Did you label SimCity's always-connected experience an ingenious form of DRM-in-sheep's-clothing? For shame! EA's Frank Gibeau has cleared the matter up, sayig that DRM was never mentioned in meetings, that it's a "dead-end strategy", and laughing in the face of conspiracy theories picturing EA suits forcing Maxis to insert an always-online requirement into their game.
"I was involved in all the meetings," Gibeau said. "DRM was never even brought up once. You don't build an MMO because you're thinking of DRM - you're building a massively multiplayer experience, that's what you're building."
"DRM is a failed dead-end strategy; it's not a viable strategy for the gaming business. So what we tried to do creatively is build an online service in the SimCity universe and that's what we sought to achieve. For the folks who have conspiracy theories about evil suits at EA forcing DRM down the throats of Maxis, that's not the case at all," he continued, with a laugh (according to GII).
"It started with the team at Maxis that had a creative vision for a multiplayer, connected, collaborative SimCity experience where your city and my city and others' were [working together]; for better or for worse, and for right or for wrong, the lead designers and the producers and the programmers felt like they wanted to tell us a multiplayer, cooperative city story around SimCity. We had built a bunch of these and you could've gone deeper and deeper into your plumbing and managing toilets and electrical posts, but we felt there was a bigger story to tell and a bigger opportunity to chase with an always-on connected experience built around that concept. That's what we set out to design and that's what Maxis created and brought forward into the marketplace.
"At no point in time did anybody say 'you must make this online'. It was the creative people on the team that thought it was best to create a multiplayer collaborative experience and when you're building entertainment... you don't always know what the customer is going to want. You have to innovate and try new things and surprise people and in this particular case that's what we sought to achieve. If you play an MMO, you don't demand an offline mode, you just don't. And in fact, SimCity started out and felt like an MMO more than anything else and it plays like an MMO."
Maybe, just maybe, as our MMO guru Mr. Carl Phillips has noted, maybe if EA had called it SimCity Online, rather than turning singleplayer simulation upside-down and on its head breaking that simulation part in the process, maybe everything would have been ok.
"I'm disappointed that we didn't do a better job communicating [the MMO idea] upfront. I'm disappointed that we had a rough first couple of days in terms of underestimating how people were going to play the game and how the server infrastructure was going to hold up, but we responded the best we could, we got people to fix it as fast as we could," he said. "We had a majority of people come through who had a good experience and a bunch of people that didn't and that's not acceptable, but at the same time we tried to do make-goods with free games, we've been fixing and constantly tinkering with the experience and it's an experience that we want to continue to evolve over time. It has to be an online experience like an MMO where you bring out new events, new kits, new places to go, and that's more the vision for where SimCity is going."