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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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  • EA at it again (Score:5, Insightful)

    by cod3r_ ( 2031620 ) on Wednesday March 06, 2013 @11:52AM (#43093083)
    Seems like every new EA release has similar issues. With hordes of bad amazon reviews because of it.
  • by Servercide ( 2820403 ) on Wednesday March 06, 2013 @11:56AM (#43093149)
    I miss the era simple gaming. Where myself and my buddies would have a LAN party. COD4 was a godsend when I was deployed.
  • Wrong lesson. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by PhxBlue ( 562201 ) on Wednesday March 06, 2013 @11:56AM (#43093151) Homepage Journal

    From the Ars Technica story:

    Hopefully EA will learn from the experience and buff up its servers ahead of the game's official European launch on Friday.

    As nice as that would be, it's the wrong lesson. The lesson EA needs to learn here is the same one that every other video game publisher has to learn: don't build inherently single-player games with always-on requirements! There was no reason for this in SimCity.

    Maybe the next SimCity will learn that lesson from this one. Maybe EA will release a patch that offers the option of offline play. We can hope ... but as it stands now, I wouldn't be surprised if this is the end of the SimCity series -- Maxis' version of Master of Orion III, if you will.

  • by h4rr4r ( 612664 ) on Wednesday March 06, 2013 @11:56AM (#43093155)

    Didn't someone just claim that EA were not scumbags?

    Because this is again stuff a scumbag does.

    In another X years, you will not even be able to save progress with this game. Why would anyone buy into that?

  • by Shikaku ( 1129753 ) on Wednesday March 06, 2013 @12:02PM (#43093245)

    To sum up:

    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


    I think it's pretty obvious why it will not sell well and yet another series dying (Dead Space 4 being cancelled because of poor sales of 3) because of greed.

  • by BitZtream ( 692029 ) on Wednesday March 06, 2013 @12:08PM (#43093327)

    EA hasn't been a game maker for years. They're just another Hasbro now. Turning out cheap copycat toy after cheap copycat toy. The only difference is who's branding they put on the game. They want everyone to pay more and more regardless of how much they paid for the game up front and that is much more difficult offline. With an always on, always tied to your account, always able to verify, always able to control the save game so you can't possibly just hex edit yourself the extra ???? you need.

    The reason EA games suck is not because they are more greedy than useful, the reason EA games suck is because they are hundreds of times more greedy than useful. Ubisoft is hardly any better, those they at least learned how retarded always on was and stopped.

    Remember, always connected means you in no way own your game. When they turn off the servers, your game goes away and you don't get your money back, its just done. No one will play SimCity5 again after that point.

    Won't effect me.

    When I first heard about SC5 after seeing the fucktarded SimCities Socities, I thought KICK ASS! A new SimCity ... and then put it in the back of my mind until it was actually released so I don't nag myself about it until then ... then yesterday I read a review on arstechnica.com ... Always on, small play area, economy is entirely unpredictable and irrational in its turns from bust to boom to bust with no logical reason why, all sorts of further issues in the full article. All of the issues seemed to stem from the fact that force you to play and depend on other people.


    I certainly don't. Sometimes, I do. Sometimes I will play with friends, in certain games, when my mood fits it. But any game that I'm going to sit down and dedicate hours of effort and planning to, I'm only going to play with about 3 select friends who will NEVER have the time to be online at the same time as me (kids tend to make schedules hard on you). The rest of the Internet is pretty fucking annoying to deal with in those games, I certainly don't want my game to have to deal with how that jack ass sells his commodities and prices which screw my plan or spews his environmental mess at me.


    In a game I want to be in control. I don't want to be at some little 'Anonymous' asshole's whim.

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

    by MightyYar ( 622222 ) on Wednesday March 06, 2013 @12:09PM (#43093345)

    You could always call tech support and see how much of their time you can waste.

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

    by hobarrera ( 2008506 ) on Wednesday March 06, 2013 @12:10PM (#43093369) Homepage

    The real problem is stupid people who continue to give them ridiculous amounts of money.
    If people stopped doing this, EA would have no money and stop making this "products".

  • by GauteL ( 29207 ) on Wednesday March 06, 2013 @12:17PM (#43093487)


    Origin didn't allow purchasers to pre-load SimCity before its official launch at 12:01am EST this morning, apparently because the development team was "working to polish the game until the very last second"

    Hint: you don't "work to polish the game until the last second", you work to polish and then delay launch because you can't be sure of the quality until you've retested and had a solid set of builds passing your regression testing and product testing. Who can possibly think it is a good idea to still be changing software code seconds before the launch?


    Later, even after the problems were officially "resolved," EA warned that "due to server load it may take up to three hours for your game to unlock.


    Some online reports indicate that even those with the disc-based retail version of the game were delayed in their installation by Origin server problems.


    The issues bring to mind the infamous "Error 37" that prevented many Diablo III players from logging into the game in the days after its launch last year, though it's unclear how comparatively widespread SimCity's server issues are

    It isn't surprising that EA treats their customers like shit, but it is still infuriating that they can get away with this.

  • by SuricouRaven ( 1897204 ) on Wednesday March 06, 2013 @12:25PM (#43093633)

    Pirates may have hastened the process, but even without them this would come eventually as a way for publishers to battle their other nemesis: Second-hand games. An effective DRM system can also be used to stop people from selling the games on cheap when they are done, which in turn means everyone pays retail rather than sensibly waiting a few months so they can buy that $60 for $10 in the used bin.

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

    by Applekid ( 993327 ) on Wednesday March 06, 2013 @12:26PM (#43093661)

    The next big trend: "premium" support. Free access to a "community" support forum, where other users -- for free -- may or may not help. Then for bigger problems you can call a 1-900 number, or a 1-800 number to pay up with a credit card per incident. Maybe the Premium box set versions of their games includes one free incident resolution (expires 3 months from purchase, no guarantee they will actually fix the issue).

  • Not true (Score:5, Insightful)

    by oGMo ( 379 ) on Wednesday March 06, 2013 @12:33PM (#43093739)

    The limit of what you can do easily is not give them money. There are plenty more things you could be doing, depending on how much you really care:

    1. Encourage others to not give them money.
    2. Start a campaign to spread awareness about how their (and any other similar) games harm everyone.
    3. Start a campaign to boycott any games similar to this. A nice fancy website listing these games would be a start.
    4. Bring this up as a consumer rights issue, start a lobby.

    If you get enough people wound up about something, you can get the backing and momentum to really have an effect. Unfortunately few people actually care enough to do more than complain on slashdot as they're downloading the thing they claim to hate so much. There is much that could be done, but few people willing to do it.

  • by Tridus ( 79566 ) on Wednesday March 06, 2013 @12:34PM (#43093755) Homepage

    Absolutely false. in fact the reason Maxis gave for why they can't increase city size is that people's computers aren't powerful enough to handle it on the low end. If cloud magic was doing all the math, why would that be a problem?

    The actual simulation is running on your system, using your CPU. The severs are there to enforce some rules and make multiplayer work... and to act as DRM.

    Oh, and totally break the game for no good reason right now. How is the game getting an undeserved bad rep when people have had their cities corrupted by the servers and become unplayable multiple times? "Load save games" is not some nifty addon. If your program can't do that, it's fucking broken.

  • Re:EA at it again (Score:3, Insightful)

    by tgd ( 2822 ) on Wednesday March 06, 2013 @12:37PM (#43093813)

    What really annoys me is the absolute limit of what I can do to these bastards is not give them money. There needs to be a way to take money away from companies that deliver exceptionally bad products.

    Why? How does it impact you, if you don't buy it?

  • Re:Wrong lesson. (Score:0, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday March 06, 2013 @12:37PM (#43093819)

    All it takes is a management change, a hacker, or bad bug and you'll lose everything. If you had physical media without online activation, you'd lose nothing. Some of us don't want to take the risk. There are plenty of games to try that aren't on stream and aren't published by major gaming companies.

    All it takes is a roommate change, a thief, or a drop/scratches and you'll lose everything. If you had a copy on Steam, you'd lose nothing. Some of us don't want to take the risk. There are plenty of games to try that don't have physical copies.

  • by Tridus ( 79566 ) on Wednesday March 06, 2013 @12:40PM (#43093869) Homepage

    Man, the amount of wrong on this thread is getting annoying.

    It's actually pretty easy to solve this. Quite a lot of people aren't playing multiplayer. They're not inviting other people to their regions. They are not getting anything from the always online requirement except a broken game (as your first line mentions, before you go ahead and dismiss that clusterfuck as apparently not a problem).

    In fact, other games have had the same thing without always online servers. The easiest implmentation is to say that if you're creating a region you want to use in multiplayer, then it goes to the servers. Or when you actually invite someone, it goes to the servers. This is not that complicated and it doesn't require single player maps to be on servers for no fucking reason.

    The fact is that the servers are there for DRM and microtransactions.

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

    by drinkypoo ( 153816 ) <martin.espinoza@gmail.com> on Wednesday March 06, 2013 @12:40PM (#43093881) Homepage Journal

    There is no need for everything to live on the server in order to have the game be multiplayer, no matter what anyone tells you. That might be the only way the simcity team could get it to work, though. Simcity 4 is a bugfest.

  • by kenp2002 ( 545495 ) on Wednesday March 06, 2013 @12:40PM (#43093883) Homepage Journal

    Every dumb ass that bought that EA shit stain deserved every second of their queue times. Lets see: Gutted map sizes with Regions 1/4 the size of Sim City 4 (+1 step backwards) plus actual cities smaller then Sim City 1 (+4 steps backwards) along with gutted gameplay (no underground utility design, no subways... +3 steps backwards) along with always online requirement and DRM (+10 steps backwards), pre-order nonsense (imagine paying up front at a restaurant for you food.... +2 steps backwards) in exchange for Curved Roads (-1 step backwards... wait, nm Sim City 4 had mods that added those +0 then) and no modding support (+10 steps backwards).

    It's almost like EA was jealous that Monte Cristo made a shittier Sim City game then Societies (Cities XL) and wanted to 1-up Monte Cristo in the fucking horrible Sim Socialist genre so they made this "Sim City" which is more a Cities XL 2 then anything else. It's just missing that magical "No, the state has decreed that only Executives can purchase these homes. Be gone peasant and free market subscriber!"

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

    by i kan reed ( 749298 ) on Wednesday March 06, 2013 @12:42PM (#43093913) Homepage Journal

    Because it causes deleterious effects on the marketplace when bad practices are standardized by big names.

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

    by tlhIngan ( 30335 ) <slashdot&worf,net> on Wednesday March 06, 2013 @12:55PM (#43094155)

    There is no need for everything to live on the server in order to have the game be multiplayer, no matter what anyone tells you. That might be the only way the simcity team could get it to work, though.

    It's really DRM. Online gaming is really the only way to have a pretty robust DRM scheme that can't be cracked.

    Games saved on server? Means they can leave out code ot save games locally. It doesn't matter if you crack the game - unless someone writes local game save code, pirates can't save their games (which is a pretty big restriction).

    Likewise, the server can require everyone have unique issued serial numbers. Hell, all you need to do is prevent two people from using the same serial number at the same time (you can transfer the serial number for used game sales, if any company REALLY cared for that - though buyers would have to worry about the original owner depriving them of the game by continuing to play it)..

    Even better is such a DRM scheme requires zero intervention on the user's computer - you don't need any spyware installed or anything. The only real danger is someone trying to reverse engineer the server a la Bnetd. And we know how that turned out.

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

    by dgatwood ( 11270 ) on Wednesday March 06, 2013 @01:36PM (#43094737) Homepage Journal

    What really annoys me is the absolute limit of what I can do to these bastards is not give them money. There needs to be a way to take money away from companies that deliver exceptionally bad products.

    There's no limit to how much money you can take away from them if you buy the product and can convince the jury that you were irreparably harmed by it. :-D

    Alternatively, there's no limit to how much damage you can do if you encourage people to post negative reviews on Amazon. Most sane people will think twice before buying a product whose reviews look like this:

    1.5 out of 5 stars
    5 star: (17)
    4 star: (8)
    3 star: (11)
    2 star: (15)
    1 star: (191)

    EA has RUINED it with the persistent DRM that prevents you from saving your game to your computer. ”
    KiloEchoNovember | 92 reviewers made a similar statement

    Unless EA starts astroturfing to bring the ratings up, I suspect this game is pretty much doomed to be a total bust, at least as far as sales on Amazon are concerned. You don't just "get over" that strong a negative reaction to your product.

    And if enough folks posted such consistently harsh reviews at every game review site, every store site, etc., then companies like EA would have exactly two choices at their disposal: correct their craniorectal inversion or go out of business. That's the nice thing about online shopping: by putting lots of information about the product at your fingertips, it forces companies to compete on quality instead of just competing on price.

  • Re:Not true (Score:5, Insightful)

    by C0R1D4N ( 970153 ) on Wednesday March 06, 2013 @01:39PM (#43094773)
    Because we WANT good games to play, and voting with your wallet is great (as I am doing with this game) but most companies also want to hear WHY you are doing so. In fact they pay lots of money for market research, and it is a positive thing for you and them to tell them what you as a consumer want.
  • Re:Not true (Score:3, Insightful)

    by pclminion ( 145572 ) on Wednesday March 06, 2013 @01:45PM (#43094847)

    But when every single company does it, what choice will you have? Not give any of them your money? Quit gaming alltogether?

    Sounds reasonable to me... Jeez, you guys sound like drug addicts.

  • Re:EA at it again (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Quiet_Desperation ( 858215 ) on Wednesday March 06, 2013 @01:57PM (#43095021)

    How about developing emotional maturity beyond the need to do violence over trivial bullshit, and the intellectual ability to grasp it's just a game and there's a billion other things to go do? The real pussies are the ones who get all worked up into a lather in the first place.

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

    by J-1000 ( 869558 ) on Wednesday March 06, 2013 @01:59PM (#43095053)

    I guess you missed the point. Do you like the outdoors? They could turn Yosemite into a theme park. Do you like food? They could outlaw salt. It really doesn't matter how broad your interests are. Someone can tread on them.

    Choosing not to participate doesn't magically remove the problem.

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

    by Zalbik ( 308903 ) on Wednesday March 06, 2013 @02:56PM (#43095759)

    WTF are you talking about? The Magnusson-Moss anti-tying provisions are in regards to voiding a warranty for the use of third-party components (i.e. Honda refusing to warranty your car if you use non-Honda parts).

    Requiring a game to have online access has nothing to do with Magnusson-Moss.

    EA has done nothing illegal here.

    And why the heck would I waste the courts time (and public money) over a video game? It seems a more sensible, mature response to just not buy the video game in the first place. If I was particularly upset about the practice, I'd exercise my free-speech rights and attempt to convince the market that this is a bad idea.

    Suing them is just childish...

  • Re:Not true (Score:4, Insightful)

    by DrGamez ( 1134281 ) on Wednesday March 06, 2013 @05:42PM (#43097633)
    Game critics cannot give a functionally decent game less than an 8. I'm sure SimCity 5 works fine, but it's just designed terribly. If this wasn't a game from EA I'm sure it would get some pretty bad scores. But alas, if they give an EA game bad scores - then next time the review site would have to wait until after launch to get the game to review; and waiting until after launch means they miss out on all those glorious ad dollars.

    It really is just a shitty system.

Adding manpower to a late software project makes it later. -- F. Brooks, "The Mythical Man-Month"