The lights are on
Disclaimer: This is an opinion piece
by Minnnesota Viking punter Chris Kluwe, a.k.a. Chris Warcraft, and does not
reflect the opinions of Game Informer magazine. Our review of SimCity will be
coming in the following days.
Hi. I'm Chris. I've been playing
SimCity ever since the Super Nintendo version, and I've always been a huge fan
of the franchise (SimCity 3000 is my favorite). Thus, when PC Gamer came to me
and said, "Hey Chris! We want you to play the new SimCity with us in our
Celebrity Sim City region," I wasted no time in responding with a resounding
I mean, what could go wrong? (Other
than the inevitable giant lizards, meteor showers, and poor sewage planning
that happen in every SimCity game.)
Not only was this the first SimCity
in ten years, allowing for massive development time, it also had the immense
resources of EA behind it. The scope and attention to detail promised to be
amazing. You could follow every person in your city around as they went through
their daily lives, you could interact with other cities in the region via
trading, gifts, and cooperation on Great Works, and you could even play an
antagonistic version against other people by sending criminals and pollution their
way (via indirect methods of crafting your own city).
This promised to be one of the best
single-player games of the year. Unfortunately, the reality did not quite live
up to expectations. Don't get me wrong, the game itself is great. When it
works, that is. And oh boy, does it hate working.
At the time of writing this piece,
SimCity has been active for almost 62 hours. Of those 62 hours, I've been able
to log in for around ten. Of those ten,
four consisted of massive latency issues and corrupted games, so (quick
calculation here), I've had access to the actual game for maybe 10 percent of the time
I've had it. EA's servers are, to put it bluntly, utterly bugf---ed, and
there's no option to play the game offline.
Therein lies the heart of my problem.
SimCity is, at its heart, a single-player game. Having access to other players'
cities is cool, but I want to build MY city, and I don't want some goatfisting,
totally unnecessary "always-on" DRM to keep me from playing the game (full
disclosure: PC Gamer was kind enough to provide me with a download code for the
game, so you can only imagine my rage levels if I had actually put money into
EA's pockets for this "experience.")
The fact that EA requires an "always-on" connection is ostensibly because so many operations are taking place server
side that your computer won't be able to handle it (which is a blatant
falsehood, since when I was streaming the other night, the only times I DIDN'T
have latency was when I was disconnected from their servers and my computer had
to run all the game operations.). In reality, it's to try to combat piracy.
Sadly, EA seems to have failed to do
some very simple math. Let's look at an example. We'll assume that for an
amazingly successful game like SimCity, about 20,000 people will end up
pirating it (those who have the technical knowhow and Internet savvy to find a
working crack). I have 160,000 Twitter followers, of whom around 50,000 follow
me for gaming. I just told those 50,000 people NOT to buy SimCity because EA
cannot handle its s---, and the game is unplayable. We'll say half those people
listen to me and haven't bought the game already. So, carrying the pi, we
see that EA is already out 5,000 more sales than if they had just created a
normal, single player offline capable game with multiplayer components.
(Don't forget, "always-on" DRM also
screws over people who don't have access to Internet for large periods of time,
like those who live in rural areas and travelers. More lost sales!)
But that's not all! I'm not the only
one pissed off about EA's stupidity – countless review and news sites are also
weighing in, and the reports aren't good. In fact, Amazon has stopped selling
digital copies of the game because so many people are complaining about how
horrid the connection issues are. So, it's not just the people following me on
Twitter that are hearing about how craptastic this is, it's people all over the
gaming community (if you were curious, EA, that's your customer base). Even
more fun, EA has decided that it won't honor refunds for digital sales if you
bought it through their Origin service, so a lot of people who are
understandably upset about their $60+ purchase have no means of recourse.
This is terrible.
Why is this terrible? Not just
because of EA's total dickery when it comes to refunds, not just because of the
destruction of Maxis' image as a developer, but because this was completely
avoidable and SimCity is actually a really fun game (when it works). If I was
able to play SimCity offline, I would be wholeheartedly recommending it to
everyone, even those who aren't normally into the genre. For the PC Gamer
region, I created a lovely little town called Herpes (the servers rejected
Poopytown), and it quickly turned into a bustling metropolis of 160,000 people
happily going about their daily business, and I HAD FUN.
For the six hours I got to play.
However, after countless failed login
attempts, and a queue that constantly refreshed itself but never actually let
me in the game (protip: If you have a queue, make sure it actually queues to
something), and rubber band lag that almost gave me motion sickness at times, I
had to bid a sad farewell to the lovely people of Herpes because I just
couldn't take the frustration anymore. This was no longer a game. It was an
aggravation. And I don't play aggravations.
But that's not the worst part. No,
the worst part is, the game you just paid $60 for, the game you may love, is
not your game to own. You see, when a game requires an "always-on" connection,
and stores data on EA's servers – that means EA owns your game. If EA decides
to shut the servers down five years down the road? Tough luck. Hope you played
all the SimCity you'll ever want to play, because it's gone now. No going back
to nostalgic old favorites; no showing your children an amazing time with a
game that influenced your life; no reliving those memories.
So I say to EA, and any other
publisher thinking like EA – stop with the "always-on" bull----. Yes, you're
going to lose some sales to piracy, and yes, it sucks. The solution isn't to
f--- over the people who actually want to play the game. The solution isn't to
treat the customer like a prisoner you're graciously offering the opportunity
to lease your game. The solution is to make a good game, and then people will
tell their friends about it, and then those friends will buy the game and YOU
WILL MAKE MASSIVE PILES OF MONEY AND NOT INDUCE RAGE ANEURYSMS IN YOUR CUSTOMER
Because believe me, I'm not shy about
letting people know when to avoid a game that's not worth playing. And right
now, SimCity is not worth playing.
EA, you are worse than Herpes. At
least my infrastructure worked.