UPDATE: Ubisoft deleted the original forum thread regarding the DRM announcement. A new thread has been posted providing a “detailed explanation” of the DRM used in From Dust. They wanted to clear up the confusion about their first post… which was made to clear up confusion about their original statement. Now they have stated that “From Dust requires an internet connection to start the game,” which isn’t a one-time activation like they told users the game would feature. Ubisoft is giving refunds for purchases through UPlay.
UPDATE 2: Despite reports that Steam is giving refunds, there has been no official statement from Steam/Valve regarding this. Steam is giving some refunds to customers who cite A: Laws concerning claims of product performance and features , and B: Those who cite the DRM issue, link to statements that Ubisoft said there was a one-time activation, when in reality the game checks on each launch for an internet connection. If you simply ask for a refund it will be denied, which is happening for many Steam customers.
A few weeks ago Ubisoft released their sandbox God-Game “From Dust” on Xbox 360. The PC version of the game was originally supposed to launch around the same time, but was delayed almost a month and was released today, August 17th. Ubisoft did not disclose a reason for the delay, but it’s probable that it was to combat PC piracy and possibly alter the DRM system for the game.
Originally it was rumored that the game would use “always-on” DRM, which requires you to be connected to the internet the whole time you play, and any loss of connection would force you out of the game. Ubisoft clarified the rumor, and stated that the game would require “a one-time only online activation.” However, this has also turned out to not be true. Instead of a one-time activation, the game instead checks each time you launch it. While this system isn’t “always-on,” it’s also not what they promised gamers it would be. Some users have even had issues with the game detecting their connection, leaving them unable to play.
It would be expected that the delay would give Ubisoft time to make sure everything is working smoothly for the PC port. That has not happened either. From Dust uses very detailed physics simulations to model water and lava dynamics, and requires a good amount hardware power to do so. A very good amount in fact. The minimum system requirements include the Nvidia 256mb 8800GT; while the graphics card is almost 4 years old, it is still quite powerful and can play any other recent release. These minimum requirements mean any user with an integrated graphics card is basically out of luck. It would have been good form to make special indication of the game’s high requirements, but that was not done. Another way to solve the performance issue would have been to include a full list of graphical settings to adjust, which is almost assumed to be included in every PC game. However the only setting available is resolution, meaning people with performance problems have almost no ability to try to improve it. From Dust is also locked to a maximum of 30fps, which creates a number of problems for certain PC gamers.
Users are also frustrated of poor mouse controls. Instead of directly controlling a mouse pointer, the game still uses a cursor that sticks to the ground and resembles a snake (which is used in the console version). This method makes perfect sense with an analog stick that has a fixed area of movement, but a mouse can be moved without limitation, making the indirect control method rather unintuitive. The mouse controls not only the cursor’s position, but also the camera movement, meaning you have to center the item you are looking at before you can actually interact with it, otherwise it will cause you to continue moving the camera. Again, no options are given to change these settings. All of these problems are occurring on top of other bugs and stability issues.
Users who purchased From Dust from Steam still have to sign up for UPlay, Ubisoft’s digital distribution service, and the game will also launch the UPlay client, which for Steam users is a completely useless program. The Ubisoft forums are currently filled with complaining customers, and there has been little to no response from Ubisoft staff. One user wrote, “The overall lack of any effort whatsoever to make this a decent PC game is totally unacceptable.”
This is far from the first time Ubisoft has released a subpar PC port. Far Cry 2 for PC suffered from some critical bugs that would corrupt save games or prevent progress in the story, and they were never patched. Rainbow 6: Vegas 2 for PC suffered from such terrible performance and netcode that the game was unplayable; these issues were also not fixed. It’s expected that all the issues plaguing From Dust will largely go unchanged. Ubisoft’s reputation as a PC developer takes a step down after every release, and many gamers have stated their intentions to stop purchasing their games altogether, or wait to see what other users say.
Ubisoft also recently delayed the PC version of Call of Juarez: The Cartel for PC, again giving no reason for the delay. Previously Ubisoft has issued last minute delays of PC versions for almost every major series, including Prince of Persia and Splinter Cell.