SimCity – Look At My City. And It Is Gone
The dream they all waited for to come true, to build a modern city with resource management and cooperative play, filling empty lands and hills with thriving cities and metropolises, was close. Having your friends in the neighborhood supplying you with goods and services sounded like fun, like a real improvement and innovation to the monotone single player experience in the past games, which urged you to build everything you need yourself. A feature online and cloud gaming could achieve. Too bad most pre-orders of the new SimCity (5) could not even go that far to see the first settlers build their tiny houses.
To ensure a multiplayer experience SimCity wants to offer, you need to be online. EA, the main publisher needs to be sure your version of the game is legitimately bought and used, so you need to be permanently online, otherwise the DRM (an anti piracy protection) kicks in and will not let you play. And to be completely sure you do not cheat, all cities are saved on the cloud servers of EA as well. On launch day, as millions of players tried to access this service, it was unavailable. Queues tormented the user with a 30 minute waiting line, even for the single player experience. Cities could neither be loaded nor created, and the few who were lucky enough to play were not safe from server crashes or lost city data, forcing them to start all over.
As you can see, the whole list of disasters that could have happened with a game and a service that requires permanent online connectivity and resources did happen. Sadly, it has been predicted since Diablo III had the same problems with the same always on service and no one bothered to learn from the mistakes of the rival. It is a statement that you cannot protect your game properly with online requirements nor grant your customers a pleasant gaming environment. The latter should be your main concern since they supply your game making efforts with money and a chance of making a next game.
The usage of a cloud system to enhance multiplayer gaming can come with benefits. Always available save games, downloadable content to every PC you use without dependency on external storage media, the ability to access and interact with the save games of other users, even if they are offline. In total, you have to evaluate the use and danger of online cloud services and protection – as a user and a developer, to avoid dangers and inconvenience which have already been experienced above.
There is still much work to do in terms of solidifying a reliable cloud based gaming experience. In all due time we will get there, but how soon?
By Robert Baumert