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We're heading down that dark road of no return. The point where games mutate from fun entertainment experiences to security protocols and a means of paranoia whenever it's time to log in or log on. Video games are sitting on a rift of change and gamers are entirely empowered to make the choice of how they evolve, whether it's in favor of gaming culture or in favor of corporate greed culture. The direction of the industry has become a rather clear-cut choice with no moral ambiguities about it.
If you don't understand the above rant it's in relation to this disease known as always-on DRM. It's a security method that prevents gamers from ever owning a game again. You can never play it at your leisure and you will never have full access to it or indefinite access to it. Always-on DRM means you can only play the game when you're connected online and when the company's servers are online. In theory it sounds like a practical thing but in actuality it's proven to be nothing but a hassle to legitimate consumers.
Maxis and EA are following in the footsteps of Blizzard's Diablo III. They want SimCity to adopt the always-on DRM method so no matter what, you'll be confined to EA's servers to play the game but only when they allow you to. Maxis takes it a step further and tries to defend the decision of why consumers need fewer choices in owning a product.
GameSpy managed to talk with Maxis' Vice President Brett Barry who justified the necessity of always-on DRM by saying the asynchronous multiplayer dictates that players always play with others, saying...
"The city is always simulating," ... "People are always moving about. Construction workers require time to put up their buildings, people move about, they might go to work, or they might decide to skip work and go to the park one day – just like people in a real city. And just like a real city, we wanted to have players from other cities help you out, just like what might happen in real life."
GameSpy goes on to describe how lacking power in one city required another player to jump in and help provide some lines to help out the other city. There were also instances including providing travel between the cities so that citizens could freely move between various player worlds. Neat, right? Well, for multiplayer yes that is neat.
The stupid part about it is that everything they talk about is great for a multiplayer experience. Awesome. So now what about the people who play by themselves? What about the players who don't feel like playing online?
I understand there will be a lot of troll comments saying "Companies don't owe gamers a thing, they can do whatever they want" and that's all fine and dandy but by all means it doesn't mean we have to let them do whatever they want to a hobby and a culture many of us love.
We can all see that always-on DRM does nothing to boost player enjoyment of the product, especially when all legitimate consumers in an entire region are being punished due to a server-side exploit.
The multiplayer aspects of SimCity sound cool and the asynchronous gameplay is neat, but does that really justify the removal of the option to own the product? I'm not really liking the direction mainstream gaming is moving in and as shown with Diablo III, always-on doesn't do much to protect consumers from hacks nor does it do much to stop exploits, bots and farmers. Sad times indeed.