EA Exec Claims DRM Is a "Failed Dead-End Strategy"

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Bizarre. It's a toss up between unimaginable incompetence from Maxis or online DRM demands from EA. Given the uninvolved shallowness of the online functions for Simcity it is incredibly hard to believe that "game design" decision was solely responsible for the always-online-demand.

Lets march Jim Sterling into the Maxis office with a lie detector. If the machine is expensive we can easily Kickstarter one for him. It can be used for every interview forever more.

Timzilla:
If the whole point was to make an MMO like game, then why not just add an "Online" subtitle? That way atleast the consumer has an idea what the focus is and what they're getting into. Is anyone really gonna complain when "SimCity:Online" needs a connection?

But then they couldn't trick unsuspecting players into buying it. It's like what they just did for announcing Battlefield 4's pre-order promotion: "Battlefield 4 Premium Expansion Pack". When I first read it, I thought it was Battlefield Premium which is more or less a Season pass. Then I read it again and realized no, it's not the same thing. It's probably just a couple of dog tags. Still pre-ordering though.

Nicolaus99:
Bizarre. It's a toss up between unimaginable incompetence from Maxis or online DRM demands from EA. Given the uninvolved shallowness of the online functions for Simcity it is incredibly hard to believe that "game design" decision was solely responsible for the always-online-demand.

Lets march Jim Sterling into the Maxis office with a lie detector. If the machine is expensive we can easily Kickstarter one for him. It can be used for every interview forever more.

I'm going to go with incompetence on Maxis' part. They're still in charge of implementing the servers and should have known how much of a budget they needed to ask EA for. I think Maxis got all high and mighty and thought they had a great "vision" to work towards. And EA trusted them a little too much.

I was going to make a comment about the claim this is like an mmo but I have been spectacularly ninja'd on that count.

So instead, I'll talk about the line about no one forced it to be always online. If no one forced it, then why did a historically single player franchise, that had very little features ever hinting at the current design direction, change to become a sub-par city building simulator that attempted to penalise all who dared to want to play on their own?
Sounds forced to me.

This latest tactic of "DRM is bad, but this isn't DRM, it's an MMO" will likely propel the EA team to take gold in the Olympic 4 X 100 Backpedaling.

What? Is the sky falling in? Are pigs flying? Are the lion and the lamb laying in peace together? And have EA had an seen the light and renounced evil?

*reads article*

...Oh dear... So what he is saying is that DRM is bad except when EA do it, then it's a creative choice and offering a service? Is that right? I'm not that fluent in PR bullshit.

"you don't always know what the customer is going to want. You have to innovate and try new things and surprise people and in this particular case that's what we sought to achieve"

Well I imagine would be hard for a in IP to gauge what customers want, it is probably much easier to do with a sequel to a long established series that has a large numbers of fans who would be quite willing to offer feedback on why they like the series. Plus I imagine if said customers where very vocal about features they did not like the sound from the moment they were announced, again I imagine it would easy to work out what the customer's actually wanted.

"If you play an MMO, you don't demand an offline mode, you just don't. And in fact, SimCity started out and felt like an MMO more than anything else and it plays like an MMO."

...

EA do yourself a favour and just gag all your execs so they can't talk.

Damn, here I thought for a second that maybe someone at EA grew a brain, but nope. Was on the right track with the whole "DRM doesn't work" part, but then veered right back off into stupid territory with "GOOD THING SIMCITY HAD NO DRM LOLOLOLOLOL!!!" Yes it did. There was no reason to exclude an offline mode

Andy Chalk:
At what point does DRM stop being DRM and start being an integral component of gameplay?

Easy answer: when the game is actually a multiplayer game. When the entire point is to directly play with or around other people.

Here's another simple concept: taking a single player game and breaking it to force multiplayer aspects into it is not the same thing as an actual multiplayer game at all. It's just a broken single player game. And that's what SimCity is: a broken single player game. There's no excuse for it not to have an offline mode, and modders already proved that it works offline too.

Can we stop asking pointless questions about the differences between multiplayer and singleplayer and get back to letting companies know we won't stand for insanely intrusive always-online DRM that breaks the game now?

I hope this can put a rest to all the shit where everyone was blaming EA for SimCity's shitty online service. Now both Maxis and EA have said that it's all on Maxis. That said, I doubt EA is going to stop using DRM.

Gibeau's statement leads to an interesting question: At what point does DRM stop being DRM and start being an integral component of gameplay? Using Steam as a template, it's arguable that EA could claim to have abandoned DRM simply by making Origin a requirement of using its games. It's semantics, of course, but it worked for Valve - could it work for EA too?

Valve doesn't say they aren't using DRM. Steam is a service and store as well as DRM. But Steamworks is referred to as "Steam DRM". If you purchase a game on Steam, you get a layer of Steamworks on top of whatever DRM is present from the developer. The difference between what Steam does and what Maxis did was worlds apart though. They put an always online connection so you are always jacked into some for of social service. You can effectively separate Steam as a service from the DRM. You can shut down the service aspect. Lots of games don't user Steam services in any way. But the DRM is always present, which in a lot of ways is a lot more honest than what Maxis did with their always on. It's a service, but it's compulsory and not optional at all. The DRM is what it is. I can't complain about it because my Steam library is massive.

I would be a lot more open to the whole "it's like an MMO" story if it were actually like an MMO in any way at all.

1. You don't play with thousands or even hundreds of other players, you play with up to 15 other people in the largest region.
2. You never directly interact with other players. Never.
3. You can absolutely run an entire region by yourself.
4. You can absolutely run an entire region by yourself without being connected, the servers do nothing special.
5. I might believe that it's absolutely required to have all 16 cities in a region if one of the regions wasn't only two cities.

The difference between what EA did here and what Valve wildly succeeds at? Functionality. Steam doesn't get in the way of my gameplay, it enables it (easy access to library, patches, great sales, etc). And guess what? I DON'T ALWAYS HAVE TO BE ONLINE TO USE IT. What a f***ing concept.

Of course, the issue that Sim City was a failure of a game at any level, online or off, keeps getting sidelined...

Apparently forcing you to constantly stay online isn't DRM, it's a FEATURE!

Hmm reminds me of one of EA's other games.

So this wasn't really an apology at all was it? More like a "Fuck you stupid consumers that wine when they do not get their way. You just don't understand how it works in business."

Well I hated EA before this but now they can go fuck themselves. I am going to personally boycot their products form this point forward and hope others do the same.

Didn't the EA executive in charge of game development declare that he had not green lit a single player game in 2 years, and that in Oder to get made a game MUST be online to fit in with EA's vision? So yeah! Nobody from EA in any way forced Maxis to do this... Uh huh!

This is total bullshit. People did ask desperately for this to be made offline and it definitely seemed like something the devs had be asked not to address in their reddit ama.

(http://www.reddit.com/r/IAmA/comments/14umm1/we_are_the_simcity_dev_team_from_maxis_amaa/)

The top comment lists heaps of people who asked for offline play and were meet with silence.

I don't think I've ever felt so elated at the start of an article compared to how disgusted I felt by the time I finished. If any good comes out of Riccitiello's departure, it sure hasn't taken hold back at EA yet.

I lost it at this part

Andy Chalk:
an unavoidable consequence

This is where it's clear that this is one of the "apologies" Jim Sterling was talking about in his SimShitty episode. This is an apology that's aimed to appease people, but this one is actually more damaging since they are asserting that this is MANDATORY.

It's not, please, don't be fooled. We've played games without the need of being online for years and we can do so until now, don't let EA fool you with this.

Bullshit, bullshit, bullshit. The always online requirement for Sim City 5 was entirely about DRM, and then integrated into the game as justification. They knew it was a bad idea long before SC5 was ever released

The beta-testers and devs foresaw this disaster like it was a George Lucas prequel. They just couldn't tell Georgey (or whoever) that it sucked and needed revision without getting castrated, themselves.

EA has already proven it is fond of shooting messengers.

238U

Sees article

Hey! It looks like EA have started to...

Reads article

...never mind.

I would absolutely love an offline mode for MMO's.

When I play an MMO I hardly ever party up with people, I don't use the benefits of an MMO being online.

Anyway, didn't EA come out and say that they weren't going to greenlight games without a multiplayer component anymore? Maybe they never bluntly told Maxis that a Simcity without online features wouldn't fly, but I bet Maxis still felt pressured to make their game online. And sadly they went too far.

But, there is still a shimmer of hope here. Frank has admitted that EA have a problem, and that's apparently the first step to a turnaround.

Oh, fun. Instead of "let's see what kind of DRM we can get into this game," it's going to be "let's see what kind of 'always-online features' we can get into this game. They oughta go into politics with that kind of sneaky word choice.

But then again....I could see how the always-online requirement came about in a non-DRM way. Maxis decided that this SimCity was basically gonna be an MMO, so the always-online makes sense in that regard. The problem is that nobody wanted a SimCity MMO. Those two things don't match. It's a neat idea as a side-feature, but the single player still should've been the focus.

Whatever happened behind the scenes, they goofed up. And it doesn't sound like they learned from it.

EA is and remains the enemy. They cannot have my money anymore. I am very glad I didn't buy Sim City 5 because it sounds like a pile of poo that is so much worse than Sim City 4 it is ridiculous. Thanks for wrecking a title EA, for an encore wanna go molest a crippled poodle ? You're all class EA.

But seriously, folks, EA is so dumb that they have been following word for word the entire book called "Failing for Dummies" they got at a bargain bookstore. At this point, I'm thinking they're deliberately screwing themselves up so that they can falsify an insurance claim on their company when it burns to the ground, stating that they didn't hace the DLC patch for the fire extinguishers. That's assuming, mind you, that the gamers in their area didn't do it for them!

*Rimshot!*

It's just getting too easy to make fun of these guys. It feels like Jack Thompson PLUS, like he secretly put together a team of likewise idiotic people to ruin...uhhh...gaming?

>_>

<_<

We know he's not involved here, right? Like...he's not on-call to defend them or anything?

Shamanic Rhythm:
This latest tactic of "DRM is bad, but this isn't DRM, it's an MMO" will likely propel the EA team to take gold in the Olympic 4 X 100 Backpedaling.

Let's be honest here, they have enough teams in this race to win Gold, Silver, and Bronze!

EA never disappoints to stick their foot in their own mouth. Always online DRM is such a tainted word now with so many scandals the people at EA are probably working day and night to re-brand the term so they can continue business as usual.

Here's the part that gets me:

"At no point in time did anybody say 'you must make this online'. It was the creative people on the team that thought it was best to create a multiplayer collaborative experience and when you're building entertainment... you don't always know what the customer is going to want. You have to innovate and try new things and surprise people and in this particular case that's what we sought to achieve,"

So, what would be so hard about covering all your bases? Adding a singleplayer offline mode? We went through this exact problem with Diablo 3, where instead of building two separate game modes (a feat which was accomplished in Diablo 2 that no one complained about), they offered nothing but bullshit excuses as to why they didn't want to give the customers an option of what they might want.

This is why I'm trying to be done with the industry as it is now. It's easier to bullshit the consumer post-launch than it is to actually try to bring a product out that people will love. I guess if it's good enough to make money, you may as well sell it before you put more money into developing.

Andy Chalk:
...Frank Gibeau, the president of EA Labels, who said at the Game Developers Conference this week that DRM just doesn't fly. "DRM is a failed dead-end strategy; it's not a viable strategy for the gaming business," he told GamesIndustry.

Which is nice, I guess... But, being an executive at EA, he of course couldn't say only that and then stop talking...

...but Gibeau said DRM never entered into the conversation - SimCity's connectivity requirement was simply an unavoidable consequence of "building a massively multiplayer experience."

...Which was why the game was a free Facebook release.

...Which was why the game was titled Sim City Online.

...Which was to be expected, as every other game in the long-running series was an MMO.

Oh, wait, that's interesting- none of those things are true.

"What we tried to do creatively is build an online service in the SimCity universe and that's what we sought to achieve. For the folks who have conspiracy theories about evil suits at EA forcing DRM down the throats of Maxis, that's not the case at all," Gibeau said.

Y'know, Frank, this may be one of those sad cases where people are assuming this was a DRM decision because that's an easier motivation to understand for this kind of massive cluster-@$%#. "We're trying to prevent piracy" we get. "We're trying to make a game fun and popular by making it all but unplayable"? That's a little harder to wrap your brain around.

"At no point in time did anybody say 'you must make this online'. It was the creative people on the team that thought it was best to create a multiplayer collaborative experience and when you're building entertainment..."

Maybe the creative people thought it was "best" because some suit at EA said "I have not green lit one game to be developed as a single player experience. Today, all of our games include online applications and digital services that make them live 24/7/365."

And just to add to the hilarity, y'know who that suit was, Frank? Look in the mirror.

"...you don't always know what the customer is going to want."

You could ask... Or at least try to create a corporate culture where most departments don't yell "NAH NAH NAH NOT LISTENING!" whenever customers comment or complain...

"If you play an MMO, you don't demand an offline mode, you just don't. And in fact, SimCity started out and felt like an MMO more than anything else and it plays like an MMO."

My mind explodes in about five different directions.

How would you have known SimCity was intended to play "as an MMO" (as opposed to, say, any other kind of single- or multi-player experience) before actually playing it?

I admit I haven't played even a significant minority of the MMOs out there, but... are there a lot of MMOs out there that play like SimCity? Hell, are there even a handful, if we're talking about full commercial releases and not some free-to-play run out of South Korea?

Are there a lot of MMOs out there where some people's first reactions were to try to improve the experience by making them single player? And found that they could indeed do so? And relatively easily, at that?

Did anyone creating the thing say, "Hey, this plays like an MMO"? And if they did, did that somehow not engender the reaction of "Alert! Alert! Pull back, this is going horribly wrong"?

Is Frank unaware of the link between "you don't know what the customer wants" and implying that the customer is somehow inherently wrong for wanting an offline mode?

Wow, I know the whole 'EA is evil' thing is overused and unfair, but when they keep coming out with statements like this which are just bafflingly petty doublespeak and 100% barefaced cheek you just have to stare slack-jawed.

The sheer shameless, conceited contempt this statement shows is mind numbing. He knows he is talking absolute bollocks, he knows Simcity uses DRM, and he knows that it has been badly implemented and the cause of most of the troubled launch of this game. He also knows that we know this, and for him to come out with such a pig-ignorant excuse that EA/Maxis have done nothing wrong because of an [incorrect] use of semantics on the differences between DRM and necessary online connections... it's insulting to my core as a gamer and a customer.

I'm glad I stopped buying EA games a long time ago.

Season 6 episode 8 of Southpark.

Everything EA says reminds me of THAT.

PUT THIS MAN IN CHARGE OF THE DAMN COMPANY RIGHT NOW.

First bit of common sense I've seen displayed by anyone in EA.

That said, he's still by no means a regular human being in terms of common sense. I hope they learn from the reactions of players and decide not to make the next one compulsorily multiplayer, even making the assumption that that was a design choice not influenced by EA. People don't want to build a tiny city that has to specialise in one service or product and become dependant on other cities to function, and don't want to have to be online the whole time. It isn't an MMO, it's a single player game that has been altered to mandate multiplayer, in the process limiting what an individual player can practically do. Not that I particularly care, my views are mainly out of sympathy for those who are invested in the series.

Well, the fact that you could disconnect it as easily as you can does somewhat hint that it wasn't intended as a DRM measure. EA may not be great at PR, or Innovating Games, or recognizing demographic concepts, but I doubt their tech department is inept enough to try and copy-protect something with a trivially hacked java script.

I can also very easily buy that EA leaned in and said the game had to have an MP component to appeal to a "broader multiplayer gaming demographic", and the half-assed implemented MP component of Simcity is the result of that.

Either way (or even if Maxis just had more ambition to make an MP game then actual talent or ideas), they're still the twits who, even after Diablogate, didnt bother putting up enough servers to handle their product.

As to the more general topic, DRM has never really worked, as those seeking to pirate seem to quite readily outnumber the poor slogs trying to code methods to stop them. Whereas quality products have managed to pick up sales (alongside the pirated copies) in fairly impressive numbers, and build loyal customer/fan bases. Which we're now seeing pay off significantly with some of the recent waves of Kickstarters for franchises and developers who've established that relationship.

blackite:
Apparently forcing you to constantly stay online isn't DRM, it's a FEATURE!

Hmm reminds me of one of EA's other games.

Why does this remind you of TOR? Unlike Simcity, TOR actually is an MMO. No-one expected to be able to play it offline.

And in fact, SimCity started out and felt like an MMO more than anything else and it plays like an MMO."

No

No no no.

Fuck you EA, you've made this retarded argument a billion times and it hasn't suddenly become true.

Being able to share a region with 8 other people is not a fucking MMO, it's a useless tacked on feature that only makes the game worse because it makes it impossible to actually manage your shit yourself given the small sizes of the cities.

This smells far away of a hollow attempt to regain popular confidence and positive words of mouth, but guess what EA? It ain't fucking happening, that boat sailed long, LONG ago. You are never ever going to regain the trust of the gaming public, not unless you actually manage to replace the entirety of the gaming audience with the mouth-breathing, shiteating dude-bros you seem to cater exclusively to

saintdane05:
I know this is completely off topic, but the dude in the news thumbnail (From the main page) is cute . Really, really cute.
image
Look at taht.

your statements combined with your avatar are HILARIOUS.

fix-the-spade:
Well that nicely demonstrates how out of touch (or desperate, delusional) EA's head honchos are.

Our DRM isn't DRM, it's a service!

No Frank, Origin and Simcity's 'vital' online connection are not services, they are DRM, arbitrary walls between customer and product. This is why I'm don't buy your games you idiot.

It reminds me of Sony's PR statements from a few years back actually, when everything seemed to be going wrong and yet every press release read more or less that EVERYHTING IS FINE, STOP ASKING US IF IT's NOT FINE, IT's FINE, FINE?!

Some people will never be satisfied. If they screwed up, apologized, and offered you free games to make up for it, you'd claim they were just trying to get people to buy DLC for their games. >.>

snekadid:

Timzilla:
If the whole point was to make an MMO like game, then why not just add an "Online" subtitle? That way atleast the consumer has an idea what the focus is and what they're getting into. Is anyone really gonna complain when "SimCity:Online" needs a connection?

The issue is that Simcity is really not a MMO.... like at all. Civ 5 is more of a MMO then SimCity because atleast then you're interacting with other people when you play online.

I read the Title and thought "OMG they finally read the paper I wrote years ago on how nothing positive can actually come from DRM!" then I read the article and remembered that this was EA and that this was another PR scam trying to weasel out of the shit storm that rages around EA's higher rung.

They claimed in this and a couple other interviews that designed this SimCity with more of a focus on multiplayer. Now, whether or not that was a good idea for a sequel to a game that was a single player experience (See Sims Online), that was there focus during development, hence the small city spaces and the need for sharing resources. All Im saying is they could have made this more of a "spin off" kinda thing, like Ultima online back in the day or Ghost Recon online more recently.

saintdane05:
I know this is completely off topic, but the dude in the news thumbnail (From the main page) is cute . Really, really cute.
image
Look at taht.

You're right, I can't help but trust EA again.

I wonder if this means they will be cancelling Origin.

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