I like progress. I really do. I like seeing my hometown of Adelaide Australia change and become better. I read the tech blogs and keep up with science and while I’m not always an early adopter of new tech, I do keenly imagine what I’d do with it. I’m waiting for The Singularity and can’t wait for the day I’m able to install that neural interface.
But sometimes progress isn’t.
When a building developer knocks down a gorgeous old character filled building and replaces it with a soulless and bland example of modern architecture, as state of the art as it may be, I think we’ve gone backwards.
And this is the way I think EA and Maxis has gone with SimCity.
I’ve played several incarnations of SimCity and its clones over the years. There was SimCity 2, SimCity 2000, SimCity 4, among others. I enjoyed the Impressions Caesar and Pharoah games. I’d love a real space colony game (anyone remember Outpost 1?) I like games with building.
Yet the latest SimCity, (I can’t seem to find a number, is it 5? Let’s just call it SimCity 2013 then,) is like that grand old stately building that is torn down to make way for a soulless office block.
Sure, it looks great with the latest graphics. But EA/Maxis has replaced the grandeur that was available to make a game that you can only play online, and as a consequence you are playing a diminished game.
Tipa has her reflections on the game up at West Karana which you should go over and read. The following quote I thought said it all.
Can’t back up your game. Can’t experiment. Can’t type “FUNDS”. Cities are pretty small because that’s all multiplayer can handle.
If you ever played the earlier SimCity games you’ll know they were massive. Not just in city size, but in what you could do. You could experiment to your hearts content. Now… well now you’re restricted to what EA allows. No giving your city extra funds in order to see what happens. No backing up, and more importantly:
First, you will not be able to play SimCity 3 in ten years. Maybe five… maybe. That’s about how long EA keeps the servers for their other online games running. So, enjoy the game now, all your cities and stuff are going away. Can’t save them to floppy and play it again in twenty years.
No Good Old Games versions in ten years time, if you’ve lost the disks in a move and have a yearning to play in 2033 while relaxing in your retirement castle, well… sorry chum, EA shut those servers down 15 years ago. Bummer.
Sometimes I wonder what is driving all this dumbing down of games. Well I do know. It’s the almighty dollar. Again, I’m not against companies making a buck, even making megabucks, but including ‘features’ like always on DRM and then cutting the scope of the game to allow for that DRM is just sad.
Isn’t it supposed to be: SimCity 2013 is better than SimCity 4 is better than SimCity 2000 is better than SimCity 2 is better than SimCity 1?
So why is it now SimCity for Dummies?
but only on the Playstation 3 and newly announced Playstation 4.
Why is the PC version only playable online again?
Oh. I think it’s because it’s a better experience, according to the propaganda.
But it’s really because Blizztard want you to buy as much gear as possible from their real money auction house, because, well you know… profit.
Sorry. Having a bit of cynicism this morning with my coffee.
I remember hearing a simple tip about how to protect your property in case of a burglary. You leave a moderate amount of cash, say a hundred dollars, in an obvious location. That way, the burglar doesn’t trash your house looking for your well hidden cash and possessions. Now I’ve never been burgled, but when I read this post about protecting your games from pirates this morning from indie RPG developer, Jeff Vogel, that old tip immediately came to mind.
Jeffs advice for game developers is to simply make it hard for your players to forget to pay for your game. Putting up all kinds of roadblocks to pirates also puts them in front of your paying customers. In his post, Vogel relates a couple of stories that occured when he did have barriers to players, and upon removing these barriers saw a net positive effect in the number of people buying his games.
The thing is that if someone wants to pirate your game, they will. Just like you cannot stop a determined and smart burglar from breaking into your house, there’s no way to prevent someone pirating a game. Your only hope is to delay them.
But this comes at the cost of pissing off and losing legitimate buyers. Isn’t it better to lower the barriers and gain extra sales from people who want to pay, than keeping those barriers and losing customers, and still not preventing pirates from breaking through them?
Sometime on Friday morning, Dragon Age:Origins players who booted up the game for a session of single-player dungeon crawling were greeted with a nasty surprise: all of the downloadable content (DLC) that they had purchased for the game had been flagged as “unauthorized,” so their saved games wouldn’t load. Again, these were vanilla, single-player saved games, representing untold hours of gameplay and investment, that users were suddenly unable to load.
I mean, it’s common practice when you’re having server issues to post an announcement somewhere, so that people don’t waste their time troubleshooting. In Bioware/EA’s case, that announcement didn’t come until yesterday afternoon—over three days after the start of the incident—when an official company rep finally graced the forum and acknowledged that this was a server-side problem.
I guess it’s more important to make sure that no one can pirate your game, than it is to actually let your customers get access to what they purchased. It also seems it’s less important, when your DRM screws up, to tell your customers that the problem is your fault.
Good one, EA.
That’s probably what an awful lot of Ubisoft’s customers will be thinking right now, at least those who loaded up Silent Hunter over the last day or so hoping to enjoy some quality gaming time.
It turns out that Ubisoft’s incredibly stupid DRM scheme has completely shafted all their legitimate customers according to reports from Rock, Paper, Shotgun. The DRM servers that each customer has to be connected to, all the time, just to be able to play the game have been down for an entire day.
No gaming for you!
What’s even more precious is that the claims that Ubisoft made concerning the inability of pirates to crack the DRM code in a way that allows players to play while these servers were down seem to be false too, according to the Rampant Coyote. It turns out that those who pirated the game were able to play it when the servers hit the deck.
I’m going to admit something bad. No, not pirating games, I don’t believe in doing that. But I have enjoyed a bit of the old schadenfreude in reading these reports. This situation reinforces the whole concept that treating your customers like criminals is a bad thing, and that it will backfire. In this case it backfired sooner rather than later. And that’s absolutely wonderful because it reinforces this position. Will it affect sales of other Ubisoft games infected with this customer hating crap? I hope so, since that’s the only way these companies will stop pushing this nonsense on their customers.
I also noticed over the last week or so that a couple of bloggers made the assertion that there’s no difference between an always connected DRM and the need to be connected to play a MMORPG. I just want to spend a moment to say that assertion is not entirely true for the following reasons.
First of all, nearly every modern MMORPG is meticulously designed to cope with random disconnects in such a way as to prevent the loss of progress as much as possible. That’s not the case with this DRM. Disconnect or get line lag and expect to restart from the last checkpoint. Ubisoft’s DRM is designed to interrupt the game experience. MMORPGs are designed to prevent interruptions even in the case of individual server crashes.
Secondly, the fundamental expectation of playing a solo single player game is to be able to do it anywhere. Some people just don’t have good internet. They may not be able to play a MMORPG, they shouldn’t be able to play single player games either?
And as we’ve seen today, server downtime can affect legitimate customers. Should a single player game be unplayable if the publisher has a bad server day?
PS. Don’t pirate games. It’s wrong, and it’s part of the reason these companies are doing this.
It seems that Ubisoft doesn’t kick a customer out of the game that they legally purchased, just dumps them back to their last checkpoint (in the case of AC2) and pauses the game until they get a connection again.
Oh yeah. That’s better. They still treat their customers like criminals, but at least they don’t have to reload the game.
My suggestion is that anyone who doesn’t want to be treated like a criminal, heads over to Amazon or any other supplier that allows customer reviews, and make your opinion count. Don’t lie about the game or the company, just let potential buyers know that Ubisoft is treating them like criminals and that a game like this isn’t worth buying. This tactic worked when EA tried the same crap over Spore (I think) with the DRM that limited activations. Ubisofts DRM is worse.
Make yourself heard.
The big news item in the gaming world this weeks, aside from the various expansions and stats related to MMORPGS, is the completely dumbarse move by Ubisoft to add a form of DRM to Assassins Creed 2 that is so evil, it kicks you out of the game if you suffer even a momentary disconnection to your internet connection.
In other words, if you’ve ever suffered lag, ISP disconnects, interference to your wireless connection, or a cat suddenly choosing to sit on the router and unplugging it, then Ubisoft will stop you playing Assassins Creed 2. In fact, it the disconnection won’t even give you time to save your progress.
Given this, I won’t be buying AC2. I wasn’t too impressed with Assassins Creed 1 since it crashed my XBox 360 every five minutes or so it seemed. But even if AC1 ran flawlessly I wouldn’t be buying Assassins Creed 2. My internet connection often has little pauses that give a touch of lag in the MMORPGs I play. But AC2 will disconnect me.
The way I see it, companies like Ubisoft are now forcing players who have gone out an bought legitimate copies of games into acts of piracy.
If I buy Assassins Creed 2 and at the first kick out, I reckon I’d have two options, depending on how much I like the game.
- Stop playing. I can be a little temperamental with games sometimes. It doesn’t take much to sour the experience. If Ubisoft kicked me out, I’d likely stop playing completely. I’d possibly then avoid Ubisoft games in the future.
- Find a cracked version. If I really liked the game and wanted to keep playing with interuption I might be inclined to find a way to beat the DRM by downloading a cracked version of the game. (Although this sort of software is inheritantly risky. I’d probably just stop playing.)
The fact is that companies like Ubisoft are not preventing piracy by pulling crap like this on their customers. It’s not the pirates being affected. They’ll avoid the DRM in the first place and just download the game. No. It’s Ubisoft’s customers who suffer. It’s Ubisoft’s customers who will then go out and find a cracked version of the game. And it’s Ubisoft’s customers who have then discovered how much else is out there that can be downloaded free.
Congratulations Ubisoft. By screwing your customers you’ve increased the ranks of the people who will happily pirate your games.
Well done. Dumbarse.