Bizarre: EA Threatens Bans For Unreported SimCity Bugs

By Nathan Grayson on January 22nd, 2013 at 10:00 am.

SimCity‘s upcoming three-day-long closed beta may have all the trappings of a glorified demo, but EA’s pumping at least one aspect of it with unnecessarily aggressive test-osterone. In short, if you stumble across a swarm of bugs (Sim Ants hopefully excluded) and fail to report it, you could be facing a ban. From all of your EA games. Yes, that’s what it says in the SimCity beta’s EULA. Nearly verbatim. I just changed the word “product” to “game,” because “product” sounds, well, about as out-of-touch as this incredibly iron-fisted move on EA’s part.

For reference/education, here’s the fine print, courtesy of Ars Technica:

“It is understood and agreed that, as part of your participation in the Beta Program, it is your responsibility to report all known bugs, abuse of ‘bugs’, ‘undocumented features’ or other defects and problems related to the Game and Beta Software to EA as soon as they are found (‘Bugs’). If you know about a Bug or have heard about a Bug and fail to report the Bug to EA, we reserve the right to treat you no differently from someone who abuses the Bug. You acknowledge that EA reserve the right to lock anyone caught abusing a Bug out of all EA products.”

So basically, guilty until proven innocent. Or until punished for being presumed guilty without any real chance to prove you’re innocent, as it were.

It’s a bizarre move, too – and not just because EA seems to be wielding its banhammer with completely reckless abandon. After all, aside from the aforementioned bug abuse, how will EA even find out if you’ve been withholding valuable information? I mean, maybe if you’re playing with a friend, and they’re like “Ooooooo, I’M TELLING.” But otherwise, isn’t the whole point of bug reporting that you, you know, have to report it first?

So, at the end of the day, it’s kind of a ridiculous clause to include in the first place, but the implications are still fairly unsettling. That punishment absolutely doesn’t fit the crime, and it’s quite a stretch to define it as a crime in the first place. I mean, I guess it sort of seems like a reaction to people who treat real betas like giant demos, but – if so – it’s almost comically backward considering that this beta is totally the latter. And sure, maybe that’s a problem in some cases, but legalese that carries the might of Zeus Himself isn’t the way to solve it.

I suppose the big lesson here, as ever, is that we really need to stop just skipping past EULAs. As EA themselves – among many, many others – have proven on other occasions, it’s possible to hide some real landmines beneath those languid lingual forests. And, regardless of whether these companies ever choose to enforce them, paying attention’s the only surefire way to ensure things don’t get out of hand.

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250 Comments »

  1. P.Funk says:

    This is a clear sign that EA is a grossly overweight giant that has grown well beyond the ability to even operate within the margins of sanity. Their entire ban culture offers absolutely no benefit to their business. Its so reckless and arbitrary, its the kind of thing you expect to see during the height of a mad despot’s regime.

    Why would they ban a paying customer? Everyone knows that the more someone bothers to post on a forum the more invested they are in the community hence the more likely they are to buy stuff, not to mention they’re spending all day long being exposed to the advertizing on the forums.

    I’m not just talking about this EULA stuff but the entire history of the Origin bans et al. The way they approach bans is so grossly beyond excessive that I can hardly imagine any other industry having something equivalent.

    This is the kind of absurd farce that can only be necessary to make the inevitable stories following the collapse of EA all the more delicious… hopefully.

    Its really unbelievable that a company can operate like this. You know that if it were any other business it’d be all over CNN people getting treated like this. Why is it that the gaming industry allows consumers to get the shit kicked out of them and nobody ever notices?

    • Archonsod says:

      “You know that if it were any other business it’d be all over CNN people getting treated like this. Why is it that the gaming industry allows consumers to get the shit kicked out of them and nobody ever notices?”

      Nightclub bouncers. Except there it’s often literally kicking the shit out of people and nobody noticing.

  2. Sidewinder says:

    As odd as this may sound, I’d like to take this moment to thank EA. Not for this, this is deplorable, but for making me prove to myself over and over (and over and over and over) that there apparently isn’t a maximum level of disgust I can feel with a company. It’s a form of self-improvement I don’t think I really need, but thanks for the effort anyway.

  3. Molotova says:

    I havent seen anyone treat their (potential) customers with so much contempt and disdain since the last rerun of Fawlty Towers.

  4. Strangerator says:

    I was kind of on the fence about buying this new SimCity, but now I can definitely write it off the list. I sense an oncoming backpedaling press-release that will be too little, too late. Seriously, EA just dicked over the people who have been working on this game.

    EA needs to go away. Bankruptcy can be a health part of the business life-cycle.

  5. Shooop says:

    I don’t see any of the site’s EA apologists telling us we’re all overreacting and it’s for customers’ own good for once.

    Either they’ve finally hit their limit or they’re still trying to drop their IQ low enough to believe it.

    • TechnicalBen says:

      You must have missed the replies and posts on pages 1-3. Sad really. :/

      • LionsPhil says:

        Dunno about him, but I’ve got most of them blocked by this point. Makes it much more peaceful around here.

        Unfortunately, you can still see Kadayi banging away on the sidebar.

      • Shooop says:

        Weird, I don’t see many of them. I haven’t blocked anyone and wasn’t even logged in when browsing the comments.

    • Kadayi says:

      Kentucky Route Zero > dealing with low level AIM

  6. Wowza says:

    “Valve may cancel your Account or any particular Subscription(s) at any time. In the event that your Account or a particular Subscription is terminated or cancelled by Valve for a violation of this Agreement or improper or illegal activity, no refund, including of any Subscription fees, will be granted.”

    I wonder why people aren’t getting upset over this?

    • Kadayi says:

      But…Valve

      You can trust Valve..they’d never lie.

    • Shooop says:

      Two reasons.

      1) http://support.steampowered.com/kb_article.php?ref=8794-yphv-2033

      2) They’ve never banned people from their entire Steam library for cheating at/modifying a game.

      Care to try again?

      • Kadayi says:

        He’s quoting the Steam subscriber agreement:-

        http://store.steampowered.com/subscriber_agreement/

        So far Valve might not have banned anyone wholesale (as far as we know), but they reserve the right to. PH33R

        • Shooop says:

          Then that’s even more irrelevant because no one pays for a subscription to Steam!

          You really don’t think these things through properly do you?

          • Kadayi says:

            “1. REGISTRATION AND ACTIVATION.

            Steam is an online service (“Steam”) offered by Valve.

            You become a subscriber of Steam (“Subscriber”) by installing the Steam client software and completing the Steam registration. This Agreement takes effect as soon as you indicate your acceptance of these terms.”

            Guess again Shooop. What you think subscriber means, and what it actually means are different things entirely.

          • Emeraude says:

            I hadn’t realized Origin had subscription fess, if that’s where you’re going.

            I fail to see on what principles that would matter anyway. The games have been paid. You’ve been forced to use the service.

          • Kadayi says:

            “1. REGISTRATION AND ACTIVATION.

            Steam is an online service (“Steam”) offered by Valve.

            You become a subscriber of Steam (“Subscriber”) by installing the Steam client software and completing the Steam registration. This Agreement takes effect as soon as you indicate your acceptance of these terms.”

          • Shooop says:

            Still absolutely meaningless.

            You’re free to back up your games because it’s not forbidden anywhere (it’s even explained in their FAQs no less) and when was the last time Valve banned people from playing any of the games they bought on Steam because of modifying a game? Now care to tell me when EA did it?

            You don’t even need to use Steam for most games on it (only the ones using Steamworks) Once you bought them, they’re mostly yours.

            Such a strange and terrifying concept for you I know. Settle down and someone will be there to tuck you in shortly.

          • Emeraude says:

            Once you bought them, they’re MOSTLY yours.

            Your words, not mine.

            Once upon a time, once I bought them, they were *mine*. Period. I believe the fact that this is being threatened needs to be fought off. I believe any agent supporting that change needs to be vilified accordingly.

          • Premium User Badge

            darkChozo says:

            Does backing up games let you play them if Steam were to ban you? I honestly don’t know, but I’d imagine not, considering that even games that don’t have much integration with Steam still launch through the service in most cases. Backing up is rather irrelevant to the discussion of Steam’s control over gameplay, then (and feel free to correct me if I’m wrong).

            I also don’t know of any instances of EA banning people for modding their games either, at least to an irrational degree (ie. not cases of hacking multiplayer games). Once again, feel free to correct me.

          • Kadayi says:

            @darkChozo

            No it doesn’t. They’re encrypted and require Steam logged into you’re account to unlock. It’s literally a means to backup your gignormous Steam directory if you’re doing a system reinstall/upgrade vs downloading games again.

          • Kadayi says:

            Eye test?

          • gamma says:

            How cute Kadayi, for a moment there i thought i had left my glasses at home… can you help me in figuring out how to edit my unfounded and pointless remark back?

          • Kadayi says:

            Try ‘requesting deletion’. It’s right there next to ‘click edit’ (perhaps you do indeed need your eyes checked).

      • Wowza says:

        And EA’s never banned anyone for not reporting a bug/exploit. I don’t really have any major issues with either Steam or Origin. I just think that if you’re going to freak out about a certain line in an EULA, you should at least be consistent.

        • Kadayi says:

          Well you’d hope, but being consistent doesn’t push site hits or keep Tammy in new shoes.

          • gamma says:

            Consistency is not just a matter of principle… ones experience weighs in too.

            count the times EA has fucked you over, do the same for Valve and you’ll get a rational answer.

          • Emeraude says:

            Consistency is not just a matter of principle… ones experience weighs in too.

            By that count, given how often factions – any faction – have abused the legal system anytime they could get away with it, you’d think one wouldn’t let it fly that meekly when its rights are being redefined at a loss.

          • gamma says:

            “…you’d think one wouldn’t let it fly that meekly when its rights are being redefined at a loss.”

            no doubt and i totally agree! I am just advancing a plausible explanation for the observation. One really needs to realize that is indeed the underlying issue first:

            [gamers/consumers] “rights are being redefined at a loss” (deserves enphasis)

            before, starting to act on its real interest. But even than one may say… “i’ll risk it anyway”. Than one realises one does not use only hard-earned to buy ones entertainment, the other currency used in the transaction is the collective worth by measure of everyones rights.

          • Kadayi says:

            @Gamma

            keep on anthropomorphising I guess…

        • Emeraude says:

          That’s one of the things that always get to me: I’d understand people freaking over both, or neither, but one an, not the other ?

          Makes little sense. Some. But not much.

          • Emeraude says:

            Irrelevant: I’m still being forced to use a third party service to access a content I’ve already paid.

            Actually, that’s an interesting angle: I wonder if there isn’t ground for illegal product tying…

          • Kadayi says:

            Steam backup isn’t going to do shit for you if Valve bans your account, because you still need to be able to run Steam to access the games you’ve backed up. It’s literally there as a means for you to backup if you’re planning on doing a system reinstall and don’t want to go through the hassle of downloading 500 GB of data again. It’s not a safeguard against Valve closing Steam down, or terminating your service. From the very page you linked to: -

            Restoring from Backup Files

            Install Steam and log in to the correct Steam account (see Installing Steam for further instructions)

            If the backup files were copied to a CD or DVD, the process should run automatically when the disc is inserted. If not, run Steambackup.exe from the disc

            If steambackup.exe is missing, please download this copy of steambackup.exe and place it in the correct backup folder.
            Continue through the Steam windows to install the necessary games.”

          • Shooop says:

            Have others previous lost what they bought because of that third party service’s license agreement reaching into activity unrelated to the products?

            Are you permitted to keep copies of it (something publishers did their best to prevent in the days of physical disks I remind you)?

            Are you allowed to buy the product from other outlets as well or are you actually in fact forced to use that software irregardless of whether you bought the product from that service?

            Are you just completely ignoring past events that have actually happened with one company and not the other, and the rights one company actually gives you over your purchased media compared to the other?

            There is in fact a lesser of two evils here. And no one’s complaining about possible abuses from Valve because they have so far remained “possible” instead of “happening right now”. If they do happen you’d better believe the internet will explode with complaints. In the meantime try backing up your games for Steam and Origin and see which you’re still worried about loosing afterwards.

          • Shooop says:

            And how about the games that don’t use Steamworks (Protip: There’s quite a lot. In fact, every single on not on this list: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_games_using_Steam_authentication)?

            Oh and, get this – you can install your backups when Steam’s in Offline mode. Amazing!

            Tell me again how Origin handles backups. And “forum misconduct” while we’re at it. And now failing to report bugs in a demo.

            You (humorously) fail to realize, it’s not about Valve’s power being unquestioned (It has. By this site no less), but how EA has already abused theirs. But hey, anyone who dares not nod in agreement is a “Valve fanboy” right sweetcheeks?

          • Kadayi says:

            What ‘abuses’ are happening right now exactly?

            When has Valves EULA ever been questioned?

            As regards Origin, you can save the installers when you download the game. AFAIK third party titles don’t require Origin to be installed to run (B:AC certainly didn’t).

            And yes you are a Valve fanboy Shooop. You always defend them and you never ever criticize them. That you even hysterically claimed earlier on that there’s no such thing as a Steam subscriber in order to rally to their defence, is quite possibly one of the funniest things I’ve ever witnessed on this site ever.

            Personally I don’t think all that much of the way that EA have been going these days (I wasn’t impressed with ME3, but I put that more down to Casey Hudson’s delusions of grandeur than anything else), especially with the push towards Pre-Order DLC etc, etc but at the same time I don’t think it’s healthy to blindly subscribe like you do to this Valve = Good, everyone else (‘cept Indies) = bad mindset.

            This is a FUD article at the day. There’s nothing any more to worry about than just about any other EULA out there, but it’s EA, and they’re ‘evil’ so feel free to ‘Carry on hatin’.

          • Emeraude says:

            Oh and, get this – you can install your backups when Steam’s in Offline mode.

            My understanding, which comes from exchange with Valve personnel, is that Steam certificates expire.
            Sooner or later, you’ll need to go back online to renew your certificates.

            You’re still being forced to use a third party client.
            You’re still being forced to online activation.

          • Archonsod says:

            “And no one’s complaining about possible abuses from Valve because they have so far remained “possible” instead of “happening right now””

            Sure, if you ignore all the “Valve closed my account” threads. In fact, I seem to remember one made something of a ripple on this very site not so long ago.

            Also re: Origin backups, since the games aren’t actually tied to Origin it doesn’t really need a backup mode, you can just dump everything to the media of your choice and reinstall it whenever. Assuming you have a valid serial to activate it anyway.

          • Shooop says:

            What ‘abuses’ are happening right now exactly?

            That selective memory acting up again eh?

            This look familiar?

            http://www.joystiq.com/2011/11/17/ea-finally-responds-to-forum-bans-also-banning-origin-game-acces/

            Maybe this?

            http://www.bit-tech.net/news/gaming/2012/11/15/ea-denies-origin-hack/1

            How many people do you know of who’ve been locked out of their entire Steam library? Not VAC banned, but completely unable to play any of the games that they have to use Steam to run?

            I’ll wait, it’ll be fun.

          • Kadayi says:

            Again what abuses? You’re linking to a post from over a year ago, and another that’s claiming something, but not actually demonstrating that it actually happened.

          • Shooop says:

            So it’s perfectly acceptable to loose access to all your games if the publisher doesn’t like your forum posts?

            I think we both already know what the problem is here. Do you make it a habit to repeatedly say, “Thank you sir may I have another?” Just curious.

          • Emeraude says:

            @Shooop:

            The way I see your position is: you have a positive trust balance with Valve, and a negative one with EA, and under those assumptions, you think acceptable to give powers over yourself to one and not the over.

            What I don’t understand is why accept giving up your rights in the first place, when no such things is necessary.

          • D3xter says:

            It has nothing to do with “trust balance” and everything to do with past decisions.
            To start with, here is a list of Steam games WITHOUT ANY DRM: http://www.gog.com/forum/general/list_of_drmfree_games_on_steam/ (that means, similar to GoG you just use Steam to download those games, afterwards you are free to start them up without Steam open, move them around, back them up, copy them on another PC and start them there etc.)

            Other than that, EA is known for banning people for any number of random and oh-so-hilarious reasons, from using “bad words” in Battlefield 3: http://bf3blog.com/2011/11/battlefield-3-player-banned-for-72-hours-for-saying-badass-on-forums/

          • D3xter says:

            Other examples include the “EA devil” incident: http://gamingbolt.com/ea-bans-player-from-playing-dragon-age-2-for-calling-them-devil or being banned from their entire service (and your entire game library) for any number of reasons: http://www.rockpapershotgun.com/2011/12/05/ea-origin-bans-update-edition/ from “playing the auction house” in SW:ToR to apparently “abusing a bug” in Sim “Always-On-DRM” City.
            Show me where Steam does this? “Abusing bugs” is fine on Steam, the worst they’ve ever done is give some people a hat as reward for “not cheating”, it obviously doesn’t matter at all on your SinglePlayer games, and even using third party tools to outright cheat will only hand people a VAC ban, will still allow them to play on Non-VAC-secured servers though and won’t have any more influence over their account or their games.

            What you are trying to argue is ludicrous, EA has a decade-long history of screwing over their customer base, systematically and OVER AND OVER again. They had to earn the reputation they hold now in years upon years of working on it. Steam/Valve has not ONCE changed their DRM scheme in all the years of its existence and some of the worst stuff I remember they did is change their EULA and forcing people to accept it, which has been criticized in various places, including here rightly and even gave a German consumer protection agency reason to sue.

          • SkittleDiddler says:

            So D3xter, a decade from now, if Valve ever starts banning users from their Steam accounts, are you going to come back here and state how your apparent trust in Valve was misplaced?

            I doubt that people who bought EA games ten years ago would have ever imagined that they could potentially be banned from playing those games.

          • D3xter says:

            No, I’ll sue them over trying to screw me out of ~$10.000 or more worth of products (possibly even software by then, a lot of which weren’t even bought directly from Steam) and trust that courts will make the right decisions according to local laws.

  7. Emeraude says:

    It has nothing to do with “trust balance” and everything to do with past decisions.

    Two ways to describe the same thing. I never said the balance was unsubstantiated.
    At the same time, I I don’t see anything on Valve’s part that hints at them being different from any company: when in a situation where the company’s interests and those of their customers are at odds, I trust they will do away with the interests of the customers. As they did in their recent EULA change banning class action lawsuit.

    Which leads to, to quote myself up-thread:

    But then Steamworks.

    I see little significant long term difference between supporting the infrastructure that delivers this and supporting Origin.

    Why give them those powers over yourself in the first place, when there is no need to do so ?

    A point you sidesteped, as many others I’ve raised in this thread have been.

    Also, as I understand you’re forced to use Steam to install the games, and re-install the back ups.
    Stricto sensu, that’s a DRM in my book.

    • Shooop says:

      Potential to be horrible ≠ being horrible.

      Valve definitely does have the potential to do something insurmountably stupid. I never said they didn’t. And because of that I make a habit of looking for DRM-free copies of games before going to Steam. I use it only when needed, and simply tolerate it. I don’t give them any more power over my games than I possibly can only because they’ve so far decided not to be a nuisance.

      EA however has a history. They’ve done insurmountably stupid things. And they’re completely unapologetic about it too. I know for a fact they’re untrustworthy.

      So what’s there to even compare right now? They both want to sell you something they can technically take away, but one hasn’t exercised that power, and the other has. We have a hypothetical situation versus one that’s actually happened and has a good chance of continuing to happen.

      And you can use Steam offline to install your backups. This is hardly the ideal solution, but it’s definitely better than Origin’s (lack of any) alternative. Yes it is DRM. Yes I would prefer none. But as they are now I can tolerate it. But if something changes for the worse you can bet I’ll be chewing Valve out just as much as I do EA.

      • Emeraude says:

        Potential to be horrible ≠ being horrible.

        Irrelevant to the question I asked though. Why consent to give anyone that power over oneself in the first place when the only significant thing they can do is abuse it ? There is nothing to gain from accepting, and a potential to lose, so why accept ?

        Again, I understand accepting both, being against both, but being for one but against the other is a weird position. Their purpose is the same. They’ve been built to do the same thing.

        I use it only when needed, and simply tolerate it.

        So, I take you are technically against both, it it’s just a matter of not having the spine* to resist then.

        And you can use Steam offline to install your backups.

        Yes. You are still co-dependant on Steam. You are still being forced to use it.

        Edit:
        *: this sounds much more aggressive than I want it, but I don’t find a way to express it properly in English right now.

        • D3xter says:

          “Irrelevant to the question I asked though. Why consent to give anyone that power over oneself in the first place when the only significant thing they can do is abuse it ? There is nothing to gain from accepting, and a potential to lose, so why accept ?”

          Power over oneself? Wat? As far as I am concerned Steams EULA doesn’t have any relevance where I live, and the more there is racked up on that Account, including from different places like Retail shops, Amazon, GameFly, GamersGate etc. the stronger any potential case against them would be if they ever did anything stupid as trying to lock me out of my account.
          I don’t trust EA because of what they did, what they do and what they stand for (see last page for case examples). The simple fact that they are beholden to shareholders changes everything.
          And they’ve proven time and time again that they can’t handle customers, studios or IPs with any kind of grace whatsoever, surviving mostly on their yearly sports franchises and a few exceptions.

          Aside from that, Steam offers quite a lot, it offers a library of most of your games to install whenever and wherever one wants, it offers automatic patching, it offers an easy way to buy/install/play games without much trouble and has dozens of features like the “Friends” thing that enhances the experience when you want to play with someone. It offers several yearly Sales and discounts like nary other services do and most games use Steamworks nowadays, which sure is an improvement over any closed-off console hardware with even worse restrictions or Pay2PlayOnline schemes.

          I could go on, but I think I’ve made my point.
          The difference between using Origin and Steam is the difference between swimming with Sharks or Dolphins or sticking your hand into the mouth of a hungry hyena or a gentle cow.
          Sure in both cases you could get hurt, but in one of them you are literally asking for it, in the other it’s an unfortunate side effect.

          Also again, I know this doesn’t fit very well in your rhetoric, but there are a large number of games entirely DRM-free on Steam: http://www.gog.com/forum/general/list_of_drmfree_games_on_steam/page1
          Valve doesn’t dictate to developers what features they are supposed to use to put their games on Steam, it’s their choice. Another thing distinguishing them from EA.

          • Emeraude says:

            Power over oneself? Wat? As far as I am concerned Steams EULA doesn’t have any relevance where I live

            They still have the effective power, conceded to them by their users, until challenged and defeated in court.
            Until that happens, and it may take years, they can do whatever they want.

            Furthermore, what is true of Valve is true of EA: if your argument is valid, then you don’t have anything more to fear from one than the other, and can use both services indifferently. Their EULA is powerless other you anyway.

            Aside from that, Steam offers quite a lot

            Valve could offer EXACTLY the same without Steam being a DRM solution. No customers benefit from that. If they’re so secure in the fact that their quality of service is what grants them their peculiar pace in the current market, let Valve remove it.

            most games use Steamworks nowadays, which sure is an improvement over any closed-off console hardware

            And I mostly see them as one and the same – except Steam is contributing to the closing – as far as its particular market is concerned – of a platform whose main ethos was openness, while the other was always supposed to be closed.

        • Shooop says:

          It’s relevant to my stance. That is why you bothered to ask a question in the first place isn’t it? Or are you trying to make up a string of leading questions where I’m supposed to say, “That’s right Emeraude”?

          Do you want the full context or just pieces of it to build a strawman from?

          • Emeraude says:

            a) You’ll notice I didn’t technically ask. I *was* being squarely affirmative in that original post.

            b) I’ve had this debate several times already, what I fail to understand the articulation around which that point of view is based.

            I can see the balance of trust issue.

            What I don’t see, is how it is relevant.as far as principles are concerned.

            The way I see it, it’s akin to saying “Oh, I’m against, but fighting against it is just too bothersome, so I ignore the problem as long as I think I have the luxury to do so.”. Which is just weird.

            Back to the beginning.

  8. Judas says:

    EA executives and attorneys are fools and should be well open to malicious lawsuits for being so hostile.

    Please. DO NOT BUY EA GAMES.

    Let someone else make these games. EA is not for the gamer.

    Drain their Bank accounts and make them Humble.

  9. Panoptical says:

    Sigh.

    I remember when games used to be fun looking forwards to and mysterious in a way. Now it’s just a ton of BS before a release.

    “Everything is amazing and nobody’s happy”

    • rsanchez1 says:

      Well, at least we still have Zelda, Mario, and Pokemon right?

  10. rsanchez1 says:

    Wow, thanks for the heads up. I was actually kinda excited about the beta, even after putting up with all the BS they make you take just to sign up. Now, I’m not touching it with a 10 foot pole.

  11. spelvin spugg says:

    Anybody still paying money for EA products deserves what they get.