Watch_Dogs: The Difference Between Forced and Voluntary Online

The cats out of the bag with Watch_Dogs always-online aspects, but are we really getting upset at the right thing?

The cats out of the bag with Watch_Dogs always-online aspects, but are we really getting upset at the right thing?

So, if you’ve been reading the GameSkinny home page today, you probably noticed this post about Watch_Dogs. If you are someone playing predominantly single-player, perhaps you are just a tad bit upset.  I can understand that; however, I also know how this sort of situation goes, and it ends with multiplayer fans either being thrown under the bus or single-player fans thinking their favorite style of play is dying. Or both, I’ve seen and experienced both as well.

Neither of these  is the correct response though.

In fact, the culprit you should be blaming is Ubisoft, not the imaginary “superior” popularity of one thing to another. We all know Ubisoft has been trying to pull this sort of thing since before Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood was a twinkle in its eye. It has not been that long, we couldn’t have forgotten their distrustful demeanor towards gamers that quickly.

So what’s the difference in this situation? Now it’s not just PCs, it’s everyone. Doesn’t matter if you are playing Watch_Dogs on a PS4, Xbox 360, PC,r a Wii-U — you get the same disrespectful treatment of a publisher/developer who can’t trust its own audience.

This isn’t even their attempt to make the multiplayer a more prominent feature.

This is plain and simple DRM, just like the Assassin’s Creed 4’s management mini-game and “social treasures” that locked off if you went offline. Also, in Assassin’s Creed 4, if you went ahead and tried to connect to multiplayer while you had no Uplay Passport, you have the exact same experience of losing all your stats.

Since the Passport was dropped and made free, Ubisoft needs a new angle to force you to stay online–not for multiplayer, but so they can make sure every single second, you are not pirating from them or misbehaving somehow. It’s incredibly ironic that they’re doing this, considering the subject matter of Watch_Dogs–a game about hacktivism and a Big Brother police state.

I’d almost think this was some intentional commentary on it if it weren’t for the fact that, as I said, Ubisoft is nearly deaf when it comes to DRM.

It took three entries in Assassin’s Creed and numerous other titles like Splinter Cell: Conviction for THIS to happen. I wouldn’t be surprised at all if this is their latest attempt to see if maybe they can get away with it on consoles, especially now that consoles are now more like PC–therefore they’ll assume higher piracy rates.

This isn’t to say necessarily that this controversy even impacts offline gamers. For all we know, Notoriety and all its unlocks are exclusively for online play, and if you lose it, you’ll never miss out on anything in the single-player. We do not know what the extent is. Is the practice complete and utter bull? Absolutely! But is this some petty attempt to force people to play online multiplayer? Highly unlikely.

I want you to take a minute and look at this image:

This is not online multiplayer saying “come play me.” This is a paranoid company refusing you the right to play as you want.  Rarely is any multiplayer “forced” upon the players.

  • Tomb Raider did not require you get to rank 20 in its multiplayer to acquire a new gun in single-player.
  • Dead Space 2 did not keep you unable to use New Game Plus unless you beat its Outbreak mode a hundred times victoriously.
  • Bioshock 2 did not disable the second half of its campaign unless you complete a round of every mode it’s multiplayer had.
  • Far Cry 3 did not prevent you from choosing the ending you wanted for not dabbling in its co-op mode.

These were completely auxiliary experiences for those who wanted them. At no point did any of these games up and demand you play them.

In fact, things have been quite the opposite.

For Batman: Arkham Origins and Assassin’s Creed 3 to 4, you get rewards for each game’s multiplayer by playing the single-player campaign to its fullest. The only game of recent memory that did the opposite would be Mass Effect 3, which made it harder to get the ending you wanted unless you played for improved galaxy readiness points in multiplayer across the various maps.

Irony being, most single-player fans I know claimed that multiplayer was the best one to come around in a while. The only one that actually forced multiplayer gets off scratch free.

This is not the death of single-player.

Dramatic lamenting I’ve seen many a time can be easily coddled by the fact that Desura, Steam, handheld games, and even Origin, have a very notable amount of offline-only or offline-enabled games. There are more single-player games of high quality available for free or very little is at an all time high. Even AAA titles such as Mad Max and The Order 1886 clearly show an interest in offline play.

This is not the heart of what is at stake here. What is at stake is our freedom from an anti-consumer content producer who can’t keep its fingers out of our daily gaming experiences.

So what should you do? Make it clear  to Ubisoft you don’t want this. Protest the DRM. Protest going online by refusing to even earn notoriety points if you are truly so upset. Cancel your preorder if you feel strongly enough. Or if you want a grander scheme of things, screw with them. Stay online for a week or so, then immediately all just go offline. Cut the activity numbers by a notable margin.

I see so many single-player fans upset about this sort of thing, and really if you are this upset — do something about it! You’ve got the numbers, just unite and make a point. Trust me, even though I plan on playing online, if such a movement happened, I’d be right there with you whenever I get my copy.

Make a point in a way the people who will care will notice. They won’t see your comments or forum threads. Mountains of e-mails, campaigns of rejection, lost profits — these are the things that can make a dent. Following stereotypical scapegoats isn’t. So let’s actually make a difference.

About the author

Elijah Beahm

Grumpily ranting at this computer screen since before you were playing Minecraft. For more of my work: