SimCity Always-On Clarified: Needs Internet For Launch

By John Walker on March 29th, 2012 at 9:13 am.

At the coalface of bad ideas.

EA have issued a clarification to Gamespy that while you will have to have an internet connection to launch SimCity, it will not boot you off if your connection goes down. Which is to say, it’s not as egregious as others’ “always-on” DRM, but we maintain is still an unnecessary and game-crippling mistake, which we really hope they will reverse before release. That the game won’t stop working if your connection goes down sounds great, but it makes no useful difference to those who wish to play the ostensibly single-player game without an internet connection, whatever the cause. As we’ve said before, the online features sound like they’ll superbly enhance your single-player experience, but enforcing them is cruel and stupid, and renders the game broken for enormous numbers of players. We desperately hope to see EA backing down from this position before release. Just as we expect to see Blizzard come to their senses and not release a self-sabotaged version of Diablo 3. The reality is, unofficial versions of the games will appear very soon after release, offering useful features that the publishers’ versions of the games will not. That’s simply crazy. We’ve contacted EA to ask if we can talk to them about this all.

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153 Comments »

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  1. MiniMatt says:

    So you still won’t be able to play when they shut the servers off?

    Like they do as quickly as 18 months after launch in many instances?
    (edit: http://www.ea.com/1/service-updates )

    • Prime says:

      Is it possible that when they decide to switch off the servers they’ll patch the game to make it play without requiring a connection? Has there been any sign of this in the past? I mean, are there actually games we now can’t play – at all – because there is no server?

      • MiniMatt says:

        Is it possible they’ll patch it, sure – is it something to be banked on – most certainly not.

        Sim City is played for decades – Sim City 4 is nine years old now and, occupying a space no other simulator has really even tried to fill since, it has a huge following. The even earler games still have significant followers.

        Can we trust EA to keep servers up for over nine years – when the infrastructure is a constant drain that exceeds income from new sales?
        Can we trust that EA hasn’t gone bankrupt in nine years?
        Do you think that if they turn the servers off in 18 months they’ll hand out refunds to everyone who bought a game they can no longer play?

        Sim City 5 looks an attractive proposition to EA beancounters precisely because of this huge loyal fanbase built on the longevity of the games.

        Re the games they’ve already shut down, without going through with a fine tooth comb it’s hard to say if it’s just multiplayer functionality, trophies and achievements, trading and sharing that’s affected or single player aspects.

        All I can easily gather is that when games require always on (or on at every launch as they’re now proposing for Sim City 5) internet that imposes a constant cost to the bottom line. Companies are in the business of making money. Your ability to play Sim City 5 will not be limited by your desire to do so, or your access to legacy hardware to run it, it will be limited by the accountants at EA. Some beancounting department around the world gets to decide when you’re no longer allowed to play the game you paid £65 for. And there’s not a god damned thing you can do about it.

        Tangent: Seriously, £65, wasn’t digital distribution supposed to make this stuff cheaper? And owning your own digitial distribution platform cheaper still? And you can still turn of the servers at your whim and render my £65 purchase useless? http://store.origin.com/store/eaemea/en_GB/html/pbPage.SimcityUK/

        • Prime says:

          £65? That’s for the ‘Deluxe’ version right enough, with three country-specific city theme packs that I presume will also be purchasable separately, but fuck me that’s pricey. Even £45 for the base game and “mystery item” is pretty horrendous. That’s enough to force me to wait even if I could swallow the every-launch online activation thing, which I most assuredly cannot.

    • morgofborg says:

      the online features sound like they’ll superbly enhance your single-player experience [citation needed]

  2. SquareWheel says:

    So the pirated version will be superior, you say?

    • Maldomel says:

      I don’t think they are talking about a pirated version, but of course it will be “better” because there won’t be any requirements or DRM stuff.
      It’s really a shame that people have to crack a game, or even pirate it to get access to the single player mode they want to have. Not an excuse for piracy, but those DRM and other online activation and server stuff are supposed to fight it, not encourage it.

      • Communist says:

        I don’t think of it as ‘piracy’, but rather ‘lazy boycotting’. I’m not paying a developer for a substandard product, otherwise I’d essentially be voting for their faulty business model using my money. But I do want to enjoy the product produced by their coders, artists etc… So I’ll just continue to enjoy their efforts for free, and then end up paying them when they inevitably join an indie development team or other enterprise which releases content in a manner that is friendly to their customers.

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          Llewyn says:

          Congratulations, I think you win the prize for most desperate self-justification for piracy.

          • Eich says:

            That is no justification, it’s an explanation. Of course there is no just cause for piracy, although some free booters may say otherwise.

            Nevertheless I will set sails to Sim City too. I mean Origin, (almost)Always-online-DRM and EA. Already one of those things is reason enough to refrain from buying. But all three in one bundle? ^^ Count me out!

          • Synesthesia says:

            ahoy!

      • Truga says:

        Just wanted to point out that currently in most countries, downloading something you bought is quite legal. It’s just a backup copy, and you’re entitled to those.

      • InternetBatman says:

        The cracked version will be better yes.

    • Khemm says:

      Partly. If this online component is done right, pirates won’t have access to it, so only legit customers will get the complete experience – that applies to all games with multiplayer or some kind of online mode.

      By the way, I’m NOT promoting piracy here, but is downloading cracks legal in some countries? I can imagine someone buying this game and then replacing a few files to get a 100% offline single player, actually, I’m sure many people do this.

      • NathanH says:

        I’d take an uninformed guess that the legality is untested in most cases. It’s probably not usually in a publisher’s interest to press such an issue.

      • kalelovil says:

        Most EULA’s ban modifying or distributing the .exe, which is how most cracks work. If the crack instead works by using replacement copy protection .dll files it might be legal, but there is probably something about that in EULAs as well.

        • kalelovil says:

          Whether breaking an EULA is technically illegal or just voids your license to that service is a separate and contested legal argument however, and IANAL.

          If it actually went to court a number of game EULAs would probably be found to not meet the standards of a legal contract, but who wants to go to that expense?

      • Saiko Kila says:

        Downloading cracks is legal in most countries. Using them may be legally limited. It may depend on intent, because you may use them in a good cause. And when some part of EULA is against customers rights in a given country (or against any other laws), then that part of EULA is invalid. Many countries allow customers to make copies of the programs they bought, and if a crack is needed to do so, well, then publisher has right to go to court in a civil case, because using that crack isn’t a criminal offence by default.

    • Lemming says:

      No it won’t. Buy the game retail when it’s cheaper, or buy it second hand if you don’t want EA getting any money…and then crack it. No justification for piracey whatsoever.

      • hello_mr.Trout says:

        -> because issues are strictly black and white at all times! shades of grey must be terminated!

      • tremulant says:

        If you don’t give money to the publisher or the developer for the game then, tbh, it doesn’t really differ a great deal from flat out piracy. Anyway, this’ll be an always-on DRM’d origin tied game, right? I think it’s fair to assume that the pirated versions will be superior, buying second hand will just make the inconvenience a little cheaper.
        It’s sad to see that the game buying public are still decidedly shit at boycotting products with unreasonable copy protection schemes…

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          Wisq says:

          Yeah, because even (most of) those that do manage to stick to the boycott, just turn around and pirate it, further encouraging the publisher by saying “they want it, we just have to make them pay!”.

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      Malibu Stacey says:

      Nice to see pirates have the resources to spend months developing a clone of this game & release it entirely for free to people.

      Oh wait…

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      Smashbox says:

      “We’re not commenting on the pirate edition, yet. Hopefully we’ll have more information a little bit closer to release!”

  3. ItalianPodge says:

    The game looks great, but it also looks like the kind of game I’ll want to play at the weekend when we go away. Which will mean going out to the middle of a field with the laptop to get a 3G connection and then firing it up each time… if it’s not a stable game that will get old really fast. The other option would be to download a hack, I guess it depends how good it is but I will probably just not buy it, lots of good games out there.

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      puppybeard says:

      I feel the same way, looks like it’d be a great game for 2-hour train journeys, and the like. Shame that they’re not really supporting it. Sure you could use 3g, but I don’t to pay a fiver for starting my game wrong side of the border.

  4. pkt-zer0 says:

    Just as we expect to see Blizzard come to their senses and not release a self-sabotaged version of Diablo 3.

    So, Diablo 2 online wasn’t secure enough against cheating, and people complained accordingly. To do better than that, they need to move the game logic online. With the addition of the RMAH, the integrity of the online game is going to be even more important.

    This isn’t automatically a crazy decision, it’s a tradeoff: they get to choose between screwing over one group of people, or a different group of people. It’s not like they can add an offline mode without negative consequences. (Also see: SC2 not having LAN, so something like the GSL can exist in the first place)

    • MrMud says:

      RPS doesnt care that not having client-server architecture will leave the game wide open to hacks (Hacks already exist in the beta but they are limited to variants in what they can do due to parts of the code being serverside). All RPS cares about is their anti DRM crusade.

      • StranaMente says:

        You look kinda daft. You say they really can’t split the game (diablo 3) with a single player only experience? They HAVE to make it always on line?
        And what would be the reason to make the call home for Sim city?

        • MrMud says:

          If you split it into a multiplayer and singleplayer service then you are forced to put the code that is placed on the server in the multiplayer case on the client machine in order to handle the singleplayer scenario. This will make reverse engineering hacks much easier due to direct access to the code through a reverse compiler.

          • stupid_mcgee says:

            More importantly, what’s the big deal? Diablo wasn’t meant to be some competitive PvP thing. Whether the item is real or a duplicate, what does it matter? It’s not like it’s an MMO where you have to worry about economy. You can cite game balance, but, again, who really cares when Diablo is primarily a singleplayer-driven narrative?

            Likewise, what is so important about Sim City that it needs to be online? Furthermore, what’s detrimental about using cheats in Sim City? The cheats have always been staple in the series. Sometimes people just want to build a big city and then initiate disasters and watch it all go to hell. Removing the notion of cheats removes a very integral sandbox component that has always been a part of Sim City.

            The real question is, what kind of benefits are gained by moving these games into the online sphere? Honestly, it seems like very little is gained (certainly nothing that I actually care about) compared the loss of freedom to play how I want.

          • MrMud says:

            @stupid_mcgee

            I take it that you never played Diablo 1 or Diablo 2 (Hardcore in particular) online?
            If you did you would know that you had to play in private games or else you would get Player Killed in town through various hacks and cheats.

          • stupid_mcgee says:

            No, I’m not a big Diablo player. Played the first one a little bit a while back and didn’t much care for it.

            I just don’t see what necessitates Diablo maintaining some kind of verifiable and perfectly authenticated online environment for co-op and singleplayer. I can understand regulating PvP, but why is it so important that co-op and singleplayer, arguably the more popular components, be locked down, content-wise? That’s what I don’t get. And it wouldn’t be that hard to have a separate setup for PvP that could be adequately secured.

            Don’t want random dude to drop into your game and potentially screw it up? Then don’t let random dude join your game. Just like I wouldn’t suggest getting late-night rides home from random dudes.

            I feel the same about Sim City’s online requirement. What benefit does forcing online have? I wonder how many people will even bother to share their cities online. Will it wind up being like Cities XL? If this is about closed gardens and preventing piracy, then I think it’s mistaken. Both games will still get pirated (even Splinter Cell: Chaos Theory got cracked eventually, and that had some of the strongest DRM out there) and people will still come up with hacks. If people hacked WoW, they’ll hack Diablo 3, too.

          • KD says:

            One word, Obfuscation.

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            Llewyn says:

            @KD: Indeed. Although it’s one meaningless, irrelevant word in this context.

            My word: Penguins.

          • Vorphalack says:

            Arguing that online only makes games hack proof is absolute garbage. Determined hackers will always find a way around whatever wall you throw up, and legitemate customers get stuck with no access to offline single player.

          • MrMud says:

            And arguing that having the game be online only does not make it significantly more hack proof is equally or more silly.

            There is a reason every free to play game that I can think of is online only. Because it makes it easier to curb hacking.

          • pkt-zer0 says:

            @Vorphalack: “Arguing that online only makes games hack proof is absolute garbage. Determined hackers will always find a way around whatever wall you throw up, and legitemate customers get stuck with no access to offline single player.”

            If the walls in question are quite literal walls, and even just getting a look at the server code would require sneaking into Blizzard’s datacenters, then yeah, that might actually deter people. “Ninja hackers” aren’t actual ninjas.

          • ScubaMonster says:

            @stupid_mcgee: It ruins the economy and makes online laughable. Where’s the challenge when you’re playing with a million people who faceroll everything with dupes. Trading is pointless. And now with Diablo 3 they are having the shop where you can sell your items with RL cash. Regardless of how you feel about that, it’s pretty obvious not stopping cheating would ruin everything.

            If your only interest is single player well then yeah you don’t have to care. For online though it’s pretty short sighted to say it doesn’t matter. That was the whole reason why Diablo 2 had open and closed battle.net accounts. The only problem was that the closed accounts still had dupes and hacks so it was irrelevant. But the intent was to provide a legit experience. They did however do mass bans of accounts caught hacking.

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            jrodman says:

            pkt_zero:

            1 – Security engineer only makes sense in an operations context. All developers should have a decent understanding of security issues. You can’t add it in afterwards.

            2 – I never claimed you don’t want to move the game logic server-side. Putting the key decision making code in a place the players can’t touch and limiting access to the game state to only that data which they’re supposed to have access is the only way to win. I claimed instead that providing an implementation of the game logic for offline play doesn’t create a problem, which is what MrMud said does create a problem.

      • simoroth says:

        This seems like a very silly comment. Its perfectly feasible to have anti-cheat capabilities and an off-line mode. They could quite easily create two code paths in the client, or even two clients.

        Off-line players tend not to have to worry about cheats.

        • MrMud says:

          It is perfectly true that the offline player does not care about hacks.

          Blizzard had to make a choice.
          1. They could either cater to the offline player and end up with a system that is wide open to piracy.
          2. They could cater to the online player and essentially remove hacks at the same time as removing piracy.

          They choose the latter of the two and personally I am happy for it.

          • stupid_mcgee says:

            Yes. I’m sure Diablo3’s DRM scheme will remove piracy. I mean, it’s worked so well for Starcraft 2.

            BTW, I love how quickly things can go from “No one can pirate SC2 ‘cos Blizz is tops!” to 2.3 million pirated copies downloaded in just a handful of months.

          • MrMud says:

            SC2 could be played offline in singleplayer, D3 cant.
            It also took time to get to the point where SC2 could be pirated.
            This is the part that RPS doesnt seem to get. The goal of DRM is often not to stop piracy (because thats hard to impossible) the goal of successful DRM is to delay it.
            What the publishers really, really want to avoid is day 0 piracy (i.e when the game is available through piracy before it is available through legitimate means). From what you just linked to me it seems that SC2 was successful in this.

          • SkittleDiddler says:

            I could be mistaken, MrMud, but I’m pretty sure there were pirated Day Zero copies of SC2 floating around at some point.

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            jrodman says:

            Mr Mud, I’m a developer, and your theories are false.

            There’s really no reason that providing the game logic on the client would open the server implementation to attack.

            If your buildout is so tinkertoys that you can get by on having no attackers, then sure hiding it can help you. But Diablo 3 is going to have a *lot* of attackers. There’s a whole industry around attacking multiplayer games these days and its fueled by the sale of ingame items, which Blizzard is blessing. So they’re pretty much guaranteed to get attacked in various ways. This means they need to have a system that will withstand attack even after being reverse engineered. Such systems are definitely achievable, and providing access to the game *logic* is not going to expose them.

            The major point of attack is the network protocol implementation, and there need not be *any* exposure of that in a single player experience.

            So no, they really could have done both. It would have been more work though. And easier to pirate.

            So we see. This is really about.. mostly.. DRM.

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            jezcentral says:

            I’d care a lot less about DRM if there was a promise that the game would have the DRM patched out in a year’s time (or less).

            Especially the install limit.

          • pkt-zer0 says:

            @jrodman: “Mr Mud, I’m a developer, and your theories are false.”
            A description less vague than developer would be useful here, like “security engineer” or something. Anyway, can you then explain how the D2 hacks worked and how they can be prevented without moving stuff server-side?
            I don’t specialize in security myself, but I’m at least aware of general the concepts, so feel free to get technical, I’ll look things up if need be.

          • UncleLou says:

            @ MrMud Exactly.

            What’s more, Diablo isn’t such a big franchise because of the people who played the single-player campaign once 12 years ago (not that there is anything wrong with that, mind). It was kept alive by people who still (!) play it online (I don’t, btw.), so it made a lot more sense to cater for that group primarily.

            We will see. If Diablo 3 is significantly less prone to cheating and hacking, always-online will turn out to be entirely justified. If it isn’t, it is unnecessary. Time will tell.

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            VelvetFistIronGlove says:

            This is the part that RPS doesnt seem to get. The goal of DRM is often not to stop piracy (because thats hard to impossible) the goal of successful DRM is to delay it.

            Regardless: why should paying customers get a worse product because of efforts to delay piracy? Acceptable collateral damage?

          • malkav11 says:

            Diablo is such a big franchise because of the millions of people that bought the game. I would be very surprised if more than a fraction of those people were hardcore online players. Since there is no ongoing fee associated with Diablo (1 or 2), the people who are still playing it online 12 years later have not contributed anything more than the people who are not. If anything, they are a (minor) drain on Blizzard’s (immense) finances.

            In any case, it makes no sense to take steps like this to cater to that (presumed) minority. Your tradeoff is having to play with trustworthy people, who are the most fun sort of person to play with anyway, if you wish to avoid hacks. My tradeoff as someone who wishes to be able to play the game singleplayer whether or not I have internet or Blizzard’s servers are up, is to not be able to play the game at all.

          • MrMud says:

            @VelvetFistIronGlove
            I dont automatically think DRM is acceptable. Some DRM is shit dumb like the ubisoft AC or HOMM6 DRM where you have to be always online despite there being zero connective tissue between what you are doing in singleplayer and the online experience.

            But I also understand why DRM exists and despite all the unsubstantiated claims that “DRM doesn’t work” put forward by RPS, I do believe it can work. It doesn’t always work for sure, I used to pirate most of my games when I was in school. But it can work.

            I think the D3 DRM is acceptable because of the benefits it brings. Would it be good if you could play it singleplayer as well without having internet access? Sure, but for me the other considerations weigh so, so much more than that.

          • ScubaMonster says:

            @stupid_mcgee I couldn’t care less about pirating but cheating and hacks is a big deal.

        • Maldomel says:

          Cheats are for the weak anyway! *cough cough*

        • pkt-zer0 says:

          “This should be easy” are famous last words for many an engineer. Nothing is as simple as it initially seems. Separate code paths were already proven to not work well enough by Diablo 2, as far as I understand. It’s not like they can make the offline version behave radically differently, or obfuscate the client code somehow (otherwise we’d already have unbreakable client-side DRM).

          Also, having to restart from scratch if you want to go online isn’t ideal, especially if you want to move players towards the multiplayer/bartering (and yes, the RMAH) aspect of the game. Which Blizzard evidently does.

          • simoroth says:

            I didn’t say easy I said “Its perfectly feasible”. ;) ..Oh wait I did… but creating the code paths then would be easy, from the standpoint of their man power and time scale.

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        Arvind says:

        You may think Blizzard/EA is completely justified in introducing an always online requirement, but acting as if protesting against DRM is an act of bias is just…wrong.

        DRM harms legitimate players the most, and I applaud RPS’s anti DRM stance.

      • Soleyu says:

        The reason as stated by Blizzard, that there is no single player is for ease of use, so players who have a single player character can jump into multiplayer with the same character. They said themselves that to create an offline SP they would need to make all characters there not usable online, which quite frankly I dont see a problem with.

        And about online architecture, the reason that always online is more secure is because they can constantly check for anomalies, so reverse engineering the single player would have VERY limited impact on the online component.

        So yeah having always on is not really defensible.

    • Khemm says:

      I never EVER played Diablo 1 or 2 on Battle.net. I want my proper single player experience, thank you very much.

      • pkt-zer0 says:

        “The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few”, y’know. Also things are undeniably moving towards a world where ‘net access is ubiquitous, so even if offline people aren’t the minority now, they will be eventually.

        • Ironclad says:

          Count the number of single player D3 gamers and then count the amount of shareholders. “Needs of the Many” it ain’t.

        • bladedsmoke says:

          Amazing how in one sentence you go from claiming that online players are the majority, and therefore deserve to be exclusively catered to, to claiming that online players might ONE DAY be the majority, and therefore deserve to be exclusively catered to.

        • rocketman71 says:

          “The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few”, y’know.

          Not when you can cater to both needs.

          I also didn’t touch B.Net with either D or D2. I had a blast with my friends playing in LAN. Sadly, Blizz decided that we don’t have a right to play anymore if we don’t go through B.Net. Even if it’s single player.

          I, in turn, decided that Blizz doesn’t have a right to my money anymore. So did my friends.

          • pkt-zer0 says:

            “Not when you can cater to both needs.”

            The entire point of my first post was that this isn’t possible. Otherwise, yeah, the online requirement would be unnecessary.

          • D3xter says:

            Same as me and my friends, hopefully Torchlight II will welcome us with open arms some time soon…

        • InternetBatman says:

          That’s reducing it to an unnecessary choice. Either way it has yet to be proven that there were more people that played Diablo II in multiplayer than in single-player. You should be able to quantify how many are the “many” and how few are the “few.”

          As an anecdote, the Bolshevik party in Russia took the name of “the many” or the “the majority,” even though reports at the time indicate that they were initially vastly outnumbered by their competitors, a group called the Mensheviks, or “the minority.”

      • Brun says:

        You won’t get it though, Khemm. I said this yesterday in the other SimCity thread – the whole point of Diablo 3 is to make money from the RMAH. In order for the RMAH to function effectively it has to be a forced option. You can choose not to use it, but you can’t choose not to have the OPTION of using it (other than by not playing). By forcing that option even onto single player they know that some people will eventually crack and buy things from the RMAH. And since they control the loot tables server-side, they control the economy, and can make the RMAH a more or less attractive option by adjusting drop rates. F2P games and things like Farmville use the exact same strategy with microtransactions. The DRM benefit of this model is built-in but it’s by no means the purpose of maintaining always-online for Diablo 3.

        Whether it will backfire on Blizzard remains to be seen. The fact that they are charging up front for the game (it is not F2P) tells me that – hopefully – they won’t feel the need to aggressively drive people toward the RMAH. That said, Diablo 3 seems to be a testbed for monetization strategies for their next-gen MMO which will undoubtedly be F2P.

    • rocketman71 says:

      That’s no justification for Blizz’s despicable attitude. They could have “secured” online play AND optional single player/LAN. They just chose not to, in the hope that forcing people to “pass in front” of the auction house will make some cave and buy something.

      Also, SC2 does have LAN now. It’s just not official.

      • pkt-zer0 says:

        “Also, SC2 does have LAN now. It’s just not official.

        Yeah, that was kind of the point. That makes KeSPA suable.

    • MrMud says:

      This is precisely the point I mentioned in another post.
      It takes time… alot more time to make a simulator of something that you can only see the output of, and you may never get it perfectly right.

      In 6-12 months I am sure that people will have a passable experience on the D3 emulator (because it sure isnt right now). But that doesnt really matter beacause the bulk of the sales will have already occured. Besides any character you make on an emulated server you will never be able to bring to the real servers so if you want to play with your legitimate friends then you have to take it online anyway.

      • InternetBatman says:

        If Diablo III has the legs of Diablo II, a game that still sells a decade after its release, there will be plenty of sales later on. If it doesn’t, it’s probably of lower quality and then who cares anyways.

    • alundra says:

      Ah, I came to this news post specifically wanting to see the legion of blizzard fanboys and there they are, coming with all sorts of stupid excuses to justify the dying petite pantoufle of PC gaming.

      What an awesome and pathetic sight at the same time.

  5. Njordsk says:

    After the disc check, the internet check, hooray for progress.

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    The Sombrero Kid says:

    Offline mode or no sale, I really want to play this but I really wanted to play HOMM5, ANNO 2070, From Dust, SH5 & Settlers 7 too, I didn’t play them, I wont play this, unless they fix it.

    • aircool says:

      I’m with you on this one mate…

    • stupid_mcgee says:

      They removed From Dust’s always online requirement a while ago.

      BTW, I totally agree. I don’t mind a one-time online check, but always-on is a deal breaker. I didn’t buy AC2 until they removed it, and I’ll stand by that. Even if they do it for Far Cry 3, which I’m really itching to try out.

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      deadfolk says:

      This. Every single one of these games was something I probably would have bought. Guess how many I ended up buying. If you guessed < 1, you are correct.

      Yeah, I know they patched it out of From Dust, but by then I'd lost interest and was already ignoring a newer DRM-infested game. Probably Anno 2070.

    • Khemm says:

      HOMM6 and ANNO 2070 had offline modes on release, don’t know what you’re talking about.
      From Dust, SH5 – good news, they had offline mode patched in a while ago.
      Settlers 7 – still always-on, unfortunately.

      • MaXimillion says:

        Both HoMM 6 and Anno 2070 are incomplete in their offline mode due to several features being tied to an online account.

        • Khemm says:

          That’s why offline and online modes are separate – because they’re different. Take Anno, for example. Online mode revolves around your avatar, the Ark and its upgrades, offline mode doesn’t and doesn’t it. The game can be finished from start to end in both modes.
          I wouldn’t say anything is “incomplete”, it’s basically the equivalent of single player and an MMO-like online mode. Anno doesn’t have your typical multiplayer deathmatch, so they had to go in a different direction.
          Besides, the complaint was “there is no offline mode” related, which is false.

    • Premium User Badge

      The Sombrero Kid says:

      It’s impossible to know how much of an ubisoft game you’re going to get in offline mode, so I steer clear of them completely, I also don’t trust them not to patch in drm to drmless games & i cba keeping up to date with whether or not i should let them be patched, or even if they’d run without being patched.

  7. MrMud says:

    “Just as we expect to see Blizzard come to their senses and not release a self-sabotaged version of Diablo 3.”

    HAHAHAHAHAHAHHAHAHAH

  8. cassus says:

    The funny thing about this type of anti piracy is that it most definitely ends up provoking piracy. There are TONS of people with super sketchy internet across the globe, and their only chance of playing this reliably is through piracy, cause make no mistake, there will be a day 1 crack that removes the need for an internet connection. This type of copy protection is like issuing a challenge to hackers, and the hackers are going to step up bigtime. It’s kinda sad that the only hope we have in the battle vs copy protection idiocy is the very people that the industry fear the most… Battle of attrition.

    Stop wasting money, publishers, the people who pirate will never stop, and most of them couldn’t afford the game anyways, so no money lost. I pirated games like crazy in my youth, because I had no money, now that I do have money I buy tons of games. I actively avoid bullshit copy protection, though, which means I buy quite a lot of indie games and feel very good about it.

    Stop being idiots, please.

    • Maldomel says:

      My thoughts exactly (or almost). It’s those types anti-piracy features that are bringing more piracy to games. Like a neverending vicious circle. The problem is that legitimate customers are getting hurt more than pirates, who will always find a way to avoid or disable those features.

      Also yeah, indie games ftw.

    • codename_bloodfist says:

      It’s awful. I really like Ubisoft games. Unlike Activision and EA they’re actually releasing some more or less original titles. Will I be buying something with this? Nope.

    • InternetBatman says:

      It’s not anti-piracy. It’s an anti-cheat system to secure the integrity of the RMAH, which I honestly think is worse.

      • Brun says:

        It’s not just about securing the RMAH’s integrity by preventing hacking and duping. They could maintain a secure RMAH and still provide a completely isolated single-player. It’s about maintaining value for items in the RMAH by forcing EVERYONE to play with the RMAH as an option. It’s also about managing the economy by controlling drop rates.

  9. Premium User Badge

    c-Row says:

    One step in the right direction, but still a long way to go.

  10. Premium User Badge

    AmateurScience says:

    I get that devs are trying to add value to the enforced internet thing, the pseudo multiplayer here or the real money AH in Diablo 3, and that’s a step in the right direction. BUT it baffles me that they won’t include an option for offline play/not calling home at startup.

    I think hardly anyone would complain if it was made abundantly clear that cool features like the player AH in Diablo 3 and interconnected cities would not be available to offline gaming before they start an offline game – and can’t be added in after the fact. The problem there is when they start shifting some features to ‘online only’ that it makes no sense to exclude from the ‘full-featured’ single-player experience. Which is (I think) something that Ubi did wth Anno 2070 yes?

    Anyway, I think we’re getting closer to a position of compromise, just one more step towards us as customers – a full-featured, offline mode + innovative features that make me want to play the game whilst connected without nerfing the offline game = a place we can all be happy.

  11. neolith says:

    I’ve come to the conclusion that they don’t actually want my money. They would make an effort if they were interested in it.

  12. Chris says:

    I don’t know what I’m going to do.

    “Yo-ho-ho me hearties!”

    [Brushes dried parrot crap off my shoulder]

    [Kicks Captain Pugwash with wooden leg]

    [Consults treasure map]

    I have only bought / played one EA game in years. And I bought that by accident.

    EA are messed up and deserve to be 100% buccaneered.

    • RakeShark says:

      So, to paraphrase Muppet Treasure Island, we could find you saying “Upstage lads! This is my /ONLY/ purchase!” sometime soon?

    • Dozer says:

      I could have been a lawyer but I just had too much heart.

      When you say ‘buccaneered’, do you mean ‘obliterated with a tactical nuke launched with an over-the-shoulder toss manouever from the last all-British strike aircraft, the aircraft also known as the Blackburn NA.39’?

      • TheWhippetLord says:

        Now that would be community feedback!

        • Dozer says:

          There is one still flyable, but it’s in South Africa, I think. ‘Red Beard’ has probably been decommissioned though but how hard can it be to reverse-engineer a 1950s tactical nuke?

  13. jplayer01 says:

    Oh, well, that makes it okay.

    *cough*

    No, it fucking doesn’t. Bite me, EA.

  14. Stuart Walton says:

    I will buy this new Sim City. But only when there is a stable and virus free crack available. At which point EA sees the futility of the DRM and patches it out.

    I’ll start holding my breath…

  15. tomnd says:

    That picture makes me think it would be really cool if the league of shadows turns up when your city reaches its peak and tries to fuck you up.

  16. hjd_uk says:

    Im with the majority here, no offline mode , no sale.

  17. Malk_Content says:

    Wasn’t the originally given reason that always on internet was required for these unoptional multiplayer features? If so then that statement must have been bullshit if you can now magically go offline after loading up the game.

    • Premium User Badge

      Colthor says:

      That’s what I thought, too. Hmm!

    • NathanH says:

      I wondered about this, but I suppose that not many people will lose their connection after the game has started, and not many people will deliberately go offline, but there are plenty of people who, if it wasn’t necessary, wouldn’t use the online mode. For instance in Bioware games I never logged in until I actually wanted DLC for that game. So perhaps they want to catch people like me in the multiplayer web without making the game unplayable for people with dodgy connections.

      Or maybe they’re just lying.

    • Mattressi says:

      Yeah, I was about to post the same thing. It amazes me that people still buy this crap from publishers that the game can ONLY be played online because there are such amazing features as achievements! The game would be ruined without achievements, so you must always be online – we’re doing you a service by not allowing you to choose to play offline!

  18. sneetch says:

    Screw this. No thank you. No online DRM please.

  19. Premium User Badge

    beekay says:

    I actually don’t care so much about always online as I do about the Origin requirement. Not to excuse the former, but Steam is already bad enough – slow and clunky – and I have 0 confidence that EA has managed to do better than Valve.

    I’m not going to pirate this, but only because there’s so much other stuff to be going on with that I won’t even notice the loss. Otherwise, what sane person wouldn’t pirate?

  20. Zarx says:

    Between this, the day one preorder DLC and some design decisions plus the lack of mod tools at launch means I won’t be buying the game for a long time

  21. mondomau says:

    Hold on, that clarification is still a bit vague – it’s not entirely clear whether or not you need to connect to play for the game itself or whether you need to be online by default to launch it through origin normally. If (if) it’s the latter, and will work in Origin’s offline mode, this is not actually a big deal, surely?

  22. Kaje says:

    I’m not particularly ‘pro’ piracy – but let’s hope that those on the pirating scene find a way to circumvent the need for this crippling DRM – not everybody wants to play a game whilst connected to the internet!

    ARR!

  23. SanguineAngel says:

    SO then, it isn’t necessary to be online during the game for all the features as was declared yesterday then?

    Fantastically, you can decide not to use those online features but doing so provides you with none of the advantages but you still get all of the disadvantages associated since you are still tied to a net connection to actually play your single player game.

    Brill.

  24. hjd_uk says:

    The stupid thing is I would want to actually buy it becasue i beleive in paying for hard work but then i’d want to immediately find a Crack/Patch to remove the DRM – making it an ‘illegal’ copy.

    • Dozer says:

      Is that stupid? I would have thought that is routine.

      • Khemm says:

        Yep, I can totally imagine that a lot of people do this – buy a game to support developers, but download cracks for sheer convenience.

        • InternetBatman says:

          I always crack my games. I have since Baldur’s Gate had those ridiculous CD changes. Haven’t pirated in years or years either.

    • TechnicalBen says:

      Sadly, I don’t want to pay for “work” that automatically assumes I’m a crook, even AFTER purchase. :(

      • Dozer says:

        My car automatically assumes I’m a crook and won’t let me open the doors or use the engine unless I can produce an ‘always-present’ key. It’s a bit of a restriction, but to minimise the risk of inconvenience, I have a duplicate key tied securely to the inside of one of the grilles on the bumper where I can retrieve it with a screwdriver.

        My police service always assumes I’m a crook and automatically arrests me every time I leave Fortnum & Masons.

        My helicopter pilot always assumes I’m an eldritch abomination from outer space, intent on destroying all humanity, and automatically ties me to a chair while aiming a flamethrower at me until someone can demonstrate that my blood doesn’t flee from hot wires.

        Er… which has nothing to do with EA’s stupid internet-requiring DRM. I suppose I don’t really care what attitude my software’s loader conveys as long as it’s not inconvenient. Phoning home before startup is definitely inconvenient. Stupid DRM is stupid.

        • Enikuo says:

          You can remove the locks on your car and straight-wire the ignition :)

  25. rocketman71 says:

    Still idiotic. As always, pirates will get to play the better version.

    Still unnecessary, still Origin. Still no sale. Fuck EA.

  26. TechnicalBen says:

    One down: Always online required play.
    One to go: Online required to play.

  27. Gothnak says:

    I want to play this game, i have the internet. I don’t see the problem.

    Every time i go on holiday, the room i’m in has the internet.

    When i try and play games outside on my laptop, i can’t see the screen.

    If i’m in a tent in the middle of nowhere, why the hell am i trying to play Sim City?

    I work in the games industry, i hate pirates.

    When my internet goes down, i hate Virgin, if i’m trying to play Sim City, then until my internet is fixed again, i’ll also hate EA.

    At the moment, i see it as completely justifiable in a world where people are growing up thinking it is normal and right to get all their games/films/music etc for free.

    If you don’t have the internet at home, you are a very strange person. It’s much like having a PC with no 3d card, it’s probably worth spending a bit of money to upgrade. And tbh, how are you online complaining about it?

    • NathanH says:

      I lived without internet at home for 20 months. It was excellent, I hardly wasted any time at all and spent it doing things I enjoy. The only problem was getting new games. Other than that, I’d rather not have internet, I waste far too much time on it doing pointless things like writing this post.

    • Dozer says:

      Well, I’m online on my work PC because my job is to loiter in hospitals until someone gets stuck on the Wonderful New IT System, when I can demonstrate that the software is working as ‘designed’ and go back to browsing. I can play computer games on my work laptop: specifically, Sim Tower, and the ‘Snake’ game when YouTube is buffering a video.

      I’m staying in the staff accommodation, where the domestic internet supply uses two cups and a piece of string to connect the user’s PC to the semaphore tower, then IP-over-semaphore to the pigeon loft on the roof of the academic building, the carrier pigeon to the ISP. The service is correspondingly expensive, slow and unreliable and I’m not paying £20/month for it. So, since November, my main PC has been internetless.

    • Premium User Badge

      It's not me it's you says:

      This is such a ridiculous strawman argument. I either buy games legally and properly (and films, and music, et cetera) or I do not get them at all.

      A game designed by people who are more concerned making sure their legitimate customers have yet another hurdle to cross before they get into the game rather than making their game worth playing can rot, I’ve got plenty to do.

    • dogsolitude_uk says:

      “At the moment, i see it as completely justifiable in a world where people are growing up thinking it is normal and right to get all their games/films/music etc for free.”

      Wow, a strawman. That’s a misrepresentation of the key argument: why punish paying customers? Why introduce a ludicrous system that restricts usage for those who have paid, leaving a pirated version with the arguably superior user experience?

      Look at the success of games like The Witcher 2 – no DRM, sold plenty of copies. Piracy didn’t kill that one! In fact, I have two copies: a Steam one and a boxed one with map+manual.

      The problem is that so many people, like yourself and the bean counters at EA, are so wrapped up in this ‘Punish! Restrict! Crack Down!’ mentality that you risk alienating apotentially supportive customer base, and killing the geese that lay those golden eggs.

      If you’re afraid of losing sales, then ironically you’re going the right way about it. No DRM, or a disk check, or Steam, or a one-off authentication and that would have been a pre-order for me. Phoning home every damned time is insulting and inconvenient.

      Oh, and I do find it rather ludicrous that my £1000’s worth of music software (Ableton+Orion+NI Komplete+FL Studio) doesn’t ‘phone home’, but £40’s worth of gaming software seems to think its entitled to do so.

      And finally not all hotel rooms do have free wifi/internet connections. Last time I stayed at Mint near Tower Gate for example, they charged an extortionate rate, but you could use the in-room Macs for free. Then again I should have suspected monetisation: a can of Redbull was £3.95 in the mini-bar!

  28. cpy says:

    Why is it so hard to understand, that those who pirate games, won’t buy it no matter what! As those who would like to buy it, but they wont be able to play it without crack wont buy it! I still can play SC2 offline version when servers are offline, but only me is going for pure multiplayer experience in SimCity now, and i fully understand always online for that, but friggin single payer? COME ON! I payed for the preorder, what more do you want?

  29. jlivius says:

    Should have contacted EA before posting the first story.

  30. razgon says:

    It gets better – Check out the pricing EA has decided on for the game

    79.99 for the Digital Deluxe version, and 59.99 for the standard, WITHOUT French, British and German City Sets…

    sigh

    • MiniMatt says:

      Yep, the UK digital deluxe price is 65 tea and crumpet vouchers – which exchanges to roughly 100 US, erm, guns and burgers(?) vouchers. And 45 quid for the regular digital “limited edition”.

      Imagine how much it would cost if EA didn’t have thier own digital distribution platform and had to pay for physical shipping and logistics! Oh, right, erm, well, amazon are selling the physical limited edition for a fiver less than EA sell, via origin, the digital version. And here we are in the UK with the government telling us to stock up on petrol – we should be hoarding electrons, they’re obviously far more expensive than a shipping, warehousing and distribution chain. I might go out and panic buy some electrons today.

  31. MiniMatt says:

    To put it another way, dependent upon your jurisdiction it is illegal – as in a criminal offence – to:
    Fire up a ZX Speccy and play Elite, because Firebird, and their internet authentication servers, no longer exist and using a crack on a paid for game would be illegal.
    Similarly, MOO2 – playing that is a criminal offence, Microprose and their internet authentication servers no longer exist.
    Don’t even think of playing Fallout 2 – Interplay’s authentication servers were liquidated by Titus in 2004, cracking your legitimate copy to play it would be criminal.

    Now of course none of those games had always on DRM (or as good as, as is proposed by always at launch), so we can still play them, untethered by the whims and winds of business. And play them people do, only yesterday on this very site was a Fallout 2 playthrough logged.

  32. Reynoldio says:

    To clarify, seeing as I’m without internet at all at the moment, I am allowed to buy the game but I cannot start it at all. At least it won’t boot me out after I’ve (not) started though. Yay!

  33. Premium User Badge

    It's not me it's you says:

    Damn EA is infuriating. Imagine all this energy (both spent on the programming and design of this and defending it in a flurry of PR) going towards actually making their games better. Grrr. So much wasted time.

    I was very keen on a new, proper, SimCity but this is just too annoying. I’m sure I can do without.

  34. AliasRY says:

    Why don’t they just call it SimCity Online and be done with it?

  35. Stormdancer says:

    So I can’t play this, on my frequent long airplane flights?

    And I have to use Origin?

    Really?

  36. briktal says:

    I really hope they keep the original always-on requirement. Changing it could set a dangerous precedent.

    • alundra says:

      Yeah yeah, game companies listening to their customers and fanbase instead of milking the crap out of them is a very dangerous trend….

      • Brun says:

        I agree with your statement in general. That said, a game developer needs to have a clear understanding of what their customers say they want (i.e., what they THINK they want), and what they actually want. Let’s say you’re running an MMO, and you get a lot of complaints saying that your endgame PvE content isn’t accessible enough. So you adjust your next set of content to be easier and/or more approachable. But now you’re getting complaints saying that the content is too easy. Your audience said it wanted easier content, but what it really wanted was content that provided a fair and appropriately-paced challenge.

        Again, I agree with what you’re saying in the vast majority of cases. But design-by-democracy can be just as bad as completely ignoring player suggestions, because so many people don’t understand what they really want (or cannot articulate it).

        • alundra says:

          I’m in agreement with you, feedback is crucial, but so is a clear direction, just don’t say that “what their customers say they want (i.e., what they THINK they want), and what they actually want.”

          It makes it sound like gamers where a bunch of mindless sucks.

          We could say I agree with your view, just your choice of words.

  37. zaphod42 says:

    Thanks for fighting the good fight, guys. Just keep spamming Ubisoft and EA until they finally agree to meet with you, this shit is getting ridiculous. They’ve created a NEGATIVE INCENTIVE to buy games, they’re actually doing everything they can to make people pirate games. STOP.

  38. ScubaMonster says:

    Lol at anybody thinking Blizzard and EA will change course on this decision. And people will still buy these games in droves. My internet is almost up 100% of the time so I really don’t care. I don’t game on a laptop and if I did most likely wouldn’t game somewhere without at least wifi.

  39. pilouuuu says:

    I want to throw my money at the screen, but they just don’t seem to want it!

  40. impish says:

    1) Wait for “community patch” that removes start up check.

    2) Enjoy game unfettered.

  41. Sic says:

    Still Origin, so I won’t buy it. It’s as simple as that.

  42. Nameless1 says:

    Still not buying it.
    I want to play it offline whenever I f* desire, or say hello to my little €

  43. Iskariot says:

    Still no deal.
    I am all right with online activation, but I want to be able to play my games when my laptop is offline, which is most of the time.
    I am a Sim City fan, but I will ignore a game that is infected with this kind of draconian DRM.
    Better luck next time EA.