We're not always online; games shouldn't be either

Companies promoting always-online need to understand the real world, says Rob Fahey

"Defective by design". That's how opponents of strong DRM characterise the object of their ire; software systems which are deliberately created to restrict, undermine and generally break the functionality of the content to which they parasitically cling. DRM, at this extreme, is a direct assault on the rights of the consumer - rights which had been enshrined both in law and in common practice in the pre-digital age, but which are now subject to a land-grab by the grim-faced lawyers of media companies the world over.

Games, for all our occasional harping and moaning on this subject, have been fairly tame and sensible in their implementation of DRM for the most part. It probably helps that many senior figures in the games business are pretty technologically competent compared to their counterparts in music and film; it's hard to imagine games companies continuing to pour money into a ludicrous, abortive, hugely expensive abomination like the film industry's bewilderingly beloved Ultraviolet system, simply because for all their flaws, games companies are quite good at understanding and accepting when a technology has simply failed.

In games, a handful of "tough" DRM concepts have flared up briefly before being extinguished - either the technology didn't actually work, rendering it pointless, or the restrictions it imposed on legitimate consumers were so onerous that DRM actually ended up damaging the commercial potential of the game and its sequels. Again, credit where it's due - even those in the games industry who are most ideologically inclined towards DRM based solutions to piracy have generally been quick to accept facts ("this isn't working" or "this is screwing over our paying customers") and back down in such cases. Indeed, no matter what your view may be on microtransactions, paymium and F2P - and I maintain that we're going to have some very very tough years in the core gaming space as companies and designers repeatedly fail to apply microtransaction models sensibly for core consumers - it's still a great big gold star in gaming's copybook that the industry has actually gone out and thought about what a post-digital business model might look like, rather than just going crying to governments about how big nasty technology has come along and stolen everyone's lunch money with its "innovation" and its "progress".

"In games, a handful of "tough" DRM concepts have flared up briefly before being extinguished"

There is, however, one daft approach which the biggest and most generally sensible of games creators don't seem to be quite able to shake off. Creating always-online games - shoving a client-server model borrowed from MMORPGs and other multiplayer titles into the heart of your singleplayer games - seems to hold a siren call for developers, in spite of high-profile and humiliating failures. When Blizzard did it with Diablo 3, it was met with resistance and anger from players that unquestionably coloured the critical and commercial reaction to the game - now seen as a distinct low point for a company which could do almost no wrong for the previous 15 years or so. Now EA has stepped up to implement similar ideas in the new Sim City, in the process fomenting a backlash that has almost entirely eclipsed years of superb build-up and excitement around the resurrection of this beloved franchise.

The problems with demanding an internet connection for a single-player game are both severe and obvious. It is absolutely a question of making a game "defective by design"; it takes a game which has always been playable offline and suddenly tells players that no, they may not play it on the train, on the plane, while visiting relatives who don't have wi- fi, during the two weeks it takes to get ADSL installed in your new flat, in your bedroom where the wi-fi connection doesn't reach very well, or at any other time when an internet connection isn't to hand.

"Even if your own internet connection is working, you'll also be unable to play if the servers are experiencing a problem"

Moreover, even if your own internet connection is working, you'll also be unable to play if the servers are experiencing a problem. In the early weeks, they'll probably be massively overloaded (they were for Diablo and they have been for Sim City, and if Blizzard and EA are both utterly incapable of getting this right, I don't hold out a great deal of hope for anyone else), but even later on you may find that the couple of hours you've set aside to play will land in the middle of a server crash or scheduled maintenance. Your experience, as a fully paid-up legitimate consumer of a bloody expensive game, will be notably worse than it was back in the good old days when single- player games didn't feel the urge to run off to the Internet every five seconds like a rude teenager who can't put down his smartphone.

Of course, when we're playing MMORPGs or their likes, we accept such problems. We may not accept them without swearing or rolling our eyes, but when you start up World of Warcraft and it tells you that the servers or down - or when you go off to the wilderness for a couple of weeks and miss a few guild raids - you understand why that's happening, accept it and move on. You probably load up a singleplayer game that you've got on your laptop for such purposes to fill the time instead - because the understanding we have with singleplayer games, the social contract we have entered into with their creators, is a different one. We accept multiplayer games as a service, of sorts - sometimes the servers can't be contacted, sometimes we'll have to patch the game before we connect, and of course, if there's no internet connection there's no dice. Singleplayer games, however, are a private experience. They don't talk to the Internet unless we want them to. For that reason, they don't have compulsory patches, they don't stop working when the servers go down (whether that's down for a few hours, or down permanently at the end-of-life of the product in a few years' time) and they don't demand a network connection before letting you play. These aren't just technical differences, they're conceptual differences - fundamental differences in how players perceive the product they're buying and the agreement with the developer represented by that purchase.

The most basic and intractable problem with always-online games is that for a very large number of people, the Internet isn't an always-online service. We have to be careful about our own biases in this regard, because we're geeks (all of us, and yes that absolutely does include you). We know about Internet connections and their qualitative differences, at least on a high level, and we do things like picking Internet service providers that give good speeds and no caps, or mobile providers with healthy data allocations, or routers that provide a solid wi-fi signal around the house. This all seems natural and sensible to us, and it can be all too easy to assume that everyone else does likewise - or worse, that people who don't approach data services in such an educated way "have only themselves to blame", forgetting that these are customers we're trying to sell to.

"The most basic and intractable problem with always-online games is that for a very large number of people, the Internet isn't an always-online service"

The fact is that even in developed, advanced countries like those of Europe and North America, Internet services still suck for a large proportion of the population. For some people, there just isn't any option - I've spent the past week in a house where the best possible mobile internet signal is two bars of EDGE, and the only option for installing broadband would be half-megabit RADSL at a prohibitively high cost. Needless to say, I haven't been playing Sim City or Diablo 3 (although I have plugged a fair bit of time into rediscovering Civ 5). This is an extreme example, but not a unique one, and as you move closer to the centre of a theoretical spectrum of Internet access you still find tons of homes with only very limited access, or without Wi-Fi routers, or who simply took whatever broadband their TV provider or phone company offered, and live with low speeds, a very low cap (10GB is not uncommon) and surprisingly regular outages as a consequence.

Moreover, those people who can't play always-online games at home are only a small part of the equation. Far, far more consumers are concerned that even if they can play a game at home, they won't be able to play it anywhere else. Mobile internet coverage is even more imperfect than fixed-line internet - on trains, on the road and in many rural and even urban areas, you'll frequently lose data signal altogether. In Europe, where international travel is very common especially among young professionals, roaming data charges make playing an always-online game over mobile internet while travelling a completely ludicrous prospect.

"Even less appealing is the idea of paying a hotel €10 for Wi-Fi access so I can play a bit of Sim City while on the move"

Even less appealing is the idea of paying a hotel €10 for Wi-Fi access so I can play a bit of Sim City while on the move. Suddenly you're saying, "you can play Sim City on your laptop, but only at home - go elsewhere and it'll stop working". How is it any of EA's business where I choose to play their game? It isn't, of course, and that's not the purpose of always-online - but it is the impact of this decision, and it's not an impact that EA (or Blizzard) seem to have thought about in any depth or with any particular intelligence.

Always-online approaches to singleplayer have an extraordinary appeal for game creators, but they are a terrible idea, exemplifying all of the worst characteristics lambasted by the "defective by design" argument. This is only magnified when the approach is applied to a much-loved franchise like Diablo or Sim City, where players have a completely reasonable expectation of singleplayer functionality which the developer has rashly chosen to ignore. "This will be fine for the majority of players," I'm sure they thought - and they're right, but only in a narrow sense. I could play Sim City most of the time, certainly, so the always- online component should be fine for me - but at many times when I'd like to play it (trains, flights, hotel rooms, Christmas at home, etc.) I won't be able to, and that fact looms large on any purchase decision. I'm in the majority whom EA probably consider to be unaffected by their always-online strategy, but they're wrong; always-online means I won't buy their game, and sadly, it also means that what looks like a genuinely excellent update of the franchise is doomed to be remembered for its aggressive unpleasantness towards players

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Latest comments (42)

Paul Johnson Managing Director / Lead code monkey, Rubicon Development5 years ago
Don't think you'll be getting many arguments about this one. +10
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Dave Herod Senior Programmer, Codemasters5 years ago
@Andreas - Indeed, I remember back in 2004 I still had dial-up internet access which was pay-per-minute, and I was absolutely furious when I couldn't play Half Life 2 until a good day and a half after receiving the disc from Amazon. Steam also made things more difficult than they had to be, too. I used to download patches and content for games at work on a decent connection and take it home on a memory stick. Steam wouldn't even allow that without some serious fiddling about.
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Craig Burkey Software Engineer 5 years ago
Great article, luv to see a reply from Blizzard and EA
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Show all comments (42)
Fundamentally, we have seen the consumer game publisher rush to embrace a connected approach as an alternative to embracing DLC and fail at every turn- for whatever reason they decided to go down the path of charging full price and then deny ownership unless connected - and remember that is a additional price (connectivity) on top of the 'full' price paid.

Not Owned Content (NOC) is a stupid approach - when a "denial of service" situation happens like with SimCity the embarrassment and resentment only impedes the future of the business (the EA apology had better be more appropriate then their denial of refunds). The speed-bump of the Wii-U first day install and the backtrack over the original "always connected" aspirations; add to the Capcom locked DLC content fiasco, and the whole question regarding PS4 and XB720 online needs - all just souring the user base.

I know that once consumer gaming became a Billion Dollar business it would attract executives that are not interested in the game but just the revenue and bonus culture - seeing consumers as cash-cows to best to achieve their goals. But the idea they can charge full price, then a Online fee, then take away the game when they are done, will be a mistake that we all will pay for - and that could mean an end of the console business, as the independent microconsoles step in!

Edited 1 times. Last edit by kevin williams on 15th March 2013 10:19am

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Khash Firestorm Senior Programmer, MuHa Games5 years ago
I have played all Simcity and diablo like games I could always find... but I have skipped latest Diablo 3 (for the sake of torchlight 2) and Simcity... I'm game developer but in my area there is only crappy interenet. Game should bring fun and "always online" would only make me angry. That would be the same reason why in next gen I will not choose Xbox if its true about their "always online" console.
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@Khash, you are not the only one - a reason why Nin, Mic, and Son both dropped original plans for a full "always connected" approach for Gen'8 consoles. Now we have a half-way house that is hurting the industry.

I think it is the danger of legal action over the "denial of service" on SimCity that has shocked EA and others out of their complacency (while it was WARZ that shocked Steam out of theirs!) - I have also found it interesting that seems to have avoided reporting the "Nintendo Wii-U Price Drop" stories - as Wii-U was the first of the Gen'8 consoles with a dedicated DRM approach!
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Mary Hilton Community Manager, Reclaim Your Game5 years ago
Excellent and very valid points about the 'always on-line' demand-but I wonder if the problems with the companies that implement these rigid and incomprehensible strategies come from their locations-EA and other companies are usally located in the most highly connected area of the world-California (for an example), where internet usage is top of the line, steady, reliable and always broadband. Their access is instant and constant. They never have outages. They might have data caps, but that's not their concern. They pay their bills, why don't you?
They simply do not have the understanding of the world outside of that location, and do not comprehend that the rest of the world does not have constant on-line service, or spotty service at best. Dial up? What's that?
They work with a structure that is top of the line and current. They do not seem to realize that not all of their customers live in such an ideal connection area and refuse to believe it. So they make their games only from their viewpoint: "We have high-speed broadband 24/7, and you do too! Play our game! Pay us!"
I find that this is showing complete lack of empathy or understanding for their customers. It's all about the money, and keeping those dirty ol' pirates away from the game..even if they're the customers themselves. Someone opined somewhere else that the problem is that EA views all their customers as pirates.
Perhaps that is the total sum of their existence-"Never give a sucker an even break, and charge them for it!"
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...Seeming to ram home the point:

"...Estimated sales of just 64,000 units in February have left Wii U facing up to the reality of being the worst selling new console in two generations." [MCV 15/3/13]
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Daniel Hughes Studying PhD Literary Modernism, Bangor University5 years ago
@ Kevin, agreed on many of your points, but I don't remember there being any DRM issues with Wii U? Definite issues by where functionality like backwards compatibility needed to be downloaded over the internet on launch day (due to machines being manufactured in advance and Nintendo not having their arses in gear to ensure day one features were pre-installed), but does that count as a DRM issue?

Great stuff as usual Rob. Publishers obviously need to look out for their own interests--but that shouldn't come at the expense of what's best for their consumers.
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Matthew Bennett 3D Engine developer, Sitedesk5 years ago
Agreed, Always online DRM hasn't succeeded yet. I am doubtful they will ever make it work unless infrastructures across the world develop to a point where the internet is available everywhere, without fail, all the time.
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Rick Lopez Illustrator, Graphic Designer 5 years ago
Do we have to be always online to listen to music or watch movies? Why should it be that way with games? In the last 25 years games didnt need to be online. Why should they be online now. Some games require it because of their nature, but most of the games I play arent multiplayer games. I enjoyed franchises like Zelda, metal gear, mass Effect, Dragon Age, Mega Man, Castle Crashers, Crysis all while being offline. I enjoy them for the stories, characters and gameplay. I can enjoy a game like CRYSIS3 offline without an internet connection for those things. If I want to play with someone else then I go online. Thing is I got a choice and different ways to enjoy the game. Why does that have to change. Unless by design its required to be online, in the case of a multiplayer or MMO I really dont get why games have to be online. The only justification is to push on gamers a "Draconian DRM system".

We already have a decent enough infrastructure to provide meaningful multiplayer expiriences. But I dont think this is about piracy or even money. Its "control". Its about controlling everything the population see's, consumes and does. its about knowing exactly what everyone is doing at every moment to CONTROL. And what this will allow is for companies to find ways to exploit people for there money in different ways. I mean sure, they will say its for a good cause, such as gathering player stats and seeing gamers different tastes to know how to better develope a game. But i really doubt thats the reason they want games to always be online. Its like Iran claiming they are developing nuclear technology for peaceful purposes.

I think developers should listen more to gamers. Developers think they know what gamers want. And if SONY's reveal of the playstation 4 went so well, its because everything they said in there conference was because they listened to alot of things that gamers and developers complained about. And I dont think that any gamer likes to play games on handcuffs, or always be online. I think games should provide gamers with more opportunities to play under different circumstances, and wether its online or off the fact that you can play under different scenarios is what players need. Not more restrictions. What now you cant play in the beach or in a hotel room? What if your on a plane and you travel? Portable devices such as 3DS is and VITA are great for that. It would suck if you took a vacation to Hawaii and was in a place without internet service and you couldnt play. Even mobile phone games can be played offline at the beach or in places without a signal or internet conection.

And look, all this stuff about mobile games always being online, and that people are used to it... Most people dont care or even realize it..... alot of games you just have to be online to download them the first time, that is it. Mobile phones have to always be connected to use the phone text and communication features, NOT play games.

I really dont think people want an always online requirment to play games unless they are multiplayer or MMO's. Its a Draconian form of DRM. And they can dress it up as nice as they want, at the end of the day its another method to control consumers. Its not about the making games better.

Seriously... there is nothing that will justify always online games, like capcom did with PS3 versions of Final Fight and Bionic Commando reArmed2. To me its just a load of bullshit and a draconian (harsh) form of DRM.

And my other gripe with always online games is how long will they be supported? Can i fire up a game 10 years later much like I would an old NES cartridge or dreamcast game? Can I go back and play a favorite of mine from the past?

Edited 5 times. Last edit by Rick Lopez on 15th March 2013 4:05pm

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Brian Smith Artist 5 years ago
Great article although I'm surprised it didn't have much to say on the obligations of companies to keep the servers going longterm. My biggest problem with always online is that no one is stating how long they'll support their titles for. If I buy Sim city will it work for a year, 2 years, 10 years, there's no guide or commitment. I can still fire up games that I bought more than a decade ago. I suspect this won't be the case for these titles. At the moment I just won't buy any title like this regardless of whether it's something I want.
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Stephen Richards Game Deisgner 5 years ago
While I agree with the spirit of the article and all these comments, one point of contention is whether it's really in EA's financial interest not to use DRM. Obviously they can't remove it now or they'd get a piracy backlash of spore-like proportion. But the real question is whether people are willing to boycott a game when they can't pirate it. You gamesindustry readers may be principled individuals, but I suspect a lot of people have bought Sim City when they would have pirated it if they could. And all that matters to EA in the short term is their bottom line: whether they force more would-be piraters to pay than boycotters they produce in the process. Then there are long term effects to their reputation to consider, but I suppose they weren't planning for the servers to collapse...
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Alexandros Gekas Co- Founder, Editor, Ragequit.gr5 years ago
@ Andreas I feel that your approach of this issue is a bit myopic, in that it only takes into account the present. Yes, Diablo III and Simcity probably sold well enough that some boycotters will not matter. What about the future though? Do you think people will be just as quick to buy Diablo IV or SimCity2 in the future? Personally, I don't. You can only push customers so far before they start pushing back.
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I disagree, that 10 million sales figure was in spite of always online feature. Without it, and all the chaos it caused, it is safe to say the game would of sold even more units. And to say that those 10 million customers who bought it had no problem with it, is kind of ridiculous, there was a firestorm, Diablo 3 has done a lot of damage to Blizzard/Activision rep IMHO, just as Simcity has EA/Maxis.

Also for the non US developers here, Fact is much of the US still has poor internet capability. The US lag behinds much of the world in the field of high speed internet. Just a fact you may not be aware of.
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Bryan Robertson Gameplay Programmer, Ubisoft Toronto5 years ago
Speaking personally,I don't think there's anything wrong in principle with creating a game where even the "single-player" needs you to be online, because there's a significant collaborative or competitive element. (i.e. games that aren't quite MMOs in the traditional sense, but straddle the line a bit, in that they kind of have single player, but not really)

If the multiplayer elements are clearly shoehorned in as an excuse to have always online DRM, then of course that's a very different proposition, but I think there are a lot of cool ideas that you could explore with that kind of game.

But obviously it goes without saying, that if you are going to go down that route, then it should just work, and players shouldn't be getting booted from games all the time due to server problems. Also, ideally if you need people to literally be always online to play the game, that should be because the features of the game just wouldn't work otherwise.
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Steven Hodgson Programmer, Code in Progress Ltd5 years ago
I was thinking the other day, the natural balance to all these always online drm games, will be a spike in the indie games. People create their own variants of these games that do not require to be always online.
However then the thought occurred to me, how long until these guys start pulling out their patents and copyrights.
It is what happened with mobile phones, one company uses its fan-base to sell an insane number of their product, other companies realise there is now a demand, and so build their own with changes, however now the original company pulls out patents to keep their profit high, rather than just trying satisfying their customers.

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Steven Hodgson on 15th March 2013 4:08pm

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Brian Lewis Operations Manager, PlayNext5 years ago
Voting with your wallet... ?
I do not think this means what you think it means.

Voting with your wallet allows the market to clearly indicate that they DO want.... not what they DON'T want. Withholding your money means that you don't vote.. and get no say. The only people that have any say are those that spend.. and the more they spend, the more say that they get.

Business will chase after the money. Wherever the money is, business will go, and try to bring the products to get some of that money. If you want to vote with your wallet, find something that you (and others) think is good, then throw lots of money at it. When business sees this, they will try to emulate, and you will have more of the same.

The only way to get better products is to encourage people to spend lots of money on products that are clearly superior (in one way or another) so that everyone else tries to emulate that success. Not buying inferior products is only effective if everyone does it, and if there are clearly superior products that are visibly making MORE money (i.e. if all current products are bad, then you will just get more of those, as they are the best examples available).
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Michael Gunter Monster Hunter 5 years ago
It's a nice article, but in light of its tone, it probably isn't fair to use a picture from Hawken, which exists solely as an online multiplayer shooter and is Free-to-Play. Just my personal opinion, but given the fact that no single player campaign exists for the game (yet?) and that the online functionality is absolutely crucial for the entire purpose of the game, it just doesn't fit in with all the arguments presented.
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Eric Schittulli Head of Customer Service, Aeria Games Europe5 years ago
@Brian : I understand your point of view and I find this valid for certain cases but not on the kind of games we are talking about. Non Spenders actually have a lot of power since those are the ones who the companies need to convince.

If your product got a bad rep or is from a bad quality, it will simply not sale or your marketing costs will skyrocket and that will be a one time shot only (understand that the customers won't get scamed twice by this means).

One of the complicated role of the publishers and the studios is to find the right balance between game polishing/QA/overall quality and the marketing costs.

If they lower one they have to increase the other and the other way around.

Some (rare) games combines both : Quality and heavy marketing (Skyrim, World of Warcraft, ...)
Some other games have a high quality and a low marketing (The 1st "The Witcher" is a very good example)

And some games (unfortunately more common) are lowering the quality and increasing the marketing cost and wondering why the game is not selling.

Non spenders definitely have a huge power and they should be listened to more often.
By not listening to them, the market gets saturated too much by a lack of renewal of players.

And if we would push the reasonning for the next 20 years, I would say it's pretty damn important to not over saturate the market because as a player gets older, he plays less (carreer, family, whatever) but on the other hands, almost all western countries demographics are sinking so the companies will have hard time to renew their spenders pool.

They don't need to (over)cherish the spenders, they need to convert new ones to get healthy on the long term.

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Eric Schittulli on 15th March 2013 5:37pm

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Mariusz Szlanta Producer, SEGA Europe5 years ago
Stephen, I doubt there are any converted pirates buying Sim City or any other DRM game for that matter. It would happen only if all games and many other forms of entertaiment suddenly got unbreakable DRM.

I have yet to see any stats proving correlation between spike in sales thanks to DRM in game like Sim City and piracy.


Andreas, I think you underestimate people's sentiment, habits and worldwide technological progress. There is quite clear halo effect on sales of new product based on previous installment. Both Diablo 4 and Sim City 6 marketing will have to put a good fight to overcome it.

It may not matter for another simple mobile game but it matters a lot for a game dedicated to well defined customer.

Last but not least, many people that bought D3 or Sim City are 25+/30+. They'll remember next time you ask them to spend almost 50 pounds. Unless (and that's really damaging effect these poor DRM techniques can have) they are cured from gaming for good.
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Mike Engle Senior Game Designer, Zynga5 years ago
I've always seen the pattern as:
* Diablo 3 DRM fails at launch -> Terrible customer experience, bad PR.
* Sim City CRM fails at launch -> Terrible customer experience, bad PR.
* Steam DRM works almost flawlessly with some offline tolerance -> Few critics; many open fans
* Starcraft 2 HotS DRM works flawlessly -> Few critics, general critical/commercial praise

Meaning it's 2013, internet is virtually universal. Almost no one's freaking out about DRM implementations which aren't broken.

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Mike Engle on 15th March 2013 10:07pm

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Greg Wilcox Creator, Destroy All Fanboys! 5 years ago
The title of the article says it all, really.

I play well over 99% of my games in single player OFFLINE and I find as a consumer with a shit connection that's not getting any better because I live in an area where everything needs to be bundled into way too expensive contract nonsense that includes crap I don't and never will use, I'm not at all happy with the enforced evolution going on. Nether are a great deal of others in my area who buy in and get hit with "or else" usage caps that end up LIMITING the time they do play online.

Anyway, games outside the strictly MMO space NEED offline play or people like me (and there are a lot of us, believe it or else) won't be buying in.
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Sam Brown Programmer, Cool Games Ltd.5 years ago
Mike Engle:
it's 2013, internet is virtually universal
Rob, from the article above:
I've spent the past week in a house where the best possible mobile internet signal is two bars of EDGE, and the only option for installing broadband would be half-megabit RADSL at a prohibitively high cost.
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Mike Engle Senior Game Designer, Zynga5 years ago
@Andrew: I'm unclear what part you thought was biased. Do you disagree with those examples?

I wasn't really expressing an opinion, merely describing my observations.
* The near-invisible DRM examples (Steam, Heart of the Swarm) received little to no criticism.
* The game-blocking-due-to-poor-scaling DRM examples (Diablo 3, Sim City) received massive criticism.

The edge case of not having internet is rare to start with, and offline tolerance eliminates the bad experience there. It's all about doing DRM right, and not botching it.

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Mike Engle on 15th March 2013 9:50pm

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Mike Engle Senior Game Designer, Zynga5 years ago
@Sam: Not really sure what you're trying to imply there. Can't tell if you thought I said "universal" (not "virtually universal") or if you thought an example of the author having internet (albeit very poor internet) somehow conflicted with either statement. It's an edge case either way (if it wasn't there would be strong business reasons not to use online-requiring DRM, and businesses wouldn't be headed in that direction.)

@Eric: Yeah I generally agree with what you've said (although again, I don't think Sim City's online capabilities would be criticized in anything close to the same harshness if the game's DRM wasn't flubbed.)
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Jason Alexander QA - Senior Tester, Blizzard Entertainment5 years ago
SOPA, PIPA. Remember we as the public won that battle and online DRM...this is the response. Companies try things new (New Coke anyone). EA is just following model all digital media companies doing. The market is leaning towards..if you can buy the game and the PC to play it on you can afford the 49 buck for high-speed internet. As for consoles its a different story but almost the same ending.

15 years ago it was CD-keys...if I loose my key "then what" now loosing the key does not matter because it's stored online and now that is a problem. If the internet goes out your going to be complaining to CS about your internet not playing games. If you don't have internet you probably don't know about internet only games till you show up at the store and by it. See that most mag companies are going out business how are you finding out about games other than word of mouth, or walking into a store.

Skyrym on complaint there
Portal...No complaint there
XBOX Live...I have to pay to get on complaint there (here is my money)
UBISOFT Games as of now
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Tudor Nita Lead Programmer, Gameloft Romania5 years ago
It's surprising to see so many people still believe good Internet access is ubiquitous when in fact it is more akin to a luxury item if at all available. Good internet access is still mostly restricted to high-density urban areas in the western world and the developed bits of Asia.

And, no, owning a pc or buying a piece of long-term entertainment does not mean one can afford a decent internet connection. A pc can still be considered an investment. Cheap in the long run, same as a game you can pick up and play for 300+ hours (exaggerated but not unheard of - D2, X series, etc ).

Edited 2 times. Last edit by Tudor Nita on 16th March 2013 1:08am

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Sam Brown Programmer, Cool Games Ltd.5 years ago
@Mike Engle: I meant that the internet isn't remotely universal, never mind virtually. For instance, I live in the third largest urban area in the UK and there are areas here where mobile data is non-existent and while you can pay for a broadband connection it's down half the time and intermittent the rest. Even a game that only checks on startup is a dicey proposition at best.
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Nick Parker Consultant 5 years ago
We seem to be arguing against ourselves again. The Internet is not universal unless you think where you live is the universe - FACT. I don't think that the Internet has to be universal though for a business, which is what publishers are, to be able to make a decent return. Some people with good enough connectivity will be able to enjoy always on games and others won't but it's the first group who are being targeted. Developers and Publishers target one or two consoles on an exclusive basis but do we claim that that's not fair for those who don't own those consoles? I'm a PC gamer and can't play Halo 4, do I berate 343 or Microsoft for not building a PC version? Always on games are here to stay as there are enough gamers who can enjoy them; that may suck for the rest but they will have their time in the sun eventually. It's the likes of EA and Blizzard who have made the mistakes, who, ironically, can afford to make those mistakes for lesser mortals to learn from.
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Morville O'Driscoll Blogger & Critic 5 years ago
@ Nick

Perhaps it wouldn't sting so much if EA and Blizzard actually came out and said that. Everyone knows Naughty Dog develop for the PS3, so no-one complains that Uncharted is PS3 only. The problem with EA/Maxis is that they continue to pretend that what they've done is not target a subset of consumers. As a business, they may have the right to pretend that, but it makes the consumer feel like they've been conned. When a company just reiterates the same thing over and over ( ) in the vain hope that this time the consumer will understand, it harms consumer confidence in the company, and raises the fear that other companies will do the same thing in the future.

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Morville O'Driscoll on 16th March 2013 11:02am

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Saehoon Lee Founder & CEO, Pixellore5 years ago
I bought Simcity, not because I didn't know about all the issues, but I wanted to support Maxis despite all the issues. Because I felt if this version of Simcity didn't get enough support , there won't be next one. I am that much fan boy, but it doesn't mean I am happy with current Simcity. I am as mad as lots of other Simcity players. I really want to see some real changes / fixes to this game. And that is why I paid my money to Maxis. My money to FIX the game. Please!
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Morville O'Driscoll Blogger & Critic 5 years ago
Assuming what this article says is true (and RPS is pretty good for journalistic ethics), then giving your money to Maxis/EA is just... Well saying "a waste" just seems like an understatement. I really, honestly, wish there was more accountability for not only the developers, but the forum mod staff. PC games have been released that are broken before, and mod staff have acted beyond their power before, but very rarely have the two come together, and I don't think such actions have ever come from such a large publisher.

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Morville O'Driscoll on 17th March 2013 1:00pm

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Yiannis Koumoutzelis Founder & Creative Director, Neriad Games5 years ago
hmmm... are you really not always online? because i sure as hell am! skype and other services are running 24/7 i receive and respond to email throughout the day, i play mmorpgs and online quite often and i am on facebook, twitter, linkedin, various gaming sites and communities, playing on my mobile which ALSO runs the majority of big games CONSTANTLY online etc etc etc, all day long! in fact the only time i am not actively online is probably when i fall asleep.

edit: so is the majority of gamers who would be aware of this game and own a PC that can play it!

It is a surprise to hear that so many industry people are not always online. i mean, DSL/cable runs 24/7 anyway! So how do you go about it? do you switch off your DSL or 3G connection at some point during the day?

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Yiannis Koumoutzelis on 17th March 2013 4:03pm

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Morville O'Driscoll Blogger & Critic 5 years ago

Sorry, but what happens when you travel a lot and just want to play for a bit? Or when you move house and your new internet service takes a couple of weeks to set-up? Or your internet service is poor? (I've had a run of bad luck that meant that I had 4 disconnects in a 2 hour period, each solved only be restarting the router).

All of which is to say that, even if someone's internet connection is on all the time, it does not mean that they can access it all the time for the purposes of playing a game.
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Sam Brown Programmer, Cool Games Ltd.5 years ago
hmmm... are you really not always online?
That's about the size of it. To put what I said earlier into more detail, here in Manchester UK internet access varies wildly. There are areas of the city that have no fibre, only 5 meg connections, and those are down half the time partly because of rubbish support and partly because some gang of scrotes have either set the exchange box on fire or broken into it because they think there's copper to steal inside.

For another example, my Dad lives in an affluent commuter village about ten miles from the nearest urban centre. His broadband rarely tops a single meg, and dies after 6PM. My phone gets less than a bar when I visit him.

"Always-online" is a complete myth for most people and will probably remain so for a while yet. We need to stop pretending that we all live in a sea of connectivity and stop basing our business models on that belief.

Edited 3 times. Last edit by Sam Brown on 17th March 2013 6:35pm

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Greg Wilcox Creator, Destroy All Fanboys! 5 years ago
Annnnnnnnd herein lies the funkin' problem, kids. It's turning into the "haves" in the industry and the "have-nots" outside of it. Sure, if you live in the perfect bubbly bubble of living and affording an always on speedy-Speed Racer connection and can access when you want when you want to with few annoying issues, why the hell would you EVEN consider the fact (not opinions) of other users NOT in that boat you're in?

I'd LOVE to see how some folks going on about this not being much of an issue do in a room (chat or otherwise) full of inconvenienced people who don't like the way things are. As long as there's that thick wall between the two camps, it'll always be post after post of "i don't see what the problem is" when all is needed is a look over a few fences... or better yet, maybe ask people outside the realm you're in what's the story on their end...

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Greg Wilcox on 18th March 2013 4:37am

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Morville O'Driscoll Blogger & Critic 5 years ago
Perhaps publishers could band together and print some "We value your opinion cards"? Questions could include:

Do you have internet access?
How fast is it?
Do you like or dislike DRM?
Would you rather have a CD in the drive, a one-time connection to the internet, or a continuous connection to the internet?
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Yiannis Koumoutzelis Founder & Creative Director, Neriad Games5 years ago
Always Online can only be a problem for people with dial up or ISDN connections. And even these people, really have a cost problem. Not a connectivity or speed problem. Today, even at my small hometown i have broadband on a usb stick. 16Mbps of mobile internet for 34 euros p/mo. 5Mbps connections? :D even 1Mbps is more than enough to play all MMORPGs. Not to mention that the people with ISDN and dial up connections in 2013 are not really your average consumer! We have been playing MMOs even on 56k/ISDN lines in late 90s. even on early 2K where not available.

And let me say this, people who are in the unfortunate situation no being able to afford 15 euros per month for an average DSL connection for them and their family, have far too many other serious worries in their head to care about DRM or not. This is a 1st world nagging issue! Not a social injustice issue!

The problem with the majority of arguments i read about always online features (in the majority of forums and communities i check out daily) is that they are pulling at straws in order to prove something else, for something that they simply have decided not to like. Also that the majority of people who argue online about their problem with "always online" comes from people who ARE always online! :D
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Mike Engle Senior Game Designer, Zynga5 years ago
@Sam Brown: With internet quality and availability being what they are in your area, are Steam Games and/or Heart of the Swarm bad gaming experiences for you?

Do you feel this impacts a large enough part of the game-buying world, badly enough, that it's a bad business move to use these better DRM implementations?
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Sam Brown Programmer, Cool Games Ltd.5 years ago
Always Online can only be a problem for people with dial up or ISDN connections. And even these people, really have a cost problem.
Please read the list of problems I specified again. The only sense that we have a cost problem here is that we can't afford to more somewhere where the internet connections are better.

@Mike Engle:
Steam is fine, beyond the time taken to download the games in the first place which is usually an overnight job (pre-loading is a Godsend, but as I recently ceased to trust any publisher enough to pre-order that is no longer an issue). But once that's over the offline mode makes everything fine.

Check-on-startup games (such as ME3's DLC) are a bit more of a pain and usually require several goes even if the connection is up (which it isn't half the time, meaning those games can't be played).

I stress again, here and now we have no other choice as to the quality of our connections. There is no better option than the ones we already have. That is a FACT, and me being a gamer does not improve the quality of the local internet infrastructure.

As to whether AO DRM is a bad business move? I would say SimCity suffers from having AO DRM more than Diablo 3 did simply because SimCity has a broader appeal. It's more likely to attract casual gamers and they're the ones who pay less attention to the quality of their internet connections (if they have the choice of better ones that is).

Edited 2 times. Last edit by Sam Brown on 18th March 2013 7:36pm

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Greg Wilcox Creator, Destroy All Fanboys! 5 years ago
@Morville: You just became CEO of my fake always offline "ZZZ" games company. Your coffee or tea is in the mail. It's frozen, so it should arrive properly heated by sea mail...
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