SimCity Creator: Gamers Have "Valid Concerns" About DRM

SimCity Creator: Gamers Have "Valid Concerns" About DRM

SimCity meteor

Longtime game designer Will Wright believes that video games are "falling way short" of living up to their potential.

Before its troubled launch, SimCity was among the most anticipated games of 2013. Some of the PC game's problems have been worked out in subsequent patches, but the weeks after release will probably be remembered as a disastrous example of always-online gameplay gone wrong. Will Wright, a legendary game designer and the creator of the SimCity series, is on the side of gamers when it comes to such restrictive online features. "I think there are some very valid concerns about it," Wright said of always-online requirements during a recent lecture at University of California Santa Cruz. While he felt bad for its developers and calls it a "good game," Wright added, "That was basically inexcusable, that you charge somebody $60 for a game and they can't play it."

Wright, who left Maxis in 2009 and wasn't involved in the development of the latest SimCity, thinks that the backlash surrounded the botched launch was predictable. "I can understand the outrage. If I was a consumer buying the game and that happened to me, I'd feel the same." Part of the problem, he says, is that it's an issue of perception; gamers expect that they can't play an MMO on a plane, but don't feel the same way about single-player games. "SimCity was in this very uncomfortable space... was it a single player game or was it a multiplayer game?"

In addition to addressing the SimCity launch, Wright also spoke about the "powerful" video game medium in general, stating that game developers have "only realized a small fraction of its potential." However, he acknowledged the "ten thousand Darwinian developers" making games outside of what was once considered the norm and moving away from the big-budget, AAA model. "Every week somebody tells me about some weird little app that came out. Not big budget, but they're interesting and fun out of the box. It's a much more level playing field, I think... It's not five big publishers controlling ten titles a year."

The SimCity creator is currently working on a new start-up stemming out of his last start-up, Stupid Fun Club. His new venture, Syntertainment, "lives at the intersection of entertainment and reality," though he wouldn't divulge any details about current projects. "The future is becoming less predictable" when it comes to the gaming industry, according to Wright. Gamers can only hope that things like the SimCity launch fiasco won't be commonplace as games continue to evolve.

Source: GamesIndustry.biz

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As the former head of the company, that was a very measured statement. It reeks of PR speak. But hey, a slap on the hand is still better than nothing.

HAHAHA the guy who created your game just said WTF was that.... EA SHOULD learn from this but they will not and will go on to do worse things soon I have no doubt.

Well, I'm not sure what the official story RE wrights departure was, but Spore was a debacle of its own.
So,
yeah. Wright knows a thing or two about debacles.

I still want the game Spore could have been. :(

slash2x:
HAHAHA the guy who created your game just said WTF was that.... EA SHOULD learn from this but they will not and will go on to do worse things soon I have no doubt.

"Wright, who left Maxis in 2009 and wasn't involved in the development of the latest SimCity..."

OT: You know whats funny? If it wasnt for money problems, I am still thinking of picking up SimCity. Ive seen some video's of it, and it seems awesome how they are able to incorporate multiplayer into it.

I still think the forced DRM stuff is bad with it, but the actual look of the game seems fun.

thethird0611:
You know whats funny? If it wasnt for money problems, I am still thinking of picking up SimCity. Ive seen some video's of it, and it seems awesome how they are able to incorporate multiplayer into it.

I still think the forced DRM stuff is bad with it, but the actual look of the game seems fun.

I wouldn't bother man.

Aside from the DRM, it has got its fair share of bugs. Sewage not pumping in the right direction, cars getting stuck in traffic jams and ignoring the side roads that would ease everything up, sims just wandering around aimlessly.

If the DRM is of no issue I'd still give it a couple of months or so, until either the bugs are ironed out or you know that EA doesn't care about the game anymore.

thethird0611:
I still think the forced DRM stuff is bad with it, but the actual look of the game seems fun.

If you're cool with a game that remains buggy at best and broken at worst, then, by all means, go right ahead.

Personally, there are much better things to buy.

Will Wright via Article:
Part of the problem, he says, is that it's an issue of perception; gamers expect that they can't play an MMO on a plane, but don't feel the same way about single-player games. "SimCity was in this very uncomfortable space... was it a single player game or was it a multiplayer game?"

"Perception"? No Mr Wright, the p-word you're looking for isn't "perception", it's "practicality".
The Always Online component serves no practical purpose to the player, and its inclusion is not justified because SimCity is barely multiplayer to begin with (nowhere near "Massively"). The entire launch disaster could have been avoided; easily.

SimCity was designed with two goals:
1) Rushed together to make a buck. (The most basic components of the game on launch were fundamentally broken.)
2) Serving as a hook into Origin. (the fact that EA offered free Origin games as compensation, instead of ACTUAL compensation or refunds, further suggests this)

3) A distant third goal might have been making a fun and functional game. As has been demonstrated, that wasn't especially high on their priority list.

Now, I have no idea how one would go about designing a hypothetical City-Builder-MMO and make it work, but SimCity 2013 is not that game. Multiplayer games should offer ways of interacting with the other players; not just swapping off being mayor.

It's not just the multiplayer, there are a host of other issues, but all of them TOGETHER makes it pretty clunky, not to mention the multiplayer in of itself introduces more infrastructural issues ON TOP OF the issues already present.

Those issues introduced by the multiplayer are part of what he is referring to when he thinks the game has lost its focus when it tried to be both single and multiplayer at the same time.

Atmos Duality:

Will Wright via Article:
Part of the problem, he says, is that it's an issue of perception; gamers expect that they can't play an MMO on a plane, but don't feel the same way about single-player games. "SimCity was in this very uncomfortable space... was it a single player game or was it a multiplayer game?"

"Perception"? No Mr Wright, the p-word you're looking for isn't "perception", it's "practicality".
The Always Online component serves no practical purpose to the player, and its inclusion is not justified because SimCity is barely multiplayer to begin with (nowhere near "Massively"). The entire launch disaster could have been avoided; easily.

This definitely is an issue of perception, and execution. Maxis/EA wanted to make a multiplayer experience (undoubtedly influenced by financial reasons), but failed integrating multiplayer components in such a way they would be a core aspect of the game, and not merely tacked on.

This is further compounded by it being the latest release in a traditional single-player game, with little apparent incentive for multiplayer components. Developers perceived it as a multiplayer game, but failed to offer compelling arguments to change their customers perception in turn.

SimCity was designed with two goals:
1) Rushed together to make a buck. (The most basic components of the game on launch were fundamentally broken.)
2) Serving as a hook into Origin. (the fact that EA offered free Origin games as compensation, instead of ACTUAL compensation or refunds, further suggests this)

There is a -lot- of valid criticism to be levelled at SimCity, but these two points are ridiculous.
First of all: SimCity does incorporate an entirely new (and very innovative) engine. It might have profited from a few extra months of QA, but it was far from "rushed together to make a buck".

The separate accusation of it being "a hook into Origin" is so true it is akin to accusing them of trying to make a profit. It's their store, and their game - it'd be stupid to not have mutual promotion.
Likewise for the promotion consisting of Origin titles. It is by far the most value for money when it comes to reconciliation gifts - customers get an item worth $30, but it costs EA mere cents in distribution, and a few bucks in missed revenue. That is not some evil master plan intended to enslave gamers to the hive mind's will, it's basic economics and business management.

3) A distant third goal might have been making a fun and functional game. As has been demonstrated, that wasn't especially high on their priority list.

Now, I have no idea how one would go about designing a hypothetical City-Builder-MMO and make it work, but SimCity 2013 is not that game. Multiplayer games should offer ways of interacting with the other players; not just swapping off being mayor.

And here we actually agree. Sort of. SimCity could have, and should have been better in order to justify its always-on status. That much is clear.

A. You can play perfectly fine on your own on a private region, just not offline.
B. It's been proven to work offline.

A simple DRM push.

These always online DRM games will be the norm for big publishers. There will be a massive shift to the DRM free indie games and the publishers will continue to blame piracy and enact even more draconian DRM. But they wont fail, as long as console gamers keep buying the same Modern Duty Warfighter clones, they will always have money to do it.

Kargathia:

This definitely is an issue of perception, and execution. Maxis/EA wanted to make a multiplayer experience (undoubtedly influenced by financial reasons), but failed integrating multiplayer components in such a way they would be a core aspect of the game, and not merely tacked on.

This is further compounded by it being the latest release in a traditional single-player game, with little apparent incentive for multiplayer components. Developers perceived it as a multiplayer game, but failed to offer compelling arguments to change their customers perception in turn.

Well, yeah. Execution is kinda that matter of practicality.
I don't care what EA says SimCity is "supposed" to be (herp derp, ITS MULTIPLAYER! ITS AN MMO! Why you no believe us?) when the final product doesn't really fit their description. In essence, they're trying to blame the audience for "perceiving" the game as a single player experience, when that is really the kind of game Maxis made.

Players interact with each other on the barest of terms; in fact, there's no real benefit or incentive to bother with multiplayer except out of whim, since all of the actions are done within the region...something that one player can do entirely within their region quite easily.

Perhaps it is "Perception", maybe EA thinks it is selling a multiplayer centric game because they say they are.
I'm not seeing it in practice.

There is a -lot- of valid criticism to be levelled at SimCity, but these two points are ridiculous.
First of all: SimCity does incorporate an entirely new (and very innovative) engine. It might have profited from a few extra months of QA, but it was far from "rushed together to make a buck".

"Innovative"?
Dude, I was watching Firetrucks doing donuts while a city burned because their pathing algorithm is borked.
(I've worked in computer networking; I was getting flashbacks to Router Loops, Count to Infinity and Split Horizon watching that shit; I would not be surprised at all if it were the same algorithm with different mathematical limits)

Sims don't even live the same lives day to day.
The "Innovative" Glassbox AI demonstrates most ironically the polar OPPOSITE of what was advertised!

You can build an entire city of Residential Zones and Parks because Maxis couldn't be bothered to rebalance RCI interactions like they did in other games before.

You can edit out half of their "Always Online DRM" with a freaking Java Editor.

I'm sorry, that shit screams "RUSHED" to me. Two of those involve major game mechanics; not just neat features.
I do agree that the game needed a few months in Q&A. Maybe longer.

The separate accusation of it being "a hook into Origin" is so true it is akin to accusing them of trying to make a profit. It's their store, and their game - it'd be stupid to not have mutual promotion.

Yeah, it would be stupid from their perspective to sink all that money into a system and not use it.
But I'll address the point below, for brevity's sake.

Likewise for the promotion consisting of Origin titles. It is by far the most value for money when it comes to reconciliation gifts - customers get an item worth $30, but it costs EA mere cents in distribution, and a few bucks in missed revenue. That is not some evil master plan intended to enslave gamers to the hive mind's will, it's basic economics and business management.

Agreed. That makes sense from EA's perspective.
But as a consumer, I feel the need to caution people on this and their motives.

When the system is the reason the game fails to the point where compensation is in order, as a customer, shouldn't you reject the broken system instead of blindly accepting compensation that is designed to strengthen your investment in it?

And hyperbole aside, yeah, actually it kind of is a form of "entanglement".
Service-centric systems like this (Steam included) look neat and convenient, and when they work they are.
However, the one unspoken, MAJOR drawback is that they do impose the threat of loss on the customer.

This threat of loss is pretty damn powerful; given the complete lack of consumer protection laws (in the US, specifically) for video gaming, the service provider's leverage grows proportionate to the user's investment into the system. Legally, right now they can basically make any stipulation they want; it's not like the user can say 'NO' unless they want to lose what games they have purchased on that system already.

People bitch about Steam today; people boycott shit on Steam. And Steam doesn't miss a beat because goddam does Steam know how to hook people. It knows how to get that leverage to the point where it can flat out ignore most customer complaints because they know they ain't leavin'.

But to get that leverage, they need people to use the damn thing first. (Steam is devilishly effective at this)
Thus, the hook: SimCity nabbed a ton in preorders. Each one is either an existing Origin user or a new Origin user.
It doesn't matter how they got there, so much that they did get there and that they can start building an attachment to that system.

Keep in mind; it's not just SimCity's DRM. It's not just Origin. It's also the company who lied through their damn teeth to secure pre-orders, borked the launch, borked the core gameplay, lied again, denied the notion of refunds, and then offered a trail of breadcrumbs leading back to the system that caused the problem in the first place as "compensation".

Now, while all of that was completely "legal" and makes perfect sense from a business perspective, shouldn't the paying customer at the very least question doing business with them?

And here we actually agree. Sort of. SimCity could have, and should have been better in order to justify its always-on status. That much is clear.

Aye..this shit makes me wary.
It's scary how quickly we've gone from DRM "Fighting Piracy" to basically being an attempt at a digital prison.

thethird0611:

slash2x:
HAHAHA the guy who created your game just said WTF was that.... EA SHOULD learn from this but they will not and will go on to do worse things soon I have no doubt.

"Wright, who left Maxis in 2009 and wasn't involved in the development of the latest SimCity..."

OT: You know whats funny? If it wasnt for money problems, I am still thinking of picking up SimCity. Ive seen some video's of it, and it seems awesome how they are able to incorporate multiplayer into it.

I still think the forced DRM stuff is bad with it, but the actual look of the game seems fun.

Sorry if that was confusing I ment created as in thought of the concept. I know for a fact he would not have let this DRM crap fly if he had been involved in the development of this new game.

I just realized something.

Yanno all those small browser-based strategy MMOs where you had, say, your own little city or castle, had to build it up and management, and when you zoomed out you saw your little castle was one square in a flat field of squares with castles, each one another player's little castle, and you could go out and attack or raid them? Games like Evony?

I think EA was trying to make that. Except substitute "Attack others" with "Buy their crap (literally)". And make the potential interactions smaller.

I hated those little MMOs.

thiosk:
Well, I'm not sure what the official story RE wrights departure was, but Spore was a debacle of its own.
So,
yeah. Wright knows a thing or two about debacles.

I still want the game Spore could have been. :(

DRM was one of the big issues holding Spore back, as I recall. Might have had much to do with his departure

I can't help but think he was snickering quite a bit at EA's expense when the SimCity fan-rage started to boil

Atmos Duality:

First of all, and arguably least important: Glassbox certainly is innovative in that it is an overhaul in how the workings of the entire city are scripted. But, "innovative" doesn't mean it's any good - and Glassbox in its current iteration is buggy at best, and unplayable at worst.

You do, however, bring up a rather interesting point: business practices that make perfect sense for the company's bottom line quite often screw over its customers. Valve has excellent salesmanship, but maintains a stranglehold on its customer's library - effectively holding hundreds (or thousands) of dollars/euro/pounds at ransom - and that's the company perceived as being one of the more customer-friendly publishers.

Personally I can't really find fault with this, given one condition: customers being equally empowered in their dickery.
The game industry complains about their customer's practices when it comes to used sales, viral complaining, entitlement, and unrealistic expectations of quality. But what is this, if not an effective counterbalance to industry practices aimed at controlling and exploiting their customers?

You'll always have douchebags on either side, but as long as they are in balance, all should be fine.

And at the very least, it should prove entertaining.

EA is a businessman with the slick-backed hair. But he's not the Devil, he just wants all of your money.

The greatest trick the Devil ever pulled is tricking you into thinking he's the good guy who's got your back.

Ohai Valve.

Of course we had valid concerns, and we don't need a professional developer to give our concerns legitimacy.

MILLIONS. OF. PEOPLE. WHO. BOUGHT. IT. COULD. NOT. PLAY. IT. due soley to the DRM.

That is not debatable, it is not negotiable, it does not make us 'entitled' to demand it be sorted out. It is a simple fact that EA designed a game that did not work for many of it's customers multiple weeks after purchase due to their DRM.

The game shipped with a flaw that meant many people could not play it after purchase. This cannot be debated, it doesn't need validated or legitimised. It's a fact. All the other problems are actually separate incidents that add fuel to the fire, but the game shipped broke.

thiosk:
Well, I'm not sure what the official story RE wrights departure was, but Spore was a debacle of its own.
So,
yeah. Wright knows a thing or two about debacles.

I still want the game Spore could have been. :(

Yeah, when i looekd at spore i imagined the enormous posibilities. In reality, it turned out extremely shitty game and space age was the only one remotely interesting, and evne then, event every 3 minutes, seriuosly?
That being said, a game develper making sense? this is new.

Hero in a half shell:

MILLIONS. OF. PEOPLE. WHO. BOUGHT. IT. COULD. NOT. PLAY. IT. due soley to the DRM.

Same happened during Assasins Creed 2 launch (in fact it was first to do this kind of thing on such a scale). Lo and behold, Assasin creed still sells strong. the average consumer does not care.

Strazdas:

thiosk:
Well, I'm not sure what the official story RE wrights departure was, but Spore was a debacle of its own.
So,
yeah. Wright knows a thing or two about debacles.

I still want the game Spore could have been. :(

Yeah, when i looekd at spore i imagined the enormous posibilities. In reality, it turned out extremely shitty game and space age was the only one remotely interesting, and evne then, event every 3 minutes, seriuosly?
That being said, a game develper making sense? this is new.

Hero in a half shell:

MILLIONS. OF. PEOPLE. WHO. BOUGHT. IT. COULD. NOT. PLAY. IT. due soley to the DRM.

Same happened during Assasins Creed 2 launch (in fact it was first to do this kind of thing on such a scale). Lo and behold, Assasin creed still sells strong. the average consumer does not care.

Only the PC version of AC2 had 'always-on' DRM and Ubisoft stopped using such DRM as of June 2011.
http://www.kotaku.com.au/2012/09/ubisoft-have-stopped-using-always-on-drm/

Tien Shen:
Only the PC version of AC2 had 'always-on' DRM and Ubisoft stopped using such DRM as of June 2011.
http://www.kotaku.com.au/2012/09/ubisoft-have-stopped-using-always-on-drm/

PC is the important version since it was physically impossible to impose such DRM on a console at the time.
Ubisoft tried a great many of DRMs.
Ubisoft stand in full support for always online console.

All you did was prove that gamers have memory of a hamster. they used DRM, a great many of them, invented quite a few that other companies picked up but they say "ok we wont do it for a while" and everyone just forgets it?

Strazdas:

Tien Shen:
Only the PC version of AC2 had 'always-on' DRM and Ubisoft stopped using such DRM as of June 2011.
http://www.kotaku.com.au/2012/09/ubisoft-have-stopped-using-always-on-drm/

PC is the important version since it was physically impossible to impose such DRM on a console at the time.
Ubisoft tried a great many of DRMs.
Ubisoft stand in full support for always online console.

All you did was prove that gamers have memory of a hamster. they used DRM, a great many of them, invented quite a few that other companies picked up but they say "ok we wont do it for a while" and everyone just forgets it?

We still don't know what sort of always-on nature is the XBOX Durango, so posting something about them supporting the ONLY future console that's RUMORED to have it is moot. Also always on console != always on DRM on the PC. The fact of the matter is Ubisoft realized their always on DRM on their PC titles weren't working and they dropped it a while back. AC sold strong up until now as it is a multiplatform title and the current-gen consoles, as you said so yourself don't such DRM imposed on it. In other words, you just proved my original point.

Tien Shen:

Strazdas:

Tien Shen:
Only the PC version of AC2 had 'always-on' DRM and Ubisoft stopped using such DRM as of June 2011.
http://www.kotaku.com.au/2012/09/ubisoft-have-stopped-using-always-on-drm/

PC is the important version since it was physically impossible to impose such DRM on a console at the time.
Ubisoft tried a great many of DRMs.
Ubisoft stand in full support for always online console.

All you did was prove that gamers have memory of a hamster. they used DRM, a great many of them, invented quite a few that other companies picked up but they say "ok we wont do it for a while" and everyone just forgets it?

We still don't know what sort of always-on nature is the XBOX Durango. Also always on console != always on DRM on the PC. The fact of the matter is Ubisoft realized their always on DRM on their PC titles weren't working due to the open nature of the platform and dropped it a while back. AC sold strong up until now as it is a multiplatform title and the consoles, as you said so yourself don't such DRM imposed on it. In other words, you just proved my original point.

Yeah, we, gamers, dont care about anything as long as its not directly asociated with us at this right moment. i didnt buy later AC games out of principle because they made this DRM, regardless of whether it was on or not by then. The mere idea that they would do this had it worked is enough for me to boycott them.
If Xbox requires to always be connected to internet to work, then the DRM is very similar to AC2. Though AC2 did had some "files" on the servers that the client downloaded only during gameplay, those were very minimal (like coordinates for a mission) and got cracked within a day. in essense it was just an online checker.
Once again you claim that gamers forget everything instantly when they say "sorry we wont do that". i would hate t live in this world where you can kill a man say sorry and noone would do anything about it.

 

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