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Shades of Blizzard and Diablo III are cropping up again. EA and Maxis have gone on the defense once again for the always-on DRM for SimCity. So why is it necessary that you can't play the game when you want and how you want? Because GlassBox is apparently too big for any single computer.
According to a blog post spotted by Blues News, the always-on DRM has to stay in effect because Glassbox is a multiplayer-focused simulation and individual PCs don't have the processing power to update every other player's city simultaneously while running their own city. So Glassbox simulates and stores the data from other player's cities to manage the workload via EA's servers.
Senior vice president at Maxis, Lucy Bradshaw, stated on the blog that...
Running the regional simulation on our servers is something we also use to support features that will make this SimCity even more fun. We use the Sim data to update worldwide leaderboards, where you get to see your city or mayoral standings as compared to the other cities in your region and between all of the regions in the world. And since SimCity is a live service, we're also using the data to create weekly global and local challenges for our players that keep the gameplay fresh and surprising.
All right, I'm done giving EA's side of the story (because obviously EA put a Maxis spokesperson up to the task just like they did when they had Casey Hudson take the fall for Mass Effect 3's ending fiasco). Time to talk truth.
1.) You wouldn't have to worry about Glassbox processing every asymmetrical multiplayer region if there was an offline mode. It would only compute the player's city just like every single other SimCity game out there.
2.) What happens for people who are always on but have spotty internet connections? Capped data rates? Travels frequently or has unreliable service? Oh, I guess they should just pay more money to their ISP or buy a better laptop or desktop PC eh?
3.) EA is known for shutting down servers to games that don't have a long tail-end. What happens if SimCity becomes niche? Will EA keep the servers running 15 or 20 years from now? I can still play the original Sim City if I want to, but if I decide to play this newest SimCity and EA shuts down the servers, the game is gone for good. Forever.
Unlike Diablo III there is ample time for journalists to make it known to the gaming community at large what SimCity will be about and how DRM will be pervasive to the experience. Will gaming journalist rise to the occasion and really explain the downsides to always-on DRM? Probably not.
Always-on DRM has no benefit to the end-user; you're at the mercy of a big corporation and they dictate how, when and where you play the game you paid for, just like with Blizzard and Diablo III.
One common defense for always-on DRM is that a lot of people stay online anyway, so what's the problem? The problem is that not everyone has stable enough connections to maintain a good enough online atmosphere for an always-on DRM game...a game that should have had an offline mode to begin with. The same thing happened with Diablo III in Korea and in France, where gamers with spotty connections simply could not play the game for any extended periods of time due to connection drop-outs.
Anyway, I'm sure SimCity will sell well enough and there will be plenty of shills to convince the gullible masses that turning control of your play experience over to a big corporation is “the way of the future” and everyone should be doing it.