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Cloud: We Are Not Ready
by Benjamin Quintero on 03/07/13 12:42:00 pm   Expert Blogs   Featured Blogs

The following blog post, unless otherwise noted, was written by a member of Gamasutra’s community.
The thoughts and opinions expressed are those of the writer and not Gamasutra or its parent company.


[reprinted from...]

There are some technologies that sound amazing and never quite reach their potential.  Flying cars for the masses, affordable 100MB/s broadband for everyone, augmented reality using ultra thin transparent glasses, autonomous robots; the list frankly goes on forever.  Today I'd like to discuss one that seems to be a hot topic now but, like many crazy science fiction ideas, is probably jumping the gun a little.

I am purposely using the term "cloud" in a vague sense here.  I am referring to Cloud as it stands for interactive media, not distributed computing or web storage.  Cloud for many suits in gaming is becoming the solution to piracy, but at the cost of crippling an otherwise enjoyable experience. 

terminals-455Cloud gaming is taking two steps back and bring old words like "mainframe" back into the picture.  Many of you reading this article are probably too young to even know or care what a mainframe and terminal are but it's important to know your roots as we come full circle into the future.

It's not unfair to make a direct correlation of mainframe workstations to the idea of a server-client architecture used in many first-person shooter games today.  Though much older shooters like Quake 3 and Tribes used very light weight clients, more similar to that of a terminal, modern shooters are opting for less players (generally 4-8 player) with more heavy-weight clients.  The reasons for this are to help simplify physics simulations across machines and reduce a significant amount of prediction code required for machines to remain synchronized.  Though the server is still working just as hard as it ever did, clients are no longer simply interpolating fixed states given to them by the server, they are now running the actual simulation and verifying their states with the server.

The different approaches are an important distinction.  Old mainframes would quite literally do all the work, while the terminals (clients) would be nothing more than a way to generate the display; an empty rendering shell.  It sounds absurd today but this was actually a cost savings in a time when the processing unit (in the mainframe) was so expensive that it was cheaper to simply buy an array of displays and keyboards than giving each employee their own PC.  To be honest, the idea of a Personal Computer didn't even exist at the start of mainframe computing.

Here we are, in the future and it seems that progress has taken us back to the primordial era of computing.  Games like Diablo III and the latest Sim City have attempted to bypass the hackers by controlling the system, controlling the distribution of their product.  There is one fundamental problem to this design that was resolved by the invention of Personal Computing; there are a lot more of us than there are of them.  There are over a billion PCs in use worldwide and the expectation is that this number will nearly double by 2014.  No single entity can possibly manage this.  There is a reason why large companies have tiers of management and governments have branches and tiers and departments that all split into a massive hierarchy of people looking after other people.  There is efficiency to be had, by letting individuals think for themselves.

As a side effect of games like Diablo and Sim City trying to control the flow of data they have crippled their games.  Most reviews are summed up with, "It plays great! ... When it works," following up with a laundry list of issues from stuttering gameplay to long pauses from connection issues.  I have no doubt that PC gaming as we know it and even console gaming will eventually disappear and games as a service will be in full effect.  We as gamers will slowly give up our freedoms in the way we want to play games as publishers push toward total control.  It will happen because mass consumers will allow it.

We will all settle for pixelated adaptively sampled video streams and intermittent unresponsive controls as we stumble our way to better broadband over the next 20+ years.  We will all be sitting in queues and browsing the web, waiting to play the experience that we actually sat down on our couch or in front of our PC to play.  We will do it, and we will tell ourselves that it's okay because of insignificant perks like our saved game files will reside on a server that does not belong to us and can be taken from us.  We will agree to the EULA that forfeits our rights to raise concern and seek reparation when those servers are finally gone and that game no longer exists.  We will settle, we will submit, we will obey.  It's only a matter of time.

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Lars Doucet
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And when the publishers progressively move towards this new dystopian future (as I agree they will), the market will be ripe for disruptions from independent developers who can now advertise a whole laundry list of features for free:

-No DRM!
-Doesn't give your computer an anal probe / rootkit!
-Doesn't require an online connection!
-Will actually work as advertised on release day!

Benjamin Quintero
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I hope you are right Lars but when a generation of kids are raised knowing no better and their aunts and uncles are talking about the old days of when you could unplug your ethernet and the game still worked, I don't know that the things you mentioned will hold weight. It is hard to fight the dominant powers (publisher) when the masses are educated to think that its for the best. Hard to say but I tend to be on the side that believes most people do unintelligible things without rational thought, where if the TV tells them something it must be true. I can only hope I am pleasantly surprised.

Matt Agnello
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I think it's much more productive for indies (and AAA publishers) to come up with solutions for the problems that connected games solve -- piracy, data security, collaboration/competition, additional computing resources -- without the problems that centralized services create.

There is real value to solving those problems and entire new worlds for games and software to live in that aren't possible by using a single computer alone. Going in the exact opposite direction doesn't really help open those doors.

Torben Jorba
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Some VOD plattforms in Asia are heavy users of personalized watermarks. Since they know who your are, they track any distributed version down to a credit card and a name. You barely get "copies" of those movies in the net, because there often only a few VOD companies and getting booted from them means that you have no other legal/simple way to see VOD/movies in your area.

Lifting this over to the PC market, you need a system delivering "enough" content watermarked and a special build executable per customer. Then you don't need an always on server component, just the right update for the right customer and a complex watermarking process. Its basically some evolutionary new technology thats missing here.

Surely, this system isn't fool proof, but if it takes 2 month to get rid of the watermarks and trying to make an universal update work it could be enough to make it trough the high volume sales weeks.

Bob Satori
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Except that 99.9% of "independent" developers are all looking to tie themselves to Valve's anal-probing Steam client (because the common wisdom says that's the only way of reaching the audience now), and so will not be offering any of that.

Phil Maxey
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I would say it's inevitable, but I also agree that they are trying to run before they can walk. Handling the server load of a big release is such an important part of the whole process that gaming companies need to put the necessary resources into it. It's a bit like having a shop which contrains all these great products that everyone can see through the window, but for some reason your door is only 3ft high and only let's in one person at a time, obviously you are going to get a lot of pissed off people. There's no point opening that shop until you get that door fixed.

This is not just a developer issue though, this is also a governmental issue to ensure that the infrastructure is in place to handle the modern needs of the internet.

IC Weiner
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I'm not sure if it's inevitable. But I am sure that I'm not a fan of always online gaming. I'm also not a fan of facebook or twitter or social media in general, so maybe I'm the odd man out. Either way, I'll do what I can by voting with my dollars to not support this model. Regardless of the outcome there is a lifetime's worth of games on my "To Play" list as it is, so if/when this happens, there will still be plenty to play.

Alex Boccia
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Shoehorning in these social media elements is completely useless, actually, so I get where you're saying, and a lot of others probably do too. I feel like companies that put that stuff in our games want us to think it's cool or important but most people could really care less about these tie-ins.

Chase Cobb
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As a gamer the problem I have with games that require always on access is when these games are no longer profitable and they decide to cut the servers I won't get to play my game anymore, potentially.

Maria Jayne
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I was playing Sim City earlier, kept dropping and reconnecting to the server until eventually it kicked me out completely. I was playing purely single player's the design of an egotistical moron, not only does EA believe it's games are worth more than everybody else s, but it also believes even if you buy their games, you still don't have any right to keep playing solo when their servers go down.

Rob B
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The always on connection wasnt a secret. The inherent problems of always on connections are also widely known especially on a gamasutra forum.

So unless you got your copy for free as a review copy or from a friend, you appear to be a part of the problem.

It doesnt matter to EA that there games are broken or bad if everyone keeps buying them. Given that the horrendous problems of getting this game up and running have been caused by it selling far in excess of what EA expected I see little to no motivation for them to stop abusing their customers.

You cant win over a company when nobodies bothering to fight them in the first place.

Chris OKeefe
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Rob B, even EA is slightly less maniacal than you portray. Although I don't like this kind of DRM and EA are obviously egotistical, to say that this launch isn't in itself a motivation to not use Always Online DRM in the future is a bit presumptuous.

Let's see what this launch damaged.

1) EA's credibility with players.
2) Maxis's credibility with players.
3) Origin's credibility - which, I note, EA is banking pretty heavily on in case you hadn't noticed.
4) Their credibility with distributers such as Amazon who had to make the unenviable decision to remove SimCity from their sales after having to refund a huge number of copies.
5) Their credibility with investors - their stock has plummeted since the release.
6) Additional expenditures on maintenance and staff to solve the problem.

When people say that you are 'part of the problem' for buying games with Always Online DRM, it seems that they are living in a fantasy world where a business isn't impacted by its decisions beyond what individual sales mean.

The damage is done, and EA and Maxis are both learning some hard lessons. We'll see what they do with those lessons in the future, but I think they've been adequately humbled. For my part, I think Maxis put together a great game, and I understand their vision of an online city game. Unlike Diablo 3 the game is built with online access built into the gameplay. Every time you import or export something it is taking information from the world. Even if you play a region by yourself there are strong online world components that dictate the price of goods and the number of tourists and other things which - although they could be simulated - are a necessary part of the gameplay. It's not just DRM for the sake of DRM, they are providing a service. Which is more than I can say for Diablo 3.

I'm not going to punish the developers for what appears to be a temporary problem. I knew what I was getting into when I purchased the game and although the launch has been a disaster in the truest sense of the word, I wish them the best of luck ironing things out, and I hope they will be more careful in the future in deciding what kinds of games need to be always online.

Dave Long
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We all knew this was coming though (although I didn't think EA would fail quite this hard, particularly after Diablo III, but the size of the failure should be good for limiting the spread of always-online SP in the future). I didn't buy SimCity and won't - it's right up my alley, but there's no way I'm going to support this kind of narrow, limited game design.

Maria Jayne
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@ Rob B - I got a free copy, I was well aware how Sim City was being designed as I was also in the beta. I wouldn't have paid money to support always online single player.

Sorin Sandru
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Chris O. if gaming has taught me anything it's that i should never trust EA. I've never been let down and tricked as many times as EA has manged to. The last straw was with BF3 when i finally came to the conclusion that EAs only interest is it's own ability to make a quick buck. EA has no respect for their customers and even far less respect for their studios. It's clearly been shown that EAs stance to games is to make a game that is simply "good enough" a game that barely passes QA and is far worse than moste MMOs in beta.

EAs reputation was damaged years back and it's only getting worse for each passing day. For every game they release more and more people get frustrated over how EA treat them and it's slowly tightening the noose. If they keep this up we will moste likely come to witness the death of EA in a manner worse than THQ.

Rob B
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'even EA is slightly less maniacal than you portray'
I dont think they are maniacal. I think they are a business and they make there choices based on how much profit they perceive they can make. Shifting games to a service model, regardless of how good or bad it is for players, stands to make a lot of money and the only reason they will stop is if there is a strong indicator they are going to lose customers.

Blizzard did much the same thing, still selling like hotcakes despite credibility damage. (In fact Activision are seeing bigger profits than just about anyone else, so while you chastise Diablo3 it doesnt appear to have done them any harm.) I would put my money on the same happening for EA. Its not like EA had the best reputation before this and... here we are.

'I think they've been adequately humbled.'
How exactly? because amazon took the game down briefly because it was selling too much? because they had to do major upgrades on servers because of the influx of players? How are these things humbling them in any way other than with regard to how many people are still willing to buy and play their products? (and meanwhile people wait for SimCity to stabilise by playing Crysis 3...)

'it seems that they are living in a fantasy world'
and I think people have to be living in a fantasy world to think a company is going to change tact if they continue to buy everything it makes. That is their bottom line. (Even at the cost of immediate profits with a service like industry.)

We will see in a few months time, but I shall make my prediction.
The outrage over Sim City will fade, its huge user base will pump countless millions in to EAs coffers via a healthy trade in DLC . There will likely even be a small backlash against people being bothered by all this. EA will learn nothing, and in all honesty probably dont need to from any sane business perspective as there profits will remain largely on track. (and personally I will be a little disappointed but there are plenty more fish in the sea.)

If I turn out to be horribly wrong I should think it will be because companies like Amazon put pressure on them rather than any consumer influence. In every other respect much of this has already been done before (Most damningly by EA themselves.) and not only have the companies shown no indication of changing their behaviour but based on sales and profits they dont even have a reason to.

Robert Swift
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Also, good luck in trying to play SimCity in 5 years from now.

Glenn Sturgeon
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As hardcore as EA is about pulling servers, good luck playing it in 3.

Adam Miller
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Couple thoughts. First, I feel the bigger issue with always-on is the simple fact that Internet connections are hardly ubiquitous. Not the first to say it, but I want to play games on an airplane. In fact, that may be when I want a distraction most (or at grandma's, etc. etc.). Of course this complaint applies less to mobile games, which seems to be where the industry is headed.

On the other hand, I wouldn't be surprised if publishers concoct some hybrid peer-to-peer solution to harness the CPU of all those "billions of PCs" while still being hard enough to crack. And with services literally streaming whole games, as opposed to simply authenticating them, it doesn't seem like solid always-on tech is too far off. Which isn't to say I want it.

Thank god for the indies.

Ron Dippold
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Apparently they just don't care. They could have had the infrastructure in place, but rather than buy/configure 10000 servers and only need 9999 corporate considers it a win if they start with 1000 and then build up to minimum. Why aren't they just creating EC2 servers to handle the crush? You can create and clone 9000 of those in a flash (do it with something like Scalr for real convenience) - you don't need to config each SimCity server by hand, right, right?. But then you'd be paying for cycles and bandwidth.

Either that, or they made some very bad design decisions that involve everything going through single points of failure. But this is EA, they have experience with this. Similarly, I don't blame Blizzard for the WoW launch crush, because they Just Didn't Know, but by Diablo III there was no excuse.

Edit: Since the first sentence is harsh, I'm not saying the devs didn't care. I know a lot of them cared a lot about the game and are probably horrified what's happened to their beautiful game. But at some point someone(s) who needed to care didn't care.

Ron Dippold
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As a followup, the Maxis explanation (which I have no reason to doubt) is that their design couldn't handle the demand and couldn't be scaled:

It's definitely worth a read - especially how the lesson of Diablo III was completely lost on Maxis and they don't think it applies here.

Arnaud Clermonté
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Aren't all the Zynga games cloud based?
I played a few of them and apart from the occasional "refresh the page now", it worked pretty well, and I read they were quite successful.
Edit: oh and WoW too.

It seems to me that "Cloud: We Are Not Ready" is a way too broad statement, and the author has omitted some memorable success stories.

Gian Dominguez
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I was willing to give always online a go with Diablo 3 but now the idea has totally soured on me. Blizzard claimed it was for the benefit of the players but now it looks like we will have a Diablo 3 game on the ps3 console complete free of DRM. Oh, well at least I made up what I pay for in D3 by selling some gear.

Barny Kadlecsik
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Technically we are perfectly ready for always online games, so this article is not really valid. There are tons of (non necessarily gaming) applications which serve way more online users than the total sales of Simcity will ever be. However, as Ron stated above, it's just the matter of sizing. Most definitely somebody decided to go cheap and/or undersized the infrastructure for the game. I honestly feel for the IT support staff and other people summoned to -technically- support the situation. Most definitely they are working their ass off because of somebody else's fault.

Benjamin Quintero
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"Most definitely somebody decided to go cheap and/or undersized"

Exactly, but it's not really an issue of "being cheap", there will always be more of us than them. Even if they could somehow manage the processing load there is that other little issue of broadly available and reliable internet access. All signs point to a future where, even if bandwidth increases, latency will actually become an increasing problem not decreasing problem. We will see more burst data transfers and mechanisms that may aid in download and streaming of large content but that is almost opposite of what you need for cloud gaming, where input latency is a major concern.

Kevin Fishburne
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@Arnaud and Barny: I think he's talking about always online games which don't actually need to be always online. Like taking a single player game, adding two "social" features, then requiring that it always be connected (or using phone home DRM schemes). Some games are better for being always online (any MMO), but for most it's a bad idea.

Dane MacMahon
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This exactly.

Multiplayer games being always online is common sense. Multiplayer gamers are used to these launch day mishaps, server queues, expired unplayable games and whatever else. As publishers shoehorn singleplayer games into online services though they add limited new value alongside the crippling new problems singleplayer gamers (like myself) have never had to experience before. I would suffer through new hardships and annoyances with no benefit in the end besides social stuff I likely would never use much.

They expect that people like me will convert and fall in love with the social aspects because they're so awesome, but I think that is a flawed outlook.

sean lindskog
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Good article Benjamin.

I agree with the jist of it, and dislike the way things are headed. I love multiplayer games, but I love single player games too - which I want to run on my PC without a 'net connection.

I'm not sure if harkening back the mainframe was a necessary analogy. Really, what we have here is something all gamers are familiar with - a rocky launch of a client-server based game. We see this in MMOs all the time. We also see this in multi-player components of non-MMOs.

The real story is the big publisher move to server-based tech for single player-"ish" games, as you also talk about in your article.

Insults tend to get tossed around at the big publishers a lot. People accuse them of being intentionally malicious in a hundred different ways. Usually, these insults are wrong. Big corporations pursue the path of greatest profit. That's what they're doing here (although they've obviously stumbled over the new tech). You may not like it (and neither do I), but it's logical. And it's based on the consumer's purchasing (and pirating) habits.

If you like true single player games, buy them.
I agree with Lars' thoughts above - it could be a great opportunity for indies.

Matt Agnello
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Benjamin: I think you're onto something with the weaknesses of cloud gaming, but those two arguments -- that there are too many PCs and the Internet isn't as ubiquitous as it should be -- counter each other. You're saying, rightly, that even as Internet connections become more ubiquitous, we risk not having enough bandwidth for all the cool stuff we want to do with that pipe scaled the number of people who would use it, but you're not really offering why you think that will happen beyond conjecture and examples of recent failures, without a balance of areas where making use of a connection has been successful. Even though I think you have some good points in here, this article ends on such a sensationalist note that the message feels lost to me.

I think you're IDing the right risks, but your tone and the way you've told this story really just inspires people who are already angry to be more angry, rather than energizing them to solve problems.

Benjamin Quintero
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Matt, I am not saying the internet infrastructure as a whole is unable to handle the load (provided the pipes are in the ground and the providers make it affordable), I am saying that one company can never efficiently and cost effectively handle the fluctuation of consumer habits without workarounds like wait queues. The whole point of PC is that it becomes a distributed solution, allowing people to play their games on their own time in their own terms. Forcing a single-player experience down one pipe to one group of servers owned by one entity and likely sitting in one building is by definition a bottleneck.

Barny Kadlecsik
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@Kevin: Obviously Simcity doesn't need this always online feature, but I assume EA wanted to boost sales by using this as a form of DRM. I seriously dislike the trend as well... especially the fact that by this way, all games will have an "expiration date". If you bought SimCity 4, you can play it even 5-10 years later (most definitely). I'm not so sure that after a few years EA will be willing to maintain service for the game; so practically you will have a game you cannot play.

@Benjamin: This situation is exactly "being cheap", as it seems that EA wanted to save on the server infrastructure. They actually knew the number of shipped units and also could calculate the amount of load their servers will need to handle; if they didn't prepare accordingly, then it means they were expecting their game to fail on the market which to me seems a bit odd?! Or they expected people to buy their game and not playing it?

Also, I don't think that latency will be a problem in the future, but this topic really leads to a different area. As internet service is being (and will be) migrated to fibre infrastructure, this will be solved.

Kevin Fishburne
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Maybe game clients of the future should include inactive server code that the developer could push an activation update to at a later date? The game could still be closed source, but allow one to run it as a client or a server with full functionality in case the publisher went offline.

I agree that latency will soon be just software's fault and not your hardware's network connection. Sloppy code is always worse than intermittent network connectivity, so sadly it will reign on (myself included probably).

Jay Anne
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[EDIT]: Replied to the wrong article.

Jonathan Murphy
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Back in the day games like Everquest, PSO, Diablo 2 had server issues last for MONTHS! Today you get server issues that last for more than a day and people lose their minds. Why? Bad marketing!

Address consumer concerns. Do not give them the everything is fine rant. If it's not, the consumers will respond to this with low scores on metacritic. Stop talking over your customers. It's bad business.

Ron Dippold
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A large part of the anger in this case is that customers fully realize that this game could have been playable offline and most of them only want to play it offline or at least have the ability to play it offline.

So with Everquest or WoW, when the online part fails there is a certain amount of resignation. Yes, I remember the months of launch hell there, and I stuck with it. But when you can't even play your single player game because the online component /you don't even want/ fails, you are going to be a lot less tolerant.

Christopher Plummer
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@Ron Dippold

Customers are right to demand a game that can be played offline, and some one else will capitalize on this. But Maxis is supplying a bigger demand, which is for more engaging gameplay experiences with others.

When I played SimCity on Thursday night it was an offline experience. I lost connection to their servers every 5 minutes, but was able to stay in my city and keep building. I came away from the experience feeling like the game was decent, but upset about all of the changes they had made from Sim City IV. The world was small, there was no challenge, and I missed some of the micro oriented features like the routing maps.

Then I played it last night...It's a completely different game! And for the better. Not only do all of the changes make sense when you're connected to others, the game becomes much more sandbox like and challenging at the same time (I know that seems impossible, but its true).

There are multiple demands to fill: your demand, the region's demand, and other cities' demands. This allows for so much freedom because you don't have to be contained to what your population can support. Every building you place and upgrade you make impacts everyone and everything (I haven't even started playing with the taxes yet - kind of excited about this one). This is also why it's more challenging online. The region is constantly in flux, so your citizens' behavior and demands are constantly changing too - that is if you can keep them.

There's also a great deal of collaboration involved. If someone builds an important building or technology it's shared with all of the cities within their region. If you have excess supply for your utilities it's trivial for someone to purchase them from you win/win for both. This is on top of the natural competitive/curious urges you will have to check out the other cities, which is probably the best collaboration tool out there. I've learned more about the different ways cities can look and be structured by looking at the cities of 4 strangers in my region than I ever did from scouring through Simtropolis. I cared a lot more and watched them grow since they all impacted my city.

I can't say everyone will have the experience I had, and I have sympathy for users without reliable internet connections who are still waiting for a new Sim City they can play. But if you have access to the game and you have a decent Internet connection, the game is a remarkable achievement. And based on the complete 180 experience with their backend between Thursday and Friday, I can attest that they are fixing most of the launch issues (just join a new game on one of the new servers, East Coat 1 and 2 are borked). I'm very proud to see Maxis take such a big risk like this after Spore - the results are like night and day to me. This is another classic!

Ron Dippold
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Hi Christopher,

I actually do like the idea of regional play with other people in the method they've chosen, and I'm sure a lot of people will grow into it and enjoy it.

But it's still not something most Sim City fans know they will like or even wanted, and that combined with the lack of offline fallback mode when you simply can't be connected (or the servers have fallen over) is still, I think, what's causing the amount of outrage here compared to EA, PSO, WoW, etc. as in Jonathan's initial post.

Jonathan Murphy
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With the exception of Everquest, all the games I mentioned have an offline option. That's the problem. They made games better back then with far less. So even though their downtime was far worse, the options were there. Even though EQ1 was plagued server issues you could select from a multitude of servers. Thus the rage. People can smell BS, and EA smeared it all over a great game.

Steven Christian
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"We will agree to the EULA that forfeits our rights.."

I'm not sure where you live, but in Australia consumers have rights and no company can make you sign away your rights. Any documents that attempt to do so are illegal and not enforceable in Australia.

If there is a major problem with a product or service, the consumer is always entitled to a refund.

And as such, many Australian gamers have already returned their copies of Sim City for full refunds as the product/service does not work as advertised.

"The consumer guarantees cannot be changed, limited or refused by a seller, manufacturer or importer. It is also against the law for a seller to do anything that leads consumers to believe their rights are limited, or do not apply -for example, by claiming that no refunds will be given under any circumstances.

Any misleading claims a business makes about consumers' rights under the consumer guarantees are invalid and do not affect a consumers' rights to obtain a remedy under the consumer guarantees. These claims are also likely to breach provisions of the ACL (Australian Consumer Law) relating to misrepresentations or misleading and deceptive conduct."

Bart Stewart
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I'm on record as not being a fan of the current trend in gaming to centralize content and processing. In addition to hardwiring individual games like Sim City to be server-bound, the OnLive/Gaikai technologies are the near-direct equivalent of the mainframe + dumb terminal architecture. I think that part of the analogy is good.

But I'm not sure this trend is inevitable. From coding cursor locations on an ADM 3A terminal connected to a mainframe, I soon had a PC of my own. Later, from centralized online systems we moved to peer-to-peer networking. Centralization doesn't seem to be inevitably one-way -- new technology tends to disrupt central control structures.

This pattern, of centralization to distribution and back again, seems even older, actually. In the '80s I read Eric Raymond's Jargon File, which (still) has this entry for the 'Wheel of Reincarnation":

"[coined in a paper by T.H. Myer and I.E. Sutherland On the Design of Display Processors, Comm. ACM, Vol. 11, no. 6, June 1968)] Term used to refer to a well-known effect whereby function in a computing system family is migrated out to special-purpose peripheral hardware for speed, then the peripheral evolves toward more computing power as it does its job, then somebody notices that it is inefficient to support two asymmetrical processors in the architecture and folds the function back into the main CPU, at which point the cycle begins again."

We just need to ride out this current wave of publishers asserting control. Here's hoping it's over soon.

Tyler Shogren
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Piracy is a form of consumer protection and is a direct result of bad publisher actions. Over-promising features (e.g. Oblivion Radiant AI) and broken software (e.g. Black and White 2) in AAA titles is more responsible for piracy than anything. Most game players respect game makers enough to pay for good games. Further shackling customers and hobbling software development with this nonsense is adding insult to injury.

David Canela
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Sorry, but this is a silly argument. just because you don't like a product (maybe with good reasons) doesn't entitle you to get it for free. We are talking about video games here, not essential products such as clean water and fresh air. It's a bit different for invasive DRM that cripples the paying customer. But bad games do not justify piracy.

Kevin Reese
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Love it or [probably] hate how EA changed this franchise, I don't think it can be denied that it is an effective DRM measure. While there isn't any unbreakable DRM for a single player game yet conceived, it was an intelligent move to integrate the Single Player game into a metaverse.

While any SP DRM can be cracked, when you integrate you SP game so tightly into online play, you'll have a very effective form of DRM. As much gamer outrage as there is, I think EA will come out ahead in terms of revenue. I imagine Simcity must be a massively pirated game.

So even if I concurred with your 'piracy as a form of consumer protection' argument, in this case it would be false anyways, as the pirated version of the game (which is notably ABSENT currently) will be effectively a handicapped version of the game.

Single player DRM is rarely ever successful -- but this is the 1/100 case where it will be, because they did smart move, which was making the SP game a MP game effectively.

Kevin Reese
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...deleted accidental double post...

Tyler Shogren
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@David Canela
Not liking a product because it doesn't work as promised entitles you to a refund. Software is not like other products.

Derek Smart
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The SaS model for games kicked off awhile back, but some people clearly missed it. I have no problems with the model tbh. What I do have a problem with is shoddy service (ala Diablo III, Simcity).

However, the biggest problem has to do with sunset servers. Case in point, just a few months back, the same very EA shutdown a bunch of game servers. Forever. Since SimCity was built to be online all the time, it will eventually suffer the same fate. So you all who bought it, might as well think of it as a glorified MMO which one day you will not be able to play. At all.

This is hopefully NOT the future of PC gaming.

Mike Weldon
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Case in point, I played the 10-year-old Simcity 4 this weekend. I forgot how good that game was. Good luck doing that with the new Simcity 10 years from now.