Column: EA Should Feel Ashamed About SimCity's DRM

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MychaelZ

The sad part is that I actually bought into their bullshit about offloading a lot of the work to EA's servers. Now, they're trying to claim that it's tied into planned future game features. Sorry, guys, but as the old adage goes, "Fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me."

Of course, considering EA has been a shitty company for years now - just another example of corporate greed run rampant, I don't really know how I could fall for their lies in the first place. I'm just glad I'm not into SimCity enough anymore to have wasted money on this new one.

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wolfing

Interesting. A few days ago someone from Maxis said that the online-only requirement is really all about DRM, that the game can be played without it. A day or so after that, a hacker found that, by changing the program's default timeout value of 20 seconds to like 10 hours, he could play the game without an internet connection for 10 hours, even better than normal gameplay as there were no issues with lag or connection hiccups. That kills EA's explanation that a lot of computations are done in their servers.

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MaximumMike

I really don't remember the last EA game I purchased, so this isn't an issue with me. As always, I vote with my wallet. And I really don't remember the last time EA earned my vote... maybe they had a game I played on the original NES? They have been the dung bin of the gaming industry as long as I can remember.

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music2myear

Funny how similar DRM and gun control are. They both pretend to be about safety, savings, and the rule of law, but all they really do is harm the law abider.

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jnwoll

hmm, I bought the game, played it for about 14 hours over 3 days. Loved it, no issues, can't wait to play again. A highly enjoyable game for me.

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Typo91

how big is your cubical at EA ?

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jnwoll

I don't work at EA. I just don't have any problems with the game. Maybe I got in after the patches and everything worked fine. There were 4 full servers when I first got into the game. So I picked one that wasn't full, and didn't have any issues. Game works fine for me.

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Thresher

The thing that really bothers me about the need for an "always on" connection for a game is that at any point, the distributor can pull the plug on the servers. Which means the game you purchased for single player only is now unable to be played.

I have tons of old games that I reinstall and play occasionally, none of them required an "always on" connection and I have no trouble at all playing them. So what happens if EA in three or four years decides to pull the plug on SimCity to get you to move on to the next version of the game? Are we just screwed then?

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West996

Well that is a good point, especially for a game like Sim City even more so then a game like Diablo IMO.

For Diablo I don't think it would be too hard for Blizzzard to patch the game so that it could be played off line. Being such a big company they also have insentive to do this to keep their customer base loyal. Not a whole lot would change if Diablo was made off line. You would just loose access to the Auction House feature, no big deal.

With Sim City however, part of what has me excited about the game, is also what would concern me should they choose to shut down the servers. The game is designed with the 'multiplayer' aspect deeply woven into the game mechanics. From economy, to your city looking to neighbouring cities for things like jobs, power, tourisum...

Sure all these things could be simulated off line, but what kind of investment would it require on the developers side to make that happen? Did they consider this eventually when designing the game in the first place?

On the upside I don't think it would be like 3 or 4 years. I think it would be a 10 year minimum. I'm not saying that is OK if after that the game goes away but that is something us PC gamers have had to deal with anyway.

There are many old games that I kept only to find out my latest OS didn't support them, maybe that is where console gaming has one up on us.

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West996

Many games require to be 'always online', all MMO's, Diablo III. That in and of itself is not the problem.

Diablo III also had a pretty smooth release.

Now look back at the BattleField 3 release also done by EA and Origin. It was terrible.

Putting your game always online is not the problem, not knowing how to do it reliably is.

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Typo91

Diablo III Smooth release????

Yea I was in that party, it was not smooth, didn't work, and in the first few weeks like untold numbers of accounts where hacked.

Blizzard blamed Trojans, user error, and other things, and never once admitted the truth, it took the user community to figure out how the hack was done, and post it online, and STILL blizzard did not admit the truth.

Which brings up a MAJOR problem with online content only games, Since all of your characters are online, they are subject to whatever vulnerabilities the service may have.

How long before people figure out how to wreck other people's cities ?

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Thresher

I am not sure which game you were playing, but Diablo III was not a smooth release. At all.

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West996

We were playing the same game, the difference is I have realistic expectations as to what a 'smooth' release is going to look like from such an anticipated release.

A little bit of down time, resets here and there, having to spam the log in server a little bit is really no big deal.

Even back in in the old days of Asheron's Call when servers only had about 3k players, there was a well known saying. "Don't play on patch day." If you did you knew you were risking random disconnects and deaths by the vicious lag beast.

Even the best battle plans means little as soon as the fighting starts. I'm sure it is not the first time you have heard that. No amount of stress testing can fully prepare of such a large scale release.

Diablo III handled it well. Despite my better judgment I got the game opening day, they offered a pre-download, so I had most of the game downloaded and installed before the servers even went up. I got to play on release day.

Did I get booted to desk top a few times an hour? Yes. Did I get stuck at the log in server sometimes and have to enter my login a few douzen times. Yes. Did I expect to have to do these things playing on release day? Yes.

Sim City launch failed I can see that. Diablo launch was fine. You just need to have realistic expectations going in.

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Thresher

What you described would have been intolerable just a few years ago. There was no need to require an always on connection for single player and the end result is what you described.

Realistic expectations? More like lowered expectations.

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West996

When World of Warcraft was released it had similar issues, in fact if you do a quick search into other popular MMO's I am willing to bet that almost every MMO with a decent sized starting player base all had login and server stability issues.

A few years ago games were not released that had player bases that started in the millions.

Are you even aware of the hardware and software infrastructure required to launch a game with millions of anticipating players all wanting to log in on the same day at the same time?

Blizzard game pretty close with both of their recent releases, Sim City didn't, that is the difference here.

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jbitzer

Protip: Diablo isn't an MMO Jackass

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West996

Double

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pratikrawankar

EA customer support sucks alot

MOH Warfighter flops bz of bugs
and EA tooks 3+ months to fix bugs even now there are many glitches+bugs in MOH Warfighter

EA will fix bugs after BF4 launched

lolz reallity

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LuigiDaddy

Great Write-up Jimmy Thang. Do you think EA/Origin will take a clue with DRM pain. I hope they take your hint with : Team Fortress 2 and Dota 2!!

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jimmthang

Thanks. And if they do take preventative piracy measures, I hope they avoid draconian measures and incorporate creative methods that rewards customers instead of punishing them.

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Opm2

The only real way to pay the bills with piracy is product placement. Would you really mind a pepsi billboard on one of your sim streets? If anything it adds to the realism.

These companies are ridiculously impedent if they think a team of a dozen coders can guard against the thousands of hackers trying to dissemble their safeguards.

It's pure numbers and the only people hurt are the customers.

On a side note EA has ruined many many franchises and they get what they deserve.

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kerndaddy

great article maximum pc, this is why i keep subscribing.

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zyco187

that ea rep took a beating. the company should not be looked bad upon when the customer is that mean. what a jerk. tell the nerd to go spend his money at the bar next time.

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acidic

they are offering a free game to anyone that activates sim city before the end of this month. no word on if you get a choice of any game or any other details. many moons ago ea was a decent company but they have turned into nothing but trash and trash games for years now. it is about quantity not quality for them. refer to my previous post if you wanna help out the kick starter game like simcity

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jgottberg

I wish I could take a hard-line stance like some of you have done and just not support (buy) any EA games but the sad fact is that they are the ONLY publisher with NFL licensing. I love football too much NOT to buy the game and Madden is the only one released with real NFL names/teams, etc.. Sucks.

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devin3627

LISTEN!!! I hope everyone is listening to me!!! Walmart, Gamestop, and everywhere else do not allow returns on PC games!!! just think about it. i feel sorry for these people, i myself have bought simcity 2000 and 3000. if i still was into that genre and series, i would be raged too. not mention they aren't getting any compensation like xbox 360 and playstation 3 (fixed DVD discs with NO CODES) get returned. NOT TO MENTION INTERNET CONNECTION IS A MANDATORY REQUIREMENT. videogame industries come up with artistic desires and intent, then the roman empire gets big and greedy and selfish. its not about the fans, but mere business. *MIDDLE FINGER TO VIDEO GAME INDUSTRY FIRMS WHO YIELD TO BUSINESS OVER CUSTOMER DEMAND!* we all know what happened to MTV. and *OH!* Firestone FUCKING KILLED PEOPLE! Even death doesn't phase the greedy businesses interests, blaming one factory instead of checking all three and ALLOWING lives to be lost for business.

i can see EA compensating $20 for the games future lowered value. exactly what you are thinking about as you sit fat in your chair. McDonald cooks with hydrogenated oils, american diet when you could cook your own natural food. wondering why your mother croaked at 300 pounds and feed you the fat little porky f*** you are.

now, thanks for the $60 my little brother spent on this defective product. its time you boycott maxis.

AND YOU KNOW WHAT?!
Halo released on two discs despite many customers who had 256mb white arcade 360s or 4gb black slim arcade models. they respect artist's intent and design as well as the fans!

EA owes us an apology!

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jbitzer

English, do you speak it?

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devin3627

to those who report me for cussing. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_36yNWw_07g

the same maximumpc.com site released this video about Linus Torvalds To Nvidia.

many of them live a life of greed and bad deeds anyway. Nvidia has gotten better about their dealings and communication though. I like how direct he is!

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Gezzer

I think that EA was trying to make the online aspect of the game a feature that just happen'd to also work as a DRM.
They f@cked up big time though because they did the same thing every publisher does with an always online DRM, they went cheap on servers. Just plain stupid IMHO.

I too got to spend 2-3 hours trying to play the game. I finally did the next night. Is it a good game? Well the game is more SimSocieties then SimCity so it's okay, but not great. The "multiplayer" portion isn't really all that much. You can help with minor concerns another city might have, send them "gifts" to help out. But it's just barely enough to justify being online for it. It really doesn't matter because pirates will just hack in the ability to have non EA servers anyway. H@ll many MMOs have unsanctioned servers, you just need to know who, and where. lol

As for the refund stance. That's got to change. The idea that only the media a program comes on can have a warranty, and programs are sold as is just doesn't stand up any more. It will most likely take government action but there has to be a reasonable method to get a refund if a program doesn't work as advertised. If not gamers will still be dealing with BS like this and getting stuck with WarZ caliber games when we're not paying attention. I mean buyer beware sure, but buyer come drop your pants and bend over this barrel not so much.

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someuid

"I think that EA was trying to make the online aspect of the game a feature that just happen'd to also work as a DRM."

I would flip that statement around. EA was trying to make a DRM system also work as a multiplayer feature.

Their primary goal was very hard to break DRM. They tried to dress it up as cool multiplayer features. The end result was DRM that was too restrictive and not-well-though-out multiplayer features (lots of people are complaining about server-side and multiplayer features that can wreck your city.)

Someone or some team at EA/Maxis really screwed up and should be fired for this.

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Cyberguy70

The launch fiasco is not a DRM issue. Please do some research on the game before jumping to conclusions.

"With the way that the game works, we offload a significant amount of the calculations to our servers so that the computations are off the local PCs and are moved into the cloud. It wouldn't be possible to make the game offline without a significant amount of engineering work by our team." - Lucy Bradshaw, Maxis General Manager

MaximumPC should be ashamed about posting such inaccurate articles.

I'm no EA lover, but blame them for releasing a buggy game before it is ready. The online requirement is more like an MMO would have. Do you think WoW requires a constant connection for DRM?

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RUSENSITIVESWEETNESS

Dumbass.

It is a DRM issue. And bad design. And a lack of servers at launch.

It wouldn't be a DRM issue if the DRM wasn't dependent upon remote servers and a constant internet connection during game play.

The decision to put calculations on the server side for single-player games is just part of that DRM problem, and not a design "feature" or necessity. They simply do not want anyone running the game independent of their DRM.

It wouldn't be possible to make the game work offline without removing the DRM scheme, is what the Maxis suit is actually saying. The game isn't so advanced that it requires scads of supercomputers supporting Johnny Q. Public's meager gaming PC. Rather, they figure they can beat the pirates by having large portions of the code under their constant control and on their servers.

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wolfing

Riiiight. I can sell you a nice bridge too if you want.
It's DRM plain and simple. Disguised as 'social features' (since when does a city simulator need social features?). If anything, it should have been some sort of extra feature, not make it a core component of the game. But that's how they decided to explain their draconian DRM.

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Cyberguy70

I work in the game industry, and have friends who worked on the game. The online component is for the server computing first and foremost. The DRM aspect of that architecture is just a happy coincidence for EA management.

Don't believe me? Fire up a network monitor and run the game. DRM would pass a few packets and be done, and the 'social features' would be very light traffic. Running the game creates a constant stream of data, much like an MMO. That's not DRM.

I'm not saying EA isn't evil. Their reaction to the situation was terrible, especially customer support (like the chat posted in the OP). And if this article revolved around how buggy the game is and how unprepared they were for the load, I wouldn't have commented. But he posed that DRM was the only reason a constant connection was required, which simply isn't true.

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iheartpcs

So, why is there ANY server side calculations? WHY??

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Peanut Fox

You can play the game for well over an hour if you disconnect from the internet and then pick up the connection later. So during the whole time you're not connected are no calculations being done?

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cownaetion

You are an idiot. It is there DRM policy that is causing the issue. It is no surprise that all games that require activation once and no Internet connection needed ever after works fine and games that do always crash and burn.

"I work in the game industry, and have friends who worked on the game."

This statement alone makes your post worthless.

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Scatter

"But the bigger question I have for EA is, "Did you really think this was going to be a good idea?" We don't have to look back very far to see how well it panned out for Diablo 3"

Yet Diablo III sold 3.5 million copies in its first 24 hours setting sales records for the quickest selling game of all time. And this is the problem. Why should EA care if people don't like their always on requirement if they still stand in line to purchase their game?

Honestly I blame the customers that reward companies who implement DRM schemes like this.

Do you want companies to stop with this always on nonsense? then stop buying the games that require it.

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Typo91

+1 here here..

STOP BUYING THE GAME and REWARDING THEM!!

I've been studying the screen shots and I can say this...

The size of your city is tiny in this game. Every previous game had a MASSIVE city area compared to this. (no one counts societies that was shit)

SimCity on the SNES had more space for roads/zones

This is true if you measure 1 block of road in all games from one end of the map to the other.

Even Simcity4 had bigger city map areas.

This is a case of a shitty developer just cashing in on a Great title. Just look at Ubisoft and Supreme Commander 2.

Stop paying them money already, they dont deserve, they didn't innovate, they didn't create anything new, just re-dressed SimCity 4, added some features, dumbed it down for kids, and made the play area so small a dual core with 4GB of ram could run it just fine.

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Thresher

Just means that there were 3.5 million people who couldn't log in on their new game. I was one of them.

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Engelsstaub

Somebody crack this game so we can all pirate the shit out of it. FUEA.

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acidic

i'm sure a server emulator will be out soon just like assassin's creed 2 that eliminates the need for online connection

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PCWolf

Piracy may cause problems, but not to the extent that the Industry would have us believe. If it was, they would all be broke & out of Business. EA Sucks. They always have & they always will. Is like Hollywood. They complain about piracy, but they make so much money, they all Living in Mansions, Driving expensive sports cars, Going on European Vacations & eating steak & Lobster every night while most of us still struggle. So much for Pirates putting them in the Poor House.

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I Jedi

You honestly make that sound like it's a bad thing that they're rich? This company doesn't owe a damn thing to its customers, so let us not fool ourselves here. If you don't like the product their pushing, don't buy it. No one is forcing you or anyone else to invest in E.A.'s games but yourself.

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iheartpcs

They owe us a game that frickin works!

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deadrats

it's not that they're rich, it's that they get rich by screwing over their paying customers by focusing more on protecting their substandard products from piracy than giving their customers a high quality product.

creating effective DRM requires significant time and money in coding and testing as well as authentication servers, time and money that would have served their customers better if they had invested it in game development.

more importantly, the idea of "if you don't like it then don't but it" is logically fallacious because up until you buy the product, in this case the game, you don't know about the issues that plaque it, such as bugs in the game engine, faulty level designs or worse of all poorly implemented DRM that prevents you from enjoying the game you paid for. by the time you find out about the issues, it's too late and you can't get a refund.

there is a concept known as warranty of merchantability, i have no problem with a company or content creator getting filthy rich by offering a compelling product that gives enjoyment to its customers but to get rich by giving them crap and then basically saying "f*ck them" when they complain is really a low life way of doing business and they all deserve to be in the poor house.

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Typo91

notice how they sell it as "THE NEW SIMCITY GAME!!!"

and give you zero ways to play it, or try it yourself.

If you loved simcity games before (most of us did) you have only 1 option, slap down your 60 bucks and find out for yourself.

oh and also install some spyware/malware before install, and keep that on your computer forever if you want to play the game.

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jackx123456789

Might give it a look in a year or two if it is still available to buy new at that time.

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Scatter

Who's to say that EA will keep the servers up for much longer than that? Once they pull the plugs you'll never play this game again unless they release a new version without the online requirement.

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Glycerin

I'll never buy from EA. I loved them after playing the original Need For Speed on 3DO, but the company has just gone to shit.

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