Maxis Keeps Digging Its SimCity Hole Deeper

So this has gone from comedy to farce to just plain stupid.  As everyone knows by now, the SimCity launch was terrible on an epic scale.  People bought the game and couldn’t play it, due primarily to EA/Maxis’ insistence on an always-online DRM.  SimCity was designed to be social.  SimCity isn’t just a game, it’s a service.  Always-on DRM is necessary to fight piracy.  All the usual things were said to justify inconveniencing the customer and lessening the game’s value while presenting it as a giant favor that’s being bestowed on the gaming community.

The launch went poorly enough that there seemed to be some initial thoughts made toward killing the always-on DRM-

But it didn’t last long.

And that brings us to today, where a bunch of people have decided to test that second tweet to see just how true it is.  Marcus Persson (notch, of Minecraft) has found a few logistical inconsistencies-

And over at RPS, they’ve got an unnamed Maxis insider giving more details on what it is the server actually does.  Short version- keeps people honest.  Also mentioned is a series of tests run over at Kotaku on how long SimCity can keep running without a connection, and as it turns out the game is quite happy being offline for about 19 minutes before it gripes about not being able to phone home.  All that “sim the entire region” that’s so integral to the game?  It’s not actually happening.

SimCity is a disaster, basically.  From both a PR and a design perspective, there’s so much wrong here that it completely overshadows what the game did right.  It’s hard to know if lessons will be learned from this, due primarily from the game selling like mad and the internet outrage settling down once things work as originally planned, but in a better world it would be nice to think that everyone would learn a few things not to do.

EA- Don’t lie to your customers.  Don’t treat them like criminals.  Don’t poison the game and act like its the finest spices.  Don’t pull another SimCity.

Consumers- If a game has always-online DRM, just walk away with your money safely in your wallet.  When you buy a disk, you own the game.  When you buy something on Steam, you can play single-player offline to your heart’s content, for the most part.  When you buy SimCity (or Diablo III, for that matter) you’ve given up $60 for the privilege of being allowed to access the game for as long as the publisher sees fit, as long as you’ve got a reliable internet connection, and as long as the game’s servers are live.  It’s down to an individual’s choice as to whether the entertainment value is worth the $60 price tag, but with all the other options available (Cities XL, anyone?) it’s hard to see this as anything other than a terrible deal.