SimCity Is Inherently Broken, Let’s Not Let This Go

By John Walker on March 11th, 2013 at 1:00 pm.

EA reports that SimCity is slowly getting into a state where it’s playable. Many of the launch issues are getting sorted, and soon it may well be in such a place that it becomes functional. So we should forgive and forget, right? Wrong.

Nathan wrote a piece about SimCity last week, discussing how the situation should never have happened, but that EA had done well in response. I don’t entirely agree. Because there was only one valid response from EA after the clusterfuck of SimCity’s launch: capitulation. A full admission that the DRM that infests their game was needless, a bad mistake, and that they’re working to strip it out for single-player games as quickly as possible.

Claiming SimCity fixed, by removing the server queues, random crashes, lost cities, server drops, and the artificial restrictions placed on the game just to make it run, is like claiming a broken leg fixed because you’ve mended the crutches. The game, by its very design, is hideously broken, and like Diablo III before it, it has only served to scream a complete disregard for sense and a massive disregard for customers. So what we mustn’t do now is say, “Well, teething problems.”

These aren’t teething problems. These are continuous deep-running flaws designed to cripple the game for you as a player, simply to serve some nebulous notion of protecting the game against piracy.

But no! cry EA and their more loyal defenders. The online is there for the players! It’s not DRM, it’s about enhancing the game, it’s designed that way, it’s it’s it’s… It’s all bollocks. Yes, SimCity offers some multiplayer options that sound a lot of fun. Being able to build cities near your chums, create trade routes with them, share resources, be affected both positively and negatively by your neighbours. Ranked leaderboards, cloud-saved cities, perhaps even world-wide events at a later stage? And of course everything is always up-to-date, latest patch, etc. This is all brilliant stuff. If I want it.

What EA and Maxis have done with SimCity is attempt a year-long PR assault to suggest that the online-only nature of SimCity is designed to offer enhancements for gamers. This is simply not true. It’s utter rubbish. It’s a backward step for a format that seemed to be managing for years to offer single player and multiplayer options for games without the universe cracking in two. The idea that multiplayer-only is an enhancement is such an obvious piece of newspeak, such a ridiculous untruth, that we can only loudly and furiously react against it if we’re to not see it incredulously accepted as fact. I do worry it’s maybe already too late.

To see anyone defending EA and Maxis for the state of SimCity, even were it in perfect working order on launch, depresses me to my core. This self-flagellation-as-skincare notion, where gamers loudly and proudly defend the destruction of their own rights as consumers, is an Orwellian perversity. That it might be considered in any way controversial to call them out on their crap, to point out that no, always-on DRM is not an advantage to anyone, is bewildering. It’s a sign of just how far the gaming world has fallen into the rabbit hole of the publisher’s burrowing.

Years back we would get up in arms about entering codes to launch single-player games. Now it’s as natural a part of the installation process as choosing the install directory. Damn it, it was only the last two years where we stood up and shouted down Ubisoft for their ghastly, cruel and completely useless always-on DRM, and they wisely capitulated and removed it. They must be staring in confusion and horror as people excuse EA for SimCity, and Activision for Diablo III. Tolerating this idiocy is how it will become the norm.

It is simple. SimCity, of course, could be a single-player game. Ignore the utter nonsense about how some of its computations are server-side. What complete rot. As if our PCs are incapable of running the game. I’m sure some of the computations are server side! But they damned well don’t need to be, as all of gaming ever has ably proven. By breaking the running of the game in two, EA have given themselves a neat way out of being able to flick a switch such that it runs as it ought. That can be fixed. That can be changed. They just have to have a customer base conscious enough to demand that they do, and develop the basic shreds of respect for their players to do so.

SimCity, in the state it’s in, whether the servers are up or down, the Cheetah mode switched on or off, is an insult to you. It’s a gross, bawdy guffaw at just how much you’ll put up with in the name of “fighting piracy”. They’re laughing at you, while you hand over your £45 for a game that maybe works sometimes.

I feel very bad for many of the developers at Maxis, who would have set out to make the best game they could. They, of all people, should possibly be the angriest – to see their creation so needlessly broken, so cruelly and stupidly trapped in an online-only prison, cursed to piss players off where it should be providing them fun. I would like to see them speak out too – they should have their voices heard, let them express their frustration.

SimCity could be a very splendid single-player game, and one that could then be taken online for other funs. It’s perfect laptop-on-the-train gaming (especially with such stupidly tiny cities), that’s rendered impossible to play on a laptop on the train. It’s ideal flight fodder, that no one can play on flights. It’s a game that of course should be able to fill an evening when the internet’s gone down, that shall fill no such evenings.

Always-on DRM is a disease that we cannot allow ourselves to be so willingly infected by. It’s a curse on gaming. It’s diminishing our experiences, reducing the possibilities for our play, and creating a space where faulty games are accepted as complete. Always-on DRM is a broken game. They need to be fixed.

Photo credits:

Image 1 by Bart Everson
Image 2 by Albert duce
Images 3-5 by Infrogmation of New Orleans

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606 Comments »

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  1. Ravenholme says:

    Yes. That is all.

    • yogibbear says:

      ***DISCLAIMER*** I have enjoyed my time with the game so far, but these are ultimately HUGE failures and signs that despite the server issues this game should NEVER have been released yet *******************************

      WHO CARES ABOUT THE DAMN SERVERS, I have played the game for ~50 hrs and let me tell you at the CORE it is ROTTEN and BROKEN as a city simulation.

      a) Only 10% of your workforce will actually WORK. 90% are retirees supposably. So you will ALWAYS have high demand for workers and everyone will complain that they are broke once you reach tier 3. Numerical density development of your town is F************** beyond low wealth initial starting where a more REASONABLE 66% of your population WORKS.
      b) 16 player maps CANNOT share between all 16 regions as you need to be connected by road/rail/water/etc. which are limited usually to only 3-4 other cities for each city meaning it isn’t a 16 player share fest asides from tech + research unlocks which don’t require roads
      c) mid-late game ALL services (fire/police/recycling/sewage/etc.) are ALL BROKEN. Once you build 2 x sewage plants, buildings will constantly get backed up sewage as it is simulated wrong, paying $10k/hr for those 4 x fire departments, and you’ll have buildings NEXT DOOR TO YOUR FIRE DEPARTMENT that they will NEVER RESPOND TO, and sit there saying “ready to respond”.
      d) If you don’t own the DLC you can’t reclaim other people’s cities that have that DLC
      e) Region trade/tourism/etc. is all SERVER SIDE and because the servers are terrible this means if they go down/you lose connection while playing… guess what you GET 0 TOURISTS for that month and your casino town is now BROKE. RESTART YOUR CITIES
      f) there is no undo button. No way to get cash back for incorrect placement of buildings
      g) layout maps are INCORRECT and do not correctly show you the placement for maximum density

      TLDR: Don’t buy this game till the core mechanics are fixed. Yes it’s fun, but it is only fun to keep restarting cities and breaking the game by using supplying chain economics to offset the RIDICULOUS imposition of pathetic late game numerical FLAWS in the core of this game e.g. 10% workers, no working services etc.

      • AngoraFish says:

        If it took you 50 hours to work all this out I reckon you still got your money’s worth.

        • yogibbear says:

          That’s the disclaimer. I enjoy breaking things. (I’m an engineer at heart). Just saving you guys the hassle and telling you what to look for in patch notes beyond offline mode.

          • Sparkasaurusmex says:

            Yeah, awesome post. I really appreciate commentators that can poke around at the game and give more info than the review. (I mean, info adding to the review)

            Everything else I’ve read just says the game is great but broken. For some reason it’s good to know that it’s not really great, but still broken. Broken on many levels, apparently.

          • Lagwolf says:

            I am a reviewer/beta-tester and I know the enjoyment from breaking programs/finding out how inherently messed up they are. You long list is a good start and there is more besides.

        • Nallen says:

          Is that a joke, 50 hours for a SimCity game that costs £65 with the day 1 DLC? The “city” size is so laughably small it’s an insult to the series.

      • aepervius says:

        To which I would add : utility are broken by design. Sure it is neat to see your power come back by small chunk, or water slowly feed homes. But with that comes two huge problems :
        1) those chunks seems to run in circle sometimes which thermodynamically make no sense whatsoever.
        It seems that the power only search for a way from point A to point B, then in some case run in circle.
        This also happens with garbage truck which run behind another garbage truck, the first one filling the second one staying empty, rather than go to another part of the city with garbage. Same with police and Fire truck or even ambulance.
        2) even if you have 50 megawatt *in surplus* the power bubble sent toward the city are coming very slowly, almost as if it does not scale properly, resulting in a very strange very slow ramp up of big building (my exposition tourist attraction takes literally hours to ramp up, despite having 50+ surplus MW).

        That agent things from glass box, is nice if you want to emulate entity like people / firms/shops/house in a Simcity like simulation. But for utility, or even heck stuff like power it is utterly useless a gimmick which adds no depth, only add complexity for no gain. The simulation would have been much better off with a simple fill by distance/density algorithm rather than quantic power/water agent feeding separate building.

        Simcity is definitively broken, in many ways. It is nice, good looking, entertaining, but it does not have the staying power of SC4 even in sandbox mode.

      • Premium User Badge

        Revisor says:

        Commenting here to corroborate your point. There is a huge list of bugs and most of them are connected to the individual simulation, the one point that should have made this a great new game.

        http://www.reddit.com/r/SimCity/comments/1a0taq/compiled_list_of_suggestions_and_bug_reports_to/

        There is nothing fun about all firefighters responding to the same fire even though there are more raging elsewhere, or the cars being blocked in such a way that you have to bulldoze the whole intersection.

        • Hahaha says:

          Suggestions listed under ‘MAJOR ISSUE/GAMBREAKING’ …why?

          • Machinations says:

            I don`t know, looks like everything game breaking is indeed game breaking, but if there are some organizational issues on such a massive list of bugs, you`ll have to excuse the people who compiled it.

            After all, they aren`t paid beta testers from Q&A. They are paying customers who were shipped a broken product, so you`ll have to excuse formatting errors and the lack of TPS reports.

      • roryok says:

        I’m not sure if you’re describing a game or modern city planning issues

      • Methodric says:

        The mechanics aren’t broken, you just don’t seem to understand how they work. I have 175k population in my city, one fire department (2 trucks, one marshal, one hazmat), one hospital (4 ambulances, no expansions, 2 wellness vans), one sewage treatment plant, and one garbage dump. Not only does my town have 10-20k/hr profit, my recycling centre can get me 200-300k a day from recyclables. I’m even providing fire/garbage/recycle/water/sewage/police AND power to my 4 nearest cities. I’v even had to deal with an earthquake, and a dinosaur rampaging through the city. I currently only make money on basic services, I have only one trade depot and one casino. Transportation is my current highest expense. Every month I need to enable and disable services based on demand, and I’m pretty sure my tax fluctuates about 5% every month. I sit anywhere between 60-80% satisfaction (depending on how long my taxes have been up or down)

        I reckon I can hit 250k pop with just optimizing some of my waterfront property.. I didn’t give the beach enough room so houses can’t get bigger =/ High density gives MASSSSSIVE amounts of population. I grew from 25k to 175k without adjusting much more then increasing land value.

        The game is not broken, you just don’t seem to want to optimize your city.

        • Tanksenior says:

          The fact that you have figured out how to optimize your city doesn’t mean the mechanics aren’t inherently broken. The problems these people describe are real and not to be dismissed so lightly. An especially bad reason for this is just because you’ve found some ways to circumvent these problems.

          • Methodric says:

            It’s not circumvention, it’s playing the game. The whole point of the smaller map is to constrain you into tweaking rather then expanding. As someone else said, the same issues facing every city planner.

          • Machinations says:

            So, to pick just one example, all fire trucks reponding to the same fire while other fires rage throughout the city is not a bug, its a feature

            I`m astounded that you can review that list of bugs, containing so many, as we call them in the industry, show-stoppers, and still imply the game is not filled with problems.

            This is completely outside the always-online thing. Strip that away, you still have a very buggy game.

          • smb says:

            Indeed, it’s an inconvenient oversight, but not a game breaking one. People are simply compounding the issue by throwing piss-poor management philosophies into the mix. “Can’t get all the fires? BUILD MORE FIRE TRUCKS!” instead of optimizing their transit system and reducing fire risk through other means.

          • Mario Figueiredo says:

            @Methodric, I don’t think you have played SimCity previous titles. All the way back to even the original game, this was never a problem. City services always operated as expected and never displayed this type of behavior.

            I think we can all agree this is a bug and will be fixed. We can certainly refuse to look at it as a reason to avoid the game (there’s plenty of better reasons, the city sizes being a better one). But to try to pretend that all fire trucks moving to a single fire, or garbage trucks being stopped by traffic, is an actual game feature that requires our thinking hats is disingenuous at best. It doesn’t even make for a good simulation of real-life cities (Fires are taken dead serious and garbage trucks operate at times of day where there is minimum traffic).

      • malkav11 says:

        I care about the servers because ultimately even the best game ever made cannot be allowed to get away with always-on DRM. (In fact, particularly the best games, because they are the greatest loss to the medium if we allow them to be dependent on external servers.) That SimCity sounds to have made some substantial design compromises will only become relevant if EA ever backs down on the DRM.

    • Deano2099 says:

      It’s an online multiplayer game, and as such I have no interest in it whatsoever. But I can’t agree that it’s completely broken. It’s just not what some people wanted. Sure, it could make a great single-player game, but I have Sim City 4 and that’s a great single player game and this doesn’t look much different.

      Plus World of Warcraft would make a great single-player game. Guild Wars would make a great single-player game. TF2 could be a great single-player game. I’d love a DOTA2 with a single-player meta-campaign on top of it as well. There’s plenty of online games that could make great single-player offline games with a minimum of tweaks.

      SimCity isn’t broken, it’s just an online multiplayer title. If that doesn’t interest you it’s not the game for you. I think that’s what should be pushed here, rather than claiming that it’s just broken. Unless you’re saying it’s broken as a single player game. But that’s like saying your washing machine is broken as it won’t toast bread.

      • battles_atlas says:

        Deano aren’t you missing the rather loud point that its not an online multiplayer game, its just been claimed as one to trojan horse anti-piracy measures into the game. I’ve seen nothing so far in the reviews (haven’t bought if for the reasons outlined in John’s piece) to suggest that the online aspects make more than a cursory addition to the game – certainly nothing so fundamental to mean that it has to be played online.

        • smb says:

          Funny, the complaints I’ve seen in reviews regarding multiplayer boil down to: “Feels like a single-player game, except your city gets screwed over by other people eventually.” Gee, do they have any concept of what cooperative play entails? Help each other and reap the benefits; fail to communicate with your team and you ALL suffer. There is a ton of potential in SimCity’s multiplayer, but no one is bothering to even try because they’ve got the single-player stick up their rear.

          Also, if you approach WoW like a single-player game (soloing, which most MMOs goes out of their way to balance around) the multiplayer aspect feels incredibly shallow and contrived. I know because this is how I played them for countless years. I used to be intrigued by the notion of being part of a larger “living” world with other players in a fantasy world and blah blah, but in the end realized that the existence of random strangers do more to ruin the illusion than they can ever do to help it. Those fuckers just steal your loot and kill credit, regurgitate memes and vomit obscenities all over the place. It’s little more than playing a single-player RPG with the Internet if you don’t bother trying to socialize and make friends.

          • Mario Figueiredo says:

            What team are you talking about?

            You can either play the game in private or public mode. In private mode you actually have to call in your friends to occupy slots. In public mode you have no control over who does what. If you have friends and If you play more than them, you are out of luck. You risk growing beyond them and suffering the consequences. You’ll have to actually time city development and probably have to convince someone to build the type of city they didn’t want.

            All this makes for a rather pale co-op experience. The only benefit of all this coordination effort is some kind of resource to trickle into your city. All because people are playing small towns, not large cities. The coop features of simcity can at best be described as artificial. It’s a rather sad turn of events actually, considering the depth and scope of what SimCity used to be.

            Now, if co-op had been implemented at more advanced stages of city development, then could have become a more interesting game. Could citizens from a large neighbor city come sleep at mine? Could your well developed business centers be an attractive job prospect for my citizens? Could Frank’s large airport there be a good source of tourism for both of us? Could my fire department help with your current predicament?

            A co-op simcity where city planning wasn’t constrained by resource trading (like two medieval cities), but influential (like two modern cities) would have made for a much better game. You could build your cities how you liked — which is what simcity was always about — and still be playing the coop game.

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        Cinek says:

        “It’s an online multiplayer game” – it’s not truth. It’s a single player game with added social options. That’s pretty much all.

      • GSGregory says:

        And mount and blade would be a great online only game, and torch light 2 would be awesome as multiplayer only. Civ 5 doesn’t need single player. Terraria should be online only.

        And on and on that list can go.

        This game is not a mmo. However the game has been forcefully setup that you must play it as such. It isn’t a multiplayer only game. It is a online only game. That is a big difference. There is no need for the forced online requirements what so ever. This setup would be like xbox or ps3 requiring an internet connection to play ff13 or star ocean so that you can share screens with your friends.

        What no one seems to have hit on is that fact that when ea gets bored with supporting this game they are going to shut the servers down. Which will happen in a year or two when the next one releases as their track record shows. So really everyone is simply renting access for a time.

        • Deano2099 says:

          And World of Warcraft can also be described with the following:

          “It isn’t a multiplayer only game. It is a online only game. That is a big difference. There is no need for the forced online requirements what so ever. ”

          You can easily spend 100s of hours on WoW without interacting with other human characters at all. There’s no reason not to take that experience and stick it in a single-player game other than profit-motive. Yet it doesn’t get a hard time for it.

          I love the Sim City games, I don’t want an online multi-player title, so I won’t buy this. Same as I’ll buy Dragon Age 3 but not Neverwinter Online. I’m disappointed they didn’t make an offline, single-player Sim City instead. But I’d rather people judged a game on what it tries to do rather than what it doesn’t try to do. I’d even go as far as to suggest people don’t buy it, so there’s a bigger chance the next one won’t be like this. But it’s not broken. It was designed this way. There’s a big difference.

          • Brun says:

            I get your point, but you’ll never convince the people here. It’s a shame that EA decided to take the series this way, but as owners of the IP that’s their prerogative. There is no rule that says “All SimCity games made in all eternity must be single-player offline probabilistic city simulators with large plots, terraforming, and mod support.”

            If people don’t want what EA is delivering, then other companies and other IPs will step up to the plate and drive them out of the market.

          • Sparkasaurusmex says:

            Exactly what people are criticizing Simcity for is what it “tries” to do.
            Here’s the critique- What it tries to do, it fails at.
            That has nothing to do with WoW or whatever…

          • Hahaha says:

            Has RPS offered any alternatives people should try or look out for instead of supporting this game?

          • Sparkasaurusmex says:

            If you scroll up and read the post we’re nested under it’s about game mechanics, nothing to do with multiplayer or online.

          • Sparkasaurusmex says:

            @hahaha
            for city building, probably SimCity4
            for the agent thing, definitely Tropico 4.

          • Neo says:

            That the game is deliberately designed to be anti-consumer doesn’t excuse it being anti consumer.

            Besides, the difference between Sim City and games like WoW, TF2, Dota etc is that people go into the latter expecting multiplayer content. People buy city simulation games to simulate cities, all the social features are a nice addition for the people who care about them but it’s not what people paid money for.

          • Brun says:

            difference between Sim City and games like WoW, TF2, Dota etc is that people go into the latter expecting multiplayer content

            Oh, excuse me. I didn’t realize that you spoke for all people now.

          • S Jay says:

            You CAN spend 100 in WoW without interacting with humans – still the core of the game is the interaction, the raiding, the guilds, etc etc etc. The quests tend to be bland. SimCity on the other hand is the opposite: the core of the fun is building your own city and you CAN interact with others, but you don’t really need – all the people using private regions, for example, have no reason to be online.

          • Neo says:

            Oh, excuse me. I didn’t realize that you spoke for all people now.

            Is this a joke?

            “One of the most popular online action games of all time” – Steam TF2 Page
            “One of the most played online games in the world” – Steam Dota 2 Page
            “World of Warcraft is an online game where players from around the world assume the roles of heroic fantasy characters and explore a virtual world full of mystery, magic, and endless adventure.” – ‘What is WoW’ Page from the WoW Game Guide

            You’re telling me you don’t expect online multiplayer content in these games?

          • Brun says:

            Your statement implied that people were expecting SimCity to be single-player. How can you be so sure that there wasn’t a sizable group of people out there that expects *all* of their games to be multiplayer? It’s a pretty common expectation among younger gamers. Perhaps EA was targeting this group?

          • Vorphalack says:

            EA carpet bombed the internet with SimCity adverts. They were bloody everywhere, not targeting sites frequented by a single demographic. The adverts did not imply that the game is inherently multi-player, or that the genre is inherently multi-player. Most of those adverts have now been pulled while they try and un-fuck the game, but honestly you cannot argue that they were primarily targeting their adverts for a multi-player audience.

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            jrodman says:

            I challenge you to set up an install of the mangoes server and run the wow client against it.
            It runs alright, you can play in wow all by yourself, with not a single other player there, but there is nothing compelling about it. The profound emptiness, the incompleteness of the experience that assumes the presence of other players is clear.

            The best parts of the game: dungeons, batltegrounds, raids, are completely inaccessible. The stale mechanics of the world are laid bare when there are no other players participating. Every “rare” thing is standing there in its spawn point. Every town or city has only completely static NPCs with no one to mask them.

            It is POSSIBLE to play as a single player game, but it’s a failure. It’s clearly not a single player game at all, and never will be.

          • x1501 says:

            “It isn’t a multiplayer only game. It is a online only game…You can easily spend 100s of hours on WoW without interacting with other human characters at all.”

            What a dumb argument. In WoW, as in most other MMORPGs, you can’t do any of the endgame content solo. Raids, dungeons, Battlegrounds, World Bosses, Arenas, and etc. are simply unavailable to you if you choose to play “without interacting with other human characters at all”. You also wouldn’t be able to access trading, chatting, guilds, group quests, group and guild rewards, and probably a crapload of other events, unlocks and activities by always playing alone. You’re also forgetting the fact that the leveling process is significantly easier today than it used to be back in the vanilla days, when leveling your character without grouping up was a long, monotonous process where you often had to avoid elite mobs altogether because very few classes could even handle fighting them solo.

          • Jonesy says:

            @Deano2099 “But it’s not broken. It was designed this way. There’s a big difference.”

            The game was designed in a way that the people that purchased said game often cannot play it. People still have trouble playing it. So unless someone is playing a different game in which they win by pissing the most people off, then the game is broken.

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            Devan says:

            @Brun ” How can you be so sure that there wasn’t a sizable group of people out there that expects *all* of their games to be multiplayer?”
            You’re making a fallacy. Nobody here is saying that SimCity should have excluded online multiplayer. We are saying that it should have included offline single player, just like every previous game in that franchise.

          • GSGregory says:

            Here is the issue and difference between sim city and wow. Lets take final fantasy 7 a single player rpg aimed at delivering a narrative via the dialogue and visual/audio experience. Now lets add pointless achievements to the game and force you to always be online to share them. This feature is a gimmick and is not a main component or even a side feature of the gameplay yet the reasoning here is for that you should always have internet to play. This is what ea has done to sim city.

            Another point is the fact that ea has a terrible record with keeping games running or online portions of games running so once sim city stops making them large profit they will throw it out without a thought.

            Lastly a mmo is designed around multiplayer experiences and features sure you can ignore this however Sim city is a single player game and has always been one and is designed as such the features added to the newest installment are gimmicks and not the main focus of the game. Beyond that I want to play the game I bought whenever or where ever and especially play it how I want to play it not how ea says it should be played.

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            Wanoah says:

            Brun says:

            If people don’t want what EA is delivering, then other companies and other IPs will step up to the plate and drive them out of the market.

            Except…it’s been what? Ten years since Sim City 4 and literally no one has delivered anything like it. Cities XL looked promising initially, but I found it to be a shallow simulation that fell far short of SC4’s gameplay.

            There are large numbers of people that want to play a city builder game, else we wouldn’t be having the current outcry about Sim City, but no one has stepped in to fill that gap in a decade. It looks like a massive missed opportunity to me: if there was serious competition, maybe Sim City wouldn’t have been the complete debacle that it has been.

      • aepervius says:

        Calling this multi-player is , well a bit exaggerated.
        You never interact directly with your other player (yeah you can buy utility or get gifts, but it is only an indirect interaction). They simply made it so that you have an asynchronous interaction between city. They might as well have had random demand/offer from the region and have the same effect. The only multi-player part really is when you do great work. I have done a bit of both, and frankly, you might as well play alone, because there is no real gameplay difference between both.

      • Random Gorilla says:

        TF2 has an offline mode.

        • TechnicalBen says:

          And supports lan. AND un-official and player owned servers. In fact, EA allowing players to own servers would fix 99% of this, they could have 1 or so little login servers or use Origin only. They would save money and server costs and allow players to, well, play.

          But they would have less control and less DRM with that option.

      • Zeewolf says:

        On SimCity’s box, it clearly states you can play alone OR with others. You can make a private server, build a bunch of interconnected cities, and get the entire resource-trading experience that way. That function is supported by the game and advertised on the box.

        See, this is important. It is called single player, and SimCity supports it. It is not, in any way, shape or form, a multiplayer-only game.

        You can argue that the multiplayer is more fun, but that is something else entirely. And you can indeed also argue that the multiplayer would have worked just as well over LAN or on a private server.

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          Devan says:

          @Zeewolf
          You’re right; it’s not a multiplayer-only game. It is, however, an online-only game. And that puts important constraints on its usefulness as a singleplayer game.

    • hbarsquared says:

      In perhaps the best marketing move of the year, Tropico 4 is on sale at Steam for 75% off. After my SimCity dreams were crushed in the industrial pulverizer of EA’s profit machine, I soothed my soul with dictatorial aspirations and delightful Caribbean music.

      • Sparkasaurusmex says:

        Yes. Anyone excited about the idea that citizens are modeled to have jobs and live places, etc… should get Tropico 4 instead. It has one time call home DRM (improvement over Trop3’s always-on-during-startup DRM)

        But more relevant it is fun and works well. It does get a bit easy once you’ve seen it all, but it will provide many hours of gameplay for fans of the genre.

      • Gargenville says:

        Would’ve been better if Tropico 4 didn’t have an online launcher of itself. And Anno 2070 uses uPlay so.. Play Civ V I guess?

        edit: oh Tropico 4 only does that once? I reinstalled my junk recently so I guess that’s why it came up.

        • Sparkasaurusmex says:

          Now I could have it wrong, but I believe Trop3 called home every time you started a game (after that it was offline, though). I don’t think Tropico 4 does this after the first run. Perhaps you can verify.

      • Premium User Badge

        Martel says:

        It’s funny because I stayed away from Sim City for all the reasons mentioned above, but needed to scratch that itch. So, I have purchased the Tropic 4 pack off Steam for $10 and have already received my money’s worth in just the first day and a half.

      • Muzman says:

        It’s fitting, as John’s article made me feel like breaking out a Che Guevara shirt.

      • LintMan says:

        I bought the big Tropico 4 bundle (game+expansion+_DLCs) at a recent Steam sale and have been playing it for a while now (nearly done with the original campaign). I haven’t tried any of the Modern Times expansion content yet. My thoughts so far:

        – The game annoyingly makes me log in every time I start it. It’s not a one-time thing as far as I can tell
        – Overall, T4 is quite charming. It has a lot more “personality” than the SimCity games.
        – It is more “gamey” than “simulationey”, at least for the campaign missions.
        – The UI for Tropico 4 is fairly clunky and not nearly as convenient or slick as, say, SimCity 4.
        – You place individual buildings, not zones. They don’t change or grow, etc based on city status.
        – The building placement feels a bit haphazard or loosey-goosey. Especially for things like farms or ranches, which do not have defined boundaries so it’s unclear how much space you need to optimally allocate for them
        – There’s a fixed set of maps, with a generally smallish area. you can build on and a surprisingly large amout of space you cannot build on. (The UI doesn’t really help there).
        – The game runs solidly and smoothly. I’ve played dozens of hours without ever seeing any crashes, and the performance is way better than the always-sluggish SimCity 4.

        All told, Tropico 4 doesn’t quite scratch the same itch for me that SimCity 4 does, but it’s been quite enjoyable so far.

        • DClark says:

          With regards to the log in prompt, it’ll prompt you to log in to check for updates only if you have an internet connection – if you don’t have a connection it’ll go right into the game (just pull your internet connection and fire it up to see what it’ll do).

          With regards to the housing not changing you’re right, but after I’d played it for a few hours (got the bundle when they started the Steam sale) I noticed it’s the people who change, not the houses. You’ll have uneducated people who need education, and your Ministry needs citizens who are educated and have good ratings in Intelligence, Leadership, and Courage. They also change jobs and even die – one of my Ministers had a heart attack so I had to replace her with another citizen. The facilities you build help to shape the citizens and it’s the citizens who evolve.

          I bought the game without intending to play it for a while because I have a huge game backlog, but after firing it up to play through the tutorial I’ve now played it for 13 hours over the weekend.

    • jeffty says:

      Is he honestly telling me he just found out EA is bad? Stop giving them your money. You are the problem. When pigeons crap all over your outdoor dining area at a restaurant, it doesn’t do any good to blame the pigeons: Blame the people who feed them.

      • Ultra Superior says:

        Wooot ? Of course you blame the pigeons! It is your dining area leftovers that feeds them.

        It is also your private property. Shoot!

        • Banana_Republic says:

          Clean up after yourself and there are no more pigeons. It’s a question of being responsible for one’s self. Pigeons are dumb. They react to to their environment. People are *supposed to be* intelligent and capable of exercising free will. We can control the environment, thus we can control the pigeons.

          EA is dumb too and they react to their environment, or in this case, they react to their market. It’s consumers though, who have the ultimate control. We choose where to spend our money, which will either encourage or discourage the behaviour of companies like EA. It’s a shame that the behaviour we choose to encourage amounts to demanding that EA take a dump where we eat.

          Gamers are the problem here. We’re the worst consumers in any market because we have almost no ability to be conscientious in our spending. We see they shiny, we cry for the shiny, we hand over our wallets for the shiny and we never consider anything beyond fulfilling our immediate desires. It’s a behaviour we share with another subset of the population — heroin addicts. No thought of consequences, only personal gratification.

          • Brise Bonbons says:

            Thing is, massive corporations with the sort of marketing budget EA has to throw around don’t just react mindlessly to consumers; they use ad buys and exclusive interviews and developer diaries (and game mechanics themselves; look at the careful compulsion-loops in social game design) to shape consumer desire into something they can easily supply with high-profit products.

            I am not trying to argue that corporations are evil wizards and that we’re all being mind controlled by the corporations. I just don’t think it’s a radical assertion to say that marketing shapes our consumption habits quite significantly.

      • Sheng-ji says:

        The consumer is not to blame. EA spends millions on manipulating people into buying their game. Don’t blame the people feeding the pigeons, blame the men selling them bread to feed to the pigeons, showing them pictures of a happy family petting a beautiful, disease free pigeon taken by a top photographer.

        • dongsweep says:

          The world is not this black and white. You cannot just take away all responsibility from the consumer as if EA’s marketing campaign forces us one way or the other, they should share some of the blame. The man selling the bread is the worst offender of the group, but people throwing bread to the pigeons are capable of using rational thought to decide if what they are doing is wise (just like spending money on an always on-DRM game when a person’s personal feelings are very much against them.)

          • Sheng-ji says:

            Sure, but you can’t expect your average consumer to understand the issues. Sure, we here shouldvknow better, but read the comments – the vast majority of us did not buy it! Until things like always on and DRM are widely understood by the man on the street, you can’t blame people for trusting that the latest sim game will work cos all the others did.

          • Droopy The Dog says:

            Rational thought only works when people are in full possesion of all the relevant knowledge. I think sheng-ji’s point is EA spends a lot of money and effort on manipulating the information provided to consumers with only partial knowledge of the situation.

            [Edit] If we’re sticking with the crazy pigeon analogy, imagine the man selling the bread paid someone to stand a little further down the street handing out fliers with cherry picked statistics about how the pigeons in the area are of a rare endangered species and are starving to death.

            And yes it’s possible with a little more digging to get a better view of what’s really happening. Just as it’s also possible to dig into the sustainability of the food we purchase, or the working conditions behind the manufacture of the electronics we purchase, or the biggoted organisations indirectly funded when we purchase entertainment from certain conglomerates. What isn’t possible is to do all of the above. There just isn’t enough time in the day to dig through the omissions or deliberate misinformation behind every purchase we make. Which is why even with everyone trying their best consumers will still end up rewarding irresponsible businesses and apportioning blame solely with consumers and demanding they be the driving force to fix it will not work, not while such business strategies remain nearly ubiquitous.

            Something like this on RPS is probably the best you’ll get from consumer action. A trusted source that does most of the legwork behind information hunting for the masses to make being an informed consumer a more realistic option for the average Joe. The problem being trusted sources are the prime target for marketing and even without outside influence no-one is infallible and mistakes will happen, so it’s still far from ideal.

          • thrawn says:

            Agreed that the world is not black and white, which I think brings up the elephant in the room here. Even with all of this nonsense, if the average consumer doesn’t care and still feels that they get their money’s worth on this game (which most probably will, even if the first week is frustrating), are we really justified in treating it like some massive human rights cause? It’s not an issue of “blame” unless we are somehow entitled to a game; it’s just a issue of varying decisions.

            Ultimately entertainment production caters to a variety. It is unfortunate, but the SimCity franchise is, for the time being at least, catering to a market that does not include the RPS audience. I’m not saying we shouldn’t make our complaints heard in the hopes that the next SimCity game might correct these issues, but I just don’t see where treating consumers as if they are at fault or as if they are manipulated idiots avails us anything. If they are happy with their purchase, then the decision was perfectly rational for them… other gamers don’t owe us a thing.

          • Premium User Badge

            Lamb Chop says:

            The more we can adjust the system to take the onus off of individual consumers and make it borne out. Imagine it weren’t the case that most “organic” labels are lying, that a third of all fish sold in the U.S. is (intentionally) mislabeled, that game services are actually a disservice. Wouldn’t all of our lives be better if we didn’t have to be constantly skeptical? Those responsibilities can be put on the individual by society rather than having regulations or other societal pressures bearing the brunt of it, but that disproportionately affects those with less time and fewer mental reserves to donate to reading up on things. That kind of consumer awareness is a privilege, and even the most privileged still can’t keep up with everything. For instance, I just learned that mountain dew contains a chemical, brominated vegetable oil, that is banned in most first-world countries. It took me years to find that out. What do you think the odds are I would ever have learned that if I were working two jobs, neither of which involves spending time screwing around on the internet? That level of responsibility should be put on the systems that support us, not on the individuals themselves. And consumer advocacy by the privileged should be the vehicle that puts those regulations in place. As informed gamers we have a responsibility to lead the charge.

          • Kamos says:

            Even the average consumer should be able to see that:

            1) Designing a piece of software to include multiple non-essential online features
            and
            2) Deliberately making it so the whole thing fails as soon as connection is lost and one of the non-essential features fails

            is just plain dumb.

            The problem is that there is an awful lot of people around here who think you’re an “entitled crybaby” if you expect software you paid for to work.

            Essentially, it is now a bad thing if you expect games to be designed by software engineers like every other piece of software on the sane side of the planet, and not by amoral corporate suits who are willing to cheat consumers with crippleware.

            edit: for grammar!

      • infernalmachine says:

        The problem is that while I may not buy EA games, others will mindlessly buy them. We cant fix the problem because there are too many dumb people out there who are willing to put up with these awful practices.

      • yrrnn says:

        Yes, EA and other large corporations get away with this kind of bad behaviour all of the time.

        But are you trying to say that we are only allowed to complain about it the first time it happens, and then simply assume that is going to be standard behaviour from then on?

        That is precisely what John is talking about. This kind of crap is slowly becoming the new standard, simply because we are begrudgingly, but silently, putting up with it. We still want to play good games, so we wade through whatever barriers the publisher may throw at us until we get to the juicy core, and it is still sweet, albeit with a bitter after-taste. If we don’t continue to rail against these kinds of actions by publishers every time they do it, and just learn to live with it, it is going to become standard practise because nobody objected, and in many ways this has already happened.

        Sure, you say we should vote with our wallets, and that consumers have brought this on ourselves because we still bought the games we wanted to play instead of bravely protesting by not buying them. The kind of people who actually do this and refuse to buy games on principle are very few indeed, and won’t be missed by EA. The mass market isn’t going to do this, and while you can control your own actions, and that’s admirable, you can’t change everybody else. So if you want change (you should), you have to make noise about it instead of just silently depriving EA of your money. That is what John is trying to do.

    • cluster says:

      I fully agree with this article, and that’s why I won’t support and buy the game even when it’s cheaper.

    • LintMan says:

      @Ravenholme – Yes, I agree also. Thanks for writing this John. It’s time for some of the gaming press to take a stand. Too many are all too willing to overlook the issue once the in-your-face problems are resolved.

    • Ashley_Hoskin says:

      my co-worker’s ex-wife makes $83 an hour on the computer. She has been out of work for nine months but last month her check was $17712 just working on the computer for a few hours. Read more on this site… http://zapit.nu/30J

    • realitysconcierge says:

      Hear hear.

    • Shadram says:

      The baffling thing is that Maxis already did an always-online single-player game properly a few years ago: Spore. Being online meant an infinite amount of customisability, and sharing with your friends, but it still worked when the internet fell over. Sim City should do exactly the same thing.

      It’s games like Spore and Dark Souls that should be guiding the always online design decisions of single-player gaming, not this DRM-in-disguise bull shit.

      • Mario Figueiredo says:

        Spore launched one of the first biggest DRM controversies in gaming history. I do not find it a good example of a successful launch. And I’m surprised you think so after the huge outcry against solutions like SecuROM and limited registrations. For this reason, the game received one of the lowest user scores in modern computer gaming (which SimCity seems about to beat) and was even the target of not one, but two class-action suits.

    • cbott85 says:

      So I have been doing a lot of reading about the new Sim City because well like most people i was very excited about the release and i wanted to see how it was. So far from what I can see I am better off not buying it.
      The online feature really deters me in the fact that I don’t want to always have to be online. If i want to be online to play with friends I would get on, but for the most part i just like building my cities in peace with no internet problems. On top of that i have seen that with the online feature they will be charging us all out the ass for updates, and you will be paying to create bigger cities as well. Ludicrous I tell you! So until I know all the BS that will be coming with this game i think i am just going to buy Sim City 4. The last one i played was 3000 and I really enjoyed that one, Hell I still have it, may just go back to playing the old school ones still fun without the headaches.
      But can anyone tell me how Sim City 4 was? I still may buy that one.

      • Narzhul says:

        SC4 is very good. It gets far more complex than SC3k, and the region mechanics is very nice as well.

        I’d say the only thing I disliked was that the UI looks shabby compared to SC3k. It looks more like what you see in The Sims. Also, the advisers doesn’t have much personality like in SC3k; I find myself always ignoring what they say and simply read the short headline instead. Not to mention I miss the portrait-like drawings.

        But these are superficial criticisms. Everything else is awesome.

    • cbott85 says:

      So I have been doing a lot of reading about the new Sim City because well like most people i was very excited about the release and i wanted to see how it was. So far from what I can see I am better off not buying it.
      The online feature really deters me in the fact that I don’t want to always have to be online. If i want to be online to play with friends I would get on, but for the most part i just like building my cities in peace with no internet problems. On top of that i have seen that with the online feature they will be charging us all out the ass for updates, and you will be paying to create bigger cities as well. Ludicrous I tell you! So until I know all the BS that will be coming with this game i think i am just going to buy Sim City 4. The last one i played was 3000 and I really enjoyed that one, Hell I still have it, may just go back to playing the old school ones still fun without the headaches.
      But can anyone tell me how Sim City 4 was? I still may buy that one.

  2. Uthred says:

    Odd that you give Maxis a pass towards the end when several members of the team have gone on record saying not only were they fine with the always online & multiplayer stuff but also pushed for its inclusion.

    • Ravenholme says:

      I think the pretty obvious assumption there is that EA is briefing them to say things like that. The looming spectre of PR and all that.

      • Uthred says:

        EA and Maxis are largley the same entity these days, in fact I think they share corporate headquarters. I just find it odd that gamers are all too quick to publicly excoriate EA (often rightly) while giving Maxis a wink and a nod and a “Oh poor old Maxis, they’re clearing being repressed by their corporate masters”

        • Arglebargle says:

          The ex Maxis workers I know pretty much spit on the ground when EA gets mentioned. Actually, almost everyone I know who’s ever worked for them does that…..

        • diamondmx says:

          Perhaps what he should have said was: If Maxis speaks out against this, then they get a pass. If not, then one way or another this is at least as much their fault as EA’s.
          But the reason I think Maxis got less abuse in this article is because this is standard EA-fare and it’s got their stink all over it.

        • Premium User Badge

          Surlywombat says:

          He’s not giving Maxis a free pass, he specifically said the developers at maxis. By which I he means, a guy called Dave. Rather than a developer called Maxis. If you think a developer is top of the heap making decisions like whether or not to have always-on then you are mistaken.

      • Danorz says:

        this DRM and “community sharing” arsery was going to be in SC4000 too but they couldn’t get it to work then either. they let that actually stop them then though.

    • Svant says:

      He did not give Maxis a free pass he said that the _developers_ at Maxis should be angry. You know the people who work at Maxis and just want to make the best game they can. The guys who has no say in whether the game is online only or not.

    • luukdeman111 says:

      Well….. Yeah, obviously. What did you expect? They aren’t going to say; yeah, we think drm is a stupid idea because of server crashes on launch but pre-order our game anyways!

      • Uthred says:

        Sure, none of the developers have mentioned stuff like this even before the announcement of SC5, no siree, theyre just brain washed cogs in EA’s PR machine!

    • Banana_Republic says:

      EA owns Maxis, which means Maxis is basically EA’s sock puppet. Maxis may mouth the words, but it’s EA who’s talking.

  3. applecado says:

    Agree entirely. I like the game, and it is easier to actually play now, but there’s nothing I’ve done in game yet that has actually made use of any of the multiplayer-only stuff – in fact, I’ve only had bugs with it – I sent another town in my region some cash and it just vanished from both cities. Fun.

    I still play SC4.. and I think I’ll go back to that once I’m bored with this new one.. or in 5 years when I want to play it and they’ve shut the servers down.

    • Rich says:

      “I sent another town in my region some cash and it just vanished from both cities.”

      Wow. You mean it actually simulates real-world bank system failures? What an age we live in!

  4. Blackseraph says:

    Hear hear.

    People shouldn’t buy these games, only way to stop this.

    • sleepisthebrotherofdeath says:

      This.
      Don’t buy it. Simple.
      If they remove the DRM then buy it, otherwise do without.

      Anybody who pre-ordered this knowing it had always on DRM learn and don’t pre-order in the future.

      • albert2006xp says:

        Maybe I actually want to play this with my group of friends? Maybe I wouldn’t actually buy this if I couldn’t play with my friends?

        • Blackseraph says:

          Since you can’t obviously develop games so that both single player without internet and multiplayer in internet are possible?

          Is that really your argument?

          • albert2006xp says:

            No that’s not it. Just saying I’m not gonna pass on a fun game with my friends to protest this minor issue.

          • S Jay says:

            Minor issue?

          • Premium User Badge

            jrodman says:

            “I don’t want any rights, if I might have some fun one time.”

          • Kamos says:

            Consider a car that has router in it and is connected to the internet.

            Would it be a “minor issue” if your car went dead in a country road because it lost its connection to the internet? Yes? No?

            “Oh, but games are games! And cars are cars! It doesn’t make sense!”

            Glad you think so, too! Yes, obviously games are entertainment, and not as important as, say, potentially using your car in an emergency. However, the question here is that both the game and the car have been deliberately crippled by creating an artificial requirement for an internet connection.

            Is it a minor issue that EA counts on you being a naive, bumbling fool, willing to buy software that is sub-par because you’re willing to behave like a drug addict to play a game?

    • The First Door says:

      Yes, but this assumes some people don’t actually want the game. The problem is that other people have different opinions and actually might want the feature you hate.

      Don’t get me wrong, in this case I entirely agree and I’m not buying SimCity, but I’m not going to look down on my friend who bought it because he wanted to play the online stuff.

      • lordcooper says:

        There is a difference between having online features and jamming them down everybody’s throats. I love Sim City games, but won’t be touching this one with a bargepole.

  5. MOKKA says:

    Couldn’t have said it better myself.

  6. Jams O'Donnell says:

    “like claiming a broken leg fixed because you’ve mended the crutches.”

    Great analogy. Would read again. 4*

    • Premium User Badge

      LTK says:

      And then EA tells you how great it is to have a broken leg because your friends can sign their names on the cast!

      • Premium User Badge

        c-Row says:

        And for an additional $10 you can buy some new friends, too!

        • mr.ioes says:

          For 20$, they break your other leg – more space for your friends’ signatures.

          • lijenstina says:

            For 20$ you’ll get your severed leg back to sign as a receipt after buying a new brain. Dunno what you’ll get with the Bertrand Russell Super Silver though.

  7. Brosepholis says:

    Thought I was reading Erik Kain there for a moment.

  8. Rao Dao Zao says:

    I agree forever. A colleague of mine just eschewed SimCity 5 and bought SimCity 2000… Oops!

  9. SuperNashwanPower says:

    Doubleplus good article

  10. Maxheadroom says:

    Like many people I didnt buy it because of all the DRM shite. But if articles like this dont make a difference (which it wont) What chance does little me have of changing their mind by witholding my pennies?

    They’re already spinning it as a success by saying they wern’t prepared for just how super popular it is

    • mrmalodor says:

      Difference isn’t made in one day or one article. One day you will grow up and come to realize this.

      • Maxheadroom says:

        My, that was a bit tetchy wasnt it?
        Would you like me to list the dozens of other articles that say much the same thing? Then wait a few months and re-make my point about no differences being made?

        My point was EA are too big to care about public opinion, whether they’re being called out by professional journalists or the screaming masses. I’m not quite sure who you’re defending

        • battles_atlas says:

          You could do that Max but you’d be wrong, so probably best not to. Defeatist cynicism is not sophisticated, its just self-destructive. Ubisoft weren’t too big to be taught a lesson. Neither is EA.

          • Maxheadroom says:

            OK thats a fair point I guess, I am a bit of a cynic.
            I find that way I can only ever be pleasantly surprised :)

          • Sparkasaurusmex says:

            Ubisoft is a good point, and at least one precendent to point to. When this shit happens, be stingy, bitch, and then keep bitching, be stingy with next release, bitch more = Ubisoft is practically DRM free…

          • Kamos says:

            We have logic on our side. EA has disinformation and people who honestly don’t give a fuck.

            This shouldn’t be a difficult battle as long as we get the logic part right.

        • Premium User Badge

          phlebas says:

          You’re right that your pennies won’t make a difference, the same way your vote individually is unlikely to swing a general election. But your pennies and my pennies and John’s pennies and sufficiently many other people’s pennies can add up to enough pennies to make a difference to a company driven by bean-counters.

          • dongsweep says:

            And then EA will blame everyone but themselves for the lack of success. They will shelve SimCity and think “see, no one wants these types of games anymore” when in actuality it is their arrogance that no one wants. Look at Dead Space 4. Cancelled because of their shit decisions in Dead Space 3.

      • Hahaha says:

        What about SC2?
        What about D3?
        What about SimCity5?

        *This post is future proof*

    • diamondmx says:

      Yeah, putting another +1 in this column, I have a decent internet connection, I bought the last SC and thought this looked like fun. In short, this game would have worked fine and I am a potential customer.

      Didn’t buy it because this DRM crap has to stop.

      It’s also the reason the only Ubisoft games I’ve bought lately have been because I didn’t realise they were Ubisoft until the bloody UPlay thing started installing.

      These things actively lose them a lot of money and goodwill, and even if they do prevent piracy (which this new cripple-ware style of game might), it’s a temporary victory that will not last.

      • Axyl says:

        Exactly the same thing you said applies to me.
        This is me +1ing :)

      • Optimaximal says:

        UPlay isn’t always-on DRM any more (apart from a few low-selling games they won’t patch it out of).

        Yes, it’s ‘another launcher’, but it’s not a background tool or anything – it’s wrapped up with the games that use it, so you can safely ignore it.

      • Brun says:

        Ubisoft has done a great deal recently towards mending their reputation with PC players, including removing always-on DRM from their games. As such I decided to reward them with a purchase of Far Cry 3 last year.

    • Lemming says:

      I loved SimCity 2k (not played one since this one came out, now I’m playing SimCity 3k and Tropico 4) I’m on a fibre connection paid for by my work, I still didn’t buy it. I know a lemon when I see one.

    • Jools says:

      Yeah, a big part of the problem here is that there’s very little consumer advocacy going on in the gaming industry. Consumers (of any product) can’t really be trusted to make informed decisions and guide the direction an industry moves in because there’s simply too much stuff out there for every person to be informed about every little thing. Informed consumers are too small a minority to make a difference, so we’re pretty much all left feeling helpless in the face of publishers and developers that are entirely happy to behave in ways that are clearly anti-consumer.

      • diamondmx says:

        There’s also a serious, if probably unfixable problem in that every game is an effective mini-monopoly. Or at least any games of any quality.

        You can reasonably say that getting your phone service from BT or Virgin doesn’t matter because it is, for the most part, the exact same thing – they compete on services and prices and not being shitty to the customer. The same is true of most consumer goods, one hoover is the mostly same as another, one TV is mostly the same as another.

        One game, even in the same genre is quite significantly different, and if it is in fact a standout example of that genre, then there is no other game that gives you a significantly similar experience. Half Life is not Halo is not Call of Duty, even in that genre frequently derided for being samey. Starcraft is really not C&C, Thief is not Dishonoured, etc. If you want the experience provided by Sim City, you have to buy Sim City.

        The more crowded a genre is, the less true this becomes, but in many cases, someone deciding not to purchase a game because of an ancillary problem like DRM, customer service, bad previous experience – is not choosing not to purchase a thing from Company A, or EA in this case, but to not purchase that thing at all.

  11. sarbian says:

    The “some of its computations are server-side” is pure BS. Friday night I managed to log in my city and I played for hours with the “disconected from server” message staying all the time in the upper left corner.
    I could play fine. Maybe some feture(selling ore, coal, … to the global market) didn’t work, but everything else did.

  12. Danorz says:

    In mega-city one, back pain accounted for something like a 20% loss in worker productivity. this, the judges reasoned, was mirrored in crime figures too. so they banned back pain medication. That’s EA and this DRM.

  13. bstard says:

    One of the best reads on RPS so far.

  14. psaldorn says:

    I’d say their strategy is a success. I for one will not be attempting to pirate SimCity.

    I also will not be paying for it.

    Pyrrhic victory, perhaps.

    Instead I backed Civitas: http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1584821767/civitas-plan-develop-and-manage-the-city-of-your-d

    • AngoraFish says:

      Dude, Civitas is an illusion built on a mirage. Anyone who tells you they can make a decent SimCity game that can also run on Android for only $250,000 is tugging your chain. If you’re kicking in for Civitas you’re living the same dream that hundreds of thousands of SimCity preorder customers are living on.

      • Sheng-ji says:

        Even if they release the engine as is, the thousands of highly experienced and talented modders with an interest in this game will have it up and running in 6 months flat. I’m much more prepared to take a punt on their game just to tell EA to fuck off.

      • Sparkasaurusmex says:

        They’re going to put it on Android?
        *checks link to see if worth backing*

        • AngoraFish says:

          We have been in talks with one of the creators of the OUYA … and they helped us get all setup for developing on the OUYA. We will try our best to make this happen!

          OUYA runs on Android.

    • mr.ioes says:

      Dude, Civitas is a scam most likely.
      reddit link

  15. MuscleHorse says:

    I want to play this but I simply won’t pay for it until the DRM is stripped from it. I’m fairly easy going with most forms of DRM, but this is getting ridiculous.

  16. Arglebargle says:

    Checking up on their lists, apparantly I haven’t gotten an EA game since Dragon Age: Origins. It looks like this good streak will definitely continue.

    • Sheng-ji says:

      Oooh, same here! Will DA:O be remembered as the last good game EA didn’t ruin?

      • Arglebargle says:

        Technically, I think Dragon Age was under development before the buyout, but EA didn’t then totally gut it. Thank goodness. For that, we had to wait til Dragon Age 2. Hell, if they’d even positioned it as a side adventure in the DA universe, instead of a sequel they’d have done better by it.

  17. Merus says:

    I would suggest it would be a neat trick indeed for companies that want to use pervasive metrics for game balance purposes to do that with everyone offline. Because that’s really what’s driving this – the DRM is a nice side-benefit, but the rabbit in the headlights look these developers put on when the complaints start and the servers fall over suggests that they’re not thinking of this as DRM, because otherwise they’d have a PR person at the ready to explain the difficulties of building games for PCs and piracy and blah blah blah. Instead they start to explain how they’re logging everything players do to see how it breaks, and they get halfway and realise they have no idea how it’s actually going to work until it’s running and so they just trail off. It’s just too incompetent for DRM to be the primary driver here.

    I also note that no-one rages at Failbetter Games for their always-online text adventures, Fallen London and its ilk. Or Realm of the Mad God, which could easily have an offline mode.

    It feels to me like AAA developers see what indies are able to do with their always-online games and want to replicate that, but forget they are in very different markets indeed. Always-online titles grow their userbase slowly, by word of mouth, so they’re never overwhelmed by demand and network effects keep the game healthy. AAA titles sell in a massive spike, and then the userbase slowly dwindles. Making a hit-driven always-online game unavoidably results in a launch day disaster – basically no-one can manage the rush of users when a AAA title launches, even for something as simple as an unlock code from Steam.

    • Premium User Badge

      Surlywombat says:

      Wow.. mind blown. That was like reading Meet the Pryro. It must be nice to live in your world.

    • karthink says:

      The indie games you mentioned are all free to play.

      • derbefrier says:

        how is that relevant? Are you saying in certain cases always on is acceptable? make up your mind it either is or it isn’t. Its okay as long is the game is free? so you would be perfectly fine with Sim City if this was a F2P game with literally no difference expect a micro transaction store? Either your fine with DRM and you enjoy steam and MMOs and all the other games out there that requirean online connection or its horrible and destroying our hobby you have to pick one not both or your just another hypocrite that no one will take seriously.

        This is the reason all the crying will change nothing. you all hate DRM yet every single one of you has a steam account. You all play F2P games that are always on like DOTA 2, LoL, etc…. actions speak louder than words and your actions are screaming that online DRM is perfectly acceptable. This goes for just about everyone. If you have a steam account your condoning the use of DRM if you play an online F2P game you accept the use of always on DRM. This is why nothing will change because you don’t practice what you preach.

        • Hahaha says:

          amen

        • Sheng-ji says:

          A free game makes it’s money from microtransactions.

          A full priced game makes money from the customer purchase.

          A free game will often manipulate the player in to making a microtransaction – usually by making advanced elements of the game available only through a purchase, making the game more convenient through a purchase, reducing a long and boring grind through a purchase or by making more powerful game elements available only through a purchase.

          This is acceptable in a free game because you can choose your level of commitment. Plenty of players literally never pay for a lot of fun. Some players pay a pittance for hours of fun. Very few pay more than a full price release.

          If you have already had to purchase the game, the game should be an enjoyable and complete experience free from the above manipulations.

          That is all.

        • Sparkasaurusmex says:

          It’s been said a million times and I feel cliche repeating, but for your information Steam is not an Always-On DRM. The big point of contention here is the Always-On part.
          Personally DRM sucks, blanket rule. But this argument isn’t about DRM in all it’s forms, it’s the Always-On DRM that is annoying.

          We went through all of this with Ubisoft recently, remember? Also, we won.

          • Hahaha says:

            Hows the error go?

            “no login details saved on this computer you can’t start steam in offline mode”

            something like that

          • Milky1985 says:

            “Hows the error go?

            “no login details saved on this computer you can’t start steam in offline mode”

            something like that”

            So you sign in, log out, disconnect your computer then amazingly when you fire it up next within the next 30 days you sign in OK, only in opposite land is this the same as always online DRM.

            So its not always online, of course either you already knew this and are just trolling, or you didn’t and are just a little bit thick.

            So go on, shoo back to your anti steam cave.

          • Premium User Badge

            jrodman says:

            I can confirm that when my internet failed for 2 weeks, steam offline mode worked for precisely 30 hours.

            That is, less than 1.5 days after no-internet, it decided not to offer offline mode anymore. Offline mode did not operate at any time in the remaining 12.5 or so days of no-internet. It was sort of a blessing though, as my GOG back-catalog of downloaded games needed attention.

            It doesn’t really require malfeasance for Steam offline to be a mirage, it only requires the endless parade of bugs in Steam.

          • Kamos says:

            It is incredible how poor Steam is, considering the amount of money that goes in it. It is another effect of this new wave of gamers who behave like drug addicts willing to endure anything for their fix.

    • solidsquid says:

      The games you mentioned are all explicitly multiplayer games, where the multiplayer aspect is a core part of the gameplay. SimCity is a single player game which has some small inter-city game mechanics added in to create a more social aspect. If you removed the multiplayer from either Realm of the Mad God or Fallen London then you’d have a very different game. If you removed it from Sim City then… well, you’d have Sim City, the whole game would still operate just fine without those features as it is if they just put random numbers in for things like tourism

  18. AngoraFish says:

    It’s always amazed me, given the abortion that was CitiesXL, that EA nonetheless proceeded on exactly the same path for exactly the same reasons… and, as is now clear, improved on absolutely nothing in the process.

    Thank god I learned my own lesson the first time, so one less sale from me. Not that it seems to have made any difference, given that sales have been going through the roof by all accounts.

  19. albert2006xp says:

    Oh boo freaking hoo. I’m sick of all this bashing of always online. Maybe you want to play single player but I don’t, I play games only online and with friends. Why should I care in the rare occasion once a year my internet is down for 1 hour? If they want the game to be online permanently you should take it as a mmo. I don’t see you bashing WoW for not being able to play on a plane.
    As a student and future game developer I tell you, no multiplayer, no money from me. I don’t have money to pay for a single player experience of a couple hours til im sick of it, I want a multiplayer option that will last longer and feel like I didn’t throw money out the window. I wouldve just pirated this if it wasn’t online and probably stopped playing after max 10 hours. Which is not what I want out of a game. I don’t even bother pirating single player games, cause its not even worth the download time.

    • Danorz says:

      “fuck you, got mine”

      • dongsweep says:

        Couldn’t have summarized his post any better myself. What a fool.

    • Brosepholis says:

      You would do well to watch your tongue, sir. As stated in the article, any disagreement with the accepted viewpoint means you are into self-flagellation and probably a paid EA shill (which Reddit assures me is a common practice)

      • Giuseppe says:

        Paid by EA? Surely his “arguments” are too daft to come from someone who’s actually paid for this?!

    • caddyB says:

      Keep turfing, brotha!

    • scardb says:

      Do you boohoo everyone who is frustrated with something you don’t care about at all? Oh this person cares about something that I do not, they must be whinging babies – it’s the only possible answer!

      • caddyB says:

        I would pin a medal to your chest so hard you’d die of blood loss.

      • albert2006xp says:

        Pretty much sick of the score bashing going on this game JUST because of the server stuff. You never see that in a MMO. Only because the other games of the series were singleplayer doesn’t make this one THE SAME THING.
        Why do they focus on something that doesn’t bother anyone expect pirates. You have internet to complain on it about the game, so whats the problem?

        I’d be more upset about the day one DLC stuff that’s op like the Deluxe Edition german/italian/french packs. THAT’s a real issue. Not the need for internet.

        • Julio Biason says:

          If it’s not the same thing, why call it the same thing?

          It’s like making “Avengers 2″ about a group of women that go shopping around New York and talking about their sexual lifes…

          Also, they made the servers part of the game. If the servers don’t work, the game doesn’t work. Shouldn’t a game that doesn’t work receive bad ratings?

          (Also, there was a game that launched with severe problems with NVidia drivers, but worked flawlessly with AMD/ATI drivers — can’t really remember the name. Should it be prized for anything if didn’t work in most machines today?)

          • albert2006xp says:

            No, shoddy launches are expected in online games. They always happen. You shouldn’t judge the game on that.

          • Julio Biason says:

            So you’re saying that we should expect things to be crap at launch? Is that what we want from games? “Meh, it’s crap, but that’s ok”? What fucked up world that is.

            Btw, I was there in the Guild Wars 2 launch. It wasn’t shoddy at all. And it *is* an online game.

          • solidsquid says:

            If an MMORPG launched without any mobs spawning and with weapons all only doing 1 damage, regardless of what the specs said, you would judge the game based on that. They might fix it later, but it would still be a black mark on the game. Similarly, if the next Call of Duty had weapons which would glitch and provide invulnerability due to a bug then you would judge the game for that, even after they fixed it.

            Similarly, when the servers are an intrinsic part of the game and they don’t work on launch then you’re going to judge the game based on that, even after they fix it. Especially since they *haven’t* fixed it yet

        • Dark Nexus says:

          There certainly are people other than pirates who are bothered by this.

          • Sparkasaurusmex says:

            haha exactly.
            If only pirates were bothered there wouldn’t be this article or comment thread

        • Premium User Badge

          jrodman says:

          “Oh no, someone has a legitimate grievance with something that I happen to like. I must apologize as hard as I can until this situation stops!”

    • Chalky says:

      You don’t want the single player aspect, so the fact that the single player aspect is a fundamental clusterfuck fueled by greed and disregard for their customers is acceptable?

      You’re a bit of a twat.

    • SkittleDiddler says:

      Because of assholes like you, the rest of us are stuck with tacked-on multiplayer sections in games that don’t need them, thereby driving the quality of the single-player experience down. Thanks a bunch.

      • analydilatedcorporatestyle says:

        He’s going to be a games developer don’t you know. He will put this post on his CV under the ‘Look I’m a myopic arsehole’ section. His views will hit the corporate brief, that’s for sure, a AAA developer legend in the making. Call the police an oxygen theft is in process…….

    • Skabooga says:

      Maybe you want to play single player but I don’t

      Maybe you want to play multiplayer, but I do not. It would be nice if there was an option we could toggle to serve both our desires.

      • albert2006xp says:

        There is, its called private region. You have internet to complain about it, so you can play it.

        • caddyB says:

          Yeah because it takes hours and hours of stable internet connection to post on a comment thread.
          No, try again.

          • albert2006xp says:

            Have really bad internet that works half the time? There are other games for you other there. Do you complain on LoL or WoW forums about this too?

          • Sheng-ji says:

            From the sounds of it, it’s not the players internet connections that is the problem, it’s the damn servers. I’m guessing this guy will rue his words the first time their servers forget the last 2 hours of play he’s put in which people are making a convincing argument to being unconnected to server load but an entirely separate bug in their server side software.

          • Premium User Badge

            jrodman says:

            Because depending upon as many potentially unreliable things as possible is good engineering. RIght, Mr Designer?

            What about a computer that doesn’t work during nighttime? The sun is reliable! Is your sun half-assed? What did you do wrong to have such a lousy sun?

            What about a toothbrush that doesn’t work when the air pressure is unusually low! It’s more efficient! They save money! I happen to *like* high pressure toothbrushing! You people who live at high altitudes are backwards!

          • Kamos says:

            Have really bad internet that works half the time? There are other games for you other there. Do you complain on LoL or WoW forums about this too?

            Probably not, since those games are designed to be robust, to minimize effects of latency and endure packet loss, and not a piece of crippleware designed with artificial connection requirements and an artificial need to crash as soon as the connection fails.

            Your examples make no sense.

            See, this is why we don’t call children to design rockets that go out into space. It takes 1) people who actually know what they are doing and 2) amazingly, you need to design it to go into outer space. It doesn’t work if you aim it into the ground, like EA did.

        • Dark Nexus says:

          Having to rely on multiple corporate entities to do things properly so I can play a game in single player is unacceptable. It’s adding multiple points of failures that weren’t there before.

        • Catastrophe says:

          albert, is your name reference to the year you were born by any chance?

    • Premium User Badge

      RaveTurned says:

      I don’t have money to pay for a single player experience of a couple hours til im sick of it…

      You do realise that the previous incarnations of SimCity were the type of freeform sandboxy game that you could pour literally days of playtime into, right? Despite being entirely single-player? Just checking.

    • Terragot says:

      Because this is bigger than just “can I play now by myself or with others?” This is a time limited product, it relys on servers. Once EA turns off their servers in 2-3 years, goodbye SimCity, the game ceases to exist. It’s this attitude which puts so little value into what we make, that goes to cement games as a folly, rather than a referencable artform. It also contributes to the shitty conditions we have during development, farting out the same iteration of a game year on year.

      I hate it’s reference, but there’s no Citizen Kane of games because games because no one puts value into the damn shit they want to ship.

      • Hahaha says:

        These companies are pushing out mainstream games WTF did you think was going to happen? the time for action was when the shift started to happen but all of you were to stuck dreaming about something that was never going to happen.

        • Catastrophe says:

          What? From your terrible sentence structure and equally terrible logic I think you’re trying to suggest Mainstream games told Terragot that he was going to have to suffer from terrible DRM because he had a dream where he wouldn’t suffer from terrible DRM and therefore decided not to act against mainstream games.

          Which as you can see, makes no sense at all.

          Maybe your sentence was in a cypher I couldn’t decode?

    • John Mirra says:

      Wow, it really sucks to be you. With that attitude I doubt you can be the ‘future game developer’. Unless you count facebook farmvilles as games.

    • Premium User Badge

      Vesuvius says:

      Yes yes we get it- you hate plot, you hate well-crafted and guided experiences, and you like being ripped off. The idea of being able to roll-back things to try over, to have permutations on a city is obscene to you, as is the idea of empowering folks to mod their game. I can see where you’re coming from, especially with the mod-hate, given how you say you want to be a game developer one day. I mean, what aspiring content-creator would even want to be able to tinker with various systems and make something new that they could enjoy and share.

      I also get that yeah, multiplayer offers SO MUCH to a guy like you. I mean, since you’re a sucker for gaming experiences that allow you to troll others online and be an asshole, rather than having to deal with the existential horror of a single player game. In single player you might be forced to sit with the horror of your own company for an hour or two! Who can blame you for avoiding it.

      Out of this entire beautiful manifesto however, I most especially enjoyed the admission that if it weren’t for always-online requirements that you’d just pirate pretty much every game. It’s refreshing for someone as caustic as yourself to at least admit that you lack any conviction to support any developer unless you’re being absolutely forced to.

      I’m curious what sort of games you’re thinking about making some day, given your total lack of interest in supporting developers, tinkering with existing games, or even participating in a debate about the merit of design choices and the way they alienate parts of the community. I’m sure your devil-may-care attitude of “boo hoo to all the losers who don’t share my opinion” will create something magical that we’ll all delight in experiencing.

      Be sure to let me know when your game comes out so I can pirate it, okay? Thanks!

      Your pal,

      Vesuvius

      • battles_atlas says:

        “In single player you might be forced to sit with the horror of your own company for an hour or two!”

        Nailed it.

      • TechnicalBen says:

        Perhaps he will make something like Fez or Gratuitous Space Battles?

        (Rider to those comments, I hope those developers are nice people, but they do say nasty things to their paying customers at times. :( )

        • Premium User Badge

          jrodman says:

          Ehhh.. Cliffski? Maybe I missed it, but everything I’ve read on his blog seems pretty transparent and honest. Blunt maybe at times? I’ve never seen anything nasty.

      • MentatYP says:

        Poetic burn, perfectly stated.

    • Sanderoth says:

      Wow, rarely do I see such stupid, egotistical nonsense but you sir take the biscuit on this one.

    • Premium User Badge

      Thermal Ions says:

      A prospective future game developer advocating piracy. The comments here get stranger and stranger every year.

    • battles_atlas says:

      For someone that demands social interaction you manage to sound incredibly self-obsessed.

      I think there were thirteen “I” in that post, but I lost count towards the end.

    • karthink says:

      You’re like the opposite of Batman.

    • Julio Biason says:

      It’s a matter of making multiplayer where multiplayer makes sense.

      MMORPGs are designed from a perspective of having some people taking a shitload of damage, some people recovering the heal of those taking a shitload of damage and some people doing a shitload of damage. Everything is build with that in mind. If you build a single player RPG, things need to be worked out completely different, ’cause you won’t have some people doing each specific task (you have a single guy that must do everything).

      FPSes these days also take that in account, although I will always recommend someone to play Spec Ops: The Line as a single player campaign due its story. Sure, it’s somewhat short, but HECK, it’s an awesome story and, by its own content, pays the whole game, without multiplayer. Same goes to Assassin’s Creed 2: Brotherhood, although the multiplayer is too damn fun.

      But a simulation game, in which you can build all the types of cities in a plot and progress all them without the need of a helping hand begs the question: Why there is multiplayer in this? And that’s the core of the question about SimCity and it’s multiplayer: It doesn’t make sense. It could be a well thought multiplayer, one where the player can’t win by themselves, but that’s not the case. The game is thought as a single player game and covered irrationally with multiplayer.

      You said you want to be a game developer. Well, that’s something to learn with: Don’t design a game where a single player can win by themselves and then add a requirement for online when there is no need for such thing in your game design.

      • Brun says:

        So no one is allowed to do an experiment in bringing multiplayer to the simulation genre? The whole notion of “well, games from genre X and Y are designed as multiplayer games from the start, so it’s okay there!” is ridiculous. It implies that nothing about any genre can change. How stagnant.

        • Julio Biason says:

          No dammit, read it again.

          If I start designing a game thinking “this can be beaten by a single person” and then shove multiplayer in it, it will suck. If I start a game — *any* type of game — with multiplayer in mind, it may not suck.

          For *ages* FPSes were single player games. Now they are designed from ground up to be multiplayer. That works fine. Same with RPGs and MMORPGs.

          Maybe next time I should use smaller words…

        • Catastrophe says:

          Brun, way to miss the point.

    • Julio Biason says:

      Also, just adding: I logged 200 hours in Skyrim. It *is* a single player game, designed to be a single player game. I don’t need to be online to play it.

    • Cooper says:

      Wait,
      You have friends?

    • Premium User Badge

      Wisq says:

      Because the only way to implement multiplayer is to make it always-online and reliant on some heavily loaded central servers.

      Because there’s no such thing as peer-to-peer multiplayer, or dedicated player-run servers, or LAN gameplay.

      Because you have a stable internet connection, so obviously the rest of the world does, and doesn’t need offline singleplayer.

      Because people on airplanes without wifi service can just read a book instead.

      Keep those blinders on, man. Ignorance is bliss.

    • Premium User Badge

      tobias says:

      Guys, relax, you are arguing with what appears to be a moderately eloquent seven year old. Just tousle his hair and laugh sympathetically at his precocious, yet misguided spoutings.

    • Kamos says:

      “As a student and future game developer I tell you”

      Please provide us your name, so we don’t need to hire you in any sane company where software follows standards and is actually designed to work. Thank you.

      “No, shoddy launches are expected in online games. They always happen. You shouldn’t judge the game on that.”

      As above. Please understand, it is nothing personal, but I’m thankful you won’t be going anywhere near anything critical.

  20. Smuggins says:

    Good article. Spot on.

  21. bigjig says:

    I just wonder what will happen a year or two from now when EA decide to come out with SimCity 2014 Edition and shut down the servers for this game

  22. Fyce says:

    I find this game really difficult and not enjoyable when played alone.
    If no one joins your region, if you are the only mayor on your 2×2 km square, you won’t be able to do everything you want. The size of the map and the specialization system are designed to limit you in such ways that you just can’t do well alone.

    Since I started playing it, I was forced to abandon two cities because I had nobody near them to interact with.

    This experience makes me belive that the multiplayer isn’t a “bonus” or a “little addition”. It’s a core mechanic.
    Thus, I don’t care of the always-on state of things. It’s not a single player game.

    • Lanfranc says:

      Couldn’t you just start some more cities in the same region yourself to specialise in the other things you need?

      • Sheng-ji says:

        How much does that not sound like fun! Reminds me of the guy who sets up two computers next to each other and plays turn based MP games against himself

        • Hahaha says:

          So what you would have to do if it was offline……

          • Sheng-ji says:

            I guess just have one big city which is always running all parts of it, not a sprinkling of small towns which stop running when you go to another one and whose interactivity is both forced and shallow at best.

      • aepervius says:

        I can’t speak for the OP but I tried that, and since once you leave a city to run the other , the first stops evolving, and vice versa, making it a very sharded broken experience.

        • UberMonkey says:

          I’d be okay with that aspect, knowing that it’s basically a limit of the agent-based simulation (whether that was a good idea or not is another topic), if the game allowed you to keep multiple cities pre-loaded into RAM so you could swap without a full load screen. If I could instantly pop back and forth between 2 or 3 cities I think it would feel more like I was actually controlling a region, instead of playing 3 different saved games that happen to vaguely influence each other.

          If the cities you’re not playing could run a sort of low-resolution simulation in the background (probably an option you can toggle at the region level) this would be even better. And it would somewhat justify the server architecture, as the server could run these low-detail background sims and save your CPU a bit of hassle.

    • TechnicalBen says:

      Fixed instantly by making things cost half as much or giving twice as much cash income. Or you know, having larger cities.

      The speed and balance of the game is entirely structured on the multiplier to the income or expenditure. Tot he rate of fire or illness. To the rate of happiness or crime. These are simple”variables” in the computer, probably listed in an encrypted (we don’t want modding, no no no) notpad file. So setting a SP mode for this game would be very simple. While not without effort, it would not cost millions to develop.

    • Catastrophe says:

      So what you’re saying is the Singleplayer doesn’t work properly so people should be fine with having to play it online and Multiplayer? Do people actually THINK about what they’re conveying?!

  23. gingerpembers says:

    Bang on Sir.

    So good to hear a respectable outlet slamming this game with the same vitriol I feel.

  24. Sander Bos says:

    From what I’ve read it’s apparently not just a great but a fantastic game for people into the genre (not me), so it will probably still become a huge seller for them.
    Boycotts don’t really work if people really want the product in the end.

    Game publishers are also looking to kill not just piracy but also the second hand game market, and this scheme to run most of the game code on the client but a relevant part on the server actually seems technically like a very smart way to do it (more scalable than the onlive way for sure, more secure than just a key check or some cloud storage of save games).
    So even though this first experiment is a huge failure I don’t think it will be going away.

  25. bill says:

    People will always defend what they have paid for, otherwise they feel like idiots.

    I assume EA is doing this as much for blocking 2nd hand sales and for forcing people to upgrade as they are for piracy.

    I really hope this simcity ISN’T an all time classic game, because unlike other alltime classic games it won’t be available in a few years once they switch off the server.

    • terry says:

      While this is true, EA have been preaching the games-as-service mantra for quite some time, the most obvious examples being the SimsStore in TS3 and requiring Origin logins to be able to run Mass Effect and Dragon Age dlc. There are probably other more recent examples, but I stopped buying EA stuff at least a year ago. At least part of the reason they’re not on Steam anymore is because by using a closed DLC system they stand to earn much more than pursuing a traditional expansion pack model (they never put DLC on sale because they don’t have to) and as an added bonus drive people to Origin, a service they would be unlikely to use for any other reason.

      It makes business sense (probably) but offers absolutely no benefit to consumers, which is pretty much where EA are at.

  26. Filthius says:

    Nothing is good about always on DRM. Ubisoft woke up and smelt the coffee and realised all it does is alienate the very people they are trying to get to buy there games by not allowing them to play the damn things. Sure piracy is a problem, but this isn’t the answer. Piracy can never be stopped fully. The only sensible way to deal with it is to make it irrelevant. How do you do that? Price. Look at the Steam sales, how often do you read on here people saying “not gonna buy it now, ill wait till its in a steam sale”, and so many software titles sell many more copies once they are cheaper. Lowering the base price for software will bring more sales , as people are more likely , just by human nature to take a chance on something that doesn’t cost the earth. Thats my humble opinion.

  27. Lemming says:

    “These are continuous deep-running flaws designed to cripple the game for you as a player, simply to serve some nebulous notion of protecting the game against piracy.”

    John, we both know that isn’t true. At least have to balls to call it what it is, man! Piracy is just the scapegoat. EA were never being impacted seriously by pirates.

    It’s not an accident that turning games into a ‘service’ means that EA have full control over when you play and how you play. They also just so happen to be able to monetise every aspect of your game, and just so happen to be in a position to cut you off at their discretion..say…when the next game they want you to buy comes out? And, oh look! They now have access to all your gaming habits and data for their own market research and targeting! What a stroke of luck!

    • Danorz says:

      yeah, piracy is the excuse, “games as service” and diminished consumer rights is the goal

    • WoundedBum says:

      While always online DRM is not the way to go, piracy is still an issue.

    • diamondmx says:

      Not disagreeing with you necessarily, but what *are* they trying to do then, in your opinion?

      Continually monitor your play?
      Create a decent reason and method for microtransactions in single-player? (Are there any in new-SC?)
      Kill a second hand market, which does exist on PC anyway (because consumer rights, like, lololol)?

      I mean, unless they genuinely believe the ‘piracy is going to kill us’ and ‘we can stop it if we just screw over enough paying customers’ stories – I really don’t see what purpose there is to this.

      Are they just assholes?

  28. P34nk says:

    The best RPS article I read so far about online-only DRM and SimCity. About the only article I retweeted so far too :)

    Keep up the good fight! Those who would still like to prove that city building game can and have to be built with offline capability should look into Civitas!

  29. limimi says:

    I agree on a lot of what’s said in this article, except for one thing – SimCity has been built from the ground up to be multiplayer and always online. You can say it’s not the SimCity you want, that they should have called it SimCity Online or something, and that there should be single player component regardless, but for the past year EA and Maxis have been very clear that the new SimCity would be always online at all times and was being built from the ground up to be designed for online play. Those aren’t just excuses some fans have made up to defend their latest $80 investment, that’s what has been said about it from the beginning.

    Did they do it for anti-piracy reasons? Did they do it to milk consumers? Did they try to blend the profitable social games market with MMOs and city management for some bizarre and probably cultish reason? Did they do it to fund their evil kitten killing schemes? Yes to all of the above probably, but I didn’t buy SimCity because I knew that’s what it would be, and if you did buy it expecting anything else you are madder than my neighbour – and when it is raining he likes to stand in his backyard in his underwear and stare up at the sky.

    That said, we should have kicked up a stink earlier – and we should definitely kick up a stink now – before we had at least had the fantasy that it might turn out ok.

    • Sander Bos says:

      So you say informed buyers could have known what they were getting into, except for the current launch issues.
      But let me ask you then: How long (how many years) is you expectation that you will be able to run this game?
      I don’t think there are any formal commitments on their part for the length of support they will be giving.
      I mean, I am sure it will be supported for years and years, but since people are still playing Sim City 4, they would have to support the game to at least 2023 to match that, and I think that is far from a guarantee.

  30. Dinger says:

    Absolutely.

    Now, here’s the problem from another perspective. I think somewhere in that Polygon magic-eightball score shifting debate used the analogy to restaurant reviews: the game is the food, but one must criticize the service too. And if the service is terrible, the review must suffer.

    Wrong. Unless it’s a high-profile “celebrity” restaurant, reviews do not come out on the day of the grand opening, or even in the first few weeks afterwards. That’s because restaurants need time to iron out their bugs, and they are inherently a limited-capacity service.

    What the problem of “always-on” DRM and “microtransaction-enhanced” games underscore is that you can’t sell your game as a service and keep the retail business model, where a major part of your sales happen in week one. If you require the massive PR push of a release day, always-on DRM will hit max stress at exactly the moment you need maximum player buzz. To use the restaurant analogy, it’s like opening a restaurant that serves half the meals of its lifetime in the first week. It just won’t work.

    What’s EA/Maxis response to John’s “perfect laptop-on-the-train gaming … that’s rendered impossible to play on a laptop on the train. It’s ideal flight fodder, that no one can play on flights.” ?
    Probably: “That’s what SimCityTab™ and SimCityMobile™ are for.
    The Boardroom tries to dictate how their “IP” can be “monetized” to avoid “cannibalizing” sales. In other words, they give users a game, dictate the conditions under which users can use it, invite them to spend more money to change the conditions, and then wonder why everyone’s playing Minecraft instead.

    • Premium User Badge

      c-Row says:

      I don’t see why I should go eating at a place where I am treated like shit, no matter how good the food is. Not to mention that it isn’t the best food in town either.

      • Hahaha says:

        You shouldn’t, but do you constantly tell people you meet that the place is shit they are doing these things wrong and no one should eat there?

        • Premium User Badge

          c-Row says:

          If they tell me they are planning to go there, yes. Why wouldn’t I?

          • Hahaha says:

            Must be fun being around you the days following you going somewhere slightly under your standards.

            I’m picturing every other sentence being about how bad this place was.

          • Premium User Badge

            c-Row says:

            The term was “shit”, not “slightly under my standards”. If you like twisting words around in people’s mouths just to prove your point you are probably no fun to be with either.

        • Kamos says:

          This is not about food. This is about crippleware and infusing consumers with a mindset in which they accept software to be crippled.

          Using the food analogy, you’re damn right I want to keep people from considering that eating hamburgers made with spoiled ingredients is “ok, as long as it tastes good”. Sooner or later, every restaurant will be selling rotten food.

      • Dinger says:

        You don’t review an 80-seat restaurant negatively because the wait for a table is unbearable, or that they have teething problems right after opening. You absolutely must lambaste a video game for failing to work. And even if it does work, you have to criticize it if its usage conditions do not square with the way people use computers. Again, you don’t criticize a restaurant for being closed on Mondays. You do criticize a SP-only game for not being playable offline.

        Here’s an idea: bring out numerical scores for RPS. Maybe with a Polygonesque proviso that subsequent patches will change that number. But give two numbers:

        Our score:
        SimCity™ Retail Version: 4.5
        SimCity™ Pirate Version: 9.0

        Since game scores are supposed to be a measure of value, and measurable value is provided by DRM (negative), social (neutral) and post-retail updates and patches (usually positive), make it clear how much more or less value the Retail version has.
        And get a Metacritic entry for the pirate versions too.

        • Premium User Badge

          Stellar Duck says:

          I certainly would review a place badly if they made me wait, even if it opened 30 min earlier. If they expect me to pay then I expect them to deliver. I can’t be bothered about teething problems. If they don’t deliver the product why should I deliver the money?

          I certainly make a habit of warning friends and relatives if I get bad service in a place and recommend better places instead. I’d be a jerk not to.

          • Premium User Badge

            c-Row says:

            - “Hey, remember that restaurant you have been to?”
            – “Of course.”
            – “Went there with my girlfriend yesterday and it was the worst evening ever. The food was good, but the waiter spat in our drinks and grabbed my girlfriend’s ass on the way out.”
            – “Yeah, totally happened to us, too.”
            – “WTF dude?! Why didn’t you tell me?!”
            – “See, I thought you would only care about the quality of the food.”
            – “What kind of jerk are you?”

          • Premium User Badge

            Stellar Duck says:

            A very visual representation of why I make a habit of warning people. Made me laugh.

      • D3xter says:

        Your comment reminds me of the soup nazi: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uVqBzP0xdKk

  31. Premium User Badge

    Vesuvius says:

    I would like to subscribe to this newsletter.

    Haven’t bought anything Blizzard / Activision or EA for several years now- and this is exactly why.

  32. Danda says:

    BRAVO, JOHN WALKER.

    There’s no other way to put it. Always online = no sale.

  33. Ignorant Texan says:

    And, SimCity is, and has been since they began selling it again, in number 1 position in sales on AmazonUS digital download games list.

    Even with the abysmal 1.5 star aggregate user rating .

    And flagged with this…

    Important Note on “SimCity”
    Some customers may experience delays when connecting to SimCity servers. EA is actively working to resolve these issues. Please visit https://help.ea.com/en/simcity/simcity for more information. For your trouble, every SimCity player who has logged in and activated their game will receive a free PC download game from the EA portfolio, provided by EA. This offer extends to all digital download and physical disc SimCity customers. On March 18, SimCity players who have activated their game will receive an email from EA telling them how to redeem their free game.

    I guess it’s the promise of a “free” game.

    • Hahaha says:

      They stopped selling it for something like 4 hours and only stopped selling the digital version (It dosen’t look like they decided to stop selling)

  34. cheborra says:

    As the “Fight on Terror”, the “Fight on Piracy” is only an excuse.

    What most of the Industry Lead Heads want is to roll in the “Service Model” (as in charging every month) slowly but surely.

    They don’t care about burning some good titles with that objective, in fact I think they specifically use heavy weight franchises to push it harder.

    Never forget that the people making the decisions is definitely not the same that the people making the game. They are business people, they don’t love a game, they love a “product”, and always have the profit as objective. Nothing more.

  35. WoundedBum says:

    So has the game/will the game be pirated?

    I wouldn’t pirate it myself, because the game is not something I like doesn’t mean I have the right to pirate it. I’m just interested in whether it’s been an effective DRM method.

  36. Soapeh says:

    The biggest issue I have found is that server status list is seemingly random but refuses to update properly. This means that I see different servers being available to what my friends do – yesterday all 3 of us were shown conflicting server full messages and there wasn’t a single common server that we could all log into simultaneously, despite all of us living in the same town.

    The other issue, of course, is lack of centralised city saves. It’s fair enough being able to hop onto ‘any non-full server in the world’ but to have to start a new city from scratch each time you visit a new server (and, in many cases, be forced to start the tutorial again and have your achievements lost) is utterly ridiculous. EA are probably going to weasel in a premium-rate city transfer service in the future.

  37. Baboonanza says:

    @John Walker
    Obviously the article is spot on – the slippery slope is an often abused argument in Internet debate but this is certainly a case where the concern is merited.

    However, I can’t help feeling that this is too late. Closing the gate after the horse has bolted etc. If you feel so strongly about the issue why didn’t this post (or something similar) appear before the game was released when it could have made more of a difference?

    I know that if you respond you will be able to cite articles where it’s mentioned but I remember the coverage being much less vociferous than this article.

    • MentatYP says:

      Agreed. I’ve been crying out about this online abomination of a SimCity perversion for months now since they started talking up the always-online aspect of it, like some crazed prophet in the wilderness, which of course nobody listened to because I’m nobody. RPS slamming the game now is just a few months too late. Not that I don’t appreciate the effort because I certainly do and hope it will make a difference, but can you imagine the unlimited wells of I-told-you-so that RPS would be able to draw from if they had loudly predicted this debacle months ago? Instead it seems more like they were caught off guard, which I know they weren’t but appearances are everything.

      This bears repeating though: Maxis are flat out lying to us about how much calculation is being offloaded to the servers. People have been able to play for hours while being disconnected from the SimCity servers. This means that all intra-city calculations needed to run a self-contained city are performed client-side. Why then are Maxis talking up the calculations as if the game wouldn’t run at all if not for the servers doing the heavy lifting? They’re quite simply lying by trying to make the server-side component sound more vital than it is to core gameplay in order to alleviate the scorn being poured upon them for their always-online design. More so than the always-online design itself, this kind of disdain for their customers’ intelligence is what really turns me off and has sealed the coffin on me ever buying this game.

  38. FurryLippedSquid says:

    Couldn’t agree more, John, excellent critique.

    BF3 was the last EA game I bought and it will be the last. While not as widespread as this launch the problems I had with that game & Origin are untold. I didn’t get a game until 2 months after launch and EA’s tech support were fecking useless. I will not be taken for a mug again.

    So long EA, and thanks for all the fish.

  39. luukdeman111 says:

    Now I just really hope that some pirate will crack the game because otherwise ea might decide that it was a success anyways…

    • WoundedBum says:

      No it would be better for this to not sell well, rather than get pirated.

      The game has drm. They don’t want that, which is absolutely fair. That doesn’t give them the right to take the game for free though. However if you meant buy the game and then crack it to be offline…well that’s a different story.

      • Dark Nexus says:

        Totally agree.

        I’d rather they not have the piracy crutch to use to blame a shortfall in sales.

      • luukdeman111 says:

        I’m not saying that I support stealing their product. I’d just like them to realise that DRM doesn’t work….

        And apparantly SKIDROW has already cracked it, so if anyone here wants to play Simcity offline after legally buying it, you might wanna give it a shot.

  40. Glottis1 says:

    Unfortunately EA probably thinks this as succes against pirating. Server issues means, more people bought it than EA expected = pirates bought the game.

    • MentatYP says:

      In their twisted logic I’m sure they think exactly this. Hopefully the sales will drop off dramatically after the first couple weeks of server issues and they’ll realize just how bad of a decision always-online was.

  41. photographerleia says:

    I created an account with RPS so I could 100% support everything this article says. The lengths that players go to to defend draconian DRM from the publishers (*especially* always on DRM for single-player games) never ceases to both astound and confuse me. I could not wholeheartedly second everything said here more than I do right now.

  42. Zacqary Adam Green says:

    You want to make SimCity online-only? Fine. Just make sure you:

    – Only use server-side calculation as a graceful degradation method, assuming the goal is to lower the game’s system requirements. If Glassbox needs a quad-core and a CUDA-capable GPU to run at top settings, fine, let struggling machines attempt to connect to a server. Until they get a connection, make each agent represent multiple sims. If there’s 20,000 people in the city, only make 5,000 run around if that’s all the hardware can handle, and multiply everything that happens by 4.
    – Use P2P as a fallback for region-sharing if the central server isn’t available. Directly connect players to one another, and require multiple peers to confirm what’s going on region-wide before executing the effects in anyone’s game.

    If Maxis wants to take the blame, fine. Because they certainly lacked imagination on how to engineer this damn thing.

    • Premium User Badge

      c-Row says:

      If Maxis wants to take the blame, fine. Because they certainly lacked imagination on how to engineer this damn thing.

      The question is – could they really not come up with a good way to catch the heavy server load like you suggest, or did they just not want to break their closed system open again and surrender total control over the game?

  43. UsF says:

    Where is the upvote button? :)

    Also how to support great games with bad publishing practices? Maybe you could do a guide for us about this issue.

  44. Premium User Badge

    skalpadda says:

    I’m happy you exist, John. Keep it up.

  45. pakoito says:

    Some users from Reddit are reporting the sims are using a “shortest path” algorithm for most of their tasks, which is lazy implementation and far from computer-hogging.

  46. Premium User Badge

    The Sombrero Kid says:

    I might not agree with you if Sim City wasn’t clearly the MOST SINGLE PLAYER GAME EVER, what little social features it has seemingly force you to socialise with randoms rather than friends, meaning you might as well be playing with/against AI. As it stands there is almost nothing multiplayer about the game and nothing which couldn’t easily be disabled. it’s clear that the simulation has deliberately crippled to run on a centralised server, were it able to use the full computational ability of the client this would almost certainly be a better game. Sim City is literally DRM with a game bolted on, in a world where people are outraged at Games with DRM bolted on this simply shouldn’t stand.

  47. Hahaha says:

    If I go to your blog will I find you rallying against netflix or using it?

    • John Walker says:

      You’d have to explain to me how my successfully watching a film, and the enjoyment of doing so, is hindered by a subscription service.

      • Hahaha says:

        Have to be online?
        Depending on your connection?

        • FurryLippedSquid says:

          Ridiculous argument alert!

        • GallonOfAlan says:

          Netflix? Business model is entirely based around a subscription, online streaming service.

          *Single-player* PC games – have worked for many years with no online requirement, therefore addition of same is extracting the urine.

          • Hahaha says:

            You seem to be missing the signs of where this is all headed.

        • Sheng-ji says:

          Netflix: Pay a low monthly fee, access their entire catalogue.

          EA: Pay a high one time fee, access one game.

          Note how one is a valid service, the other is the sale of a licence but they are trying to pretend like it’s a service without giving you either the price cut or the greater access of a proper service like netflix.

          • Brun says:

            Thumbs up for making a rational argument that isn’t based on being upset that EA turned SimCity into something you didn’t like. This is a great example of why the entire business model is bad. This is what we should be focusing on.

          • Kamos says:

            Excelent point, Sheng-ji. They want to sell you one thing, give you another and support yet another. It is a bad, bad joke.

        • roryok says:

          If you ordered a DVD from amazon and then found out your DVD player had to have a net connection in order to play it, because that way you could look up trivia, would you not be annoyed? If the film itself did not need an internet connection?

        • D3xter says:

          Streaming a movie requires an Online connection, they could also make it a “buy”-service where you can download it and watch whenever you want, but that’s a different matter.

          Building a city by your lonesome on a game you bought and installed doesn’t.

          It is really that simple, one is justified – the other is not, so your argument doesn’t make any sense.

        • Kamos says:

          Yet another unwitting defender of crippleware. Here, these are the things you’re comparing:

          Netflix = “pay us and get access to our online repository of movies and tv shows!”
          EA’s Sim City = “pay us for a local application that we designed to artificially require an internet connection!”

          Your point would only be valid if:

          1) EA was selling access to an online repository of games; and
          2) Those games could nonetheless be acquired elsewhere, i.e., stores, arcades, rental services, etc.

  48. HunterKing says:

    I never thought I’d see some of the beautiful blight of my home (New Orleans) on RPS

    • MacTheGeek says:

      Is that Nawlins? I thought sure it was Detroit.

      /searches images through Google/

      Okay, so only the second picture comes from Detroit; the other four are from the Big Easy. Maybe that’s a subtle statement about city sizes in EA’s current game; you just can’t get the massive urban and industrial blight of Detroit in the new SimCity, you can only model smaller blighted areas like New Orleans.

  49. Premium User Badge

    daphne says:

    This post marks (probably) the only time I and John Walker are in complete agreement. You’re putting those fiery emotions into good use!

  50. frightlever says:

    Ubisoft aren’t adding always on DRM to future games and I think they may have removed it from some games, but doesn’t Settlers 7, for one, still require it if you want to play the DLC? When they gonna patch that out? What possible use could it serve, unless it’s still being used as a metric of some kind.