EA 'Embraces' SimCity Players: Releases Useless Modding Tools And Promises Supposedly Impossible 'Offline' Mode
from the maybe-we're-just-not-hated-ENOUGH dept
EA/Maxis is reviving memories of its epicly disastrous release of SimCity back in March with a couple of announcements. The first announcement is EA’s awkward attempt to embrace its community like an ex-husband trying to coax a hug out of his estranged wife during supervised child visitation.
Modders, EA wants YOU to start cranking out some compelling content for SimCity. Here’s EA’s lead-in:
Maxis and Electronic Arts (“EA”) have a long tradition of supporting the creativity of our community. We’re so excited to see the new ground many of you are breaking with SimCity Modding that we wanted to do something that would make it easier for you to continue to create amazing stuff. We’re putting this policy in place to ensure that our guidelines on Modding are clear and that all of our players get to enjoy SimCity their own way while also maintaining the safety and integrity of the SimCity experience. What comes next is up to you, our players. We hope the SimCity Modding community continues to grow and we’re looking forward to seeing what you create.
Sounds exciting. What can modders do exactly with EA’s tools? Game Politics breaks it down… to a single sentence.
According to EA’s guidelines the community is basically limited to cosmetic changes, such as reskins of buildings.
That noise you heard was any remaining enthusiasm being sucked out of the room. Alright, what can’t modders do?
1. Mods must not jeopardize the integrity of the gameplay or harm the experience of others. Mods that affect the simulation for multiplayer games and multiplayer features, such as leaderboards or trading with other players, are not allowed.
2. Mods must not infringe any copyright, trademark, patent, trade secret or other intellectual property right of any third party and will not include content that is unlawful, tortious, defamatory, obscene, invasive of the privacy of another person, threatening, harassing, abusive, hateful, racist or otherwise objectionable or inappropriate. SimCity has an age rating of ESRB Everyone 10+ and PEGI 7, and similar ratings from other ratings boards around the world. EA requires that Mods not include any material that would not be allowed under these ratings.
3. Mods may not modify any .com, .exe, .dll, .so or other executable files.
The terms and conditions of SimCity EULA and EA’s Terms of Service are specifically incorporated into this policy by this reference. In the event that the terms of this policy are in conflict with the terms of the SimCity EULA or EA’s Terms of Service, the terms of this Policy shall supersede and govern over any such conflicting terms.
To maintain the integrity of SimCity and ensure the best possible gaming experience for our players, EA reserves the right, in its sole discretion, to revoke permission to use, distribute or make Mods at any time, to disable any Mod within SimCity and to take disciplinary action against players who harm the experience of others.
It’s just as bad as everyone expected it would be when the first draft of the modding guidelines indicated EA’s resistance to “game-changing” elements. The final wording basically states that any mod worth playing will be either a) impossible or b) forbidden. So much for “supporting the creativity of the community.” And if some modder should create a particularly crafty building skin, EA retains the right to take credit for the modder’s work.
Distribution of your Mod in any form constitutes a grant by you to EA of an irrevocable, perpetual, royalty-free, sub-licensable right to use, copy, modify and distribute that Mod (and derivatives of that Mod), and use your name if we choose to, for any purpose and through any means, and without obligation to pay you anything, obtain your approval, or give you credit. You also agree to promptly execute assignments confirming this license upon request from EA.
So, there’s that. EA says mod to your heart’s content… but hope that your heart is very easily satisfied.
EA’s not quite done abusing its community. First, it gave them crude tools and hefty limitations and invited them to repaint a couple of things. Then, three days later, it made the following announcement in order to further insult the intelligence of its customers.
Let’s get right to it.
SIMCITY OFFLINE IS COMING!
I’;ve wanted to say those words for quite some time, so my apologies that I didn’t take the time to say Happy New Year first.
Yes, Offline is coming as a free download with Update 10 to all SimCity players. When we launch it, all of your previously downloaded content will be available to you anytime, anywhere, without the need for an internet connection. We are in the late phases of wrapping up its development and while we want to get it into your hands as soon as possible, our priority is to make sure that it’s as polished as possible before we release it.
FOR REAL? You mean the “offline mode” that someone not employed by EA/Maxis accomplished within a week of the game being released? The impossibility of an offline mode (at least according to PR (who claimed EA’s servers performed necessary gameplay calculations) turned out to be not only a complete lie but taking the game offline (via the debug mode) actually made the game 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.
We can be fairly sure EA’s “Offline Mode,” despite being released nine months after the unofficial version, won’t contain these improvements. It will be the same SimCity except with months of extraneous software engineering thrown in. And it looks as if EA has finally cracked the “Save to…” code.
[B]ecause your saved games in this mode are stored locally, you can save and load to your heart’s content. Our team will be delivering a follow-up blog that will outline the full details in the near future so stay tuned.
Fascinating. I’m really looking forward to the blog post detailing the intricacies of saving to local storage. Sure, it seems like the sort of basic thing that thousands of pieces of software have done for several decades, but I’m sure the EA/Maxis spin team has a new angle I haven’t considered.
Then there’s this mysterious statement which doesn’t seem to cohere with the modding announcement made three days earlier.
Bringing the game Offline means big things for our wonderful community of Modders. They can now make modifications to the game and its components without compromising the integrity of the Online game.
Yes, while Offline-only mods won’t break the game as long as they’re only used locally (another observation which ranks up there with the discovery of hard drives), those type of mods seem to be specifically forbidden by the modding ToS.
Mods must not jeopardize the integrity of the gameplay or harm the experience of others.
Mods may not modify any .com, .exe, .dll, .so or other executable files.
If these mods are never taken online, there’s a good chance they’ll never be discovered. However, the modding tools don’t seem to allow for this sort of creativity. “Modifying the game and its components” seems limited to cosmetic changes. Bringing the game offline doesn’t make the stunted tool set any more complete. For that matter, if modders just wanted to break the game offline, they’d been able to do so for months now.
Gamers and modders aren’t going to be happy with EA’s long-delayed “embrace” of its paying customers. Instead, they’re going to feel like they’re being talked down to by the same team that spent weeks lying about the “necessity” of an online-only game. If both the online requirements and the will-this-do modding tools are indicative of EA’s future plans, more and more gamers are going to find better games (and companies) to support.