Screenshot of the Uplay PC client
|Initial release||3 July 2012|
|Platform||Windows NT, PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4, Xbox 360, Xbox One, Wii U, iOS, Android, Windows Phone, Facebook Platform|
Digital rights management
Uplay is a digital distribution, digital rights management, multiplayer and communications service developed by Massive Entertainment to provide an experience similar to the achievements/trophies offered by various other game companies. The service is provided across various platforms (PC, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Wii U, PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, Facebook, iOS, Android, Windows Phone, OnLive). The Uplay app for the Wii U was released after the launch of the console on 1 December 2012 on the Nintendo eShop. Uplay is used exclusively by first-party Ubisoft games, and although some third-party titles are sold through the Uplay store, they do not use the Uplay platform.
With the release of Assassin's Creed II in 2009, Ubisoft launched the Uplay network, which is activated either in-game or via the Uplay website. Uplay allows players to connect with other gamers, and to earn rewards based on achievements (called "Actions") in Uplay-enabled games, with Ubisoft CEO Yves Guillemot stating that "the more you play, the more free goods you will be able to have".
Each Uplay-enabled game has four specific Actions that can be accomplished, earning the player Uplay points, which are referred to as Units. Each Action grants the player either 5, 10, 15, 20, 30 or 40 Units, which can then be used to unlock game-related rewards; though the Units are not bound to the specific games they were earned in, and may be used to purchase rewards from any available game.
The Uplay desktop client was released on 3 July 2012, replacing the Ubisoft Game Launcher. The desktop client connects Uplay's currency and reward features, and links a player's Ubi profile across platforms (consoles, Facebook, PC, and mobile) within a single app. The client is similar to Valve’s Steam and EA’s Origin desktop clients—where the user is able to purchase and launch games from the application.
A single Uplay account is required to access the client, that can be used across platforms (consoles, PC and mobile) and to access Ubisoft’s online sites, and forums. If customers already have a Uplay account, they can use their existing account credentials to log into the Uplay desktop client. Otherwise, they will be asked to create a new account upon their first connection to the client.
Digital rights management
When it was initially launched, the Windows version of Uplay required players to maintain a constant connection to the internet to play Uplay-enabled games. Uplay games would not start without an active internet connection, and losing the connection during gameplay would halt the game, sending users back to their last checkpoint or save depending on the specific game. Some games, such as Assassin's Creed II, were later patched to save the player's exact location prior to disconnect and return them to that location when an internet connection was re-established. The scheme quickly came under fire after a denial-of-service attack on Ubisoft's DRM servers in early March rendered Silent Hunter 5 and Assassin's Creed II unplayable for several days.
The always-on requirement was quietly lifted for existing Uplay games towards the end of 2010, being changed to a single validation on game launch. However, the always-on requirement made a return in 2011 with the releases of Driver: San Francisco and From Dust, the latter having been explicitly stated by Ubisoft prior to release to only require a one-time online activation on install. From Dust was later patched to remove the always-on requirement.
In September 2012 Ubisoft employees confirmed in an interview that no further Ubisoft games would be using the always-on requirement, instead opting for a one-time activation of the game on install. However The Crew required the player to be always online in order to play.
Certain Ubisoft games required an online pass known as a "Uplay Passport" to access online and multiplayer content. In October 2013, Ubisoft announced that it would discontinue its use of online passes on future games, and made the Uplay Passport for Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag available at no charge effective immediately.
In July 2012 Tavis Ormandy, an Information Security Engineer at Google, claimed that "Uplay" DRM is a rootkit and poses a serious security risk. The software installs a browser plugin that provides access to the system. Ormandy has written proof-of-concept code for the exploit. The exploit is believed to have been fixed as of version 2.0.4, released on 30 July 2012.
Uplay's reception with reviewers and the public has been largely negative. John Walker, writing for Rock, Paper, Shotgun, called it a "technical mess" and saying that "it desperately needs to just go away" in the wake of a server collapse around the release of Far Cry 3 that temporarily made the game unplayable. Ars Technica's Kyle Orland says that "Uplay has not exactly endeared itself to the PC gaming community", describing a history of technical errors and problems related to its DRM. Geoffrey Tim, writing for lazygamer.net, called it the "worst thing" about Ubisoft's "otherwise excellent" games, and particularly criticized it for running alongside Steam when Ubisoft games are purchased on that platform. Patrick Klepek, writing for Giant Bomb, criticized the same point, saying that Ubisoft's desire to run its own distribution service offered no real benefit to consumers, and describing the tactics they used to try to get people to use it as irritating and unappealing. Writing a comparison for GadgetReview in which he compared the three major distribution platforms—Uplay, Valve's Steam and Electronic Arts' Origin—Shawn Sanders criticized it for using large amounts of memory while offering fewer features than its competitors. Summarizing popular opinion on the service, VG247's Brenna Hillier said that "Uplay is one of the less popular PC DRM systems, but all your fervent wishing that it would die has not been successful."
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