About a week ago, I was debating whether or not I wanted to buy SimCity, a game I had originally intended to buy, and I decided not to for a few reasons. First off, I feel that ultimately, Electronic Arts treats its customers with hostility and I don't feel that what we've seen of the game lives up to the SimCity name.
The first issue is city size - they've limited the cities to a maximum area of 2km squared. Apparently this is so that it will run on older hardware as well as much as new, that it has to run "On your dad's PC" as well as yours. I'm calling bullshit here; if you're still running a Commodore 64, its time to upgrade.
The size restriction hampers the game. It's unrealistic and doesn't truly simulate anything at all. In SimCity 2000, SimCity 3000, and SimCity 4 you could build huge metropolises that rivaled the size of real world cities, so you can understand my frustration here. They've said they will expand city size as computer power gets better and better, no doubt with DLC packs that should have been included from the start, at 15 bucks each or more.
I used to live in the city of Chicago, Illinois and I was there for about twenty six years. The image below is a 2km by 2km area of the western side of the city, near the Kennedy expressway. It was taken from Google maps and having lived there, I trust that the measurements are fairly accurate. So, behold, Chicago if it were reduced to a maximum of 2km squared:
That is EA's first strike in my book.
Always on DRM
The second, big issue is tied to the above: it's always on DRM. EA claim that the game is running on their servers and everything is saved to their cloud (read database) and that they are doing additional computations on their servers and sending that information to your client. I have a hard time believing that when EA is becoming notorious for nickle-and-diming their customers with DLCs - for example The Sims 3 has had a total of 19 expansions and "stuff" packs added to it by EA since its launch in 2009. In the past, most of the additional mods and "Stuff" added to it was created by players and the community, for both The Sims and SimCity. Its one of the reasons that SimCity 4 has been viable for so many people for so long.
The DRM aspect of it blatantly treats the consumer with hostility. I understand why they want to do it, but they shouldn't be taking it out on the people who actually buy the game just because some players want to crack the game for the challenge of it. Besides, it doesn't actually stop people from cracking the game, it just makes it slightly more challenging to do so... which is precisely why it will still happen. Diablo 3 was cracked, I believe, within one or two months. I'm betting that the latest SimCity will be cracked in a short amount of time as well. It won't actually stop anything, and it will only piss off people who see SimCity as a traditionally solo game and want to play it that way. When I said I was excited for multi-player play, I did not mean at the expense of people who wanted to play solo and offline. It should have been made with an option to play offline or online, rather than being designed specifically to do one or the other. The Sims 3 was cracked two whole weeks before it was released officially. There is also the example of Spore and its use of always-on DRM. That didn't work out well, either!
The final concern with always-on DRM that somebody I've gamed with in the past brought up with me was that this gives EA the very real option - and threat - that when their next SimCity comes out, they can literally turn it off. For everyone. This would then force anyone who wants to continue to play to buy another version. This is dangerous and a very real threat for what is ultimately of no real practical use for Maxis or EA, and something that offends gamers.
That's strike number two for EA.
The third strike isn't specific to EA, it's more that their policies are bad for the industry. I don't like or appreciate their use of stagnant design that doesn't do anything new. They perpetuate the continual dumbing down of games, as they have done endlessly with Star Wars: The Old Republic, or for those that like shooters, games like the Battlefield or Medal of Honor franchises. All you see in SWTOR is endless re-hashing of raid and warzone content, and their latest expansion had a single, solitary planet. Admittedly, they did follow through with their promise for LGBT companion characters, but only with that one planet.
However, as I said in a recent guide to conflict in EVE Online, when all you do is endlessly rehash one or two gimmicks to get people to continue to play, all you are doing is breeding a community that ends up hurting the industry because they aren't able to see anything more interesting.
So you know what, EA? To hell with you. You don't deserve player loyalty, and you certainly don't deserve to have anybody buying your crap. Hopefully, Amazon's recent move to stop selling your latest screwup shakes you to your senses. Unfortunately it probably won't, which is why gamers need to deal with this themselves and stop paying attention to you, because you have long since joined the ranks of Cryptic and Blizzard. The only thing you have actually earned is your award for being the worst company in the world. Congratulationss, you only just beat Bank of America on that one (who, by the way, aren't much better). Its about what you do, not what you say.
For me, the saddest thing of all is that EA has gone so far from their original premise. The image below is a magazine advert they ran when they were a new company, the full text is available here.
You had so much promise at one point, Electronic Arts...
That said, instead of playing SimCity (or any game made by EA), there are many alternatives. I went and found my SimCity 4 discs and re-installed that instead of paying for the pile of trash that is SimCity 5. I'll probably buy Cities XL with the money I'm not going to be giving to Maxis.