SimCity 5 stirred up a storm of rage over Always On DRM, and here we talk about why it shouldn’t always be used for PC or console games.
If there’s one way to upset a PC gamer, it isn’t bugs (they can be patched), it isn’t crappy textures or graphics (although we want better!) it’s DRM that seems to strangle your enjoyment of the title.
I’ve several issues with DRM – it’s not that I don’t understand the ‘point’ of it. No one wants to work hard on something and then not to receive any reward for that hard work. Piracy is one of the big issues that face PC gaming – it’s generally a lot easier to pirate a PC game than it is a console game (but that’s becoming easier too, especially on the Xbox 360). But always on DRM isn’t the way to go about ensuring that your games sell well, or at least with a good reputation. The thing with DRM is there’s a level that I can stand, and a level that just plain starts to annoy me.
I don’t mind entering a serial number, or activating a product on Steam. I understand that’s part and parcel of PC gaming. When that line is crossed however, is when you have a limited amount of activations (which are hard to take back in case of your PC randomly crashing out), or when you need a constant internet connection for something like SimCity 5. There are a couple of issues with that – what if my internet goes down? Sure, it’s unlikely – but no service is a 100 percent. Frustratingly, it’s usually when I’m uploading a 1080P video to youtube which is coverage of a newly released big game that my internet connection decides to take a dive.
Or, what if that the company who created the title no longer wishes to serve that game, or what if they go under? I’ve bought the damn game, if your company falls over 6 months from now, I’m sorry – but you got my cash. I don’t want to take risks that I’ll not be able to play the product that I enjoy.
And then, there’s the launch frenzy of a new product. The media and gamers right now are jumping on the SimCity bandwagon, but many forget Diablo 3 experienced very similar issues on its own launch. On Blizzard’s World of Warcraft, there isn’t a ‘single player mode’. On Diablo 3, why can’t I just decide to go ahead and solo what I can. On Torchlight 2 I can play solo (indeed I’m yet to make an online account for it… despite the fact I bought 4 copies of the game, 1 for myself, 1 for a Christmas gift and 2 to give away on RGT). SimCity’s trouble was quite simple enough to explain – their servers couldn’t handle the load, and therefore – we couldn’t play the damn game. This is despite a staggered launch too – but as each region became live, more and more trouble popped up as the servers creaked under the increasing load. Their servers have improved but the damage to the reputation of the franchise has been done and dusted. Who knows how many sales Always on DRM lost the creators of the game?
Even more insulting in all of this is despite EA’s denial that it was possible to get the game to function without online, a hacker came along and proved them to be wrong. And that took about a week too, not 6 months from now they removed the always on DRM. Electronic Arts had asserted numerous times that the connection was important – but as it turns out, the hacker – AzzerUK proved that your PC can indeed, handle the load by itself. “Local saves will not be possible with simple editing, but may be possible with some serious work and ingenuity,” he’d said. But, the game could’ve surely been easily created with this in mind.
What’s worse, when asked about this Electronic Arts have stated that they “don’t comment on rumours and speculation”. They’ve also deleted on threads on the official forums discussing this mod/hack for Simcity 5’s always on DRM.
If developers insist of always on DRM, then at least make it more like the Adobe Creative Cloud (or Microsoft’s Office 365 model). This is where once you’ve activated the title, you’ve got 30 days ‘grace period’ where you don’t have to go online again. The thing will ask you in 30 days time to log back in to check you’re still ok. Now, I admit it’s a bit different with these services, as you’re effectively paying for month to month usage of the product. But even so, a similar idea could be implemented into the always on DRM. I’d not be exactly happy about it, but at least it saves these Diablo 3 and Simcity situations.
I think the real problem is that in an age where we seem to own less and less physical media, it’s starting to really become apparent that we don’t actually ‘own’ a game at all in many cases. For all intents and purposes, you could lose your entire Steam collection if Valve catch you doing something that they don’t like. I’m not saying they hand out account terminations on a regular basis. “Valve may terminate your Account or a particular Subscription for any conduct or activity that Valve believes is illegal, constitutes a Cheat, or which otherwise negatively affects the enjoyment of Steam by other Subscribers.”
Although some claim that you’re just locked by your account – as in you can still access games you’ve paid for. Regardless, you’re effectively at their mercy while you dispute the reasons your account has been terminated. The same thing goes with Blizzard, they can indeed suspend and ban you as they wish. And while if you go about the game cheating, it’s understandable they’d want some measure to punish you, it’s still a little odd to think that you don’t really own the account.