Modder Makes SimCity Capable Of Offline Play Which Works Flawlessly

from the well,-that-was-easy dept

This SimCity debacle can only be described as an onion. Every time you peel back another layer, you just find yet another bitter layer underneath to make you cry. It all started, as you no doubt know, when EA decided to make the game with an always online requirement. The explanation for this was that it was in part a DRM attempt, but also SimCity was developed to be a social game, requiring an online connection, and EA had also shifted resource consumption and calculation to their own servers, ostensibly freeing up resources on the player's machine. Regardless, the launch looked more like an attempt to reporduce the Hindenburg disaster than any attempt at serving EA's customers and the backlash that followed was harsh. Most recently, someone inside of Maxis reached out to RockPaperShotgun to suggest that the online requirement was strictly DRM and that no important server-side calculations were actually being done. Despite the report, EA maintained that offline play of the game is logistically impossible.

And by logistically impossible, they must have meant that all they'd have to do is turn on the debugging mode, as that's what one game modder has done to make the game work nearly flawlessly without any online connection.
The video above shows the game being played offline. The modder states that this can be done for as long as you like without issues. The only real downside being you can’t save the game because it utilizes cloud saves. However, if you reconnect the game it does save, so you can play all day then just go online to save your progress at the end of a session.
Thanks, random modder guy, for making EA's product do what EA couldn't, or wouldn't, enable it to do themselves. Assuming this is all legit, the excuses for server-side calculations melt away like the loyalty of EA's customers when they bought this game-on-crutches. Hell, even the requirement for online saves needing a constant connection is clearly nonsense. It isn't like the game couldn't be written to only connect once a save is initiated.

Now, here's the fun part. To achieve this, the modder had to go in and edit the game code to enable debug mode, as I mentioned. Far from simply removing the online requirement, it actually made the game perform better.
In fact, it actually improves the game in some ways. City populations are actually tracked correctly and you can edit outside of your city boundaries. Those additional edits are also saved when you reconnect.
Great job, EA. You made your game worse even when it did function, which it mostly didn't, all the while lying your collective faces off to the people giving you their money. It's probably time to come out and issue a serious mea culpa.


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  •  
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    Jay (profile), Mar 14th, 2013 @ 9:06am

    Take away copyright!

    Wow... I mean, damn! You cannot tell me in any perceive way that this DRM scheme was going to end well but this is the culmination of YEARS of warning for EA in particular!

    They were warned when they tried DRM on Spore and that failed.

    They've made their past games useless by disconnecting servers and ensuring their rent to own model.

    They rely on copyright to control what people say about their games on YouTube and other sources while bribing reviewers in major magazines to give their games high Scots through their soft corruption (corruption laundering whereby they give gifts if the scores are high but stop said gifts if the game reviews poorly) and created a cargo copied alternative to Steam to monopolize money which their ENTIRE FANBASE hates for being obtrusive about data and ignoring their complaints.

    But all of this just pales to how they absolutely FAILED. The public HATES this. And they made a quick buck but their name is less than mud. How the hell does any company insulate themselves so much that they can't figure our how this was a bad idea?

    Finally, this just exposes how copyright and monopolies just don't work. I'm site that if EA could they will go aster this video detailing their failure while Streisand will be proud, but with everything else that they've done in making this game worse for the public, they can't even raise a defense here.

    I swear, people should take away the laws that helped create this mess in the first place... Copyright laws that allow corporations to hold onto monopolies for years and the CFAA which would surely criminalize this modder who is exposing how bad they screwed up.

    Maybe EA needs to just take a step back and actuallyhire some people that can think. Or maybe they should restructure the company so that the people that make the game stop listening to the publishers. God knows, those guys gave no idea what they're doing and it may be time to head for newer waters.

     

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      Ninja (profile), Mar 14th, 2013 @ 9:14am

      Re: Take away copyright!

      God knows, those guys gave no idea what they're doing and it may be time to head for newer waters.

      ARRRRRRR! AGREED MATEY! YHOHOHOHOHOHO

       

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      Andrew F (profile), Mar 14th, 2013 @ 9:25am

      Re: Take away copyright!

      EA's name has been less than mud for a while. They've gotten away with this an absurd number of times.

      Fool me once? Shame on you. Fool me twice? Shame on me. Fool me thrice? I'm a gullible schmuck TAKE MY MONEY.

       

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      Anonymous Coward, Mar 15th, 2013 @ 1:25am

      Re: Take away copyright!

      They failed with Spore, learned nothing from Diablo III, and didn't listen to the Reddit AMA. Gamers failed too, they bought the thing, twice in some cases. They won't stop there. Gamers will anticipate and buy the next EA game, then procede to complain. EA won't care because they already have your money and will have in the future.

       

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    Beech, Mar 14th, 2013 @ 9:17am

    Arrrrgh, Matey.

    So now all the filthy pirates need to do is insert some code to get the game to save locally, and the DRM is defeated for everyone but the legal purchasers of the game who abide by the To S. Any bets on how long til a cracked version shows up on TPB?

    Really, on the plus side, once everyone hacks their copy of the game, Ea's servers should free right up!

     

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      Trails (profile), Mar 14th, 2013 @ 9:28am

      Re: Arrrrgh, Matey.

      Really, on the plus side, once everyone hacks their copy of the game, Ea's servers should free right up!


      love it!

       

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      E. Zachary Knight (profile), Mar 14th, 2013 @ 9:43am

      Re: Arrrrgh, Matey.

      Should be fairly simple to intercept whatever the game sends to the server, parse it and write it to a flat file locally. Then do the reverse when the game loads a save file.

       

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      Watchit (profile), Mar 14th, 2013 @ 10:57am

      Re: Arrrrgh, Matey.

      Well actually, this mod is for players who actually legally purchased the game, at least for now. Since without going online, you can't save your game.

       

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        Beech, Mar 14th, 2013 @ 11:25am

        Re: Re: Arrrrgh, Matey.

        Yes. Yes it is. But in order for it to work now you need to get back online to save your game. And if there's a 30 minute server queue that could still be a problem. That's why it's still shit compared to whatever pirate copy will inevitably come along. I have no doubt pirates will be able to "fix" the no-local-saves "bug," which will make the illegal edition the far superior edition.

         

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      Anonymous Coward, Mar 14th, 2013 @ 12:44pm

      Re: Arrrrgh, Matey.

      Ah yes DRM the anti-piracy tool that hurts everyone except pirates of course.

      The majority of pirates probably have no clue what DRM is. /s

       

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      Anonymous Coward, Mar 14th, 2013 @ 5:19pm

      Re: Arrrrgh, Matey.

      Better yet, reverse engineer the server-side code and release open server software for it into the wild so that the hacked version can have a private multi-player environment on a private server.

       

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    Lord Binky, Mar 14th, 2013 @ 9:19am

    I wonder...

    How long until the patch this fix?

    If you do not expect them to learn from their mistake, breaking the game again sounds like a very reasonable reaction.

     

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    Lord Binky, Mar 14th, 2013 @ 9:20am

    I wonder...

    How long until they patch this fix?

     

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      Anonymous Coward, Mar 14th, 2013 @ 9:21am

      Re: I wonder...

      DAmniT! I waited and refreshed and thought the interwebs ate my reply, then it returns it out of nowhere, and tada! double post. *sigh* sorry guys....

       

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      PaulT (profile), Mar 14th, 2013 @ 9:40am

      Re: I wonder...

      It probably doesn't matter now, at least not for any DRM functionality. The version with the offline removed now exists on hard copy. Any pirate wishing to use it merely has to get hold of this mod/patch, apply it to that version and the game can presumably be used in offline mode ad infinitum. Unless there's a serious game killing bug squashed in future patches (patches for which can then also be developed for the pirate version), the online-only "feature" is now removed.

      Of course, I wouldn't put it past EA to patch the game in a futile attempt to force it to be online-only again, but they can't possibly do so without further pissing off its paying customers. But, that would just prove that they're more interested in the DRM over the benefit of its own customers - not a good PR move so they deserve what they get if they do.

       

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    Ninja (profile), Mar 14th, 2013 @ 9:20am

    This is the cherry on top of the shiny turd that this whole mess turned into =D

    Sad part is I don't think this will have any major long term impact. EA still has other franchises to rely on. The sim games may be severely impacted though.

    If EA is smart (and they aren't, I'm just throwing in hypothesis) they will NOT try always on DRM again.

     

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      Starke (profile), Mar 14th, 2013 @ 9:40am

      Re:

      If EA was smart, they wouldn't have tried always on DRM again after Spore... or after seeing Ubisoft take it on the chin over and over because of their DRM. They might have looked at UBIsoft's DDOS attacks, and said, "no, this isn't really a good idea", and yet, here we are again.

       

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        Bergman (profile), Mar 14th, 2013 @ 9:59pm

        Re: Re:

        Well, they are smart. For certain values of smart.

        The problem is their viewpoint on the nature of their customers.

        They don't see their paying customers as their loyal fans or friends, they see those customers as their deadly enemies. If you assume that EA considers their customer base to be 100% pirate, suddenly all their decisions start making sense.

        They're not screwing their loyal customers, they're sticking it to the bad guys who want to rip off the company. They can even prove that there are tons of pirates, just look at their actual sales falling far below their projections!

         

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    Zakida Paul (profile), Mar 14th, 2013 @ 9:20am

    Did anyone really not see this coming?

    I saw it coming from miles away.

     

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      Ninja (profile), Mar 14th, 2013 @ 9:35am

      Re:

      out_of_the_bob must be shocked. Those freetards!

       

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      Anonymous Coward, Mar 14th, 2013 @ 12:40pm

      Re:

      Yes, I saw it coming. (See brief analysis here the other day about computational tasks and data transfer.) EA was lying. EA is lying. EA will lie. (And just in case I didn't cover all the bases just there, EA has been will was is can be lying.)

       

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    That One Guy (profile), Mar 14th, 2013 @ 9:21am

    Any press releases for this should be funny, I imagine it will involve so much hand-waving and dancing around previous statements that the press will thing they've walked into the middle of a broadway performance.

     

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    Trails (profile), Mar 14th, 2013 @ 9:27am

    The big fail

    While the technical issues, obviously imminent from the outset to anyone with a few brain cells to rub together, are in and of themselves a big fail, the double down in terms of lying is the big corporate fail.

    While us "freetards" (I include myself) hate DRM and realise its stupidity, the lying to customers after fucking the whole thing up really undercuts their position and portrays their idiocy.

    If I were a shareholder I'd be screaming for blood.

     

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      Lord Binky, Mar 14th, 2013 @ 9:29am

      Re: The big fail

      If you don't want to be sad don't look at how their stocks have increased since this screw up.

       

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        Machin Shin (profile), Mar 14th, 2013 @ 9:38am

        Re: Re: The big fail

        Well I don't doubt that they would go up. I mean just look at some of the early posts about this. The DRM was so wonderful it made those that preorder run out and buy a second copy!

        Of course.... anyone with a brain realizes that while initial sales of this game were high, it is going to crash spectacularly and hurt future games. So this increase in stock is only temporary.

         

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          Anonymous Coward, Mar 14th, 2013 @ 9:46am

          Re: Re: Re: The big fail

          "Of course.... anyone with a brain realizes that while initial sales of this game were high, it is going to crash spectacularly and hurt future games. So this increase in stock is only temporary."

          Capitalism 101: you only need to stay in power until your cash in your bonus. After that, you don't give a rat's ass about any long term plans for the company.

          How much do you want to bet that the bosses of EA have already sold their stock and are planning to bail out?

           

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          Anonymous Coward, Mar 14th, 2013 @ 10:46am

          Re: Re: Re: The big fail

          Right, but wallstreet looks only for short terms gains so that they can make a quick profit.

          And it's those economics that drive this sort of thing at the end of the day.

           

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        John Fenderson (profile), Mar 14th, 2013 @ 11:17am

        Re: Re: The big fail

        Naw. EA stock has currently half of what it used to be and the trend is still that it's declining. The recent bump in the price does not yet rise above the normal fluctuations in stock price on that downward trend line.

         

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          Lord Binky, Mar 14th, 2013 @ 11:34am

          Re: Re: Re: The big fail

          I figured it was the fact that EA's name was in the news. Once everyone tries to forget about EA again (until it is time to vote for worst company), the stock would accordingly continue on it's rightful path.

           

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    Rob, Mar 14th, 2013 @ 9:34am

    This only confirms my belief that avoiding EA games like the plague is the best practice. All they did was upset their loyal customers. In another week or so someone will figure out how to save games on the local PC and then the game is essentially pirated thanks to a DRM scheme brought to us by clueless idiots.

    The lesson here is DRM equals more pirating.

     

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    Chris Rhodes (profile), Mar 14th, 2013 @ 9:36am

    Fool Me Once

    I stopped buying EA after their online-only garbage managed to crap up Mass Effect 3.

    "What's that? One of the three(!) online validations during game startup failed? Well, no loading your simple player savegames then!"

    Get bent, EA.

     

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      That One Guy (profile), Mar 14th, 2013 @ 9:43am

      Re: Fool Me Once

      Yeah, at this point seeing 'EA' on the box is pretty much an instant 'Pass' for me as well, no way am I going to support a company that shows this much contempt for their 'customers' by buying their stuff.

       

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    Anonymous Coward, Mar 14th, 2013 @ 9:42am

    It has now been proven that EA know how much their customers love DRM, they had to lie to get them to accept it.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Mar 14th, 2013 @ 9:45am

    not just EA, all entertainment companies and divisions need to be taught a lesson. that lesson can only be sent by customers not buying the products until the developers, makers, sellers, whoever start catering for customers. to keep using excuse after excuse that 'piracy is killing the industries' and that drm is necessary, that the game must be played and can only be played on-line because of some bull shit reason, is exactly that 'BULL SHIT'. until customers grow some balls, stand up and go for the jugular, there will be no changes. Sony started this shit over the 'no other OS' debacle. it's time it all stopped, for good!!

     

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      Wolfy, Mar 14th, 2013 @ 1:06pm

      Re:

      Many people already do boycott the entertainment industry...they can no longer afford the prices. I know I refuse to spend any money on anything related to the MAFIAAs. Starve the bastards until they die.

       

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    Anonymous Coward, Mar 14th, 2013 @ 10:44am

    it doesn't help either when there is a 'no-refund policy' when things go belly up. the customers didn't cause the problems, EA themselves did. that led to people basically having a worthless game that they had paid out hard earned cash for. they should have been entitled to get refunds in full. yet another bad move which customers should never have to put up with!

     

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      Anonymous Coward, Mar 14th, 2013 @ 11:24am

      Re:

      Don't tell the Americans that Aussies get a refund and UK gets a free game... land of the free money and all.

       

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      Anonymous Coward, Mar 14th, 2013 @ 11:32am

      Re:

      Video Games is probably the only industry that still gets away with that shit. A car salesman can't promise a car to a customer and instead give them a soapbox racer, a film director can't promise a movie to someone and instead give them twenty minutes of them brushing their teeth, yet, we have become so numb to the trickery that exists in video game marketing that a company promising a product and releasing a half-finished version of that product with only mild promises to fix it later is not only seen as "okay", but as standard procedure.

       

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        Anonymous Coward, Mar 14th, 2013 @ 12:11pm

        Re: Re:

        You forgot about ISPs. I had a service provider come to my home today since we've been getting 1/10th of the speed we pay to receive. He put us on a conference call with both the regional and district managers in which the district manager said, "since most people don't notice the difference between 1.5 mbps and 15 mbps, it's okay."

        At least their new slogan is honest: There's no better choice! (yay for lack of competition)

         

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          Rekrul, Mar 14th, 2013 @ 3:05pm

          Re: Re: Re:

          You forgot about ISPs. I had a service provider come to my home today since we've been getting 1/10th of the speed we pay to receive. He put us on a conference call with both the regional and district managers in which the district manager said, "since most people don't notice the difference between 1.5 mbps and 15 mbps, it's okay."

          I would have asked them if they'd notice if you started only paying 1/10 of your bill...

           

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    Shmerl, Mar 14th, 2013 @ 10:50am

    Does anyone still buy EA games? Witch such attitude towards users, they don't deserve getting a cent.

     

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    radarmonkey (profile), Mar 14th, 2013 @ 10:59am

    TechDirt's Thursday Sing-a-long!


    Hello, Modder!
    EA's fodder.
    Change the game code,
    without bother.

    Servers busy?
    Let me fix that!
    Now you can play,
    Whenever you want!

    There are drawbacks,
    To this method.
    Things that make you,
    Put palm to forehead.

    EA's logic,
    Is to enslave.
    You need to go back online just to game save!

     

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    greenbird (profile), Mar 14th, 2013 @ 11:20am

    EA Pressures to have modder charged

    How long before EA gets the modder arrested for violating the DMCA anti-circumvention provision?

     

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      Beech, Mar 14th, 2013 @ 11:30am

      Re: EA Pressures to have modder charged

      Probally more like "cyber-hacking a cyber-game with cyber-terrorist intent" and the CFAA. Guy will be charged with 400 years worth of criminal charges, but will be considered "lucky" to be allowed to plea out for only a felony punishable by 3 years in a federal maximum security prison.

      The System Works!!! .....?

       

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        identicon
        Anonymous Coward, Mar 14th, 2013 @ 12:48pm

        Re: Re: EA Pressures to have modder charged

        If you fight us we'll let you age to 100 in our prison then bring you back to life "abba"

         

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          Anonymous Coward, Mar 14th, 2013 @ 12:50pm

          Re: Re: Re: EA Pressures to have modder charged

          Da fuck? It cut my comment in half! If you fight us we'll let you age to 100 in our prison then bring you back to life "abba" a few times. If you plea out you can do 6 months in county.

           

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    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Mar 14th, 2013 @ 11:29am

    Everyone needs to save this video, it's easy to download a youtube video, just look it up.

    no doubt once a few news sites find out about the video, they're going to tell their EA overlords and it's going to get spammed with false DMCA takedowns.

    Save it while it lasts

     

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    JeffH, Mar 14th, 2013 @ 12:21pm

    schadenfreude at its finest

    egads. Between this and the Predna Variety Hour there's more comedy on the airwaves then we've seen in years!

     

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    G Thompson (profile), Mar 14th, 2013 @ 12:28pm

    The mod is now available guys

    And according to Ocean Quigley (Creative director & Art director for Simcity) Modding is quite ok (and wanted) in Simcity 5
    His Twitter response about modding
    Screen Capture of twitter response (just in case)

    For all those who have a legal copy of Simcity 5:
    [Via reddit] Enable debug mode by placing [ https://lh.rs/DHL3POuCPqTD ] into your Origin Games\SimCity\SimCityData directory. Press Esc, Expose Debug UI, Enjoy

    Oh and looks like the original Modder might be not American so CFAA is moot

     

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      identicon
      Anonymous Coward, Mar 14th, 2013 @ 6:02pm

      Re:

      No that just means the DOJ will resort to pressuring the local government into assisting them in a commando raid on his home without a valid warrant before trying to extradite him to the US to stand trial for some other trumped up charge. They don't need the CFAA. They didn't need it for Dotcom.

       

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      Anonymous Coward, Mar 15th, 2013 @ 12:43am

      Re:

      I am reading the latest patche makes the files you need to modify read-only.

       

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    Anonymoose, Mar 14th, 2013 @ 1:40pm

    The timing is too perfect to be coincidence...

    They're clearing stuffing the ballot box to retain Consumerists' Worst Company in America award...

     

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    JohnnyRotten (profile), Mar 14th, 2013 @ 2:30pm

    An easy local save hack

    This hack and a VM image of an os & game would allow you a kind of ad hoc local save system.

    That's a bad joke, but not by much.

     

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    Rekrul, Mar 14th, 2013 @ 3:08pm

    From the article...

    Hell, even the requirement for online saves needing a constant connection is clearly nonsense. It isn't like the game couldn't be written to only connect once a save is initiated.

    Hell, even the requirement for online saves is clearly nonsense. It isn't like the game couldn't be written to save locally.

    TFTFY

     

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      JohnnyRotten (profile), Mar 14th, 2013 @ 3:57pm

      Re: From the article...

      Not possible. This problem has not ever come up before in the history of computing.

      If it had, and I'm not making any fact based claims about that, it certainly isn't solvable. Our saves must float above us, quiet and serene, in the clouds above us. Or say I think EA told me.

       

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    FM Hilton, Mar 14th, 2013 @ 6:58pm

    Next: sorry?

    I wonder how EA is going to explain this to their shareholders:

    "We made the game unbreakable, and unlockable..we don't know how this could have happened..must be one of them dirty ol' pirates..er, customers."

    I'd hate to be the one to tell them that I was the exec who thought the game would never be hacked, and said so publicly.

    Lucy, are you listening? Your days are probably numbered. Go update your resume soon-you're going to need it.

     

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    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Mar 14th, 2013 @ 8:15pm

    inb4 mass bans for everyone who used this mod... As in EA will lock you out of all your games in your Origin account.

    Welcome to the future.

     

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    totalz (profile), Mar 18th, 2013 @ 12:41am

    EA does provides all the lame-axx excuses, and crappy server config. All those lovely PSN+ free EA games are practically unplayable because of all those connection drops and what-not.

     

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