Maxis: SimCity's always-on DRM for gamers' benefit

VP Lucy Bradshaw acknowledges fan concerns, says creating a connected experience has been a day-one goal for the game.

Addressing fan concerns regarding SimCity's always-on DRM in a blog entry on the SimCity website, Maxis vice president Lucy Bradshaw said "creating a connected experience has always been a goal" for the game.

She further explained that some of SimCity's simulation aspects must be rendered on EA's servers for the game to run. Bradshaw said a "massive amount of computing" goes into this, and the game's Glassbox engine can only achieve these tasks through a constant Internet connection.

"You’re always connected to the neighbors in your region so while you play, data from your city interacts with our servers, and we run the simulation at a regional scale," she said.

More specifically, trading between cities and simulation effects like pollution and crime, are processed on EA's servers and then data is sent back to players' cities on their local PC. "Every city in the region is updated every three minutes, which keeps the overall region in sync and makes your decisions in your city relevant to any changes that have taken place in the region," she said.

In addition to technical necessesities, Bradshaw said SimCity requiring a constant Internet connection is in the best interest of "fun." She explained that features like leaderboards and challenges would not be possible without being online.

SimCity is currently in development at EA Maxis. It is due out on Mac and PC March 5, 2013. For more, check out GameSpot's previous coverage.

Written By

Eddie Makuch is a news editor at GameSpot, and is a big UCONN athletics fan.

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Discussion

476 comments
t0pheNutz
t0pheNutz

To game devs:

Piracy has always existed, it will always exist. There will always be a workaround, and there will always be people who take advantage. Always. You know this. It's like the war on drugs, you just can't win from that angle. Prohibition never works, it never has, because at the end of the day people will do as they please, when they know the chances of individual consequences are low.

So how can you win? You can step up. You can make games people would be happy to spend their hard earned bread on. As long as you make a quality product, that always works, when people want it to work, there will always be people who buy it. They always have, and they always will. That's how you win. 

We like good games, that work even when our connection is down, that are complete and thoroughly tested when they ship. We like games that we know we can install on our next computer, because we like them that much, enough to play through again 5 years from now when the online servers will probably be gone. We like knowing we own the game we just paid $50-$60 for, rather than feeling we have just rented a temporary pass to play it for awhile. Many of us fear that's the direction things are taking, that soon games may be confined to a short playable life, only enduring as long as the current platform has infrastructure actively supporting it. We hope this is not the case, and that in 10 years, retro gaming is still be a thing.

-Gamers, aka your meal ticket.

pwc2
pwc2

Thank you EA for ruining SimCity! :( Always Online is NOT the answer.

TitanPolaris
TitanPolaris

Blah, blah, BLAH!! In other news, thanks EA for RUINING another series I loved for so long!! First C&C, then MOH, then Mass Effect, and NOW SimCity! I won't be surprised if Battlefield goes down the toilet as well!! EA YOU GUYS HAVE TO LEARN AS A COMPANY TO LISTEN!! Always on-line does NOT WORK AT ALL AND JUST DRIVES MORE OF YOUR POTENTALL CUSTOMERS AND DOLLARS TO PIRACY!!! Multi-player in this type of game and OTHERS LIKE MADDEN AND MASS EFFECT DOES NOT HELP YOUR REPUTATION PERIOD!! 

In short listen to your fanbase and customers and you will not have this PROBLEM!! Arrogance is the one thing you can't have as a company and then try to backtrack like D.C. Polititan and say later "OH BUT THAT'S NOT WAHT I MENT TO SAY!" because IM TIRED OF COMPANIES SAYING "IT'S GOOD FOR THE CONSUMER, WHEN IN REALLITY IT"S JUST GOOD FOR YOUR OWN POCKET BOOK!!" ANYONE paying $100 for this piece of CRAP is UNJUSTIFIABLE AND WRONG!! If this is the way EA and others are going to go to in the future when it come to ALWAYS ON-LINE DRM you write the R.I.P. on gaming's tombstone as we know it!! END OF RANT 

spenta
spenta

Let me read what some of the marketing from the jacket of SimCity 4 says "The Biggest Simcity Ever!" ... "Create a Massive Metropolitan Area!". The game used to be marketed and sold on the principle of creating huge cities and now for absolutely no reason other then to facilitate a mulit-player game that no one asked for they've gone in the complete opposite direction

spenta
spenta

By the way, why hasn't GameSpots review come out yet for this game?  Is it because they are desperately hoping the servers are fixed so they wont have to mention it and still give the game a positive review in order to receive their kick-back from EA?  Nahhh, that certainly is totally impossible.

spenta
spenta

Consider that goal as FAILED.  All of your regional simulation is too much for your servers to handle with the loads and now your game is broken.  

cjtopspin
cjtopspin

Well they really screwed the pooch on this one folks.  Wow.  You can't even save your game locally?  Seriously?  It doesn't matter because the servers are never up anyways.

Brilliant.  

Only EA could take a game like Sim City and actually make people angry.  Not just disappointed...but ANGRY.

Dradeeus
Dradeeus

Nailed it, Maxis. :| Everyone really appreciates it.

KaiTenSatsuma
KaiTenSatsuma

You could have just made a controlled, offline version along with the Spore like "LETS CONNECT EVERYONE'S SHODDY TOWN TOGETHER" version.


I might just buy SimCity to make the most crime-ridden, totalitarian city possible. Can I simulate SWAT assaults on protestors?

darkscout3000
darkscout3000

Justifying DRM is one thing

Justifying DRM based on "gamer's benefit"? Now that's just completely BS ...

colt_a
colt_a

Hey look, was excited for this game, was going to buy it tomorrow....now I will refuse to pay a dime for this game.  Its not like I'm cheap, my steam account is worth several thousand dollars.

Always online DRM = I'm looking for a pirated copy.  I don't want your servers telling me when I can play a single player game.

vicke32
vicke32

>DRM
>gamer's benifit

Why? No. Stop that, it has passed the point of silly.

GoingPostal13
GoingPostal13

It'll be fine, it's not like EA has a history of turning off their servers is it?


Oh, wait ...

DrKill09
DrKill09

No, no it is not.  When I buy a game, I should be able to install it on as  many of my computers as I want, and I should be able to play it offline with no connection.  No disc in the drive.  No product keys to keep track of.

I buy my games, but I crack every single one of them.  Hackers are the only reason we have any freedom with things we LEGALLY PURCHASED. 

Kjranu
Kjranu

Well, it's nice to be informed that Maxis is more concerned about potential piracy than ensuring that the gaming experience with Simcity is as great as it can be on our PCs. You've convinced me to not spend $60 on your brand-new game. I'm tired of giving mega-corps money and have them treat us like children who need to be locked up and put under police observation  every time we fire up a PC game to be quite frank. 

Nafe
Nafe

and the game's Glassbox engine can only achieve these tasks through a constant Internet connection."

LOL.  that is probably the WORST LIE I have ever read.  The amount of bullshit that she said can't be compared.  That is the most insulting lie I have ever read.

shanethewolf
shanethewolf

When crackers remove the DRM, they can claim it's "for the benefit of the developers".

CaoSong
CaoSong

Guess I'll be pirating this game. Ironically my gf had just talked me into pre-ordering this game with her just a couple days ago. I love the idea of joining a server and having a city in a region with other people, but I'm not going to be forced to.

Pirates will find a way around your anti-piracy DRM just like they always have and always will, so as a pirate I will say, good job once again hurting those who would actually buy the game more then you're hurting the pirates.

Joutja
Joutja

My main concern is to what would happen if one's internet is faulty? What if it times out or they don't have a particularly fast internet? Does the speed of the internet affect the gameplay? 

Tiletron
Tiletron

Y'know in the beginning, I was like most people where the always-on DRM were concerned.  I was one of those people that bought Settlers: Path to a Kingdom only to find that, for almost three months after launch, the number of people connected broke the servers...

In the case of SimCity, however, I think I understand -- it has to be the data layers.  In all the prior games, you didn't have dedicated data maps that tracked statistics about your city in real-time, but with Glassbox you do.  To maintain an effective faux-stock exchange that the studio will have in the game, to facilitate buying and selling between cities, you need a system running from the beginning that handles all of that. 

Bottom line is, the amount of data mining this game needs probably warrants an always-on DRM system, to make sure it's all working properly and can be tweaked now and then like a real global economy.

FudgeSociety
FudgeSociety

As a beta tester, I already know I will not be buying this game. I think of this beta as a lesson learned rather than a game test/ I learned that any game with DRM is a game I have no interest in buying. I can't even play NOW due to connectivity issues. In recent news, EA poisons another game series.

vogtcha
vogtcha

It looks like your day one goal is incompatible with the fans goals.

The same fans that will make or break your game.

All we want is to have fun building worlds we control, with software we own.

If you cannot understand this, then simcity is DOA.

You can ask Monte Carlo for tips as to the demise of their dinosaur if you don't believe us.

da_funk4
da_funk4

What a bad idea, what happens when your  connection drops? does the game just crash? smh

justinkeith26nv
justinkeith26nv

Sorry for the negative comment and this is not bad mouthing EA or Maxis or online gamers or those looking forward to the new SimCity.

I'm disappointed to hear it will be an always online requirement and will not be pre-purchasing the game like I have done in the past with other games, nor will I be running to the store when it comes out.  The online for multiplayer should be optional; offline single play should be optional and the online requirement for DRM/piracy, they should look for another solution in my opinion.

Wish EA, Maxis and SimCity the best of luck.

MustSeeMelons
MustSeeMelons

Oh no, not another online game. I was really looking forward to this, not so much now. This is all because of the attention whores online.. so sad ;( What happened with playing games all by yourself and doing anything i desire?

widdowson91
widdowson91

Forcing a constant connection to the internet is never for the benefit of the gamers. Look at how bad Diablo III was at launch. Devs these days talk crap.

JoiLambell
JoiLambell

"creating a connected experience has been a day-one goal for the game."

 

   What will happen when servers are shutdown ?

Who controls Disasters ?

No Terraforming or Farms .

Small maps.

No hard drive map saving.

Cloud saving and no reload.(disaster, oops ! to bad, reconstruct ).

Cannot control region transport layout (region connections).

Overpricing and beeing later milked for DLC.

No modding likely due to multiplayer.

You buy the game, but they still own it and in someway own you.(yes, you will see it that later)

Cartoonish Graphics.

To much focus on social gaming, such as simcity world.

Poor region implementation. (the huge gaps between the bubble cities).

 

   This and much more, i have been finding all over the net, mostly all confirmed.

Not much we can do about it, just make known to EA how we feel.

Lots of fans including myself  dissapointed, it´s not the first time this happens,

EA as dissapointed me so many times in the past in very diferent ways ,not just game content...

 

So for a long time, i treat Them as they treat me !

 

-Middle Finger-

 

 

 

 

bigbadonion
bigbadonion

I still play sim city 3000, and sim city 4 from time to time, and still find them very enjoyable. Those games are both old now. In a few years this new version won't be playable at all when you decide to stop supporting it, and close down the servers. Yeah thanks for that EA. Also please don't try to lie to us about the DRM being for our benefit. Only a true idiot would believe that.Considering my copy of sim city 3000 must be about 10 year old now, possibly older, and my copy of sim city 4 is about 6 year old. Do I get a discount? Considering in 6 years, and certainly 10 years, I some how doubt I'll be able to play it.

 

Why do these companies insist on doing this? It doesn't benefit anyone. Pirates just disable it, and all that you're left with is genuine paying customers being crapped on. 

 

Also torrent downloads aren't always a bad thing for game companies. Sure you get those who have never bought a game in their lives. But if I download a game, and enjoy it, I'll buy it, if I didn't' they developers didn't deserve my money anyway. I use it as a way to try games out, some of which in the past I would never have thought of buying otherwise. 

thebeasle
thebeasle

My problem is more with the game itself than the DRM. There are so many fundamental problems with this game that DRM is just another reason not to buy. 

 

I bought Diablo 3 and really enjoyed it. But Diablo already had a huge multiplayer component and community. In other words, there were actual benefits to having an online character and being able to jump into your friends' games. SimCity has ALWAYS been a single player experience. This is a pure push for  DRM with little or no multiplayer benefits. The blog post is even called "The Benefits of Live Service" and Lucy Bradshaw refers to SimCity as a "live service." 

 

I won't be pre-ordering this live service. If it gets really high critic and user ratings I will consider a purchase, but I'm not holding my breath. This game really looks terrible. 

TitanPolaris
TitanPolaris

@pwc2 Agree 1000%!! THIS IS NOT THE WAY COMBAT PIRACY!! They are OVERREACTING TO SPORE and what it did to them!! By the way EA, HOW MANY COPIES OF SPORE DID YOU SELL ANYWAYS!?! Piracy is a LAME excuse for this travesty of a game you put on us honest consumers!!! SHAME!!

Slade968
Slade968

@TitanPolaris I go out of my way to pirate DRM games (and any EA game at this point). You will notice that on the torrent pages of games by respected developers such as CD Projekt Red or  From Software, the entire page is full of people advocating that you go out and buy the game and support the developer. And I happily oblige. 

CoreyMisterMan
CoreyMisterMan

@GoingPostal13 As I understand it, when EA shuts down a server it is for the online elements only...and the games are still playable.  Since some hate that this game forces them to stay online they should hope for a server shutdown and EA will make the game offline only.

DrKill09
DrKill09

@Nafe Yeah.  4.2GHZ octa core processors COULDN'T POSSIBLY calculate every npc in the game.  (rolls eyes)

DrKill09
DrKill09

@shanethewolf Yeah, it is only a matter of time.  Steam was once thought crack proof, as was the PS3.  The more these bullies step on our rights and treat us like children, the more ways we will find workarounds.

daterxies
daterxies

You cant pirate it... its going to be like Diablo III... DERP DERP.. There servers are a vital part and do the computing on a lot of things in game... i dont see any pirated versions of D3 out do you?

Rikaelus
Rikaelus

IF you want to trade between cities, great, go online. But it shouldn't be a requirement. I can still put in SimCity 4 and play it today. Will I be able to play this in 10 years? Hell no. There's no way EA will keep their servers online that long. They should have followed the Cities XL model.

SimCity isn't an MMO. There's no reason to have to be online.

All this DRM is doing is giving the publisher the right to determine when you can no longer play. But hey, who can blame them? It's a great marketing strategy. Shut down the servers shortly after the sequel is released and they push people to spending more money. Modern publishers don't want to sell games a person can play for a decade.

pwc2
pwc2

@TitanPolaris Although I wasn't referring to pirating. I was thinking of the forced online play, and having my city affect someone else's city.Stuff like that.

stev69
stev69

@CoreyMisterMan I like the way you think EA would make it so the game would continue to work offline, they will shut down the servers when the time comes to launch the next sim city, then it will be upgrade or don't play anymore. This is just one more marketing ploy to force gamers into handing over more of their cash. You would be incredibly naive to think otherwise.

CaoSong
CaoSong

@daterxies well your derps make sense. since yes there are pirated copies of Diablo III (there are 19 working torrents of Diablo 3 on Thepiratebay alone), there are pirated versions of just about every game ever popular enough to want a pirated version of. Just go on derping, it suits you.

pwc2
pwc2

@Rikaelus Amen! I just like to fool around, and I don't want to affect others who might be more serious.

CoreyMisterMan
CoreyMisterMan

@CaoSong @lightpeak Was your private server available to anyone that pirated WoW?  If not, then your example doesn't invalidate the main point he was getting at.  The vast majority of pirated versions of online games lack features of the full version.

Also, even if someone waited for a "private server" version of SimCity with all the content, then they quite possibly would need an "always on" connection with a random hacker's server.  Then you would have the same problem that people say they want to avoid with Origin DRM/"always on."

CaoSong
CaoSong

@lightpeak Never heard of private servers? I ran a private server of WoW for a while, had every single feature the official game had. You can pirate online games, if you couldn't, every game would be online only lol

lightpeak
lightpeak

You cannot "pirate" online games pre se especially not modern online titles these days. The reason is because these games like SimCity stores and transmit their data and other contents via their servers. Some of the vital data are not actually stored on your hard drive or any local storage but from the company's servers themselves that's the geist of online based games.

You can "pirate" but the pirated content won't be the same the reason as I mention above, unless you have direct access or somehow managed to hack and decrypt those transmitted data from the servers (which I highly doubt) that is secured not to mention a highly time consuming process and mathematically requires reasonable amount of processing power to do so.

Same reason why you can't actually "pirate" World of Warcarft or any other online game with a 1 to 1 experience, the whole contents and other data isn't stored locally but must be retrieved from a server same concept with Steam/Origin accounts, your account data are actually stored in the other party remote servers. 

The best a pirate could do is take those local stored data and somehow 'patch' it to a SP game but again there would be missing contents and stuffs since SimCity isn't designed to be played offline SP.

thetarget
thetarget

@daterxies Irrelevant IMO, D3 is not even a single player game. Granted one can still do mission solo, but one can't reject hijacks either. Sim city is suppose to be a single player game, why make it mulitplayer for the sake of it. 

daterxies
daterxies

Did you even try the Diablo 3 torrent?  The server emulator was pretty much scrapped the second it was released because most the futures in the game wouldnt work... Correct me if im wrong cause i would love to get my hands on a fully 100% working D3