Saturday, March 9, 2013

Origin Still Adding Value Screwing Gamers

I've written before about the restrictive DRM practices of companies like Ubisoft (who thankfully have recently come to their senses and scrapped theirs) and Blizzard, and how it does almost nothing other than make it harder or even impossible (in some cases) to play the game someone has paid for, whilst doing almost nothing to prevent piracy.

Fortunately a wild new example has appeared, and it may be the best case in point thus far about how bad things can get when it's abused by the publisher.  The new SimCity, by all accounts an ok game, requires you to be connected to EA's Origin service at all times to play your single-player game.  In addition, no information is saved locally on your PC, so if you do somehow manage to get SimCity connected through Origin (and that's a big if), Origin reserves the right to screw you down the line by having the server fail to save your game correctly, losing any and all progress you have made in the past since the last successful sync.

Things got so bad that for a couple of days this week Amazon actually had the balls to stop selling the game, instead showing it as "Unavailable" and linking to Origin's page about the continuing server issues that were plaguing it.  Angry gamers also decided to post numerous 1-star reviews on Amazon, tanking its rating for all to see.

So far EA's response has been to actually disable some features of the game (you couldn't make this up...) such as leaderboards and achievements, in order to free up server capacity for people to, you know, actually play the game.

EA and Maxis continue to add additional server capacity, but for now it's a crap shoot whether you can actually get to play that game you purchased, coupled with will any save game data actually save to Origin, since there is no local save to your machine.

Good god, the shitstorm over Diablo III was bad but EA found a way to top it and make their game look a hundred times worse in comparison.  Why on earth is there no local save?  Why does absolutely everything require you to be connected to Origin to do it?  Why did they not see the number of pre-orders they had and then budget the amount of server capacity accordingly?  This is just junior grade incompetence of the highest order, with EA demonstrating just how hard it is to like them these past couple of years.

EA apparently will give out a free game to everyone who has bought SimCity by way of apology (through Origin though, so don't expect to be able to play it), so I guess that somehow makes it all ok.

These kinds of DRM need to just die a horrible death.  Kudos to EA for managing to find a way to sabotage a decent game with this horrendous always-on system that torpedoes the gaming experience.

In the meantime, I would strongly advise anyone to avoid purchasing this game.  Not only is there a good chance you won't actually be able to play it, but it just sends the message to EA that people are ok with this kind of anti-consumer system.

I will close with the first sentence of the top review for SimCity on Amazon, which explains things more eloquently than I ever could:

"Guess what? If you'd love to experience the nonstop thrills and excitement of SimCity, then please remove $60 from your bank and promptly pay someone to kick you repeatedly in the friggin' mouth."

You just can't buy that kind of publicity.