Ubisoft DRM servers stressed out. Past life synchronizations delayed.

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Having trouble playing the PC version of Assassin’s Creed 2 or Silent Hunter 5 today? You’re not the only one. Joystiq notes that the Assassin’s Creed 2 forum has a thread filled with angry users that suddenly find they can’t get into the game, either. There’s even a post in there about someone who bought the game as a gift over the weekend and now can’t play it. The forum for the WW2 sub-sim, Silent Hunter 5, also has a similar, vitriol filled thread.

An Ubisoft representative in the Assassin’s Creed 2 forum has posted the following:

“Due to exceptional demand, we are currently experiencing difficulties with the Online Service Platform. This does not affect customers who are currently playing, but customers attempting to start a game may experience difficulty in accessing our servers. We are currently working to resolve this issue and apologize for any inconvenience.”

This is actually covered in their FAQ as to what would happen if this occurred. As for when it will be resolved, the same representative had replied to the thread noted above by saying:

“I don’t have any clear information on what the issue is since I’m not in the office, but clearly the extended downtime and lengthy login issues are unacceptable, particularly as I’ve been told these servers are constantly monitored.

I’ll do what I can to get more information on what the issue is here first thing tomorrow and push for a resolution and assurance this won’t happen in the future. I realise that’s not ideal but there’s only so much I can do on a weekend as I’m not directly involved with the server side of this system.”

In the meantime, PC fans will simply have to wait.

UPDATE (3.8.2010): According to Blue’s News, it seems that the problems experienced yesterday were the result of an attack against their servers according to this Tweet from Ubisoft. In this one, they claim that 95% of their players weren’t affected. So it sounds like it’s happy gaming for PC gamers once again. At least for today.

Ubisoft Online

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Tom Francis over at PC Gamer has a blog entry spelling out his experience with Assassin’s Creed 2 on the PC. It’s also one of the first titles to roll off the assembly line equipped with Ubisoft’s new online-only service that I spoke about here and it’s already sparked heated reactions.

Basically, Tom tested whether or not he could keep playing the game without an internet connection so he unplugged his network cable to simulate the effects of actually losing it, presumably in the middle of poisoning a few guards or while leaping across rooftops. He had to do it this way because he wouldn’t have been able to even start the game if the launcher was unable to verify a connection in the first place.

Sure enough, the game reacted….in the worst way imaginable. It kicked him right out with a little message that said it had lost a connection to the server and was attempting to reconnect to restore the last checkpoint. The game uses the saves it has on the server to restore his progress. He notes that the saves are also local with an option to upload them or not, so in essence, the saves aren’t all on the server – but he still needs to be online to even play the game.

So what will happen if their servers, your router, or even your cable service goes down? Exactly what happened to Tom. Assassin’s Creed 2 doesn’t even have multiplayer. The only reason to stay online is to play the game. You’ll lose out on whatever progress you might have been making and be unable to play the game you paid for until the problem is fixed. And it isn’t even a bug, it’s a feature.

They won’t be winning friends among the PC faithful that want to experience titles such as Assassin’s Creed 2 with this approach despite the pleasant language Ubisoft’s FAQ on the service is written in. I didn’t even know that online saves were a feature that PC users desperately needed, but apparently Ubisoft has access to poll numbers that probably say otherwise.

Magic poll numbers that claim everyone’s hard drive is liable to crash in the next 24 hours.

Ubisoft goes online-only for PC players

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Last week, Ubisoft made waves when they announced how they were going to use a new DRM (digital rights management) scheme for most of their upcoming PC games. PC players will now need to sign onto Ubisoft’s online service in order to be able to play the game they purchased over the counter in order to activate it…and need to stay online to keep it activated. As Arstechnica’s Ben Kuchera had put it, “This is like having to show your receipt every time you want to turn on your television.”.

According to Ubisoft’s FAQ on the service, the “added services” that this approach has over conventional DRM is that it will allow you to install the game on as many PCs as you want, save your games online, and not use a disc to play it. There are a few problems with this approach that are worse than the disc-based Securom or key-based authentication that some methods use. At least when Steam cuts out, you can still play the game. Not so with Ubisoft.
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Review: Assassin’s Creed 2

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History and the fantastic tales surrounding it have always been a playground for entertainment.

But no game gives you as many historical seesaws and jungle gyms quite like Assassin’s Creed 2, a sci-fi period piece that amazingly manages to mix the brilliance of Renaissance Italy with scientific fantasy and Templar legend. Despite its flaws, it’s one of the most enthralling tales you’ll find on any system.
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Review: Call of Juarez – Bound in Blood

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Polish developer Techland’s Call of Juarez was a western-styled shooter filled with plenty of spaghetti-styled trappings and action that told of a story between outlaw-turned-preacher, Reverend McCall, and Billy Candle whose mixed Native American ancestry had made him something of an outsider on both sides of the fence in the Wild West. Centering around the legend of the treasure ransom paid by the Aztec Empire in the sixteenth century for Montezuma to Cortez, everyone was convinced that they would find it first…as long as they survived the standard curse that accompanies such vast amounts of loose change.

Bound in Blood is the prequel to the first game, telling the story of the three McCall brothers and how a crack shot and vicious bastard like Ray had turned to religion, although you needn’t have played the first to get an idea of what is going on here. Putting you in Ray’s shoes as a Confederate sergeant in 1864 defending a series of trenches against the Union army, it’s clear that Techland will be spinning as much of a western yarn as it will put six shooters and rifles into the player’s hands.
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E3: Ubisoft press briefing decompression

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James Cameron and Pele showed up to this thing, which gives you an idea of the kind of mojo Ubisoft was rolling with on the eve of E3. I don’t have an exact time down, but this had to be the longest press conference of the day. The theme of their show was confluence, which in short, is attempting to merge the minds of Hollywood and gaming to create a universe of uber-creativity. We saw some of that, at least conceptually, with Peter Jackson’s King Kong, an original launch title for the 360 that was tied to the movie.

There was a lot of stuff to digest here, most of which dealt with the confluence thinking. I’ll spill my 2 cents about some of the other games. I’ve got my man-crush on Sam Fisher and Splinter Cell: Conviction (seen above) and Reggie will expound on his man-crush on James Cameron’s Avatar. Enjoy, post-jump.
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Assassin’s Creed 2 Site Teases Fans

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Assassin’s Creed fans will remember the Animus project and Ubisoft has put together a teaser site for the sequel based around the name, providing tantalizing hints as to what is going to be revealed later this month on the 16th in Game Informer. A few interesting images are shown in succession, providing plenty of da Vinci inspired sketches hinting that the next adventure may take place in Renaissance Italy.

Hopefully the next game will have more unique opportunities in exploring the world and less of the repetition, but any chance to head back into one of Ubisoft’s visually stunning sets is always something to look forward to.