Always-on: Not Always Awful?

AlienLion is that particularly vocal bunch, in front of the angry anti-DRM mob. As someone who always pays for gaming, we perceive the very idea of aggressive DRM insulting, like a stinky finger poking us right in our faces and calling us thieves, while we’ve done nothing wrong. And we don’t mind publishers doing whatever they have to do, but we constantly feel like victims of someone else’s fight, one that should not involve us to the degree that it does. I mean, now we can’t play games we buy, without Internet? What’s next, a mandatory live stream of a customer representative from India, watching us through a web-cam, making sure that we’re playing our games off the official disc? But you know what? Our brand new contributor, Isaacmo, makes an interesting counterpoint, which goes against everything we’ve been saying but does offer some food for thought. Read for yourself… 

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If you are any sort of gamer, you’ve probably heard about the “demonic” and “communist-esque” always-on products. Over the recent years, the very concept has (arguably deservedly) garnered plenty of negativity, that’s been effectively drilled into many a clueless skull across the video game fandom. See, most gamers will tell you that ‘always-on’ is a horrible, horrible thing (including most of us at AlienLion) but it seems that very few are able to explain just why. Well, let’s argue with ourselves for a moment. Is it honestly that bad? I mean, sure, it’s inconvenient in most cases, but will always-on really mean the end of gaming as a whole and bring on an age where no Internet means no video games?

 

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Perhaps, the problem isn’t always… always-on but our eagerness to jump on the hate wagon, even in situations when maybe we shouldn’t. Let’s look at the most recent and memorable game to have received the must-web treatment– the now-infamous SimCity. That one suffered the tumultuous server issues on the day of its launch, remember? The release was flooded in controversy, which vastly overshadowed any positives of its development or quality. It was almost like that time when the very awesome and undeniably talented Mel Gibson got shitfaced and called his whore girlfriend a whore. Everyone made a big deal about it and only hurt themselves by missing out on the epic Get the Gringo. Don’t get me wrong, SimCity isn’t the best game in the world but nobody would notice if it were just because of the always-on DRM. Somewhat unfair, wouldn’t you say? 

And sure, the opening week of SimCity was bad, but what did everyone expect from a game that had 12 million pre-orders in a span of six months? Who could possibly have predicted that so many people would order and play this in such a rapid succession? Sure, without the always-on DRM, that would have been a non-issue, but at the same time, to be fair, even the monstrous Call of Duty does not usually get such a massive number of pre-orders. SimCity had some massive shoes to fill, and unfortunately, could not avoid the rocky beginning. In light of that, maybe we should have cut them some slack. 

 

Did you know the phrase means "more money than you should hope to make" in latin?

Did you know that this phrase means “more money than you should hope for” in latin?

 

Beside the point, it’s most important to understand that there were some good intentions behind always-on in SimCity. It added something to the actual game–it allowed for the much-requested player interaction. It’s no secret that the community had craved co-op from the very beginning and this was the platform needed for such a thing to happen. That’s not like the real money auction in Diablo 3, which nobody wanted in the first place; one could argue that this form of DRM was a result of fan service, as freaking insane as that sounds…

The SimCity launch represented one of those situations when we needed to take a moment to consider the facts. At the end of the day, just because we are so used to games that don’t limit us at all, it doesn’t mean that we can’t live with games that make these requests, when such requests are somewhat justifiable.

 

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A city like that without Internet? Come on now.

 

In this particular case–and take a moment to consider this before laughing–it’s to be respected that the developer was trying something new. The always-on was also a way for people with not-so-good computers to play a game that is typically for “core” gamers who own thousand-dollar PCs. The gaming industry is not just geared to core gamers, but has opened up to the casual market. This DRM allows for the strain of creating a working city to be lessened on weaker computers. Some consider this bad and some consider it good, but its just too soon to really see the impact this will have on the those that consider themselves the core group, and what will happen to the games we know and love as the industry evolves. The problem is that we jumped at EA’s throat immediately, like a pack wolf at an extremely fatass elk, sleeping under a seasoning tree without giving anything a chance.

Oh and before I go (i.e. resume my visits to the dark side of the Internet), yes, it isn’t that great when a series we love changes in order to cater to a crowd of some unwashed noobs but that is more of a problem with the changing industry rather than the always-on itself. We shouldn’t attribute every unfortunate decision made about SimCity (and there are plenty) to its’ DRM. Always-on should be judged based on the intentions and the results. Usually both are crap, but sometimes, well, it is what it is

One comment on “Always-on: Not Always Awful?

  1. Oh my goodness! an amazing article dude.

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