Some good news and some bad news about the forthcoming SimCity reboot. Good news: you won’t have to buy it through Origin, meaning there can be pricing competition. Bad news: you will have to play it through Origin, with a permanent online connection all the time. That’s some fairly bloody enormous bad news. But there is time to convince EA that while there are many merits to having your game online, there are also some vastly more dreadful downsides, and failing to recognise that would be a terrible shame.
“Always on”, whether it’s sold as DRM, or as a feature, is a disaster for PC gaming. It renders the game unusable for a significant number of gamers, and ensures inconvenience for everyone. And while we’re obviously fully behind online features improving one’s experience with a game, and delighted to play a game that’s boosted by being connected, having it be unplayable without the internet is madly and maddeningly stupid.
Joystiq reports that lead designer Stone Librande has said the always-on is necessary for the game’s “emphasis on multiplayer and regional impact, and the use of a global economy that all players can influence.” Those features sound brilliant, and when I’m in the situation to be able to use an internet connection, I’ll be delighted that they’re there. When my internet is down, when EA’s servers are playing up/being maintained, when I’m on a train or plane, when I’m at my parents’ house with their almost useless wifi, when I’m a soldier stationed in a desert, when I am unable to afford a broadband internet connection, when I live in a region where internet coverage is spotty or non-existent, when I am on my laptop outdoors… on those occasions, and for those people, it’s a mindlessly exclusionary and game-breaking choice that services no one.
The game is a way off from release, and there is still plenty of time for EA to reverse this terrible decision, and instead offer an offline mode where players miss out on some of the game’s cooler features. There’s time for you to contact EA to tell them why always-on will ruin the game experience for you. There is no need for a game with such enormously broad appeal as SimCity, far more likely to be played by less hardcore gamers who do not do so much to preserve their connectivity, to be needlessly crippled. EA – don’t do it.
You can read our preview of SimCity, to find out why it’s something we think is worth fighting for.