SimCity Modder Tells Us Offline Regional Play Easily Done

By John Walker on March 16th, 2013 at 8:10 pm.

A key moment in the week’s SimCity shenanigans was unquestionably the appearance of a video from a modder, Azzer, announcing he’d found a way to remove the game’s offline timer. The final nail in the ridiculous-claims coffin, this mod demonstrated that everything but the asynchronous multiplayer was running on your home machine. We got in touch with the man behind the mod, one Azzer, and he had a lot more to say. In his opinion, the information coming from the servers is so rudimentary that despite Maxis’s claims, there shouldn’t be any problem at all in simulating the regional play offline.

So many of Maxis’s claims about how SimCity runs have come down to the importance of the information from the servers, driving the experience of players whether they’re seeking social conglomeration, or going it alone. And even in Bradshaw’s revisionist version of these claims, we’re still being told that the way it works is “innovative”. Not so, alleges Azzer.

“I’ve analyzed all of the data calls to and from EA servers – all of the APIs, every request for data, and all of the data that comes back,” explains the modder. And in doing so, he’s found some surprising results. “The SimCity servers are not doing any calculations that could not be done on your PC, even for an entire region single player offline mode, let alone just the city you are in.”

It’s his belief (clearly we don’t have a clue – we’re not experts here at all) that the servers aren’t chugging nearly as hard as Maxis say. “All the server sends to your client, is some very basic data about each city – how much power they have available, how much spare fire trucks, you know – that sort of stuff. It’s minor, and it’s sent as raw numbers. Your client then just goes ‘oh there’s XXX power spare from city Z.’ It’s that simple.”

But this seems to contradict the claims from Maxis that the servers are, “using new technology to realize a vision of players connected in regions to create a SimCity that captured the dynamism of the world we live in.” How does Azzer respond to that? “The server side calculations are all, frankly, rubbish.” Ah. In his opinion, clearly. “Every bit of it,” he continues. “The only ‘good’ they do at the moment is for a multiplayer region – they are just a way for my city to tell your city how much power I have spare, and update that data every few minutes while I play. A middleman of sorts.”

In fact, Azzer thinks that even despite this, the tech isn’t nearly as good as it should be. “The servers are terrible, the MySQL set-up sloppy, and they are trying to handle all of the saving server side (“the cloud”) which is bogging them down constantly – they aren’t optimized for how many simultaneous cities are connected at once. Hell, this “cloud” saving isn’t even very clever is it – if you change servers, all your saves are gone. They don’t even “cloud” your saves between their own servers.”

Matching the information we received from our Maxis mole, Azzer explains that the only other role served by the servers – beyond the obvious “fluff and guff” as he calls it of invites, chat, leaderboards, etc. – is to prevent cheating. “Most of the processing work is probably their attempts at anti-cheat stuff, checking a city doesn’t do… something… at an unrealistic speed.”

As we’ve repeatedly pointed out, while not offering an offline version of SimCity is entirely Maxis’s call, our issue this week has been with their claiming it would be near impossible, rather than their simply believing it undesirable. (Obviously we have enormous issues with any game being crippled by such DRM, too.)

So how simple does Azzer think getting an offline version going might be? “They could make an entire region single player offline with absolute ease. It would be as simple as coding in a switch saying, ‘Is this person playing single player? Take the power values of each city from local memory instead of ask for it from the server instead.’ The only thing missing is saving to local hard drive – but let’s be real, the code for saving your city already exists, I can’t imagine even that would take more than an hour to put into the client (and it probably already exists in the client for development builds), plus a little bit of time for the UI elements for Save/Load.”

“For an offline mode,” he continues, “instead of asking EA servers how much power is available from a fellow city in the region, it will simply have it in memory, as a small handful of values from another city. No live calculations done on them. Just raw values, all the EA servers send anyway. And as you’ll only be playing/simulating one city at a time in offline mode (cities you don’t play are “frozen in time”) – those values of how much spare power, resources, etc. other cities have won’t even need updating, until you change cities.”

But how exactly would that work? If those cities are frozen, resources won’t be renewed, nor depleted? “Let’s say you and I play in a region together,” says Azzer, talking about the regular online game. “You build a town that has lots of power and water (water is a consumable just like coal) and spare fire trucks. I build a big casino city with lots of criminals. You go offline and don’t play for a whole week, but I keep playing for an entire week.” Okay, with you. “During that week, my client will keep telling me stories about fire trucks coming to help me from your city, I’ll keep getting water from you, I’ll keep getting power from you – of a ‘set amount’ dictated by how much you had spare when you last logged off. This is all processed by my client, not by the server. All the server did was tell me ‘X fire trucks available, Y water available, Z power available, from city with the name ABC,’ as a raw list of values. When you log back on, your water levels will be exactly as they were when you last logged off, because EA’s servers were NOT doing any processing, and my client only affects the city I am simulating.”

Crikey. So an offline version of the game could act in exactly the same way. You could play multiple cities in your private region, each freezing when not played just as the current game operates. “No processing is done on the cities you aren’t currently playing on – they simply freeze in time and provide a fixed set of values of ‘resources’ that the currently played city simulates. The client does all the processing, which is why any city not being played (online or not) has nothing done to it by EA’s servers if the owner of that city is not playing their city at the time.”

We also spoke to Azzer about the rather strange happenings with the threads related to his mod vanishing from the EA forums. A series of tweets from, Erik Reynolds, “senior director of worldwide communications” (but apparently not mathematics), explained that he was going to be “1000% clear”.

“Due to our ToS we need to delete the thread about the hack/mod from our forums. Please move it to other places and continue the dialogue.”

Then slightly less than 1000% clearly, he added,

“In the past we’ve supported the modding community and in the future we are committed to supporting. Hacks are not mods.”

This wasn’t an ambiguity he further cleared up. It was one that surprised Azzer too. “A thread I made detailing all of the modding work (and clearing up any mis-information too) on the EA forums was deleted within 30 minutes of posting (after 3 pages of replies).” But despite Reynolds’ stating an apparent distinction between hacks and mods, the baby and the bathwater have been thrown out of the EA forums. (You can read Azzer’s deleted thread here.)

“Hours later,” continues Azzer, “a new sticky thread appeared saying no mod talk was allowed any more.” Just how strictly is this being moderated, the modder wondered. So he started a thread titled, “Mods and rockers”, discussing the 1960s British music culture. “Just to see if they were deleting threads without even looking at the content.”

Were they? “It was deleted within thirty seconds of posting. Yes, I was obviously asking for a deletion with that thread title – but I giggled anyway.”

We’d love to put these points to Maxis, and to be able to provide you with their corrections for the above, along with their clarifications and responses, but they’re ignoring us.

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274 Comments »

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  1. phelix says:

    Seriously, is this even a surprise?

    • John Walker says:

      You must surely appreciate the difference between suspecting something, and being told something is the case by an expert.

      • phelix says:

        Well, what if those ‘experts’ are feeding me hogwash (as is the case with EA) and my suspicions turn out to be right?

        • carol391 says:

          Its definitely the most-financially rewarding Ive ever done. Make money with Google. last monday I got a new Alfa Romeo from bringing in $7778. I started this 9-months ago and practically straight away started making more than $83… per hour. I work through this link, GoogleJobs.com

      • Taidan says:

        Yes, it’s nice to finally have expert confirmation that we were all right the whole time about EA being willing to lie to their customers if they think it’ll make them a few extra bucks. (As most of us have known since the Dragon Age Day One DLC debacle, and pretty much everything since.)

      • DJ0JJ says:

        Clearly, Maxis didn’t had the calculation power to make a lie truthful enough

      • Redd says:

        >expert
        mhm

      • Eagle32 says:

        This whole thing wouldn’t bother me if the multiplayer was actually any good. I bought the game to play with friends.

        Unfortunately the “multiplayer” is the most minimal, rudimentary and nonsensical interaction between cities the could have come up with.

        • darkath says:

          EA has recently been in a downward spiral of fail, Dragon age 2 was pretty faily, Sw:TOR was a bing stinking failure, there has been the whole ME3 ending failure debacle.
          They seem to be covered in a failure aura, and everything they shall do henceforth will be covered in fail-goo and controversy.

          If only they learned from one failure to another that PR speak and committing to your mistakes until the bitter end don’t resolve any issues, …

          (edit reply to wrong post)

          • JohnnyMaverik says:

            You can’t blame them for everything. Dragon Age 2 is a probable, first game takes 8 years from concept to final product, second comes out 2 years later and seems to have followed the design mantra of “must be more like Mass Effect”. I smell EA’s influence there for sure. ME3 ending… nah, doesn’t make any sense to blame them for that. SWTOR… maybe to blame for parts of it’s issues, certainly not all of them.

            This game, hell yes.

      • Renato84 says:

        There HAS to be enough evidence here to incriminate EA for quite a few crimes against consumer rights. People in the U.S. listening to this, please, sue EA. They’re begging for it.

        • Sparkasaurusmex says:

          A clause in their EULA (attempts to) prevent it

          • Safilpope says:

            The EULA is a bit wobbly in terms of validity anyway, if it was agreed upon at time of purchase it would be 100% legal, but as its something pushed on us as we’ve got home and opened the box (or downloaded the game) it becomes less credible as a legal agreement.

          • Grey Poupon says:

            I don’t think they can get you to give up your rights to sue someone with such an agreement, even in the US. No matter what the EULA says.

          • rebochan says:

            @ Safilpope, Grey Poupon

            The US Supreme Court so far has made several rulings allowing this behavior to stand. And in fact, you can’t sue – EA can force you into binding arbitration, which basically means you get to pay the legal fees of a kangaroo court that will rule they’re right and you’re wrong.

            http://articles.washingtonpost.com/2012-01-21/business/35440734_1_arbitration-clauses-croa-with-vulnerable-consumers-credit-repair-organizations-act

            Now, that might not mean much on the other side of the pond, where RPS resides, but it is a problem for folks like me in the US.

          • Banana_Republic says:

            There’s a difference between a game EULA and signing a contract to use a credit card. With the credit card, you are informed of all your legal rights and obligations before signing. With an EULA, you have already purchased a product based on the marketing materials that the seller has provided. The EULA introduces NEW restrictions AFTER the point of purchase. That’s why in some jurisdictions, they haven’t been binding. Unfortunately, in other jurisdictions, they have been. There’s been no sweeping legal review of EULAs so far, so basically, having one overturned depends heavily on where the case is heard.

        • WHS says:

          Realistically there’s not much consumers can do about something like this, even absent a EULA. Competitors might be able to sue for false advertising or something of that nature, but they’d have a shaky claim at best, and really don’t stand to gain by doing so.

          • Renato84 says:

            Then their law system is not nearly close to properly protecting the rights of a citizen who purchases a huge and hugely advertised broken product like SimCity. It’s an expensive scam, broadly advertised, and consumers can’t do anything about it. In other words, their law system is failing to protect fundamental rights in their (our) capitalist society, and people can’t do anything about it, or so some people say. I don’t believe it.

          • GSGregory says:

            Having money puts you above the law. End of story.

          • Premium User Badge

            colossalstrikepackage says:

            Money might buy favours, but it puts nobody above the law.

          • GSGregory says:

            Wrong. Corporations have to much influence to be shutdown by the law. People with money are to powerful to do anything to beyond slap their hand. Pay attention to so some of the news lately and you will see some pretty awesome things in these regards. The law does not apply in the usa if you have enough cash.

          • BlueTemplar says:

            Money might buy favours, but it puts nobody above the law.
            Hmm…
            http://www.rollingstone.com/politics/news/gangster-bankers-too-big-to-jail-20130214?link=mostpopular2

        • pebble_post-it_peashooter says:

          Here in the states corporations have more power than citizens.

          • Phantoon says:

            For something more concrete in convincing people of that, corporations have been paying more in lobbying than taxes since 2010.

          • torcido says:

            As an extension on ^, it’s the political (governmental) influence the money buys that actually makes the difference. M$ got sued when they had a $0 lobbying budget, but a few strategically bought government officials, and those problems have been solved. It’s the power, not the money, so it’s out there for more than just corporations. See Corzine, Jon or Dodd, Chris for examples of such individual power even without a ‘corporate’ lobbying budget.

          • Banana_Republic says:

            Corporations ARE citizens. That’s the problem with the concept of corporations. They are considered persons under the law.

      • Premium User Badge

        colossalstrikepackage says:

        John – a tough line to walk. It’s in our interest to know what the code is actually doing, but the modder is difficult to judge as an expert. They have obviously got then ability to change the game, but we are still taking their word for it (which, to be fair, carries much more weight than Bradshaw’s).

        But I for one am glad this cluster fudge continues to roll on. Corporations Hate to be in the news like this. They will wait for it to die down, but the more that this gets covered, the better our chances for getting to the truth. Making the game they want to is their right. Lying to us about why is just not on.

        Like other commentators, I’d be damned curious to know about the legal basis for what they are doing. Is it legal?

        • AzzerUK says:

          Yes, we’ve been studying all the API calls in and out of our computers (myself and RL friend Weeble), over our internet connections, and discussing what it does. Nothing illegal. As for “expertise” – anyone with a bit of know how should be able to throw together a little script to capture all API calls out, and all JSON data returned, and then look through all of that data and quickly realize exactly what the EA servers are telling your client, and what your client is telling the EA servers – which then lets you know what your client is and isn’t processing.

          If you wondered, we are both programmers and database engineers by trade, have both worked as consultants, and both specialize in analysis of, optimization of, and analyzing security of, third party code. Between us we probably have around 15-20 years of industry experience, and 30 years of general programming experience.

          • Premium User Badge

            colossalstrikepackage says:

            Hi Azzer, really cool of you to reply in this thread. I actually meant to ask whether what EA have done (lying about the reason behind always online and their new technology) was illegal. But it’s good to know how you approached it. I’m definitely no expert (legal or coding) but it sounds like you’ve modded some code on the player’s end to show up EA for what looks like a really ballsy lie. I guess they were banking on people like me to not look at their coding and not you! Hopefully this helps to push them into offering some kind of single player in the future (I’d buy a patched single player version of this game).

            PS Mod Rocker was a pretty funny thing to bait them with.

          • 4th Dimension says:

            What is more interesting to me is that from your statement it seems they are sending all this data in plain text. No encryption whatsoever?!?

          • MattM says:

            Is that legal? It seems like capturing and studying API calls and network packets in order to figure out how the program works would be reverse engineering. The EULA for SimCity (2013) contains
            “Except as may be expressed as an exception to the prohibitions under the law of your country of residence, you may not decompile, disassemble, or reverse engineer the Software, or any
            component thereof, by any means whatsoever. ”
            That recent SCOTUS ruling that allows EULAs to forbid class action suits seems to indicate that most EULA terms are enforceable. All this assumes you are in the USA of course.

          • Azazel says:

            @MattM – I’d say perfectly legal yes. Anyone can download a copy of Fiddler and view all of the HTTP traffic to and from their machine. You might need a bit of specialist knowledge to decipher the JSON or whatever, but it’s really not hard. In no way does it require you to decompile or reverse-engineer anything.

          • analydilatedcorporatestyle says:

            Have they banned your actual game account or just removed forum posts?

            Homeland Security will be desperately looking for a terrorist threat in all of this. The man in the street shouldn’t dare question the corporate benefactors.

            *doffs cap* Hurrah for AzzerUK!!

          • Deadfast says:

            JSON? No wonder their servers are having trouble, with the amount of stuff going on I would have thought they’d go with something that has way less overhead.

      • Premium User Badge

        P7uen says:

        As someone who hates this stuff, and further as someone who accidentally bought this thing without doing due diligence, thank you for not letting this go.

        We shouldn’t stand for this rubbish from EA.

      • Jezzer says:

        You must surely appreciate the distinction between a sincere declaration of surprise and irony.

    • Jason-Milardo says:

      my co-worker’s ex-wife makes $83 an hour on the computer. She has been without work for nine months but last month her paycheck was $16066 just working on the computer for a few hours. Read more on this web site… http://www.miniurl.com/sa/earn-cash

  2. Hoaxfish says:

    The first rule of EA club, is don’t talk about Mods
    The second rule of EA club, is don’t talk about Mods.
    Now, let’s punch these customers unconscious.

    If I remember correctly there was a point where they were explaining that modding SimCity would be too difficult for people because the models have fully rigged animation, etc.

    • Bhazor says:

      To be fair Dragon Age: Origins has a huge modding community.
      http://dragonage.nexusmods.com/mods/top/

      Though yes they have more or less killed off modding in every other game.

    • androidpk says:

      “If I remember correctly there was a point where they were explaining that modding SimCity would be too difficult for people because the models have fully rigged animation, etc.”

      The same bullshit was said in regards to mods and Battlefield 3. That mods wouldn’t be supported because it would be too difficult for people. Pssh. More like EA doesn’t want customers creating better mods than the DLC puts out. Seriously, screw EA.

      • Hahaha says:

        Didn’t the rage guys say the same

        • androidpk says:

          They (id software) did say it would be difficult for most people to use but they released them to everyone last month.

        • soldant says:

          And id Software weren’t joking. Not so much because it isn’t difficult, but because without a server farm for rendering megatextures it’d take an obscene amount of time to do anything. id Software have been excellent with mod support since Wolf3D.

        • LionsPhil says:

          And they (rightly) caught flak for it too.

    • Sparkasaurusmex says:

      Even Bethesda said that of Skyrim.
      Obviously these people don’t realize that some modders are as good as their developers. Some are better.

      • GSGregory says:

        And some are way better. Seriously though I have seen some seriously skilled modders.

  3. JaminBob says:

    So to summarise:

    EA have insisted on Always ON DRM, which also includes installation and running of Origin.
    Always-on is justified under the guise of:
    a – its a MMO
    b – a lot of the computation is done server side.

    However:
    a – its not an MMO, and that side of things is broke and pointless and,
    b – its been proven that this is basically a lie.

    The above is largely irrelevent in any case as:
    a – the glass box engine is basically broken
    b – traffic path finding is abyssmal
    c – sims just randomly assign work and housing each time
    d – the map size is too small and riddled with bugs and;
    e – the games basically not all that good.

    This entire situation is being exacerbated by:
    a – EA continuing to lie to cover up earlier lies
    b – Maxis employees breaking rank and leaking code etc
    c – EA coming down on their customers using ToS

    This upsets me as a 20 year fan of the series. And this is a key AAA title for PC.

    It is however incredibly entertaining.

    • Premium User Badge

      tumbleworld says:

      You’ve hit the nail on the head, Bob. This whole insane farce is some of the best gaming-related fun I’ve had in weeks!

    • Wut The Melon says:

      You forgot z: customers are still buying (and, occasionally, enjoying) the game. I very much doubt that delivering a broken product, lying in marketing and the like would have so little in the way of legal/financial consequences for Maxis/EA as they would in any other industry.

      Seeing cases like this one or the PS3 release of Skyrim going pretty much unpunished reminds me that the video games industry still isn’t mature in some other ways as well.

      • JaminBob says:

        Wonder if we’ll ever find out. I’d be very depressed if they still make oodles of cash after the contempt they have shown for their own customers.

        • Wut The Melon says:

          Let me put it this way: among my friends, there are a couple who are interested in Sim City. They are all aware of the BS going on. They have also all bought the game legally and do not regret doing so, despite me trying to convince them they should.

    • Giuseppe says:

      I’d also add that this always online DRM, as an anti-piracy measure, seems to be a bit of a failure too. I’m convinced that sooner rather than later a working pirated version will exist and, with modding, the game will also support a true single-player mode. Basically you’ll end up with a working* SimCity, minus the multiplayer part which I’m convinced plenty of SimCity fans aren’t really that interested in. I know I’m certainly not interested in the “social” aspect of this game.

      *working, of course, withing the limitations and bugs of the simulation engine.

      • The Random One says:

        EA is more concerned with the first few weeks’ sales, though, because of how videogame finances work (have I told you about my electronica band, Videogame Finances?). If at this point there’s no working pirate version they consider it a victory.

      • analydilatedcorporatestyle says:

        Would any sane person run a ‘cracked’ .exe from a torrent?

        I do believe that there will be something appearing soon but what payload will it contain??????

    • bill says:

      Plus:
      a – All the reviews at release gave it 9/10 or 10/10 so the metacritic score was great.
      b – All the reviews a week later gave it bad scores and mentioned all the bugs so the metacritic score plummeted.
      c – EA didn’t really care as they’d already succeeded in selling a bucket load.
      -c-1 – Quality of game doesn’t affect sales remotely. (see also Colonial Marines)
      -c-2 – Maxis aren’t going to get their metacritic bonuses.
      -c-3 – Many reviewers totally failed in performing their basic function.

      • Herbert says:

        All those 9/10 and 10/10 reviews reek of doritos and mountain dew.
        A glaring beacon for any average consumer which screams ‘ Do not read our publications, the scores are most likely bought. ‘

        • Giuseppe says:

          Except lots of people see those reviews and go “It’s got a 9.5 from Polygon. It must be great. I have to buy this!” It doesn’t matter that a professional reviewer like Polygon throws 9s and 10s left, right and center at practically every major title. It doesn’t matter that a few days after release they somehow felt the need for a knee-jerk reaction and dropped the rating for SimCity to 4. Many people reading the pre-release review still thought it was a magnificent game that should be bought as soon as possible.

          It doesn’t matter that there are publications where a 7 is the lowest you’re likely to see for a major title. and often a grade like 7.9 means “It’s crap, but we’re not allowed to say it, so we just gave it the highest grade below 8.” I’m not sure I share this idea that the average consumer is smart enough to see through things like this.

          • SouperMattie says:

            You are certainly correct that the average consumer probably won’t notice the systemic issues with video games rating systems. I’d stop short of saying “not smart enough” – probably more likely that they just don’t feel like spending their spare time worrying about this sort of thing; time that could be spent actually playing video games. We, on the other hand, *do* worry about these issues :)

            Metacritic is extremely flawed – not just in the way that it works, but even more so in the way that most people use it. Note that on the metacritic site, it still has the Polygon score as ’95’, so they obviously don’t check very often (if at all?!) to see if a critic review rating has changed. How many people will assume this is the official Polygon score, and not even click through to the actual review?

            Regarding the Polygon rating drop, I haven’t read their other reviews, but I don’t think their Simcity review updates were necessarily a knee-jerk reaction – my impression was that they wanted their ‘current’ score to reflect the quality of the game *at the time*, instead of when they initially reviewed it in their protected artificial pre-release environment. I don’t see anything wrong with that; in fact I wish more places would re-evaluate their initial ratings, especially for online games where patches can make significant changes to gameplay. I suppose you *could* argue that ‘4’ is a pretty harsh drop from 9.5.

          • El_Emmental says:

            @SouperMattie

            The problem with edited/re-evaluated game reviews is how you “market” them to your readers – unless you transform it into a whole new “news”, people don’t care about it.

            If you edit it out silently, less than 5% of your readers will notice it.

            If you mention it “Also, we updated the score of Game_A to 4/10″, less than 15% will notice it.

            If you make an entire news “Hey, watch out ! Game_A is actually crap, we updated its score to 4/10 – check the news for all the details on that scam !”, you’ll get a bigger % of your readership noticing it, but it will really hurt the publishers: you’ll be blacklisted and maybe receive a letter from their lawyers.

            Re-evaluating reviews is often not worth it (sadly), as the novelty effect is just too strong among your readers.

  4. DJ0JJ says:

    Maxis: Bad Developer of the Year.

    • Sakkura says:

      EA: Bad publisher of the millennium.

      • Wut The Melon says:

        They will read this comment in 2773 and despise you for it. You know, when a different game publisher will have taken over the solar system and all humans are slaves working on QA. Because in the future, those shareholders will have gotten hold of the notion that non-broken games work better, after centuries of RPS-lings complaining about all the broken rubbish some game publishers deliver.

        Oh, the irony…

    • Archipelagos says:

      Gearbox are a close second!

    • codename_bloodfist says:

      Maxis is dead, Jim. http://i.imgur.com/fU0Mj4i.jpg

      • ulix says:

        That graphic is bullshit though.

        Criterion made Burnout Paradise which came out in 2008 and was amazing. Need for Speed Hot Pursuit was okay as well.

        DICE released Mirror’s Edge in 2008, which not only was amazing (althogh too short and sadly without modding suppurt) but also very innovative.

        Other games they’re leaving out are debatable as well, since many of them were still great.

        • codename_bloodfist says:

          Spot on! Dragon Age 2 was pretty great too.

        • Klaus says:

          Hmm, I think the games listed are just games developed by the companies. It is not saying the games listed are mediocre just the developer will eventually make mediocre games.

  5. Commissar Choy says:

    Are we back to calling this a mod or crack or hack?

    • Hahaha says:

      Nice to see RPS supporting the use of cracks

      • SkittleDiddler says:

        It is pretty refreshing, isn’t it?

        • Hahaha says:

          Indeed, I am eagerly awaiting the latest news from the scene.

          • SkittleDiddler says:

            No, you aren’t.

          • Hahaha says:

            I kinda am, I can’t be arsed finding the latest releases half the time so miss out on a lot of cracktros :(

      • PopeRatzo says:

        You understand the difference between “supporting” and “reporting”?

        The think that is being “supported” here is the notion that Maxis has thrown away a whole lot of good will and may have just killed off a major IP. Strangled by greed and hostility to customers, they will be.

        • Hahaha says:

          I’m all good with RPS reporting on the latest cracks, would save me sometime looking for new cracktros.

          ot
          Wouldn’t it be amusing if simcity 4 topped the charts

          • PopeRatzo says:

            I don’t think there’s much chance of SimCity “topping the charts” at the same time a new Tomb Raider came out and 10 days before a new BioShock.

            I hope the Maxis staff are polishing their resumes.

            I just noticed someone downthread has commented that he expects to see the game go F2P before long. I don’t know if Maxis has enough confidence in their game for that to happen, but I’m pretty sure that at very least there will be some very good deals on SimCity before very long. This is not one of the games for which you pay full price.

          • Hahaha says:

            I know, would show what the consumer wants though, is sad that hype will win out again.

          • Leaufai says:

            Amazon, or some other site I’m not sure, is already putting it on sale.

    • Mr.Crack says:

      Is it a hack? Is it a mod? No, it’s mock.

      • Dr_Barnowl says:

        Actually a very apt name – a mock object is a term for a piece of code that stands in for a real service for testing purposes here in programmer land. Usually they replace something complex and expensive to set up, but in this case it sounds as if both implementations are nearly equivalent.

        • scatterlogical says:

          So by that definition, the whole of SimCity is a mock object – a stand-in for the real game that was too complex and expensive for them to set up. Sounds about right.

      • The Random One says:

        Rods and mockers.

    • mrmalodor says:

      No, we’ll call it FREEDOM

    • PopeRatzo says:

      Let’s just call it a “fix”.

      Maybe an “unauthorized patch”?

      • Tei says:

        Have you guys seen the movie BRAZIL.?, this could be a “rogue repair”, like in the movie.

        hack is a quality califier, not a legal or moral one. mod is several human rights put to practice. something can be both a hack and a mod. only plug and play and a sdk let mods be not-hacks.

    • SuicideKing says:

      MODFACE!
      No, CRACKFACE!
      No, HACKFACE!

      NO! IT ARE WIGGLYFACE!

  6. S Jay says:

    DREAM: EA/Maxis throw the towel and release an offline mode + slider to adjust city size. Massive rush to buy SimCity happens, Steam almost crashes due to the number of players. Always-on DRM is forever scrapped and is now referred as “the crazy thing”.

    • Premium User Badge

      RedViv says:

      BUT BUT BUT THINK OF THE POOR SHAREHOLDERS! They’d be grandly confused by someone admitting mistakes. That just does not happen!

      Seriously though… Traffic seems to have been really easily patched. If they’d just put that effort into making the game available offline, maybe people could calm down about RPS being ruined forever by these daily SC reports.

      • Giuseppe says:

        People are worried that RPS is gonna be ruined forever by these SC articles? I have been enjoying them so much I didn’t notice this.

        • Hazz-JB says:

          It wouldn’t be the first time that people dislike this much fervency on principle, even when it’s justified. Perhaps people are just too used to gaming journalism being a promotional tool for the industry and nothing else.

          • Giuseppe says:

            Right. Question is: is this actually happening? I may not read all the comments, so maybe I somehow missed all this, but I haven’t noticed that many people complaining about these articles. If anything, RPS is writing these articles, in part, because there is a demand for such fervency on this subject, and not in spite of a demand for the contrary.

          • TsunamiWombat says:

            I’ve noticed a couple people complaining. Go figure.

          • Swanny says:

            There are a few complaining, but i personally believe RPS should push this as hard as possible. For a couple of reasons, really. One, that they’re not bought-and-paid-for like most of the games media, and second, because goddamn, someone’s got to be the first one out of the trenches in this DRM battle.

          • Giuseppe says:

            Indeed. I’d hate to end up in some sort of Orwellian society where everyone is all to happy to be duped into thinking that measures that essentially limit their rights as consumers are somehow meant to be for their benefit.

            Strictly regarding SimCity games: I can easily play the original SimCity, a 24 year old game. The same is true for SimCity 2000 – a 19 year old game, SimCity 3000 – a 14 year old game, and SimCity 4 – a 10 year old game. However, the new SimCity, a game which you now buy for 60 bucks, will be dead and buried the moment EA decides to pull the plug. That’s perfectly fine for an MMO, but this game is no MMO, despite “newspeak” attempts to weave the truth into fitting that idea. The fact that you can even play the game all by yourself, essentially single player, in private regions is proof of that. Where the hell does “massively multiplayer” even fit into this? 8 other players is “massive”? All of the “social” online elements in this game basically boil down to EA’s desire to have absolute control over its customers, without question.

            Sorry… I was beginning to rant. Truth is, I can understand people that simply don’t care about this; what I don’t understand is people trying to somehow justify what’s happening.

        • El_Emmental says:

          Don’t worry, it’s just a Walker Thing :P

          Nah really, like in every good show you’ve got different characters, each with their own personality.

          Here J.Walker is the apparently-calm man, who goes into his “This is unacceptable !” mode whenever an occasion arose, gathering a bunch of a crowd at 2 am to wake up the culprit in the middle of the night, asking him/her to explain himself/herself over a recent problem, and when (s)he fails to do so, shout, whistle and boo until the thing isn’t funny anymore.

          Some people aren’t too happy with it (happy customers of Origin, happy-few players of UbiDRM games, etc), but on the overall I think such campaigning is positive: it forces companies (especially publishers) to keep an eye out regarding criticism and go a little further than the usual PR-damage-control routine.

          Our dear Walker should make sure he isn’t falling into some kind of populism and yellow journalism though – it would be a shame to see him disappear.

    • mrmalodor says:

      I think they’re quite likely to go F2P at some point.

  7. mr.ioes says:

    Lucy Bradshaw, Randy Pitchfork, Jay Wilson.
    I just wanted to see these three names together for once. They would make a great trio.

    • Hoaxfish says:

      Have they ever been seen in the same place at the same time?

      • Premium User Badge

        RedViv says:

        Hey leave the poor lizard people alone they only want to live the only way they know how.

        • Wut The Melon says:

          (Y)Ikes! The defenders of the lizard people have invaded even RPS! You have gone too far! (On a side note: I keep forgetting whether it’s your (British) or the our (Dutch) royalty that’s lizards, or are they both?)

      • woodsey says:

        My God… you don’t think… surely not… THEY’RE THE SAME PERSON!

    • guygodbois00 says:

      I would add my personal favorite Robert A. Kotick. He’s the one half of a reason why I’m not playing anything Activision Blizzard. The man does not even play games, for chrissakes.

      • Giuseppe says:

        The guy is so into the whole gaming scene that he has time to be on the freakin’ board of directors at Coca-Cola too.

        • El_Emmental says:

          See ? He isn’t making any effort !

          If he was at least playing his own CoD once a month he would be on the Mountain Dew board (owned by PepsiCo) and the Doritos’ (owned by PepsiCo too) one, not on the Coca Cola board…

    • SkittleDiddler says:

      “And together, they formed a supervillain team called…THE LEGION OF DUMB!!!”

      • Hoaxfish says:

        known internally as “The Heroic Legion of Super-Truth”

    • faelnor says:

      Don’t leave out poor Cevat!

  8. v.dog says:

    The problem is EA just doesn’t care. They’ve been caught lying time and time again, but since people are still giving them money, what does it matter?

    To them we are just agents giving them resources.

  9. Tacroy says:

    Wow, really, the most damning thing here to me is that they’re actually trying to use MySQL on something as high-volume as the newest SimCity.

    Did they even consider asking an experienced database administrator how to set things up, or did they just let the programmers do whatever the hell they wanted?

    • vigilvindex says:

      There is nothing wrong with MySQL, if it is implemented properly.

    • Lemming says:

      It honestly wouldn’t have surprised me if they were using MS Access.

    • crinkles esq. says:

      Yeah, I had to laugh when I read that. MySQL would be near the last of my choices for an application with 1000s of simultaneous connections. Data integrity is not something it excels at.

    • Premium User Badge

      LarsBR says:

      There’s almost no way our friend Azzer can know whether EA runs MySQL on the server (EA has in the past had scaling problems due to running an Oracle setup for most/all their games), so that seems to be fairly ill-advised speculation on his part.

      Certainly the client won’t be running a MySQL setup locally, nor would it talk directly to a MySQL server via the net. While the rest of what Azzer said makes sense, this was a huge blot on his credibility as far as I am concerned.

      • Lemming says:

        If he can see the code that’s sending the info back and forth, he can tell if its SQL. It’s got a very easy to recognise language.

        • Premium User Badge

          darkChozo says:

          SQL != MySQL

          That being said, all the various SQL implementations tend to have their own little syntactical idiosyncrasies, so it’s possible to tell them apart if you have enough queries and know what you’re talking about (I don’t <_<).

          EDIT: Not that the client should be sending raw queries to the server to begin with. That’s what we call a slight security issue.

          • JabbleWok says:

            If there’s an identifiable driver, that should be enough of a giveaway. Even if it’s embedded, there should still be clues as to what DB it connects to. On the other hand it should be possible for the devs to obfuscate all commands & data and use middleware at the server end so that the DB is not identifiable, but that would take more effort than, say, getting roads in the game to work properly.

            So I do think it’s feasible that they were able to tell if it’s MySQL.

      • AzzerUK says:

        My fault entirely, NOT the fault of John. I posted a couple of quick clarifications about an hour ago on the Reddit discussion about this, if you want to read it. I’ve been trying to be as open and forthright as I can at all times.
        http://www.reddit.com/r/SimCity/comments/1afbwa/simcity_modder_tells_us_offline_regional_play/

  10. Chronos1985 says:

    I would kill to see an article here at RPS about relationships between publishers and developers, and the process that happen behind closed doors between the two. Reading articles like this, and stories like Obsidian and Bioware founders stepping down makes me wonder if Maxis was -really- happy with this idea all along, or EA possibly strong armed them to implement it. Because Maxis MUST know they are and were bad concepts, I just don’t understand their logic unless it’s them not biting the hand that feeds, that is EA, so they continue defending their poor choices.

    I am very naive on the behind the scene relationships of developer/publisher, but I would really love to see a piece on this subject even if it’s from anonymous developer sources.

    • Bhazor says:

      I don’t think for a single second it was Maxis who made always online mandatory. I can’t imagine any developer willfully crippling their game like that.

      The fact we’ve already had one Maxis insider come out against the claims tells me EA forced it on them. Or at the very least there were some in Maxis who didn’t support it.

      • Giuseppe says:

        It wouldn’t surprise me if there were plenty of people at Maxis that are pretty pissed at EA right now.

        • El_Emmental says:

          Not really “pissed”, such things happen all the time in the VG industry – it’s just that this time it’s very visible on the consumers’ side.

          Plenty of features/design are changed at the last minute by publishers, and you have to deal with it – developers learn to cope with the humiliation and frustration pretty fast (well, they have to).

      • That Lamer says:

        I’d be surprised if maxis didn’t go along willingly. They’ve been owned for so long by EA I can’t imagine EA hasn’t weasled stooges into command positions who willingly bend over for them. This would also be confirmed by Lucy Bradshaw who assured us this was on maxis, not EA. By her own account, there was no coercion whatsoever. Which means some fucking idiot nodded enthusiastically while EA sent down the order.

    • Consumatopia says:

      My suspicion is that Maxis was on board with it, at least in the beginning, because always-on DRM is part of a larger story that makes sense on paper in a way that I can imagine appeals to sim designers.

      SimCity offers a more detailed simulation of a smaller city (a small town, really), with those smaller cities cooperating through interconnections to other cities in a region as run on EA’s servers. So, on paper, it’s not just always-online DRM, it’s enabling a new kind of game. I imagine that this was part of SimCity’s design process from the very beginning–that EA never would have put any resources into making SimCity if always-online DRM wasn’t part of the story from the start.

      In reality (well, actually, observers were guessing this would be the case for some time before release), that wasn’t true. The asynchronous interaction between cities is neither engaging (like Zynga without a Skinner Box) nor technically difficult to replace. The end result is such a mess that surely a lot of people working on it must have realized that, but who’s to say how soon?

    • Shuck says:

      “I would kill to see an article here at RPS about relationships between publishers and developers”
      There’s nothing really that can be said in general about that relationship, as it varies so much. (Within the group of developers published by EA, there’s not a lot of consistency, and even Maxis’ relationship with EA has apparently changed quite a bit over time.) In general, it can be anything from a nightmare where the publisher is dictating everything down to the minutia of game design (while simultaneously punishing the developer for actually implementing what they insisted on) to the publisher throwing money at the developer and letting them do whatever they want (this almost never happens, however).

    • Zogtee says:

      Me, I would like see how pulling Crysis 2 from Steam affected sales.

    • D3xter says:

      This would probably be a good start for something like that: http://www.eurogamer.net/articles/2012-05-04-free-radical-vs-the-monsters

      Unfortunately everything you’re going to hear is in past tense, and at that point near to nothing will be able to be corroborated.

      Most broader business decisions like “we are going to make this game a platform”, Always-Online DRM (or any kind of DRM usually), Online Passes or mantras like “We have to make our game online connective/social/blah” and “All our games have to have a Multiplayer mode” are most likely passed down from management.
      Single (game) design decisions like how to implement the AI or how much the maximum population etc. is are down to the developer.

  11. nERVEcenter says:

    Everything I postulated while watching a friend play last night. He has a private region for himself where he’s using his various cities to share resources, and it seemed like exactly the implementation SimCity 4 had, with the caveat that the game is checking with the server on a timer. Everything I was looking at was clearly client-side save for the moment when he tried to start a new city and the game hung for 30 seconds as it temporarily lost connection to the server.

    This game was probably released earlier than Maxis wanted; by the sloppy SQL implementation it was probably EA suits who brought down the always-online element last-minute, since there’s no excuse for shitty client-server communication with a budget that goddamn big; and it’s become very easy for experts to yank back the covers on the systems and show the world what’s going down. Sounds like, GASP, the work of a company answering to a board of directors representing a collection of investors with very little actual investment in the products themselves.

    STOP giving EA all your goddamn money, people.

    • tyren says:

      I doubt the internet connection thing was “last-minute” considering how long we’ve known about it, but you’re probably right about the rest of it. Even if it wasn’t “last-minute,” I don’t doubt they wanted more time to work on the game on both the client side and the server’s than they got.

  12. dsch says:

    That region play sounds oddly familiar. Oh yeah, it’s exactly the same system used in SimCity 4, that totally obsolete single-player game.

    Lucy Bradshaw and Erik Reynolds are so full of shit. They built a tower of shit under themselves so high they can’t even climb down gracefully, except fall into a pile of shit.

  13. trjp says:

    As someone who spent 15 years developing client-server software I’ll let you in on a secret.

    If you have 1000s or 10s of 1000s of clients, you cannot really offload much from those clients because you’d need a server the size of a small town.

    Sim City has MILLIONS of players (or at least it would have if it was working) which means the most any server architecture would be attempting to do is pass around information and synchronize stuff between the clients.

    Anything else – any offloading of gameplay coding or calculations would require a supercomputer the size of a small moon.

    It’s worth noting that just synchronizing multiplayer games is a big task tho – the work which the servers for games like WoW do is bloody complex, WoW actually offloads quite a bit of decision making to it’s servers to make it harder to cheat, but still doesn’t really do any ‘processing’ in the traditional sense of the word.

    Summary: I cannot honestly see what SC’s servers would be doing above and beyond some synchronisation, data sharing, randomisation and anti-cheat/sanity checking – oh and they are also acting as licensing servers of course ;)

    • Ande says:

      That’s no moon. It’s a space station.

    • Azhrarn says:

      EVE Online’s servers do almost all of the calculations for it’s players (peak concurrence is around 80k these days). The game client is very much a dumb terminal. :)

      The end result of this offloading is that Tranquility (EVE’s primary server) consists of 90-100 IBM Server Blades for the star systems, an IBM x3850 M2 server for the main database supported by 4 RAMSAN solid state drives and another 16 Blades dedicated to serving the connections for the players to the server itself. :)

      The star system blades (4 SOL nodes per Blade) do all the heavy lifting in EVE. :)

      Low load systems hardly require any resources and many star systems can run on a single SOL node simultaneously, but on request heavy load systems get offloaded to dedicated blades to handle the massive increase in computational load that comes with cramming several thousand users into a single star system. ^_^

      Scaling it up to millions of players concurrent would require an awful lot of space. xD

      • buzzmong says:

        Just to expand upon it with some numbers, the most populous system in EVE is a place called Jita. It is run on its own special node that’s dedicated solely to it, and it currently has a player cap of 2500 concurrent players.

        It’s rather a lot of processing power being thrown at just 2500 clients considering the specs of the Blades.

  14. DickSocrates says:

    Boycott all future EA products. That simple. That’s how the powerless (us, the filthy consumer) takes back the power it is giving EA.

    EA’s entire business model is based on the realisation that the consumer is a moron who willingly collaborates in his or her own exploitation. “Me no like you, but me like shiny thing more.” This being a fact, EA pushes idiot consumer as far as possible (which is seemingly and infinite distance.)

    Push back. Don’t buy the next EA product. Have some self respect for flip’s sake. Or is the allure of the next shiny beepy thing too much for you?

    • Hahaha says:

      YEAH BOYCOTT EA……oh shit simcity 4 is published by EA and simcity 4 is good and what people want more of ARGHHHHHH

      • TsunamiWombat says:

        So do without.

        Honestly we need a consumer action group pushing for the next crash. It’s clear the publishers have made themselves the enemies of the consumer. Let them go out of business, let the studios burn. Let it come crashing down. Let copies of Modern Warfare plug landfills, let the servers be silent.

        The only way to save gaming is to kill it. Gaming is dead, long live gaming.

        • Hahaha says:

          So we send the message we hate all the games they publish/make? sounds backwards to me.

          Buying games that you want to see more of is a good way of getting them made, more people just buy shit so shit gets made.

          The way to save gaming is to buy the games you like and want to see more of at a good price instead of waiting for it to go on sale for 75% or in to a bundle.

          http://i.imgur.com/saSKs6q.jpg
          lol

          • Runs With Foxes says:

            So we send the message we hate all the games they publish/make?

            Considering 99% of them are total shit, yes, their death sounds like a good plan.

          • Hahaha says:

            So you support that one percent

  15. DJ0JJ says:

    I wonder if EA PR department got enough energy or they will just LIE down…

  16. Lemming says:

    The icing on the cake is going to be if someone discovers the reason their servers are struggling with these simple ‘calculations’ is that they are piggy-backed on megabytes of data-mining.

    Then, then I will break my funny bone.

  17. mr.ioes says:

    next up: EA actively employs astroturfing company: click me.
    Fake Post on Bradshaw’s Blog
    Astroturfing Company

  18. Bowbox says:

    Please keep writing articles about this stupidity that is EA/Maxis!
    Im enjoying the universal bashing of this publisher!

  19. 22raoulduke says:

    John, I hope I never piss you off. Absolutely relentless journalism, loving it :-D

  20. bar10dr says:

    So if all the data is in clear text can’t you just set up a server app and pretend to be the server? Grab all the save data and feed the same data back when asked for?

    Its so retarded that I’m tempted to think Maxis made it so easy to hack by design (Apply with EA’s demands, but make it easy to circumvent).

    • AzzerUK says:

      In short, yes, this is exactly what you could do, if you were that way inclined.

  21. Prime says:

    Lies, lies, lies, spin, bullshit….

    The brobdingnagian contempt they’ve shown for their customers is completely appalling. Not only in the way they hyped the game to us (reminiscent of id software’s PC-flattering tactics used to promote Rage) but in the non-human, despicably corporate way they’re trying to manage the fallout.

    I wasn’t all that interested in purchasing Simcity at any point but watching this story develop over the last few months, and particularly in the last two weeks, has all-but convinced me that in addition to my avoiding Origin I am probably going to avoid EA altogether in future. EA have been given more chances to reform (or at the very least prove they’re not sucking Satan’s love-meat) than they deserve; time to start telling them their brand of business is simply no longer welcome. We can also add Maxis to the long list of companies swallowed by EA and destroyed in everything but name. RIP, Maxis of old.

    Fuck corporate gaming. Fuck EA. Challenge everything? Time to start challenging EA’s need to even exist.

    • PedroBraz says:

      Challenge everything

      That thrase take a whole new meaning these days. The law, consumer rights, decency etc.

  22. mr.ioes says:

    next up: EA actively employs astroturfing company: click me.
    Fake Post on Bradshaw’s Blog
    Astroturfing Company

    • Cryptoshrimp says:

      Man, that company might be the devil, but it sure is a pretty site.

    • DJ0JJ says:

      HAHAHA didn’t saw the first link till now and I am convinced that the EA/Maxis PR department its run by an Bot or a very bad team.

    • Bhazor says:

      OK, wow.

      I honestly thought “astroturfing” and “PR drones” were pure paranoia. But to see a company outright boasting about their success at hijacking threads.

      Wow.

      You’d hope they’d at least be discrete about it.

      • Koozer says:

        What’s more depressing is seeing their clients section. Seems like everyone and their dog is doing it. The optimist in me hopes that most companies only use them to set up their only-slightly-horrible Facebook pages and Twitter accounts by spamming people with ads and invites.

        • Sheng-ji says:

          Can’t we just monitor their IP addresses and have forums blanket ban ones they use?

          • Aedrill says:

            I’m guessing that a lot, if not most of their employees work from homes, so scanning IP will give you nothing.

      • Dozer says:

        Discreet: to be careful about what is revealed

        Discrete: data which comes in lumps (like coins), not continuously (like time, distance, temperature).

    • Prime says:

      Sickening. This shit needs to die.

  23. 8-Bit-Dick says:

    Meanwhile in Cities XL….

  24. ananasblau says:

    An hour to implement the savegames on the client side? I very much doubt that. The feature would need to a lot of meetings, QA and of course certification from whatever OS manufacturer thinks is so important that they need to control third-party-software. That all will take weeks if not months.

    • ScubaMonster says:

      You act as if save game data is difficult. I highly doubt you need some long bureaucratic process just to make a save file.

      • Premium User Badge

        jrodman says:

        I think he was mocking company process as being idiotic, not saying it’s actually difficult?

      • Baines says:

        I believe you, and the others replying, missed the sarcasm.

        After a fashion, EA Maxis isn’t lying when they say it would take significant time and effort for them to enable offline, because they’d have to do it within their own bureaucracy. And if it is something that someone doesn’t want done, well, that just means that much more bureaucracy gets applied or even invented to stop or delay it.

    • TechnicalBen says:

      Certification? Your saying this game does not already save to HDD? Wah?!

      • Unrein says:

        It does, but only temporarily until it can be uploaded to the cloud.

    • AaronLee says:

      Certifications from the OS manufacturer?

      Dude, I can add functional savegames into a game with 2 to 3 lines of code and no go-ahead. File I/O packages are par for the course for windows and, likely, the other OSes. No one flips a giblet if a game uses the fielsystem to store savedata or not, that’s what it’s there for.

    • El_Emmental says:

      This.

      There isn’t a single person at EA or Maxis who can, right now, make a decision.

      And the very few people who technically *could* do that, won’t, because they’re too afraid of making the wrong choice and losing their promotion/job.

      A shared-failure is less harmful than an individual failure for your career: you can always blame the lower-rank employees for your mistakes.

      That’s why no one stepped up, said sorry for the inconvenience, and authorized the release of an offline mode, while giving clues about the next patch fixing all the crap (about pathfinding, citizens’ individuality, etc).

      Such decisions involve risk, and businessmen hate risk.

      (ps: a few people should recharge their sarcasm-o-meter :P)

  25. ScubaMonster says:

    So EA is the Fox News of gaming.

    • Lagwolf says:

      Impressed by the idiocy of that comment. You don’t pay for Fox News for one thing & you can chose not to watch it.

      • codename_bloodfist says:

        Are you implying that you actually pay for EA’s games? Joke’s on you. ʕ •ᴥ•ʔ

      • Alan Smithee says:

        As I am impressed by the ignorance of your comment, Lagwolf. In the UK for example one needs to subscribe to a cable/satellite/corporate-propaganda service such as SKY to watch child-like brainwashing “services” such as Fox News. So no, it isn’t “free” here. Not that I would ever stoop so low as to actually give Rupert Murdoch or his criminal minions a single penny of my hard earned money myself but I am at least aware it exists. Many of us free thinking individuals who are able to think for ourselves have been boycotting the likes of SKY/FOX for years, just as we now boycott the likes of EA and Ubisoft. Sorry to inform you that we are we are NOT “consumers”. We are free citizens; discerning customers of quality products. We can therefore choose to boycott EA. So I think his/her “idiotic” comparison to the proven liars at Fox News hits the nail rather well on the head actually?

  26. return0 says:

    From the SimCity forums: “Hi everyone — due to EA’s ToS we cannot allow threads discussing hacking/modifying the game. Thanks for understanding.”

    Ok, so talking about mods violatates EA’s ToS. This is really disappointing, because Mass Effect has a dedicated modding community that has produced, among other things, some spectacular high-res textures for the PC version. Since Mass Effect is an EA game and Bioware is an EA subsidiary, there’s no way Bioware would continue to allow talk of ToS violations on the official forums, right?

    Mass Effect 3 Modding Thread

    Everything’s status quo, with the last post written 4 hours ago.

  27. JoeGuy says:

    This is getting to the point of being so overtly scandalous I think a Hollywood type might try making a sex tape with EA for the exposure tbh.

  28. Stackler says:

    F this game. I’m from Germany, a country with very strong consumer rights, so my refund is already on its way. This blatant lying and bullshitting is absolutely disgusting and I’m sick of this. Maxis doesn’t give a fuck about their customers. Please people: get refunds and show EA and Maxis that gamers are not stupid lemmings. These corporate idiots need to be stopped! Thanks RPS for your journalism efforts. THIS is what I expect from a lot more gaming magazines but most of them are just retelling the publishers PR bullshit.

    • Giuseppe says:

      Good for you! (and I’m saying this with absolutely no sarcasm/irony)

    • AlienMind says:

      Congratulations for taking the red pill

    • Premium User Badge

      Cinek says:

      Sometimes I wish whole world would be at least as good in defending it’s customers-citizens as the Germany.

      • Giuseppe says:

        I’m sure that in most countries in the EU a refund shouldn’t be too difficult to get.

  29. TCM says:

    That’s some Orwellian bullcrap right there.

    I am normally very moderate (to the point of defending EA from idiotic crusades against EVIL CORPORATION!!!1) when it comes to EA’s business practices, but this is the most absolutely scummy way of managing fallout from a blown launch I can imagine.

  30. wulfgar_red says:

    “The Library of Congress has ruled that modding games purchased from March 2013 is no longer legal.”

    • DJ0JJ says:

      If that ever happens people will know for sure when the gaming dystopia started…
      Imagine the US market without games from good developers/publishers.

    • return0 says:

      I’m assuming this is sarcasm, but technically mods have always been a copyright violation in the US. Under US copyright law, by creating a mod, you are creating a derivative work without permission, and you could theoretically be sued for copyright infringement (See Micro Star v. FormGen, Inc.). Realistically, modding for fun without explicit permission is likely protected under a few defenses, such as fair use and estoppel, so most modders probably don’t need to worry about being hauled into court.

      Disclaimer: This is not intended as legal advice, and if you are thinking about taking such advice from a random internet comment then you are a complete idiot.

      • Strangerator says:

        Modding is ok because modders aren’t selling anything, or disabling security features of a game. In the case you linked, they were bundling user-created content mods and selling them, which is a no-no.

        In the Sim City case the modder is providing a work around to the game’s constant DRM security measure, which could thus be treated more like a “hack.” It’s a bit comical to see people hacking a game in order to be able to play it properly.

        I actually think people shouldn’t be hacking to play SimCity. You should simply ignore its existence.

        • return0 says:

          Morally, I agree with you, but copyright law and what’s morally right do not always go hand-in-hand. This is going to be a rough explanation, but copyright law under 17 USC § 106(2) gives authors the exclusive right to control derivative works, or works created by transforming, recasting, or adapting an original work. This is separate from the rights of reproduction (copying a work) and distribution (selling or transferring a work). Often more than one of these rights are implicated at a time, but that does not have to be the case. Modding a game probably qualifies as the creation of a derivative work of that game, regardless of whether or not it is sold. Creating a mod and giving it away for free is more than likely fair use, but fair use is determined on a case-by-case basis at trial.

          As far as hacking games, if the hack is circumventing DRM, it’s running afoul of the DMCA anti-circumvention provisions (17 USC § 1201), which is another matter entirely.

      • Premium User Badge

        jrodman says:

        That’s not what a derivative work is.

        If someone alters an existing thing into a new thing, the decision as to whether it should be considered a derivative work or not is a legal gray area. If little is changed, such as changing character names in a novel, it would definitely be a derivative work. If much is changed, such as re imagining someone else’s character in an entirely new seting then it is not usually a derivative work (though use of the character has other issues.)

        Then there are cases where perhaps much is not changed, but the existing elements are used in the construction of a completely different work at another level. For example, if I take frames from famous movies and make a new animation by stitching them together entirely differently, it is not a derivative work. The original creators might still be able to insist that I am infringing their copyrights by appropriating the images, but the work itself is not going to be considered derivative.

        Meanwhile MODs, whether derivative or not, aren’t going to be blocked because of a technology issue. mods are delivered as a set of alterations to an existing work. That is, people send you only the parts of the original work that they modified, and then you the user apply this modification to your original work yourself. So the changed, possibly infringing, result is created by the end user as a combination of these two items. If the combined work was to be redistributed, it would of course run afoul of the copyright limitations placed on the commercial half. But since these combined works are not redistributed (we wouldn’t use the word ‘mod’ for that), there’s no issue.

        • return0 says:

          I think we’re in agreement here on what a derivative work is, though I think we may be thinking about mods differently. I was thinking about mods that change on aspect of the game such as texture mods, not a total conversion mod, where the game is all but unrecognizable.

          The person distributing the mods would not be directly violating copyright, however I believe the end user who applies the mod would be infringing. The adaptation right and distribution rights are separate, and the specific term in § 106(2) is “prepare.” I don’t think (correct me if I’m wrong; I’m WAY too lazy to actually find a case) commercial exploitation or distribution is necessary here.

  31. AaronLee says:

    Oh my god I am squirming in joy the more EA is getting put in a vice for their stupidity!

    I honestly hope we lay as much hurt onto them for their inexplicable (except by pursuit of profit above quality at the expense of the simcity brand) actions. The more we make them regret their actions, I hope, the more likely they are to fold and give us the game we want/have already paid for.

  32. Drake Sigar says:

    *Walks off into the night*

  33. mrmalodor says:

    Please write an article about this also:
    http://www.reddit.com/r/SimCity/comments/1aeoub/warning_origin_disabled_my_legitimate_simcity_key/

    Anyone who bought SC and complained to support at any point (even if they didn’t ask for a refund) is at risk of losing their legitimately purchased copy. EA is treating all complaints as chargebacks.

  34. rustybroomhandle says:

    I guess there’s no need for a Sim City Wot I Think.

    A fan-hacked offline mode with region and save features is likely not far off. But will it run on your dad’s PC?

    • AlienMind says:

      That would be the worst thing. This would make people supporting EA by buying their broken products WITH THE KNOWLEDGE they are broken. I can already see the grin on EA CEO.

      • DJ0JJ says:

        Whats funny its that the CEO its grinning with the amount of sells SimCity 4 must be making right now…

        Actually another evil scheme: Make a bad game in a very respected series and get money by selling again the good games of the series!

  35. FurryLippedSquid says:

    I dunno, I think I enjoy a game getting a good slamming over an optimistic review.

  36. boschefreddy says:

    If you think Francisco`s story is terrific…, a month-back my boy frends sister basically easily made $8566 workin a 10 hour week in their apartment and the’re buddy’s sister`s neighbour was doing this for 5 months and made more than $8566 in there spare time on line. use the steps at this website, http://www.fly38.com

  37. daneras says:

    I’m really loving that “using new technology to realize a vision of players connected in regions to create a SimCity that captured the dynamism of the world we live in.” bit. That sentence is straight from Marketing 101 with it’s proclamation of “new technology”, “realize a vision” and “captured the dynamism of the world we live in”. Just empty buzzwords without any meaning.

  38. Jack-Dandy says:

    Flat out lying to your costumers.. Fucking disgusting.

    But, this is EA. I shouldn’t be surprised.

  39. Premium User Badge

    AlexN says:

    Thank you for covering this John! It’s probably too late to have a future where we can actually play the games that are being released today several years later, but at least someone’s drawing attention to the publishers trying to quietly turn every game into a DRM’d, online-only mess. When the servers go away or they decide you broke the EULA for modding the game, you’re just out of luck.

    I taught myself how to program by modding and dissecting how games work… Hard to imagine how that’d be a viable path these days, with all the restrictions in place.

  40. Reapy says:

    Only read the article here, also realize the EA part of maxis is full of bullshit, as usual from any EA product (can’t think of one i’ve bought in a long while), but what more would you expect from a network protocol except the bare minimum?

    What other delivery should it give? Again I’m not saying not much calculations are done, but lets pretend they were, if the idea was a thin client and saved bandwidth, you would drop the results of your cpu grinding as some numbers back and that is it. Sort of like when you talk to that iphone voice thing, it only sends you back results, not everything it had to do to take your voice and generate a result.

    I don’t know if it was tested via two clients, so you could see data out –> data in with no changes, but just sniffing the incoming packets doesn’t prove no calculations are done.

    Though honestly, pretty sure no calculations are done.

    I’m surprised people didn’t smell this bullshit from a mile away, if there is an EA in front of it, you are getting dicked for your cash one way or another, this company doesn’t even try to hide it at ALL, and hasn’t in YEARS. EA doesn’t give two fucks about you or its games, can we stop buying their shit already? Oh wait, doesn’t matter, madden will keep them afloat.

  41. Grey_Ghost says:

    Geez, and just when I thought my opinion of these companies couldn’t get any lower.

  42. BruceFnLee says:

    Don’t let up guys, we’re all counting on you. Bring the journalistic heat to EA/Maxis. Be the hero we deserve.

  43. TheNob says:

    It’s funny how many people don’t get it that this always-server-connection is mainly for the DRM purpose (a weak attempt but that’s EA problem). Secondary is the small amount of data for the exchange of region information. The webmaster of RPS could explain this fact and that it could be easily done offline. But then while registering for this website with this unnecessary captcha shit and entering s2h2o2t2g2u2n (are you guys nuts?) I recognized that he/she probably is unfit to do this.

    It is frustrating that even a John Walker makes a story out of this shitload of superficially seen SimCity facts because he has an “expert” at hand. You are not implicitly a glasser because you know how to break a window.

    Honestly thank all these shitty pirates out there for this state of affairs. Me as a developer would want to protect my software at almost all costs as well.

    “Opinion away” -.-

    PS: Linus Torwalds is right: You are all stupid and ugly. ;)

    • Lemming says:

      It’s funny how people say ‘DRM’ when in fact, DRM is a minor and convenient extra for EA. The real reason is data collection and fundamental control over what you can play and when. EA can pull the plug on this game whenever they like, (more than likely when they want to sell you SimCity 6), and there is nothing you can do about it. Say goodbye to your £40, as well as your personal marketable habits.

    • Narzhul says:

      It’s funny how you forget EA keeps claiming the reason they’re using the always-online DRM is for anything but piracy. Calling them out on their bs is good.

      And really, piracy is hardly a reason to be using that kind of DRM. You’re not gonna be able to keep pirates from cracking this, because they’re going to anyways. But you sure as hell are going to lose a lot of potential customers on this game and for future games. Not only because a lot of gamers hate that kind of crap, but also the bad rap you get from a terrible launch day/week.

      There’s a reason why Ubi stopped using this type of crap on all their games aside from Settlers 7.

      And yea, a glass breaker starts being an expert when the glass manufacturer claims their glass is unbreakable.

    • Strangerator says:

      First, this is not just about DRM. This is something foisted upon Maxis by EA. This is about changing perception to the “games as service” paradigm. Many long time gamers, myself included, believe that games should be products, not services.

      Now, think about what draconian DRM actually accomplishes. Fewer people play your game. Some of these non-players are thwarted pirates, granted, but some of these people are wary consumers. Moreover, in cases like this one, EA/Maxis are using this excuse of DRM to force gamers into “games as services.” Now, apart from witnessing Gol D Roger’s execution, what could be more inspirational for a pirate? People will feel justified or even heroic for ripping off this game.

      • Jenks says:

        “This is about changing perception to the “games as service” paradigm”

        Which is largely driven by the industry’s perceived need to combat piracy.

        • Premium User Badge

          Cinek says:

          No. It’s a need for profits. Game as service means:
          – No re-selling of the used games
          – DLCs and no modding scene
          – No base for 99% of lawsuits by people unhappy for their purchase
          – Ability to turn off the service at will (eg. When sequel arrives to force everyone into buying)

        • Brun says:

          Actually, it’s driven by the need for publishers and developers to increase margins on products that are getting more and more expensive to make. The “hardcore” market has long since stopped growing and the biggest publishers are still having difficulty penetrating the social and casual spaces in ways that are actually provide decent returns. So costs are going up, but returns aren’t keeping pace, and that’s putting the bigger companies that have to report to shareholders in a bind.

          Now, piracy prevention is a part of that puzzle (less piracy will increase your sales, leading to more profit and bigger margins), but it’s but one of many. As Cinek said above me the games-as-a-service model provides plenty of other benefits when you’re looking to increase your margins. As an example, DLC is part of the same puzzle.

          The other two obvious avenues for achieving higher margins are 1) Increasing the price of the product or 2) Reducing the cost of production. I’m heavily in favor of the latter, but apparently it’s “too hard” to do that (or rather, everyone is looking at how much pain they’d have to go through in R&D time and money that they’re still scared to take the plunge). So we’re left with the current state of affairs, or more expensive games. I think that most people would be fine with paying more for certain games, but that would have to come with some concessions from the developers, primarily it would mean that games would have to have variable price points. Some games that are currently priced at $60 aren’t worth $60, while others at that price point are probably worth more. I’m not paying $60 for something that will only entertain me for 10-12 hours. I might be inclined to pay more than that for something that will entertain me for 50+ hours, depending on quality. As it stands right now though, you have $60 games, and you have $30 games. Most of the $30 ones are games that used to be $60 and have gone through a price cut late in their lifetime. The price developers will have to pay for increasing the the price point is that there may be $80 games, but also $70, $60, $30, and $15 games, for example.

          • El_Emmental says:

            You can no longer have lower budgets, you either need to be:

            – an indie/niche title (small budget, can rely on a small market penetration (= small sales figures) to recoup and make profits, can be successful with a small marketing budget).
            /or/
            – an enormous AAA title (crazy budget, more than 50% of it is marketing, you need to reach for non-gamers so you need heavy marketing).

            All the developers and publishers stuck in the middle closed down because once you need a little bit more than indie/niche sales, you need marketing – and marketing only start working when you reach an information saturation level: anything below is almost wasted money.

            You either break that information barrier, or don’t even try to reach it. There’s no place for medium-sized projects.

  44. Panda Powered says:

    Many Bothans didn’t die to supply us with this information http://i.imgur.com/DOXiULW.png

  45. iucounu says:

    Shall I buy Sim City 4 on Steam, then? I’d like to play my first proper Simcity. This, or 3?

  46. Muzman says:

    Wahey, mods vs greasers! Although I am starting to feel like one of the little old ladies in the background, tutting away, wondering if I shouldn’t get involved in decorative plates or collectable spoons.

  47. Chris D says:

    I remember those days. I was young then, sure of my own invincibilty. Those are no ordinary women in the picture. The one of the left is Beryl Biggs the Butcher of Brighton the one on the right is Strangulation Lil. Two of the most feared enforcers of the Southend Tea Club, a criminal syndicate with branches in all british seaside towns, holding them in the icy grip of fear.

    Many of the young men thought to join their ranks, if you can’t beat them join them, and the Tea Club seemed unbeatable. What we’re witnessing here is an initiation. The prospective recruit would stand up and wait while the others would line up and take turns to kick him in the crotch.

    I tried once. Thought I was tough enough, may God forgive me. The first kick was bad, the second worse. The third was pain like you wouldn’t believe. The fourth broke me and I crawled away with their taunts ringing in my ears. Then it was the turn of the next one. I never learned his name but every year I drink to his memory while holding my crotch as a mark of respect.

    He took four kicks, then four more. I was amazed but that was just the beginning. Ten minutes passed, then twenty. Kick after kick. I was unable to look away, barely able to move at all, truth be told. There was visible swelling now, almost freakishly so, but still he stood and still they kicked.

    After what felt like days Lil stood, her features contorted in a grotesque snarl.. “Enough! No mortal could survive such an ordeal. Who are you really?” The sunglasses slipped from her face to reveal…eyes, such eyes as no human has, and no human should ever see.

    Through gritted teeth he spoke for the first time. “I know your true nature M’bakkabakka of the moon people. I know of your plans to render all human males impotent and then replace us with your own kind.. and I know how to defeat you. I have made a pact with Poseidon and now the powers of the ocean are mine.”

    Lil seemed to realise what was happening. “Nooo!” She yelled, but it was too late. Having grown impatient the lead youth resumed kicking. It made contact with testicles already swollen beyond human endurance and this fateful final kick shattered them, unleashing a veritable tsunami of salty fluids that swept all before it. The town was devastated, the gang shattered and I only survived by clinging to a bundle of risque seaside postcards until the flood subsided.

    The met office put it down to “A slightly wetter than average brittish summer” but the truth is a hero died that day to spare us from an unspeakable fate. I will always remember him with gratitude, yet when the moon is full and the tides run high I shiver and wonder how long before such horrors may descend to threaten us all again.

    • diamondmx says:

      Not just straddling the line between genius and madness, I do believe this post is doing the reverse cowgirl.

    • Zorn says:

      This story of your experienced ordeal and the ordeal the nameless hero experienced, brought a tear to my eye. Thank you for sharing this tale good sir, I shall drink to the nameless one this very eve!

  48. ragintaft says:

    This made me think of a pretty funny video that completely rips EA.
    Sim City Server Disaster

  49. Leonard H. Martin says:

    You are Stu Campbell and I claim my £10!