The brouhaha over Electronic Arts’ decision to require an Internet connection in order to play its highly anticipated SimCity 5 game continues, and the latest words from the company executive at the center of this mess probably won’t do much to calm matters.
As we’ve mentioned before, the new SimCity is designed so that it will only really work when the player is online. This requirement, along with EA’s utter lack of foresight and planning, resulted in a huge drain on the game’s multiplayer servers, leaving most people unable to actually play the game when it first launched.
Some have accused — and not without good reason — EA and its Maxis subsidiary of using the always-online mandate as crass, hardline method of curbing piracy. But Maxis’ general manager Lucy Bradshaw says otherwise.
“Always-Connected is a big change from SimCities of the past,” she writes. “It didn’t come down as an order from corporate and it isn’t a clandestine strategy to control players. It’s fundamental to the vision we had for this SimCity. From the ground up, we designed this game with multiplayer in mind – using new technology to realize a vision of players connected in regions to create a SimCity that captured the dynamism of the world we live in; a global, ever-changing, social world.”
Great, so EA was thinking of this as a primarily multiplayer game. So are any number of video games, but I can still pop a Call of Duty game into my Xbox and play on my own without having to connect to the Internet.
Bradshaw says there was some notion of allowing for offline play, but…
“[W]e rejected that idea because it didn’t fit with our vision. We did not focus on the “single city in isolation” that we have delivered in past SimCities. We recognize that there are fans – people who love the original SimCity – who want that. But we’re also hearing from thousands of people who are playing across regions, trading, communicating and loving the Always-Connected functionality. The SimCity we delivered captures the magic of its heritage but catches up with ever-improving technology.”
Apparently “ever-improving technology” does not include servers that can keep up with consumer demand.
She also provides a big list of all the positives that online access offers, again all focusing on multiplayer and ignoring the fact that some people just want to build a city.
Of note on that list are these two items:
*Our servers handle gifts between players.
*We’ve created a dynamic supply and demand model for trading by keeping a Global Market updated with changing demands on key resources.
These seem to feed into EA’s stated goal of making money off as many in-game microtransactions as possible.
There are those who say they have been able to tweak SimCity so that it can be played offline indefinitely. Of course, we have to wonder if EA will release a “patch” that disables this loophole in the future.