So topical. Like some sort of cream.

So recently in the Gaymer Community on Google+, the following question was asked:

There has been renewed discussion on persistent internet connections and Always-on DRM (Digital Rights Management) since SimCity’s disastrous release last week.  While I’ve never been a fan of persistent internet connection requirements, I think this article did a decent job of explaining the reasoning behind this move (aside from DRM).

So what do you think?  Are persistent internet connections a way to enhance the game, or is it just an excuse for publishers to have Always-on DRM?

Brian Renney

I already answered this question on the post, but I wanted to expand on my ideas here.

First off I want to say that this is not going to be a full-on review of SC5.  Someone else online has already summed up my opinions on the game pretty nicely.  This is just going to be a response to Brian’s

Always-on DRM is an “always-wrong” bad idea.  Sure, the online features are pretty cool and all, and I understand the idea of simulating the connected nature of our cities.  I do, however, think that if I cannot/will not connect to EA’s servers I should still be able to play the game, albeit perhaps in a somewhat diminished aspect.  Publishers refuse to learn that if a pirate really wants to crack a game, they will, regardless of what crazy DRM you use.  I think it took what, 3 days post-launch for SimCity 5 to be cracked?  In the interest of Science, I tried to find a cracked version of the game.  I found a torrent and was up and running in less than an hour.

Now what about other forms of DRM that require an internet connection? Does any one else remember the huge kerfuffle during the Half-Life 2 release because it had to be *gasp* activated online once?! Now admittedly a large part of that was the fact that the servers also went all to hell on release day, but that was at least somewhat forgivable because it was a new idea and so was Steam in general. But look at where we are now. My life as a gamer wouldn’t be complete if Steam didn’t exist. Who knows, maybe we’ll all embrace this new paradigm and it’ll become a part of gaming culture. Though I doubt it.

Now, mining on to online features in general.  As I said, I like the idea of always online features, and I even like the ones in SC5, I just don’t want them to be mandatory. I’d be more than happy to segregate my online and offline cities. Cities XL (to pick another game in the same genre) had an interesting approach to this with their “Planets,” though I could do without the monthly fee that’s attached to the feature in that game.

The final problem with games that utilize always on DRM and persistent online features is the one for the future.  When they inevitably shut the servers down, and they perhaps don’t release an offline patch and/or allow you to create private servers, then you’re screwed.  Imagine if (insert classic game you still love to play) had been online only, and what a shame it would be not to be able to play is because there are no servers?  I would cry if my copy of Homeworld had to connect to now non-existent servers.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m gonna go play some Tropico 4.

PS: No I didn’t keep the cracked version on my computer. While I’m anti-DRM, I’m also anti-piracy.

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2 thoughts on “So topical. Like some sort of cream.

  1. My friend who plays nothing but Madden sums it up well, although I’m not sure he was aware of the point he was making, “You know, every year a new Madden game comes out I always have to get it because everyone not only quits playing the old game but they turn off the servers at some point so you can’t even play it online.” I think that might be a new reasoning behind this new era of online only. That and they can control the entire experience by not allowing mods. Question, do you think everyone would be going crazy over online only if Blizzard and EA didn’t screw up the launches of D3 and SC? I’m not sure the community would be flipping out so much if it was smooth.

    • No, they probably wouldn’t be, but at the same time, there’d still be people (like me) bemoaning the always-on DRM. Simple, lightweight, or even completely absent DRM makes me more inclined to purchase a developer’s game(s).

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