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Cloud DRM Games

SimCity 5: How Not To Design a Single Player Game 569

It seems that the requirement to be online and save games on a remote server even in single player mode is leading to a less than ideal launch for SimCity 5. choke writes "Players attempting to play EA/Maxis' new SimCity game are finding that their save games are tied to a particular server, are facing problems with disconnects, inability to track friends or search for specific coop games online and failures to load game, and wait times of 20 minutes per login attempt. The question is, why the online restriction? Does this possibly indicate future micro-transactions in game?"
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SimCity 5: How Not To Design a Single Player Game

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday March 06, 2013 @11:57AM (#43093171)

    What a ridiculous question... We know that there are at least 3 obvious reasons for this:

    1) To prevent you selling the game. I'm guessing that there is some unique key for the copy you bought tied to your online profile.
    2) To make you have to upgrade when they shut off the servers for SimCity 5 when they launch SimCity 6. EA are known for this. Anyone tried play FIFA 2011 or The Sims 2 online recently...?
    3) To try and stop piracy. Instead of just having to activate online, which could be bypassed by some enterprising cracker, now bits of the game need a connection to actually function. Makes the job of cracking it more difficult I guess.

  • Re:Not an EA fan but (Score:5, Informative)

    by PhxBlue ( 562201 ) on Wednesday March 06, 2013 @12:02PM (#43093241) Homepage Journal

    And if you believe that, I have some oceanfront property near Denver to sell you.

    SimCity 3000 was released 13 years ago. Care to guess how much desktop computing power has advanced since then? Here's a hint: A lot.

  • fooled (Score:5, Informative)

    by Ogive17 ( 691899 ) on Wednesday March 06, 2013 @12:07PM (#43093319)
    My brother talked me in to pre-ordering the game, it's been awhile since I had played any of the sim city games and I enjoyed the 1hr beta using his account.

    But wow what a clusterfuck yesterday's launch was. I was woken up around 2am by our infant and used that as an opportunity to d/l and install the game. Apparently it was a very wise decision. Once I got home from work around 5pm ET trying to get connect and stay connected was impossible. Three times I got a city started only to get booted after about 15 minutes and the game did not save any of my progress. After making and eating dinner my brother and I tried to start our own region. That took around 30 minutes before it finally worked and again we were kicked after about 20-25 minutes. I gave up at that point since the baby was fussy and my wife needed a break.

    The N. American servers were filling up almost immediately after being brought online. It's almost as if EA thought only a third of their pre-orders would try playing on day 1. But a failed launch for EA is par for the course. Fool me once, shame on you... fool me again, shame on me.

    The game itself was enjoyable during the beta... too bad the publisher is one of the worst companies on the planet.
  • by Godai ( 104143 ) * on Wednesday March 06, 2013 @12:09PM (#43093361)

    Look, this is from someone who last night made his first city about 8 times and lost it all 8 times because of the server nonsense. I was pretty annoyed.

    But if we're going to lambaste someone for doing the always-online thing, maybe we shouldn't just jump to conclusions, maybe you should, learn something about i it first? Or maybe you just want to be hip & cool like everyone else and be against always-online without using any actual critical thinking. If so, bravo.

    One of the cornerstone features of the game this time around is the Region play aspect. This was introduced in Sim City 4, but they've taken it to a much more interesting place in this iteration. Basically, there are about a dozen regions you can choose to play on; first, you choose one. Each region has X 'city slots'. This doesn't necessarily mean # of players, but it obviously puts a cap on X players in that region. Nothing stops you from building all X cities yourself over time. The cities have a lot of interconnection, hooked up by highway, or rail, or whatever. You can specialize one city as a college town, make another the bedroom community, etc. And, of course, you can invite people into your game (if its private, otherwise they just find it) to fill out the other cities instead -- and cooperate, fight, whatever.

    That doesn't work without a server authority, so that needs always-online to work. Otherwise you'd need one person to host, and never stop. So this is logical. Plus, you can still play it by yourself if you want.

    The part you can argue for the always-online component is whether they should have let you play in a local region offline. That's a reasonable question. But they didn't just 'tack always-online' on as a form of DRM (though I'm sure they were happy to have it) -- its pretty clearly a foundation of the way they expect the majority of people to play. And I think they're right -- the *only* reason I'm playing the game is so I can play with my brother. If it was a purely single player game, I'd have passed.

    Now if could just get that server mess sorted out, I think this would be a fun game. From what I've seen so far, the UI is easily the best SimCity has ever had. It was pure pleasure laying out zones & drawing roads, etc. And I like their module system for expanding the utilities & other buildings.

    It's not fair to say this is "how not to design a single player game". That's insipid. They've taken a single player game and made an interesting multi-player game, that if you really want to you can play by yourself. That's not the same thing.

  • Re:Wrong lesson. (Score:4, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday March 06, 2013 @12:11PM (#43093383)

    I've watched the demo videos, the new Sim city is not a single-player game. It may be (incorrectly) sold as a single-player game, and it follows many years of single-player games with the same name, but this revision is not single-player.

    The root functionality in this version is that people divvy up chunks of a region and build. The different microcities interact, and together you build something big and cool. The drawback is, that is not what Sim City has ever been, and I think the developers are overestimating how much support that model will have.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday March 06, 2013 @12:15PM (#43093463)

    The era is still here, just it isn't hosted by any large Corp like EA. It is the Indie developer who you need to be looking at for good gaming.

  • by SirGarlon ( 845873 ) on Wednesday March 06, 2013 @12:18PM (#43093519)
    Many of the good old games are still for sale (cheap) [], without all the modern BS connection requirements, broken first releases, DRM, etc.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday March 06, 2013 @12:18PM (#43093531)

    X Years? try now. Players are complaining that saved games won't load back.

    The game has been deliberately broken in the name of DRM, without any thought of what the outcome would be. With no commitment from EA to remove this built-in self-destruct, anyone would be a fool to buy this game. In 18 months when the "water pumps that work" DLC and the "slightly larger map, so you can actually build a city" DLC fails to meet sales targets, EA will simply pull the plug and all those people who paid a premium price will find, what they had was a bug-ridden FaceBook game.

    Blaming "high demand" for these problems is an outright lie. The servers were taking three hours for people to download and unlock the game and 30 minutes to connect! This was when only pre-order clients and press who'd stayed up until midnight were on-line - hardly the maximum player-base you'd expect, certainly nowhere near "high demand".
    And why would they be needed anyway for a SINGLE PLAYER game? Because EA broke it.

  • Re:Not an EA fan but (Score:5, Informative)

    by firex726 ( 1188453 ) on Wednesday March 06, 2013 @12:19PM (#43093547)

    Exactly... that was the same thing Blizzard said about Diablo 3, it needs to be always on for some server work when released on the PC; then came out on the Xbox and it's got an offline mode. Only thing they needed it for on the PC was for DRM and the auction house.

  • by BitZtream ( 692029 ) on Wednesday March 06, 2013 @12:20PM (#43093557)

    That doesn't work without a server authority, so that needs always-online to work.

    Thats funny because my friends, myself, and many others had that same sort of feature in SimCity 4 without a central server. And ... guess what ... EA even had a way to do it through their servers without any such always on requirement.

    Thinking they NEED to be connected for this just shows how you don't understand how this stuff works and as such are being taken advantage of.

  • Re:Wrong lesson. (Score:5, Informative)

    by Tridus ( 79566 ) on Wednesday March 06, 2013 @12:30PM (#43093711) Homepage

    Not true.

    The multiplayer part only happens if you actively invite someone into your region. If you don't take that step, it's an entirely single player affair, with you controlling all of the areas inside the region yourself. As a result, there's quite a large number of people playing it as a strictly single player game, and the always on nonsense is nothing but a dependency that breaks the game with no benefit.

  • Re:EA at it again (Score:5, Informative)

    by SirSlud ( 67381 ) on Wednesday March 06, 2013 @12:34PM (#43093767) Homepage

    I'm not defending EA out of hand, but Sim City 5 is not a single player game. It *could have been or arguably should be* (and there is a sandbox mode that is arguably this single player game people are talking about, that has cheats etc enabled) but it's been very overtly designed to be primarily played as one region between a group of 3 people.

    Also, I havn't experienced any of the problems people have been talking about.

  • Re:Wrong lesson. (Score:3, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday March 06, 2013 @01:17PM (#43094437)

    Incorrect. In fact you can create an "Open" Region - where other players can choose to enter or not. The original poster was closer to the reality of the game. Projects are undertaken by cities which directly benefit other cities in the Region and allow the collective group of cities in the region to achieve a larger goal.

    Its quite an interesting model of play. I was skeptical at first, but after 12-14 hours of play (almost non-stop Im embarrassed to say) it works quite well, and provides interesting value to the game. In Sim City 4 the player was tasked with building the entire region by themselves. I for one usually stopped after 1-2 areas in the region were developed. The way SimCity works, other players can take over other city development areas in the region, specialize their own city, which in turn helps or hinders your city.

  • Re:Wrong lesson. (Score:4, Informative)

    by Patch86 ( 1465427 ) on Wednesday March 06, 2013 @01:51PM (#43094941)

    Note, that's how SimCity 4 worked. You had a great big region made up of squares on which to build cities. The cities in each square could interact (i.e., I could build a recycling plant in one city, and the neighbouring city could then pay the first city to take some of its trash off of its hands). This was an inherently single player game.

    It sounds like SimCity 5 has taken this already established single-player feature and used it to add a (perfectly decent sounding) multi-player mode. That does not make this game "designed from the ground up to be multi-player".

  • Re:Wrong lesson. (Score:5, Informative)

    by yincrash ( 854885 ) on Wednesday March 06, 2013 @02:05PM (#43095127)
    I played for the couple of hours I could, last night. Even if you control all the cities in a region yourself, there is still a global market that is being interacted with. When the server was having connection problems (but would still let you play), the oil that I was exporting would no longer export and sit in the stockpile until I was alerted it was full. This was affecting my overall economy, because as an oil town, a lot of my economy was dependent on that global export. The market prices are determined by overall supply/demand on the particular server you're connected to (each server being a sim globe as it were). As others have pointed out, this is of course something that didn't have to be multiplayer, but does add an additional interesting variable to the game. Here's a screenshot of the market graph [].

All laws are simulations of reality. -- John C. Lilly