to console gaming.

PC hardware drives the frontier of gaming. Console gaming is forcing what could be fantastic games to be published for 3-6 year old tech consoles, thus games are being held back by your rubbish console. If you had any clue about gaming your would ditch your POS low-tech junk and use a PC, you donk.

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Stop

DRM

From what I've read, DRM gets forced downwards from the board level at these big publishers. With a bit of luck they will soon see how damaging it is to their bottom line.

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Silver badge

They won't see

They use DRMs not to protect from unauthorised copying but to force legitimate buyers to pay for "services" you don't want and for copies of product you would otherwise not have bought.

Therefore, if DRMs seem to reduce their bottom line they just take it as a loss leader or an investment until such time when they will collect it many times over from you - when you will need to pay them continuous subscription to play single-player games, when the games will force you to buy updates and upgrades, when you will need to pay all over again if you change your computer or when they just thought that you played enough without paying them and will charge you again.

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I wouldn't go that far

I don't think the boards of these companies have such evil schemes at heart. Sure, I have no doubt they'd jump at what you describe if it was handed to them on a plate but it won't happen like that because the market won't buy it.

The simplest explanation for DRM is imo the most likely: the boards are just doing their job and trying to protect as well as maximise the return on shareholder investment. Not that they've been doing the job too well though as, until recently, none of them has seen that DRM is having the opposite effect. They want to be seen to be doing *something* but, constrained in their ability to do anything even remotely creative or risky, they do exactly what politicians or anyone else in their circumstances would do: jump to the wrong conclusions, panic, react with idiotic (and often counterproductive) measures to the problem they *can* see - i.e. diminishing shareholder value - without taking in the bigger picture - i.e. diminishing custom and the futility of DRM - which they cannot.

From what I've read and heard in interviews, pretty much everyone below board level at publishers and developers HATES DRM and completely understands the damage it is doing. It won't go on like this for much longer, and I honestly don't think your "nightmare vision" will come true in our lifetimes because I don't believe anybody out there - even at the top levels - actually wants it to happen.

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title needed

I thought it was cracked on the first weekend of release?

Cos it was cracked and then Ubis servers went down, meaning every chump (like me) that bought it legally couldn't play whilst the pirates themselves.

In fact you even wrote an article on it: http://www.theregister.co.uk/2010/03/08/ubisoft_anti_drm_hack_attack/

Interestingly the same group...

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Pint

Bears and Woods!

The cracking groups couldn't give a monkey's about the games, they're simply not interested in the games or the distribution ( they have people for that!), they want the kudos that comes from being told something cannot be done and proving they can in front of their peers and sticking one on the game publishers.

The only people who want this DRM/copy-protection cack are the heads at the publishers, who think they will one day get something no one will crack. They have to been seen to be doing something for the shareholders. I appreciate some developers may want it. but I can imagine it's more of a pain in the arse to implement, they'd rather spend a few more weeks getting the code right than faff about retro-fitting DRM code!

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Stop

DRM.....

DRM is why I haven't purchased any UBIsoft PC games in the last couple of years.

I understand they have a right to protect their games but surely this shouldn't be at the expense of legitimate customers.

I won't buy UBIsoft games on the PC until they stop this nonsense.

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Ubisoft: Stop killing PC gaming

I specifically didn't buy this the other day because of the DRM horror stories.

PC gaming (the best kind) is having enough trouble surviving without them making it worse. It makes me want to cry slash kick whoever is responsible for this in the nadgers (or female equiv).

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Joke

Femail equiv.

You want to kick someone IN THE OVARIES?! That's some nimble footwork.

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Joke

Femail != Female

Either that, or he has some *really* small feet.

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Troll

I really don't think this is likely

Using a large and unnecessary force (DRM) to compensate for a small problem (piracy) sounds more like something a guy would do than a woman.

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Stop

Of course when UBIsoft fail

It will all be blamed on the Pirates cracking their software and not the fact that they alienated their customer base by engaging in a war of technical prowess with the Pirates.

So more tigntening of the the DEB Noose to follow. All the victims of the 'War on Digital Terror'

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