Launch Day Punishment: SimCity's Online-Only DRM Locking Purchasers Out Of Servers, Purchases

from the look-at-all-these-pirates-it's-hurting! dept

A few months ago, the SimCity devs stopped by Reddit for an AMA and found themselves fielding several questions about EA’s plans to release the game with an “always online” requirement. Requiring an internet connection to play a game, even in single-player mode, has been utilized by more than one company, often with disastrous results. Still, game companies continue to craft software with this requirement, mostly for anti-piracy reasons, although they often play up the “social” aspects as a sort of (completely transparent) smokescreen.

As was pointed out by several Redditors during the AMA, the online requirement was ridiculous and seriously inhibited playability. For one, no one’s internet connection is perfectly reliable. Secondly, SimCity was going further than most games, allowing only server-side saves, meaning that players could easily lose progress if their connections dropped.

Six weeks later, a different Redditor signed up for SimCity’s closed beta. Even in this limited release, servers were swamped and EA’s infrastructure couldn’t handle the traffic, something that didn’t bode well for the massive amount of players looking forward to playing the full version when it finally launched. The Redditor pointed this out to EA in a lengthy, well-worded forum post that cited previous issues with other online-only game launches that had gone horribly.

This brings us up to date and, now, SimCity has finally been released. One eager SimCity fan (and Redditor), who pre-ordered the game. thought he’d put a little playtime in before bed, and ran head on into this dialog box:


So, the reality is even worse than previously indicated. Not only are your saved games server-side only and an internet connection required to simply fire up the game, but every game is “multiplayer,” whether you’re interested in playing socially or not, and every game requires an open server slot.

As the Redditor points out, this simply isn’t an acceptable situation:

I figured from everything I’d read that the always-on part of the game simply required an internet connection, not a slot on a server like I’m about to PvP or something. I’d be more understanding if I could just play my private region by myself like I intended.

While many people were aware of the online-only requirement, this aspect of the game seems to have been completely underplayed. Why should a paying customer be forced to wait in line for an open server slot? This is a much more onerous requirement than simply requiring an online connection to verify software authenticity. Sure, it’s meant to be a social game where people can visit the cities of others, but there should be some option for those wanting to play a “private” game.

EA had to have some idea of how much its servers were going be hammered after the issues it experienced during the closed beta. No one’s expecting launch day to go flawlessly, but if you’re going to require an internet connection that’s reliant on open slots on regional servers, you are going to make paying customers very angry. Many of the people experiencing these problems paid for this game weeks or months ago and are having their loyalty rewarded with half-hour waits to spin the wheel on possibly accessing an open slot.

Not only are paying customers being locked out of playing the game they purchased, but other purchasers are still waiting for their downloads to complete or have their purchases authenticated and unlocked. The authentication servers are being hammered so badly that, according to TotalBiscuit’s “review” video, people with pre-orders are purchasing second copies because these new purchases are unlocking immediately, while authentification of their pre-ordered copies is still seriously delayed.

Now, some people may ask, after viewing this dialog box, “Why not just play on another server with more open slots?” Well, therein lies another piece of bad news for SimCity players. Should you have actually managed to get online and start a city, you’ll be exceedingly disappointed (and possibly homicidal) to discover that saved games DO NOT transfer between servers.

This all adds up to another spectacular DRM failure. When discussing piracy, game companies like to point out that a majority of their sales occur shortly after release, making these first few weeks critical to the success of the title. This critical sales period is used to justify DRM measures because, while every piece of software will eventually be cracked, anything that delays this inevitability results in a few more sales.

Sadly though, this same crucial sales period is when EA will be punishing its paying customers the most. By refusing to allow single players to start private, unconnected games (in case of a lost or unavailable connection), it’s now racing around putting out server fires. Using the launch day traffic surge as an excuse for unplayable/unauthenticated purchases is not acceptable. EA knew the game would be popular. It even had advance warning thanks to the large number of pre-orders. But it’s kind of hard to teach a company a lesson about DRM hurting paying customers when it already has their money.

For EA, this works out nearly perfectly. Sure, it’s probably not evil enough to want players locked out for hours on end, but it probably considers these “hiccups” a small price to pay to keep piracy to a (temporary) minimum. Of course, considering someone else (the customer) is actually paying that price, it’s really not sacrificing anything at all.

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Comments on “Launch Day Punishment: SimCity's Online-Only DRM Locking Purchasers Out Of Servers, Purchases”

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125 Comments
Jay (profile) says:

The bottom line

Mike, the issue here isn’t the DRM. That’s a result of an obvious monopoly on this game.

What we have here is EA using their position to monopolize content and force more money out of their customers.

Just think about this:

” This all adds up to another spectacular DRM failure. When discussing piracy, game companies like to point out that a majority of their sales occur shortly after release, making these first few weeks critical to the success of the title. This critical sales period is used to justify DRM measures because, while every piece of software will eventually be cracked, anything that delays this inevitability results in a few more sales.”

Now think about EA and how they’ve done everything to full their bottom line:

Starting a competitor to Steam and leaving the Stream customers in the wing.

Hated DRM that angered people in Spore, then bringing it back in this game.

There is more to it, but if EA coulee listen to its customers instead of listening to its shareholders, it might have seen this coming. But how it’s organized its business insulates them from actual criticism that would have helped them avoid this costly experiment.

Because I honestly can’t call this a “mistake”. It’s nothing more than a money grab from a company willing to screw over its customers and put profits over people. I doubt this will end in anything other than heartache.

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: The bottom line

“That’s a result of an obvious monopoly on this game.”

Erm, I’m not sure you’re using the right terminology. Unless it’s open sourced, every publisher has a monopoly on every game they create, DRM or no DRM?

Now, if you want to claim that they’re using anti-competitive practices to beat out competitors and try to control the retail channel then I’d agree. DRM is a big part of that. But they’d still have a monopoly on SimCity even if they released an offline-capable, DRM-free copy through Steam.

Chuck Norris' Enemy (deceased) (profile) says:

Re: The bottom line

Your anti-capitalism is showing. Nobody was ‘forced’ to pay any money. Just people willing to part with their hard earned cash knowing there were DRM requirements, albeit even worse than anticipated. I am sure there are those who didn’t know but the pre-pay folks experiencing problems purchasing another…now that is a sucker. Hey, I agree that what EA is doing is abhorrent and should refund customers but I sorely doubt that with their history. Hopefully people who didn’t know about EA’s failure can now think twice before purchasing another title from them. But nobody was ‘forced’ to buy the game (twice).

Jay (profile) says:

Re: Re: The bottom line

” Nobody was ‘forced’ to pay any money. Just people willing to part with their hard earned cash knowing there were DRM requirements, albeit even worse than anticipated”

I never said anyone was forced to pay money, just that the underlying issues are with their ignorance of what their customers want. Just think able how large their marketing department is compared to their game making department and you can realize that they can sell the idea of a game better than they can make one that rises to the level of customer anticipation on day one.

What EA has done is listen to the concerns of shareholders over people which is a very short term thinking plan. No matter how you slice it, this is going to create blowback that EA might not be ready for. I recall that they lost millions from their decisions for microtransactions in every game, loss of sales for Origin and other loss leaders that are crippling its ability to function.

I just think that if EA actually listened to their fans instead of boogeymen, it may work out better for them in the future.

Chuck Norris' Enemy (deceased) (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: The bottom line

What we have here is EA using their position to monopolize content and force more money out of their customers.

You did say force. Otherwise, I wholeheartedly agree with your statements. You can look below this thread and there are many potential customers that have educated themselves on EA and decided to (rightly) give them the middle finger. Once EA has alienated the bulk of its customer base and starts failing to profit from its games then they will rethink their DRM strategy (or run to the government).

Jay (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 The bottom line

Damn… Should have said “try to force more money from their customers”…

Still, they’ve been losing money for quite some time but that isn’t stopping them from their monopolistic practices. As well as it won’t. They’re subsidizedby the taxpayer to create games, they use the money for the ESRB, and even if they go bankrupt, the rules will favor the CEO and shareholders over the programmers and people that create the games.

The point here is that they’re insulated from criticism and it’s going to take a long time for them to actually think about their customers over their shareholders.

gorehound (profile) says:

Re: The bottom line

Do not buy any EA Games and make sure you Boycott them.Story after Story should you bother to Educate Oneself will show you that yes they are doing their best to suck what money they can out of the Mass Consumer as well as making your Gaming Experience suck by forcing this persistant online BS.
Look on the Internet for a Cracked Version or just the crack so you don’t have to deal with their Garbage.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: The bottom line

Not quite, though I agree with the main thrust of your argument.

Having spoken to a number of low-level employees of EA and its subsidiaries, the best description of the corporation was “Masochistic Cthulhu”. For example, EA are paying for an LGBT conference in California, and then they do stupid shit like this.

There is no coherency at the top of EA and the bean-counters are usually the ones listened to, rather than the techies.

Akari Mizunashi (profile) says:

“…people with pre-orders are purchasing second copies because these new purchases are unlocking immediately, while authentification of their pre-ordered copies is still seriously delayed.”

Readers, the true reason for the setup has finally been revealed.

I’ve said it once, and I’ll say it again: people who buy this crap knowing full well DRM will hinder their experience have no reason to complain.

It would be different if it’s discovered without warning, but this was known for months.

EA didn’t get the #1 spot for “Worst Company” because it knows its customers.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Re:

Not sure about where you are, but here “refuses to give a refund” is definately not a valid reason the credit card companies will accept for doing a chargeback. You’d need to lie and say you didn’t recognize the charge or some such. Also, if you call EA enough times, all you will get is put on hold indefinately.

crade (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

More like if you know a company is evil and you still buy from them, don’t complain. Obviously you can’t give the product back and get a refund, they have blocked refunds and probably reselling. You should however, know better than to buy from EA in the first place. A little research would tell you they are pretty much constantly working hard to screw people over, so really what do you expect? Sure they have many complete monopolies, but like you say, people don’t need competition, they can just go without.

Ninja (profile) says:

Re: Re:

It’s somewhat shocking (but not unexpected) to know there are people in this world that dumb. If you pre-ordered and it didn’t come in due time just sue them. If I pre-order I want to have the thing as soon as it hits the shelves. But no, when confronted with this situation these people in their infinite wisdom decided to buy a second copy… Really?

I would ask them to give me the extra copy but I don’t want an online-only drm-crippled game. Not even for free.

Dreddsnik says:

Re: Refunds

” 5 million people requesting refunds should get there attention. Especially if they have already spent that money.”

That would be nice, but no go. In most areas (like mine) retailers will not refund money on games, DVDs , CDs ,etc.
You can only get a new copy of the same thing. It’s been like this for a long time and, of course, ‘piracy’ is supposed to be the reason for it. They got things pretty damn good.

” The authentication servers are being hammered so badly that, according to TotalBiscuit’s “review” video, people with pre-orders are purchasing second copies because these new purchases are unlocking immediately, while authentification of their pre-ordered copies is still seriously delayed. “

Considering what I previously said about no returns, this is so grievously stupid that just maybe they deserve to get soaked. They even knew before buying that a DRM scheme, one that has already proven to punish the buyer, was in place. No wonder companies keep doing this. They have no incentive to stop.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: Refunds

“well, there’s always the class action suit.”

I bet there’s language in the EULA that says you aren’t allowed to sue them for any reason, and even if you CAN sue them you can’t get more than $5, and even if you CAN get more than $5 you can’t file class action, etc.

And, of course, there’s probably a clause that says they expressly disclaim that the game will actually work at all, let alone on a given day.

On the other hand, a judge may well find that the “contract” is void due to one side not receiving ANYTHING of value, resulting in full refunds for everyone. (Of course, if they actually are offering refunds, you’d have to take advantage of that instead of filing suit.)

btr1701 (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Refunds

I bet there’s language in the EULA that says
you aren’t allowed to sue them for any reason

EULAs are all well and good but they’re not superior to, nor can they contradict, state consumer protection laws. Violation of the implied warranty of fitness for a particular purpose comes to mind as a handy basis for a suit against this particular douchebag company.

sniperdoc (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Refunds

Actually… there is not. By installing the game you are signing a EULA, or End User License Agreement. This EULA has an Anti-Class Action clause. However, as a signatory of that EULA you are more than able to arbitrate on THEIR terms, against THEIR lawyers, at a place and time of THEIR choosing on YOUR DIME.

Awesome how people really don’t give a crap anymore and just take this BS without any problems…

That One Guy (profile) says:

Re: Refunds

Thankfully(for EA) the idea of ‘refunds’ for computer games and especially digital download versions are essentially non-existent.

Technically it’s supposed to keep people from buying a game, installing it, and then returning it for a full refund, but I’m sure crappy game companies like EA don’t mind in the least how it also ‘coincidentally’ makes it impossible for people to demand a refund for a broken game.

Chronno S. Trigger (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Refunds

The EU release is tomorrow, right? Maybe they’ll be able to stand up against this crap.

One of the “solutions” to this problem that came up yesterday was to use the European servers. Since save games do not cross servers, all those US players that started their cities on the EU servers will still be playing on the EU servers making that launch day even worse.

Anonymous Coward says:

“people with pre-orders are purchasing second copies because these new purchases are unlocking immediately, while authentification of their pre-ordered copies is still seriously delayed. “

So in other words, they’re REWARDING EA for crappy service by buying the game TWICE, and it’s only been out for less then a day to.

If I ever buy a game twice I want it to be years later when my CD is starting to get too scratched up to be read properly (and I have done this a few times in my life, for good games that are still worth playing 10+ years later).

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

Me too, but that’s because they’re both a) responsibly priced and b) add real value above the one I already own (compatibility with modern OSes and often Macs). Without both of those factors, I wouldn’t bother, but I’d rather catch up with games I loved years ago or never got the chance to play than some game at over 5x the price that might not let me play it today, let alone in 5 years.

Argonel (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

GoG and steam have both sold me games I already owned on physical media to support good publishers and for the convienence should I want to play again in the future. I have also bought games from both services that I had pirated and enjoyed in the past when I didn’t have the disposable income that I have now. Provide a good service and people will do the right thing.

LVDave (profile) says:

Re: Re:

Just goes to show you how unbelievably stupid a large number of people today are.. MOST intelligent people, when a company screws them, will stop dealing with the company in question, rather than doubling down and giving the company MORE $$. Since we’re talking about a flippin’ GAME, not anything critical, you gotta be pretty damned screwed up in the head to buy ANYthing EA sells…

out_of_the_blue says:

Looks to me that DRM works, despite quibbling of start-up problems.

Is that in dispute or is there some way to play without the EA server and being subject to EA’s whims?

“you are going to make paying customers very angry.” — OOOH, the dreaded yapping of ankle-biters! — You who are “serious” about playing games have NO perspective at all on how effective your yapping is. I predict that EA will go on without your approval. If you’re fanboy to SimCity, you’re locked into it.

And fact is, FANBOYS LOVE DRM! Complaining about it gives more depth to games. — Dodging it (if possible) gives the thrill of “pirating”. It quite literally unites a community. — Like a benevolent deity bestowing paradise while at same time prohibiting unauthorized play. — Is that straight out of Genesis, or what? Especially with the god-like powers in the simulated fantasy here.

Bottom line is: fanboys are fanboys.

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Looks to me that DRM works, despite quibbling of start-up problems.

“is there some way to play without the EA server and being subject to EA’s whims?”

Yes, it’s called piracy – the thing that this crap encourages rather than stops.

“If you’re fanboy to SimCity, you’re locked into it”

Whereas casual fans like myself buy a competitor’s products instead.

“Bottom line is: fanboys are fanboys.”

Which is why you’re so obsessed with posting here, despite having nothing to say, I presume. At least there’s no “look at how stupid I am” signature this time.

Ninja (profile) says:

Re: Looks to me that DRM works, despite quibbling of start-up problems.

Bottom line is: fanboys are fanboys.

Well, I simply love SimCity. But I’m NOT buying DRM crippled stuff. The one and only time I did that stupidity was with Assassin’s Creed (Ubisoft).

And fact is, FANBOYS LOVE DRM! Complaining about it gives more depth to games. — Dodging it (if possible) gives the thrill of “pirating”. It quite literally unites a community.

What weed are you smoking? There’s no thrill in pirating. And complaining about DRM means people that actually have some brains won’t buy.

Chronno S. Trigger (profile) says:

Re: Re: Looks to me that DRM works, despite quibbling of start-up problems.

“There’s no thrill in pirating.”

Yes there is, I came across this yesterday while I was trying to convince people not to support EA in any way (pirate or pay). Too many people were far too happy to shove the prospect of piracy into the faces of the legitimate users.

But that just adds more to the pile of reasons not to use DRM. It’s far to fun to play the game while laughing at those who can’t play even though they actually payed.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Looks to me that DRM works, despite quibbling of start-up problems.

Whenever i read a new post from you blue, i see the stupidity-o-meter reaching a higher, new level. And in this post, you did not failed me in showing even more idiocy than in your last one.

And please, don’t compare anything from the bible with practices from a company that only thinks on enriching itself with shamefull deeds. As a christian, i find that disgusting. And shameful.

Oh and since you mentioned the bible (Genesis is the first book of the bible), i wonder what would happen if Jesus did what He did with bread and fish, by multiplying 5 loafs of bread and 2 fish and feeding 5000 people with it (Mark 6:30-44, or 38-44 if you want to skip the story and go straight to the point i am making).

I wonder if the copyright firms we have would sue Him for pirating bread and fish…

Moral of the story is:

Copyright law is broken. DRM is broken. The world is broken.

If you assholes tried to find ways to win the consumer’s respect and attention (read money and riches as well) instead of trying to treat them like criminals and fuck’em up all the time in the process, piracy wouldn’t exist.
DRM is one of the (if not THE) main reason people pirate a game, as gamers don’t give a shit about costs, as long as they can play the game they want.

Tim Griffiths (profile) says:

Re: Re: Piracy delayed?

Region simulation is handled server side which means nothing in the local client to replace it (unless they where utterly moronic). So it won’t be fully featured until some one simulates the servers and just like we’ve seen with Diablo 3 it’s unlikely that simulation will be full featured or the same when it does come.

The problem with this style of DRM is that it’s largely effective. An important cog is missing from the local machine and you need to replace it before it can run in a local manner. It takes a lot of time and effort to get around it.

Now don’t get me wrong, people will get around it, there are pirated WoW servers for example but all EA sees is a very substantial gap between the point the game is on sale and when that is a viable piracy tool.

Which means if the game sales well they will chalk it up as a success even if there would be no way of telling what those salse would had been other wise. Still at lest if the game fails they can’t blame piracy… but it’s Sim City, it won’t fail or they simply won’t call it a failure as a result of them wanting to confirm their bias.

Ninja (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Piracy delayed?

I don’t mind less reliable simulations. It’s not only ineffective but it also hinders my ability to play the goddamn thing where connections are not available. Diablo 3 is a prime example.

I’ll often wait patiently for simulations. And if they don’t come I won’t buy, simple as that. Diablo 3 was an exception, I haven’t paid for the game =D

Still at lest if the game fails they can’t blame piracy… but it’s Sim City, it won’t fail or they simply won’t call it a failure as a result of them wanting to confirm their bias.

Piracy will always be blamed. Unless they manage NOT to let anyone pirate.

I’ll give you an example: Wii, Xbox360 and PS3. PS3 went on largely without any piracy and yet it had the exact same levels of revenue the other two that were easily unlocked. I suspect that if PS3 was unlocked early it would have shot way up. Sony tends to forget their previous consoles only got an awesome lead because people could run whatever they wanted.

Anonymous Coward says:

i have sympathy for the players but it’s not a new issue. there are plenty of reports of various games suffering from the same drm issues and plenty of game manufacturers that didn’t have the servers required to give smooth game play for all, especially at launch time. however, if the players made a stand and didn’t buy the fucking games in the first place unless the discs contained the full game and you only had to go on line if you were interested in playing against someone else, there wouldn’t be the problems. no one should have to buy or download extra content to get a ‘full game’, nor should they have to go on line to play single player modes. yet again, all this is is another way of companies keeping control of what people have legally bought by intentionally leaving content off the original discs then insisting that the only way to play any portion of the game is to have a constant internet connection. why keep grabbing ankles for these companies? tell them to swivel!!

Anonymous Coward says:

The game also features absurdly tiny maps. It’s a huge step backward in terms of actually being a city-building game. The focus on modeling of the minutia of digital people hurts the game’s map size and feature set. It’s not a real Sim City game so much as a City of The Sims(TM).

The lilliputian maps, anti-customer online requirements, and lack of necessary features makes this the worst Sim City game ever made. Good job, EA.

Unsupported Statement Which I Nevertheless Feel to be True: No dedicated single player game has made the transition to multi-player without suffering for it.

John Doe says:

I don't feel bad for the players

If someone sticks their tongue in an outlet and gets electrocuted, do you feel bad for them? Same goes with modern gamers. If they keep rewarding game makers who make it harder and harder to play and enjoy a game, whose fault is it, the gamers or the game makers? Economics wins every time. Stop participating in the market and the market WILL change.

Chronno S. Trigger (profile) says:

Re: Re: I don't feel bad for the players

“That what they did was stupid doesn’t, and shouldn’t, affect that.”

There’s doing something stupid when you had no way of knowing what would happen. Then there’s doing something stupid when everyone around you is telling you not to do it for the fifth time.

If someone sticks their tongue in a socket for the fifth time, I’ll get them medical treatment, but I won’t feel sorry for them.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: I don't feel bad for the players

They are ignorant and/or don’t care, like an obese that keeps eating fast food even though it will kill him.

The biggest problem is not the consumer, but a market that allows exploitation of bad habits or ignorance of consumers.

Are they at fault? Probably as much at fault as an obese that eats fast food, he can’t help it. But I’d say so is the toxic corporation who exploits and thrives of this situation as if they are not responsible at all.

You might as well ask why do we allow these corporations to make these types of games now, and why are we going to do about it.

Don’t give me the market crap, by the time people stop being ignorant and boycott the likes of EA, the top CEOs and executives will laugh at you and say “hey you finallly decided to do something, to bad I am now filthy rich and your money will never come back, but thanks for playing.”

That One Guy (profile) says:

Time to break out the schadenfreude

As much as it must suck to have paid for essentially a $60 box and cup coaster…

They knew ahead of time the game had an ‘internet connection required’ form of DRM…

They knew ahead of time that it was EA, most hated company in america, putting it out…

And they bought it anyway.

So for anyone who got burned on this game(especially the complete morons who bought it twice to be able to play), I can’t help but think they got their well deserved reward, and one they will hopefully actually learn from for any future situations that pop up with similar circumstances.

squall_seawave (profile) says:

Re: Time to break out the schadenfreude

the problem is that they are complete morons those burned by diablo 3 warned them
also the comments
“this wont affect me”
“get to 2013 all people has internet”
“is not drm is a feature”
of the fanboys god i was interested at first but the always online drm killed any interest in the franchise

Anonymous Coward says:

I am sorry to say, but this should be a time where gamer put their money where their mouth is, walk the walk not just talk the talk, and boycott the game and not play.

And yet, probably millions will buy the game, and then complain about what EA has done.

News flash, there is no democracy when it comes to corporate decisions, you as consumers bought the product, do you have the right and the obligation to complain? Yes.

But you know what would be even better than crying hopelessly at the mercy of an obsolete and harmful corporation like EA?

To not buy their s*it in the first place. Not now, and never again, take a stand otherwise you are all hopeless.

Tim Griffiths (profile) says:

This is not all

If you check out /r/simcity you’ll find a lot of reports where players have lost hours of play because EA servers failed to “integrate” their last save. Your options when that happens? Roll back or abandon the city. One player lost nearly 2 million he’d been sending to another city he was that was hit by this problem. There’s a chance this will happen when ever you move about from city to city and in a game where city sizes are so limited this is a common feature.

Now to be fair I think it should also be pointed out that EA and Maxis have stated that you have to play on their severs because the region simulation is handled on their end. I’m not sure if they’ve ever outright said it would be imposable for a machine to run regions locally but they’ve made a big deal about wanting the game to run on a wide range of specs.

To me it seems like a co-op out along the lines of Blizzards Diablo 3 reasoning. It’s no doubt true that region play is handled on the servers, and that makes sense for muiltplayer but I find it incredibly hard to believe such simulation is to grate for mid range gaming PC these days let alone high end. Pushing that narrative is just an easy out.

Having the saves on servers, having the regions simulated for online play, that all makes sense for the muiltplayer. But if you want to play the game solo not only do you still have to put up with all those problems, you lose the ability to control your saves and mod the game. While this game clearly has a multiplayer focus the only reason I can really think that they don’t allow the option for single player is purely because doing things this way puts them in control of everything.

The cynic in me also thinks that it’s much harder to sell the kind of DLC they are already peddling to people who can mod the game and that it’s much easier to sell to people who have pressure to “keep up with the Jones'” so to speak. There are DLC building that give active benefits (like a super hero who will help fight crime) and when the game is pushing scores and leader boards as such a big deal can they be sure they won’t end up realising DLC that ends up being a must have?

All in all I actually would like to play the game, it’s not the Sim City I was hoping for but for the game it is it’s interesting buuuuut the server play is something I think is bullshit and there in a large part due to it use as DRM. A lot of what the game does is the kind of anti consumer bull crap I can’t get behind. There are other people more deserving of my time and my money.

Coogan (profile) says:

I kinda feel sorry for the players, but at the same time, I was LMAO at the reports coming in on PC Gamer and Kotaku. I (and probably everybody else here) saw this fiasco coming from 20 miles away. And the sucky thing about it is that it’s not going to deter one frakking company from doing anything differently.

EA is not going to say “hey, we may have made a big mistake making this online only.” No, they’re sitting in their boardrooms RIGHT NOW saying “We need more hardware to handle the load.” Their fundamental grasp on reality has slipped away. They’re going gung-ho to treat a symptom with zero thought as to what the underlying cause of it is.

And nothing will change because of it. Millions of people will still buy Diablo 4, forgetting (or ignoring) the infamous day that Diablo 3 came out.

Eliminating piracy at the expense of pissing off your customers? At EA, absolutely. After all, the majority of their customers already hate them.

Chronno S. Trigger (profile) says:

Re: Duh!

“Why is anyone buying this crap from EA?”

The average consumer doesn’t give a single f**k about the war on piracy. They don’t care about DRM and they don’t care about the pirated version. They only want to play the game. The only time DRM ever crosses their mind is when they can’t do that. This is when people start looking at piracy as an option.

“And idiots who already paid for a pre-order are buying another copy just to get online”

Or they go out and purchase another copy because they have more money then brains.

David Muir (profile) says:

Re: Re: Duh!

The only time DRM ever crosses their mind is when they can’t do that. This is when people start looking at piracy as an option.

This is also when people start looking at piracy as the “cause” of their grief. Count the number of comments from people who blame those that pirate games — not EA or any other purveyor of lame DRM schemes — as the root of the problem.

Chronno S. Trigger (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Duh!

“Count the number of comments from people who blame those that pirate games”

Looking at the Youtube comments (and I have been since yesterday), far more people blame EA for this then the pirates.

The average consumer doesn’t care about the piracy war. If they can play the game without the DRM screwing with them, they will play it.

But, if they can’t play the game, what do they see? They see a program intentionally placed in the game by EA that’s stopping them from playing. The reason why doesn’t matter to most, they just care that they can’t play.

Even if they do know the root cause, piracy, they still see it as EA’s fault. The pirates didn’t fire that shot, EA did. Not only that, EA fired that shot at paying customers, not the pirates. It doesn’t matter that EA was trying to stop the pirates, it’s still a shot at those who aren’t pirating.

Taking it even one step further; pirates don’t attack paying customers, they attack EA. So customers see EA firing indiscriminately but pirates firing vary carefully.

Yes, there will be people who see all that and still defend EA and blame pirates. But after all that, I think it’s a mistake. EA made the decision to attack paying customers, not the pirates. I can blame the pirates for starting this war, but I can still blame EA more for targeting innocents.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Won't buy it then.

yeah, every so often i fire up simcity2000 in dosbox. still has play value for me.
plus a friend went from pc to mac so he gave me his useless sims2 and sim city 3000?? there are still hours of sandbox play for me without an online connection or upgrade.
I feel over consumers need to get burnt to fix what i see as excessive consumption.

Argonel (profile) says:

DRM destroys value

This online DRM and it’s spectacular failure doesn’t just destroy the value of the new sim city it also destroys value of other games from EA. Gatling Gears is on sale from steam this week for about $2.50 normal price is $10. Since I like the genre and the style I looked at it. As soon as I saw the note that it requires the use of EA/origin to authenticate the copy I immediately hit the back button. This isn’t even online DRM, as far as I can tell this is just a registration requirement. However even with a 75% discount I am not buying the game.

Argonel (profile) says:

Re: Re: DRM destroys value

Exactly. The DRM from Steam is tolerable becasue they have earned my trust that games will continue to be available. If the game was from EA but only required steam authentication I would have bought it without a second thought. Since it requires that I use EA/Origin and Steam to authenticate the game they get nothing from me.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: DRM destroys value

Definitely true.

I used to play The Sims 3, another title of EA, and before that played The Sims 1 and 2, and bought all the expansions for them.

At first I bought the expansion packs for the Sims 3, but then EA tried to make the game more and more online required, and the lag and load times and bugs kept on increasing with each new expansion pack.

At first I was like “ok, I won’t buy any new expansion packs since they just make the game worse”. But then the new patches kept on screwing up more then they fixed.

EA has the worst quality control I’ve ever seen with patches. It’s one thing to create a horrible game that can’t be salvaged with patches and fixes, it’s quite another to take what WAS a pretty good game when it first launched, and then RUIN it in patches with all the new bugs and problems you introduce.

It’s to the point now that I seriously doubt I’m going to be willing to spend even $1 to buy The Sims 4 if and when it comes out. The way EA is heading with DRM and online only play, and buyable content is another reason why I don’t have much hope for The Sims 4 being that good a game.

JohnnyRotten (profile) says:

Refunds, second copy, server saves

I didn’t purchase the game, so this information below is completely second hand.

Refunds: EA said they would allow refunds, however, I’ve seen several posts saying that you had to contact EA support by phone to get one, and that getting a hold of a human being right now was next to impossible.

People purchasing second copy: Totalbiscuit put that out there as a rumor, so I’m not sure if I would be comfortable citing that as a source of fact as even he didn’t know for sure.

Server saves: My understanding is that they have regional server farms – US and Europe at the least. Where the save game thing comes into play is if you are a US player trying to play in Europe, etc. If you continue to play in your region, your save should be there.

JohnnyRotten (profile) says:

Re: ...And here some other bad news for purchasers

You didn’t buy the game, you are renting it from them, and doing so under terms that are completely advantageous to them. They are under no obligation to keep their end of the game running at all. There is no contract between you and EA to allow you access to their servers (locked out), on the timely availability of game services, to store your save games, or to even keep servers available to you at all.

Even worse, chances are you are now locked into the EA “upgrade” cycle. EA tends to milk properties with an online component by regularly releasing incremental (imho) changes as a new product. For example, for the vast majority of their sports games, there is a new “version” every year (updated roster, generally minor tweaks to game play) at the full retail price.

The consequences to you, the renter of their games, is that once the new version is out, the previous version’s online services are shut down by EA, forcing you into a full box price repurchase (rerent?) if you want to keep playing online.

The sports games generally have an offline component that does continue to function. With SimCity, you are now doubly screwed (twice the screwing, half the fun!) as there is no offline component AND your saves are on their servers. Once they decide to shut down SimCity, or go to the next version, the game and anything YOU created in the game your purchased is gone.

The lesson here? If you want your game purchase to be under your control, and available to you long term, don’t rent your game from EA or any other company that controls how and when you play your game.

Machin Shin (profile) says:

Dead alread

Is it just me that looks at this a realized that they have also doomed the game already? You see, what happens in a few years when they get tired of paying the cost of running these servers? EA turns off the servers and now the game is gone.

That alone is enough to stop me from buying. I have games from the 80s that I still play. In fact I think I have the original sim city somewhere and I can still play it if I feel like it. This new one? You can only play for as long as EA feels like letting you……

Richard (profile) says:

Piracy winning?

I can imagine some inventive pirate has managed to hack the game already and spoof it into thinking the local PC is the server, thus allowing locally saved games and treating the local PC as a spoofed server, authenticating at the same time.

I find it sad that pirates do more for fans than the companies who should be living and dying by their customer service.

sniperdoc (profile) says:

No new news here?

I’m sorry… but what the article was talking about, with the redditor stating:

I figured from everything I’d read that the always-on part of the game simply required an internet connection, not a slot on a server like I’m about to PvP or something. I’d be more understanding if I could just play my private region by myself like I intended.

is NOTHING NEW.
This was discussed long ago when first rumors of a persistent internet connection requirement were mentioned.

I don’t mean to invalidate that this is an issue, it is a major problem, but definitely shouldn’t have been a surprise to anyone that’s followed the previews of SimCity.
So, whoever touted how awesome this was going to be, welcome to reality. This is precisely where all the people that are OK with this type of scheme, are allowing the industry to take OUR PROPERTY… our licenses. OUR ability to dictate when and where we can play OUR purchased property.
Sorry… but I saw this coming from miles away and is no surprise.
I for one, will not be supporting EA/Maxis in this endeavor… stupid move that’ll kill a great franchise.

Ryan says:

Online-only isn't just about DRM

Let me preface by saying I totally condone bashing EA for their draconian anti-consumer practices. Please, continue. They need every bit of bile and anger the Internet can supply.

However, this isn’t a simple case of “online-only DRM”. The reason you need a server slot is that you are actually playing the game online. SimCity does so many calculations that they can’t do it in real-time on a person’s computer, so it’s architected to do it on a server farm. From a technical perspective, the game actually is an MMO.

This came out during the AMA, and I was surprised at how few people picked up on it in their anti-DRM rage. I hate EA more than the next person, but I have to come to Maxis’ defense for putting together what they thought was the best experience with the computing power available.

JohnnyRotten (profile) says:

Re: Online-only isn't just about DRM

I think the point at which I?m smelling a rotten fish here is that the computational resources you?re talking about doesn’t change just because it?s being run on a server. The computers in the rack aren’t somehow superior in processing power to the one?s in the desktop*. If the game beats up your local computer?s CPU, it?ll do the same to computer in the rack.

If it takes this much, PER PLAYER, to run the game, than there is no server architecture that would support this and be financial viable for a one time $60 per player purchase. And for me, that?s where the smell comes from.

* To forestall the obvious; yes, if you are running a 386 without the math co-processor on the desktop, it?s probably not going to do very well compared to a modern CPU in the server. The argument assumes that we?re talking about generally similar desktop and server CPU?s. There isn’t a magic server CPU that does things automatically faster than their desktop brethren. If there was, every gamer on the planet would be using them.

Ninja (profile) says:

Re: Online-only isn't just about DRM

SimCity does so many calculations that they can’t do it in real-time on a person’s computer, so it’s architected to do it on a server farm.

Bullshit. Other SC games could and as it seems they were more complex since the terrain were larger. This is total bs. If they wanted to make it run on any computer they could have made it so the slower ones could use their online processing while the freking badass 8-core ones with shitloads of simply raw processing power (AMD I’m looking at you) could do all the processing locally.

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Re: Online-only isn't just about DRM

Yeah that doesn’t ring true with me either. About the only legitimate non-DRM excuse for the online requirement is the social aspect of the game, though this neither excuses the lack of a way to opt out of those features nor the save games being totally cloud stored.

It all sounds like excuses to avoid having to admit that, yet again, paying customers are being screwed by a company so scared of piracy that it doesn’t mind screwing those who do pay. If there truly is a technical reason why online has to happen and why these problems are here, then perhaps EA’s publicity people should be releasing statements to counter the impression that it’s DRM designed from the beginning to screw people. Otherwise, that’s exactly how people see it.

Erlkoenig says:

I want to know, who, personally, at EA, looked at all of this data (server loads, no save transfer, etc etc.) and went “Yep, this is an awesome idea. Everyone will love this. This can’t possibly go wrong. Non-transferable saves on servers you may or may not be able to get into are a very sound, logical idea. Because as everyone knows, Single Player is an antiquated idea. There are no successful Single Player games. Just look at the sales figures for the Mass Effect series.”

I want to know who it is so I can slap the shit out of them. This, if nothing else, is concrete proof that EA does not give two shits about its customers. They know people will buy it, so they don’t even bother trying to fix issues.

Anonymous Coward says:

Always online game gets hammered hard and fails miserably in its opening days? Stop the presses, the utterly predictable has happened! This happens with every major game that’s online-only upon release. Every. Damn. Game. Why is this surprising anyone?

Hell, even if I’d been dumb enough to pre-order* I wouldn’t bother to try and get online in the first week and a half or so, because this always happens. Always. And guess what? Millions of copies sold as pre-orders, and more on release means that this shit is obviously perfectly acceptable to consumers, so big companies will keep bundling it in!

* HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA AS IF, I have never and will never buy sight-unseen. Fuck DLC, especially day one DLC, and fuck DRM. The latter always fucks up, no exceptions, viva la cracks.

Valkor (profile) says:

Re: Re:

“This happens with every major game that’s online-only upon release. Every. Damn. Game. Why is this surprising anyone?”

Yes, we know that online game companies (Blizzard, that’s you) are notorious for not being willing/able to ramp up server capacity to handle a launch day peak that will probably not be matched for a long time. The point is that Sim City DID NOT HAVE TO BE THAT WAY! Even Ubisoft, who ostensibly has abandoned always-on DRM, did not require a crippling amount of server interaction with a healthy connection.

If the DRM on your single player game is so intrusive it brings down YOUR servers at launch, you’re doing it wrong.

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

Exactly. The issue her isn’t that an online game had problems. The issue is that a game that was primarily single player, in a single player franchise, that had no damn business being online in the first place other than the assumption that its players are pirates, had issues that stopped people playing their single player game. Meanwhile, pirates and purchasers of competing products got away with no problems..

minijedimaster (profile) says:

Dear EA,

You are soon to be obsolete. The educated consumers thank you for expediting this by pulling game launch snafus such as this.

In case you have not heard, small game developers are making decent games people actually want. They’re doing it because they love games and want to treat other gamers how they want to be treated. I’m sure some worthless exec is sitting there saying “Bah! what does this idiot know?!”

See a little story here about how a sequel to an old school RPG met it’s $900,000 funding goal in less than 6 hours on Kickstarter.

http://games.slashdot.org/story/13/03/06/224231/planescape-torment-successor-funded-in-6-hours?utm_source=rss1.0mainlinkanon&utm_medium=feed

Sincerely… nvm, idiots.

MightyNarwhal says:

After discovering all of these issues, I have actually decided to not buy the game.

While this is a combination of several factors, in all honesty, I just want to be able to save the game to my computer. I wouldn’t mind being online all the time, but requiring server-side saves is an absolutely abysmal addition.

EA, you’ve actually convinced me, all on your own, to spend that cool 60 dollars elsewhere. Congrats!

Marco says:

umm

When I heard Maxis was releasing a new Sim City, I simply went out and purchased it. It never occurred to me that they would force ppl to play online and wait their turn to actually be able to play the game. I have read above that some others have mentioned that we knew about this DRM thingy, personally I was not aware of it, very angry Sim City fan and will never buy another EA product.

Iridis says:

What was the point of the dics then?

I have to wonder, with the requirement to be always online to play the game, requiring a space on the server, being given only a small area to play in, not being able to save your games on your computer, and the supposed requirement Maxis states of needing to do some of the in-game processing on their servers, I have to wonder, what was even the point of buying the physical game in store? They’d seem worthless to me. This makes it into an MMO in my opinion, except even in this regard it lacks the majority of the features that MMO’s have, so it doesn’t seem to work either respect.

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