Move Maxis Offline

Since the launch of Diablo III everyone and his uncle voiced a strong opinion on the always-on debacle which was recently highlighted again by the launch of SimCity (5). The game experienced the same criticism as D3 had before it. Namely that the gameplay could easily accommodate an offline mode and also the fact that servers were less than stable in the weeks following launch, making the game inaccessible to those who bought a legitimate copy.

Why would I want to live here?

I don’t doubt that EA and Maxis have made a lot of soul searching lately in order to understand where their failing lie (hint: consumers hate draconian drm measures dressed up as game enhancing features). The point that they often seem to bring forward when discussing how this whole issue could have been handled better is a failure to communicate the vision of the game with the players. I can see how that is partly true. Many players still do not fully understand the implications of an always on requirement. It is a relatively new concept for most people. When I decided to buy Diablo III I did not give the idea of an always on requirement much thought. In retrospect I should have. The fact that I was shut out of the game because of server issues really aggravated me. While I did see the benefits of being connected I could not see how it was essential to me enjoying the game on my lonesome. Blizzard was telling me – You need a connection for this feature even if you are not going to use it.

Once bitten twice shy. I never considered buying SimCity even if its a game that totally appeals to me. I will definitely get it if the always on requirement is removed.

But going back to the ‘failure to communicate’ issue Maxis seem to have found a solution to that. Quoting from Eurogamer:

‘…Maxis said it should have better communicated the fact that SimCity is, in the developer’s eyes, an MMO…’

Yeah, right. The same way that I am, in my eyes, a Greek God.

I can see how Maxis would benefit from marketing SimCity as an MMO. The majority of consumers understand the always-on nature of an MMO and by selling the game as such they would not have to explain the always-on requirement. In fact they could go one further and sell us the idea that this MMO requires no subscription fees. However there is one big fat hair in Maxis’ soup. SimCity is NOT an MMO as currently understood by consumers. There isn’t a persistent world with thousands of players inhabiting it – which is the hallmark of the MMO genre.

The term ‘MMO’ has already gotten some bad rep by being used inappropriately to justify having a monthly subscription. I am sincerely hoping this does not usher an era where it becomes a cleaner, more consumer friendly alternative to DRM. In the meantime Maxis – my wallet says no


6 thoughts on “Move Maxis Offline

  1. SimCity 5, which is just called SimCity by EA/Maxis, is the one that is always online. SimCity 4 is its predecessor from 2003. It has no online requirement and was on sale on Steam for just $5 last week! Such a deal.

    I do like the fact that nobody seems to be buying the EA/Maxis claim that always online as a DRM strategy never entered their head. Even Will Wright, who created the Sims games, but who left EA in 2009, called it out as DRM.

    EA just announce The Sims 4 and made a particular point of saying it would have offline playable modes. I remain dubious… but I never had any desire to play The Sims in any case.

  2. Duly noted and fixed. Thanks. Was indeed referring to SimCity 5 not SimCity 4 in the post. Was tempted to get the Steam copy of SimCity 4 but decided against it since I already have a DVD copy and am unlikely to play it again anytime soon anyway.

    If they did not intend it as DRM then the decision to require an internet connection at all times is even more asinine. I would rather them admitting that it was in part to reduce piracy but also because they thought it would add significantly to the gameplay experience – although I fail to see how the latter is true.

    I am mildly interested in The Sims 4 to be honest. Played the third game and enjoyed it but it still failed to deliver on the promise of playing out a virtual life. Time flies too fast and managing basic needs still takes way too much of your time. We will see if they rectify this with the next installment.

  3. What scares me the most in this case is that other developers might ignore all the obvious problems that this caused to Sim City (and Maxis by extension) and only look at how Diablo 3 was able to get away with it and make tons of money.

    There are some developers who really seem to believe that the future of games are to be always connected to the internet, wheter that adds something to the gameplay or not. And that anyone who disagrees with that kind of vision are just luddites trying to hamper progress.

    If that ends up happening I might have to just play indie games since at least there is still some sanity left there.

    1. I think the onus is on us as consumers to vote with out wallets. I do feel like this saying is becoming very cliche however it still rings true. It does not bode well that SimCity shifted over 1.6 million games despite the always on requirement. Not that I want any developer to fail, but I would like publishers to get a loud and clear message regarding these silly ideas.

  4. I had sworn off EA games altogether at the start of the year, so I admit to feeling just a tiny bit of smugness at the Sim City 5 debacle. But not a lot — mostly I just wish EA would stop doing crappy things to games I love.

    (Also, nice to see you posting again. 🙂 )

    1. Thanks for the encouragement. Truth be told I don’t post as often as I used to because I feel like I have nothing new or interesting to say. Since dipping into the blogging scene I have come across so many bloggers (you and Wilhelm being prime examples) who write better than I ever could that I kind of don’t see the purpose of echoing the same thoughts (only less eloquently/effectively). For instance, while writing this post, I came across so many other bloggers/opinionists saying roughly the same things that I almost did not post anything. Eventually I just went ahead with it. I just need to get back into the groove of writing just for the fun of it. Nothing more nothing less. 😉

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