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Driver dev defends Ubi DRM, online pass

PC piracy "utterly unbelievable".

Ubisoft has "every right" to use DRM to protect PC games from "utterly unbelievable" levels of piracy, Driver: San Francisco developer Ubisoft Reflections told Eurogamer.

"You have to do something," studio founder Martin Edmonson declared.

"It's just, simply, PC piracy is at the most incredible rates. This game cost a huge amount of money to develop, and it has to be, quite rightly - quite morally correctly - protected.

"If there was very little trouble with piracy then we wouldn't need it."

Driver: San Francisco came under fire for particularly stringent DRM that required gamers to be online all of the time. Ubisoft later tweaked this so an online sign-in was required once, at game launch; Driver: San Francisco can then be played offline.

The PC version of Driver: San Francisco was developed outside of Ubisoft Reflections. Edmonson told Eurogamer that he had no say whether DRM was used - publisher Ubisoft made that call.

"The publisher has every right to protect their investment."

Martin Edmonson, founder, Ubisoft Reflections

"DRM is not a decision taken by us as a developer at all," he explained. "It's a purely a publisher decision. The publisher has every right to protect their investment.

"It's difficult to get away from the fact that as a developer, as somebody who puts their blood, sweat and tears into this thing... And from the publisher's point of view, which invests tens and tens and tens of millions into a product - by the time you've got marketing, a hundred million - that piracy on the PC is utterly unbelievable," Edmonson elaborated.

Whether Driver: San Francisco would use Ubisoft's second-hand sales deterrent Uplay Passport was also a decision out of Edmonson's hands. "Yes it was, yeah [a Ubisoft decision]," he remarked.

The Uplay Passport, like EA's Online Pass, manifests as a free code within a first-hand Driver: San Francisco game box. Redeem this online to unlock Driver: San Francisco's 11 multiplayer modes and a Film Director mode.

If you buy the game second-hand with a missing or previously redeemed Uplay Passport code, then you'll need to pay extra for that content. On PC and PS3 the charge is £8, on Xbox 360 the charge is £6.80 (due to Microsoft Point conversion rates).

"[Uplay Passport (online pass) is] one of those things that we just have to get used to - it's going to happen."

Martin Edmonson

"If people don't buy the game when it first comes out and wait and pay for rental or for second-hand usage, then the publisher sees absolutely nothing of that," Edmonson said.

"I see how much work, effort, money and risk goes into the creation of these games. I think it's entirely right that everybody who's involved - the people who take the risk - should have a reasonable chance at a financial recouping from that.

"If you want these games to be produced at the level they're being produced at, the cost they're being produced at... Everyone wants something for nothing, don't they? They're very, very expensive and high risk - huge risk, actually."

"It's one of those things that we just have to get used to," he added, "it's going to happen."

Driver: San Francisco launches this Friday on PS3 and Xbox 360. The game has taken a team of up to 220 people four-to-five years to build. Driver: San Francisco has a formidable bespoke engine that copes with a rare 60 frames-per-second. It also has a refreshingly innovative, if initially beguiling, Shift mechanic.

Long gone are the days of the dreadful Driver 3.

"In Reflection's best work since the Driver series began," wrote Martin Robinson in Eurogamer's Driver: San Francisco review, "it's managed to tame the ridiculous and conjure something quite sublime."