Chat Transcript With a Game “Key” Reseller That Sold Me A Tainted Key

Below is the chat log of my discussion with a third-party PC game “key” re-seller, after a key sold from them was invalidated by the game publisher and the ability to play was terminated. This is how I chose to handle a key reseller that obviously sold a key they were not legally entitled to sell and ended up getting banned, knowing full well they would try to blame the game publisher and point me to them for recourse.

You’d be suprised how many people get suckered into such a scam, and then allow the retailer to give them the run around, refuse to refund, etc.


I have redacted the representative’s name and replaced with “Customer Service Rep”, and the company name is replaced with “<Company Name>”.

Customer Service Rep:
Customer support
Chat started
Thomas Carlisle
The game key I procured through your site has been banned by the manufacturer (Ubisoft), and I am sure this has to do with that the key was not properly procured from the manufacturer. Who can help me by issuing an immediate refund? Thank you, Tom Carlisle

Customer Service Rep joined the chat

Customer Service Rep:

” I am sure this has to do with that the key was not properly procured from the manufacturer” ?

have you heard this from them regarding your particular key?

All our keys are purchased from suppliers who have been operating in the gaming industry for many years

Thomas Carlisle:
What I mean by that, is your company has most likey sold me a key which was not rightfully GDK’s code to resell. Yes, I heard from them, in that my game has been removed from by account and when I try to re-autorize the code I am told it is banned.

Respectfully, GDK needs to refund me and work out your issue with Ubisoft.
Customer Service Rep:
Thats true, we will indeed be following up on this issue with Ubisoft. We have all your order details so we do not require any further information from you

We will be in touch as soon as we are able to

I am creating a new ticket from this chat transcript under your name

Thomas Carlisle:
No, I want the refund so I can procure through Ubisoft now.

Customer Service Rep:
Im afraid that is not possible

Thomas Carlisle:
I am not looking for delays. Unlless this issue can be resolved within the next few hgours.

Customer Service Rep:
surely you understand that we cant just process instant refunds without investigating claims

Thomas Carlisle
IF there is nothing you can do, expect that my extremely popular blog site will have articles detailing this issue to warn other consumers, and I will find where your legal entity is and file a claim in small claims. Is $30 really worth it?

Customer Service Rep:
no it isnt worth it at all

And I dont really see why that would be necessary

I’m trying to explain to you that this issue will be handles with the utmost urgency

Thomas Carlisle:
I’ve offered to give you a few hours to get to the bottom of it. That is more than enough time for someone at <Company Name>  to contact Ubisoft and fix it. BUt I am not really comfortable that this will be resolved.

Customer Service Rep:
but as with most businesses refunds cannot be processed without due investigation on our part as

time in usa
Thomas Carlisle:
If <Company Name> rightfully owned the code to resell, it should take a phone call to Ubisoft. I am sure Ubisoft has procedures in place not to cut off paying customers through authorized resellers.

Customer Service Rep:
Its a little unfair to ourselves to be threatening us with all sorts of public blog threats and such

but as you say it isnt worth it

Thomas Carlisle:
You can investigate and get back to me, but we both know that isn’t likely going to happen. I am not going to spend the next several days waiting for this to get sorted out.

Customer Service Rep:
we are a small company who trust our large suppliers with their end of sourcing stock and such responsibilities

We will follow the whole issue up with them

Thomas Carlisle:
Being in your type of business, you must understand that when an issue like this happens to your customers, it doesn’t look good. If <Company Name> is doing legit business, you should have procedures in place to handle this type of situation.

Customer Service Rep:
We would have appreciated a chance to actually investigate this as we’ve not had this complaint from anyone but nevermind. I’ll send your request to the person incharge of refunds immediately

It should all be sorted within half an hour at the most

If you paid by Paypal you’ll get email confirmation when it is sorted

Thomas Carlisle:
Payment was through moneybookers, as that is where the site took me to pay.

Customer Service Rep:
We are no longer with Skrill and are processing all payments solely Paypal at the moment. Do you have a Paypal account we can refund to instead?

We’re in the process of moving card processor to Nochex

Thomas Carlisle:
Was moneybookers being used on 12/29? The reason I ask is perhaps I ended up at a site masquerading as <Company Name>? DO you show and order number #### to me?

Meant to type “do you see an order #####”

Customer Service Rep:
Yes that definitely looks like an order number from our store. We’ve only switched from Skrill/Moneybookers this month

Thomas Carlisle:
OK, then at least it is the right place. I am sorry if <Company Name> is in legit business, but you must realize many discount game key sellers are not legit. So this type of issue really raises brow. If you can get Ubisoft to activate the key promptly, that woudl be a good resolution. If not, then yes I’d like to refund.

Customer Service Rep:
Not to worry, I can understand your concern

As I said we’re more than happy to send you the refund if you can let us know how best to do so

Thomas Carlisle:
I do have a paypal account. What do you need, the account number?

Customer Service Rep:
We are a UK based business so seeing as it is after 11pm here, such issues as contacting Ubisoft would be handled by the morning staff

Just your paypal email

Thomas Carlisle:
The paypal is linked to ##############

Customer Service Rep:
thanks, i’ll be right back


All done

Please check your Paypal and confirm

Thomas Carlisle:
Yes, thank you for making this right. Your company should follow-up with Ubisoft and find out why your key got banned. If <Company Name> is not considered authorized by Ubisoft you will see a lot of these

Customer Service Rep:
Yes we will most certainly be doing so first thing in the morning
Thomas Carlisle
Have a good week end


Digital Rights Management And Piracy Affects Ubisoft Fans

Word cloud for Intellectual property. Today I’m going to provide some detail around some of the issues around digital rights management, and how that impacts how software publishers do business.

I obtained a key through what I thought was an authorized/legit 3rd party at the end of December and yesterday my key got banned. I didn’t even think to contact Ubisoft to complain or ask for help, but I can see how people would think this is a Ubisoft issue because the key “worked” for a period of time, and it was Ubisoft’s action to ban the key.

This is a digital rights management (DRM) issue. Certainly everyone can understand that game publishers have to take measures to prevent piracy of their work, because for whatever reason people don’t view stealing a piece of software as an equal moral crime as walking into WalMart and stealing a hard copy of a DVD. Anti-piracy measures often do impact paying customers in the form of inconvenience or restrictions, such as in the olden days requiring a physical CD or DVD to be in the drive in order to play the game.

One common way DRM is done is through key codes. It is not possible to hard code all the possible key codes into the game code, and not include any that aren’t yet sold, because once you buy the game the game wouldn’t know about your transaction. So there have to be unused keys within the game code, and when you buy a code from Ubisoft (in this case) or a partner such as Steam, you can rest assured that the code you bough will work for good.

You can probably guess that the keys are driven by an algorithm so that the key can be traced to where it was (or should have been) sold from. I am sure Ubisoft knows which keys are from their direct sales, steam, etc. and I doubt you’ll ever find a case where these keys did not work or got banned.

So how can a key work at first? Simple – someone found a way to break the algorithm and obtain a code from the “not yet sold” pool of codes the game can recognize and sold one to you. But that doesn’t mean you are home free yet.

The second part of code-based DRM involves tracking the codes in use and trying to enforce and police that only properly procured codes work indefinitely. In the olden days, before games were Internet connected, people could and did “share” copies of games by sharing their CD key. You were supposed to register your CD key and tie it to your email address, phone number, or something. Then when you call for support they know you are a legit paying customer… of if they’ve seen 500 registries against the same code they would know that 499 of them are thieves and 1 was a purchaser but enabler of thievery so they didn’t mind pissing that one guy off.

Or, people found ways to simply crack the key algorithm and use for their own use or sell to unsuspected buyers.

In this day and age, games don’t even work if your don’t connect the game to some online identity. That allows for a better player experience through multiplayer, online communities, etc. But that also allows the intellectual property owner to better enforce that only legit paying customers can play the game indefinitely, because they have direct visibility into everyone that is playing the game, the codes used to authorize the game, etc.

The unfortunate fact is that everyone that is impacted by a banned key is in that position because they have been sold a code that, for whatever reason, turns out to not be legit. The code may have been intended for use in Thailand where the game retails for $30 and the player’s IP address obviously comes from the US where the game retails for $60. I am making that up as an example by the way, but yes games. movies, etc. have a different retail value in different countries due to local economic conditions, value of their currency, etc. So rather than say “tough” and charge Thailand people the equivalent of $60 USD, which most can’t pay, publishers discount to be competitive in that local market.

But keys that should have gone to a non-US region that show up as coming from players in the US, will be considered invalid.

Another scenario is the business relationship between third-party and the publisher. Obviously Steam, Amazon, Best Buy etc. have some type of relationship and agreement with UbiSoft to re-sell the game digitally and issue codes. I am sure that relationship includes paying Ubisoft the agreed wholesale cost for each purchase, and the retailer gets a small margin. The wholesale cost is probably not $20, and hence why all the big retailers have the same price Ubisoft has…. $60 USD. But Ubisoft and the re sellers account for the number of copies sold and compensation back to Ubisoft.

The retailers selling this game at $25-$30 may or may not be operating within an agreement with Ubisoft. What is probably happening is these sellers have figured out how to crack the keys, or get a hold of a lot which they aren’t entitled, or buy a lot on bad credit, fake bank account, stolen credit card etc. I am not saying the retailers that sell keys that end up getting banned are doing these illegal things. Some are, hopefully many are not. But they still, for whatever reason, haven’t lived up to operating within some agreement with Ubisoft to be able to sell the game.

I was very disappointed when the key I bought for $35 USD went banned. Despite my best attempts to research the seller and not finding any rip-off reports, etc. I obviously ended up in the middle of an attempt to deprive Ubisoft of the rightful compensation for use of their intellectual property.

I bought my first copy through Steam for a steep discount in November as gift to my Son… I can’t recall if it was $19.99 or $29.99, but it was not $59. Obviously a sale like that would be done in accordance with an agreement from the wholesaler. The site I bought from “explained” why they can offer the game for $35 USD and that was because they purchase codes in volume, etc. So I bought into it when I wanted a second copy for myself. Clearly, I was misled since my code got banned a handful of weeks later.

I contacted that seller promptly, and gave them two options — either an immediate refund or that they would work out whatever issue is between THEM and Ubisoft and get me working within 4 hours. They tried to talk me into giving them “time” to investigate and get back to me, but at that point I know what I was dealing with and what they would try to do — which is to get me off their case and then not reply to future communications, etc.

I told them either refund for that I would detail the experience on my blog for others to be ware and I would track down their legal entity and file a small claim lawsuit and asked if that was worth $30. The response I got back (in support chat) was “No, it isn’t.” and then they proceeded to refund my PayPal account.

This is what people who got pulled into this issue need to do — pin it on your retailer and force them to make it right. The retailer will try to direct you to Ubisoft just to get you off their case.

That being said…. Ubisoft needs to re-examine their process around enforcing DRM to include some form of forewarning notification, explanation of the above, etc. But perhaps they have tried that in the past and it just ends up costing them a lot of money handling the complaints that will arise from the people that won’t get that this is a retailer issue.

Ubisoft also needs to also examine that households with multiple players sharing one PC should NOT have to buy multiple $60 copies of the game. This gets back to the issue of not being able to have multiple save files, profiles, etc. Since each player needs and online account and such which adds to the cost of Ubisoft’s operations, I could understand a fee of $10-$15 for additional players/profiles.

However, I am sure that if the above was done, that would be another mechanism that would be exploited to deprive Ubisoft from their rightful revenue (by “selling” the additional profiles to others as another complete copy of the game).

I ended up re-purchasing an authorization code from Ubisoft directly, paying full retail, and they were running a special buy-one get-one deal, so I ended up getting a deal.

Thank you,
Tom C

Review of Windows 10 Technical Preview


Windows 10 is out for technical review by anyone desiring to do so. Simply go to Microsoft’s site and look for the trial program, and sign up to get an ISO that will install Windows 10 with a trial license. I would strongly recommend to not wipe your existing OS to evaluate this, and instead create a VirtualBox VM and install to that. VirtualBox is a produce from Oracle which is free for use, and allows you to virtualize a PC to run another OS from within your current OS.

So far I can say it looks promising. The desktop is back to being the center of the OS, and the start menu is back completely. It looks like Windows 10 is a nice shift back to focusing on the things you need in a desktop OS, instead of trying to change your desktop into a big tablet.

Microsoft is famous for following a pattern of “great operating system”  followed by a flop, and then “great operating system”. Windows 8 is to windows 7 what Vista was to Windows XP. Hopefully those that purchased Windows 8 will get a free or very low cost upgrade.

Tom C

Performance Benchmarking Assassin’s Creed Unity

Assassin’s Creed Unity (ACU) is a new release from UbiSoft which has not had a very successful release due to serious technical issues that made the game unplayable by most, and although several patches have been delivered many are still complaining about performance and frame rate. The main complaints seem to be around significant pauses (hang ups) and/or low frame rate (frames per second). Those that are pondering whether to buy the game and want to understand what they can expect on their hardware seek help in the forum on Steam only to be told “you just have to try it and see” or “it doesn’t run well on anything”. Those that have bought the game and want to understand why performance is lacking and would like to know what component should be upgraded are being told “buy a new computer”. In order to understand what compute resources the game is most dependent upon, I ran some benchmarking tests and diagnostics, and the results even surprise me.

In a nutshell, my findings are:

  • The game obviously requires a powerful GPU
  • The game does not require more than 8GB RAM, and doesn’t seem to use more than 6-8GB even if there is a huge surplus in the system.
  • CPU horsepower requirement is not terribly high, and there is not a huge correlation between frame rate and CPU compute power.

For this testing, I used a system that is well tested and known to be stable with the following hardware:

  •  Motherboard: ASUS P8Z77-V LK
  • CPU: Intel Core i7-3770K running at 3.5Ghz (single processor with 4 cores and 2 threads per core)
  • RAM: 24GB Kingston DDR3
  • GPU: MSI NVidia GTX-760 GPU
  • Disk System: OS is on an SSD drive, game binaries are on a hardware RAID comprised of three (3) SATA 6G/s drives.
  • OS: Windows 7 Professional 64-bit
  • Video Driver: NVidia version 347.09, driver only (NVidia Gaming Experience not installed)
  • Displays: Three 1080p LCD displays, not configured as a single display with NVidia Surround.

To perform the tests, I ran the game in windowed mode at 1920×1080 one one monitor, and on another monitor I ran windows performance monitor (part of Windows 7) to track CPU utilization, memory utilization, CPU frequency %, page faults, and processor queue length. On another monitor I ran FurMark OpenGL Stress Test (open source from, but used the “CPU burner” to drive CPU utilization up to starve the game of CPU bandwidth. Lastly, I used FRAPs to quantify frame rate.

I ran the game in “low” graphics quality setting versus “Ultra”, and used CPU Burner to see what would be the affect of having less CPU power available to the game.

Running the game in “low” graphics settings, the frame rate was consistently in the 40-50 fps range, sometimes dipping to 25fps. CPU utilization was about 40% on average. Memory usage was about 4GB and did not fluctuate. There were no “hang ups” where the game pauses for a second or so.

Running CPU Burner with 8 threads did not affect frame rate significantly and did not cause the game to pause or stutter.  However, overall CPU utilization was 100% because both the game and CPU Burner were competing for CPU.

Running the game in “ulta” graphics setting, the frame rate was consistently around 30fps, dipping at times to 20-25. CPU utilization was significantly lower, approximately 20% on average. This makes sense because less graphics processing is offloaded to the GPU. With GPU Burner running, I did experience a few pauses.

The “Ultra” graphics quality preset is defined to have all graphics options set to the highest value (environment, texture, shadows, etc. ) except anti-aliasing is not maxed and is set to MSAA-2X.     The final test performed was to also increase anti-aliasing to the highest setting “TSAA” (Tessellation).

Running the game with all settings maxed, and with CPU Burner off, the frame rate was 25-30 fps on average, dipping below 20fps. There were no pauses or hang ups, but the game was very choppy due to the low frame rate. Turning on CPU Burner didn’t bring frame rate down significantly, but the pausing was frequent and pronounced.

The result of these tests show that increasing memory above 8GB will not benefit performance of the game, and performance is mostly determined by the GPU and CPU. A system with a sub par amount of CPU bandwidth can run the game fairly well if the GPU is hefty (by running with all graphics settings maxed which alleviates the CPU from some of the work). A system with a hefty CPU but lower end GPU can run the game fairly well by turning off anti-aliasing. But a system with sub par CPU and a GPU at the lower end of the gaming spectrum doesn’t really have a chance of running without frame rate dropping into the teens and pausing.

Lastly, I will offer some opinion on how playable the game is on non-ideal hardware. This game is well playable with frame rate averaging in the high 20s. It is not a flight or racecar simulator, and the highest speed is jogging pace. Most of the time the player is standing still. Those that adhere to the rule of thumb that says “fps must be above 60 or it sucks”  and “graphics settings must be maxed or it sucks” don’t stand a chance being happy.

If you want a higher frame rate, run lower graphics settings. The visual difference is not that significant. But if you want the best visuals and can’t tolerate 30fps, you had better be running a GTX 900 series GPU.

Running two GPUs in SLI mode would be a good idea, except there are a lot of reports that patch 4 broke SLI. So don’t run out and buy a second video card in hopes of improving the experience with this game.

Happy Gaming!

Tom C

Tom C Forecast: Cloud Gaming Will Transform the Gaming Industry


The cloud is the next big thing, and NVidia is looking to capture market share with a cloud offering specifically for gaming. It is a good strategy, because there is a big need for this type of cloud service. The video gaming industry is a $20 billion industry, and video is a key hardware component in gaming. On average you must have a GPU that retails for $300-$500 to get a decent gaming experience, and that needs to be refreshed about every 2-3 years to keep up with the gaming technology.

The average modern video card has a GPU with about 1,000 cores. To refresh memories, CPU’s have 4-8 cores. Yes, the GPU is hundreds of times faster than your Intel Core I-7 CPU. It takes that much compute power to render a 3D world at 30 frames-per-second, with each frame having hundreds of polygon mesh 3D objects on the screen with each object having hundreds of thousands of vertices. Your GPU has to compute all these vertices in 3D space, relative to the player’s viewpoint, and fill in the faces with textures, compute and apply lighting, shading, etc.

That is why a computer with a $75 video card can play streaming video without issues, and choke on a 3D game… because the GPU has to calculate each frame in realtime. This is where the GPU cloud comes in — because if the 3D rendering can be offloaded to a cloud service, then everyone can enjoy games and apps that demand $500 video cards with $75 video cards.

The typical 3D game tracks the players position/viewpoint, the millions of vertices that make up the polygons that define the world and currently in the scene.  The orientation of all those vertices from the perspective of the players viewpoint are calculated by the GPU, and then the faces of the polygons are filled in with the textures. All this is done by your high end GPU…. but in the future would be done by the gaming cloud instead.

To achieve this, games would be written to be cloud friendly, and a module would run on the cloud which knows the game video make-up: the objects in the world, the polygons/vertices that make up each,  and the textures that are needed for the polygon faces. All of this is stored on your PC today taking gigabytes upon gigabytes of space, because the graphic rendering is done by your PC. All of this will be offloaded to the cloud, and the local game engine would simply transmit your position, and the position of other objects up to the game cloud, and the rendered video comes back just like streamed digital content.

There is an additional layer of  complexity in 3D rendering — light sources. I left that out in the above for simplicity. But the rendering of a scene is also impacted by the objects that emit light, such as sunlight in the scene, headlights on cars, etc. The gaming cloud would also know the lighting objects in the world/scene in order to also apply lighting/shadowing to the scene just as your local GPU does today.

This is all very doable, and in the works. NVidia is working on it, and Amazon has some GPU specific cloud offerings right now.

This is exciting and will have a huge impact on the gaming industry because we will see the graphics capabilities in games take huge leaps forward. The reason is simple — game developers have to develop the game for a hardware platform that the majority of the user base can afford in their homes at the current time. About every 5 years we see games that up the ante and offer the next generation of video complexity/detail in a title; but when that happens the studio is bombarded with complaints and criticism because a good segment of the user base doesn’t have the hardware required to run the game. When this happens, it is very costly and damaging to the studios industry reputation, so it makes sens that studios will try to avoid huge leaps forward in order to steer clear of that pain.

It is hard to predict what the business model will be with gaming in the cloud. I would expect the model to be some type of monthly charge based on use time and GPU compute power. Will that charge go to the end user, or will the studios eat that cost and roll it into the price of the title?

One barrier that exists to transitioning to cloud gaming is that people who do have high end GPUs today will not want to pay for a cloud service because they don’t need it, having already made the investment in high end GPU hardware. Because of this I would anticipate games will be released that offer local or cloud GPU support, which will allow the consumers that have the hardware to run it to get their ROI, whilst allowing those who do not hard the GPU hardware to run the game without a hardware investment.

Console systems (Playstation, XBox, wii, etc) will come down drastically in price, and possibly be obsoleted. The graphics hardware is the biggest driver of the cost of the system. Once graphics are offloaded to the cloud, the console system will become a thin client streaming device.

Gaming on mobile devices (Andoid/iOS) will be much improved. Mobile devices have serious constraints that create a barrier to good gaming.

  • Tight power consumption constraints as a tablet that only lasts 2 hours on battery won’t sell, and that means advanced graphics compute power isn’t possible.
  • Tight hardware cost constraints, because the price point for the average table is no longer $600, which also means advanced graphics capabilities isn’t possible.
  • Tight storage constraints, because the average mobile device has 16GB of storage space, which means games cannot have 20GB of textures stored on the device.

Cloud gaming will alleviate all these constraints and you will be able to play the same titles you can play on a PC or console.

Lastly, the losses in revenue due to piracy will be alleviated and the headaches of digital rights management (DRM) will no longer be necessary. People will not be able to play games they did not purchase because most of what the game does is offloaded to a cloud. People who don’t pirate games won’t have to pay a slightly higher price in order to offset the losses suffered by those that do pirate games.

Happy Gaming!

Tom C