Will Wright, SimCity, and DRM

Even the game's creator agrees I shouldn't have to play with others in order to play at all.
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simcity online 650.jpg

In order to play the new SimCity—the God Game that allows you to build and manage a city from scratch—you have to be online. The idea of mashing the interconnectivity of MMOs with city-building sounds like it could be cool. Effectively you could have whole worlds, with avatars existing as cities. But of course SimCity has long been an offline game, allowing you to live on your own special island. I can't imagine having to play Civilization V with other people in order to play at all.

Gaming pioneer Will Wright, who founded the Sim franchise (shout out to SimCopter), recently spoke to Steve Peterson of Games Industry International about the latest SimCity roll-out:

When the discussion turned to the launch of Sim City Online, Wright was quick to declare his first thought. "I feel bad for the team," Wright said. Beyond that, Wright had some definite opinions about the launch. "I could have predicted—I kind of did predict there'd be a big backlash about the DRM stuff. It's a good game; I enjoy playing it a lot." Still, Wright understands the audience response. "It was kind of like, 'EA is the evil empire, there was a lot of 'Let's bash EA over it,'" Wright said. "That was basically inexcusable, that you charge somebody $60 for a game and they can't play it. I can understand the outrage. If I was a consumer buying the game and that happened to me, I'd feel the same."

The struggles of Electronic Arts—layoffs, reorganization and the CEO Riccitiello leaving—didn't seem to be that critical to Wright. "It's hard to talk about EA as this monolithic thing with one agenda," Wright explained. "If you move back it's like all these different studios going in slightly different directions; it's almost more like a loose federation. It is going through a lot of restructuring right now, but I don't even have the time to tune into it."

The DRM issues that EA has had with Sim City Online, and the controversy over rumors about Microsoft's new console requiring it to be always connected because of DRM, do seem to have a foundation, according to Wright. "I think people care if it doesn't work," he said. "If you can't play it on planes, stuff like that... I think there are some very valid concerns about it. Also there's a perception; I don't expect to play World of Warcraft on the airplane, because my perception is it has to be on the 'Net. Sim City was in this very uncomfortable space, like the uncanny valley, almost; [it was caught] between was it a single player game or was it a multiplayer game?"

I can't really play more than one MMO at a time. Evidently you can hack your way into a single-player mode.  I've loved SimCity since high-school. But I'm a grown-ass man, dog. I'm not paying $60 only to have to hack my way into the game I want.
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Ta-Nehisi Coates is a national correspondent at The Atlantic, where he writes about culture, politics, and social issues. He is the author of the memoir The Beautiful Struggle.

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