On Friday, thousands of Reddit users slammed EA and the SimCity development team in an “AMAA” question-and-answer thread, taking the company to task for DRM measures that have been announced for the upcoming SimCity reboot on PC.
Senior producer Kip Katsarelis replied to the “Ask Me Almost Anything” session's top-rated question by confirming that the rebooted SimCity will all but require an online connection—and will not boot without checking into EA's servers.
“We do handle 'short' internet outages gracefully,” Katsarelis said in a response to a question about players who lose their internet connection while playing SimCity. When asked to clarify, Katsarelis added, “We will allow you to play for as long as we can preserve your game state. This will most likely be minutes.”
The clarifying comment has consequently been buried in “downvotes” by users. The AMAA's top-rated post, as of press time, is a summary collection of quotes and comments from users expressing their outrage over an online requirement in a series that, up until now, has never included an online component. Perhaps the most astute reaction came, in fitting reddit fashion, from its silliest username, as (sigh) xYOLOSWAG4JESUS420x posted, “why the need to FORCE this type of gameplay? multiplayer should be optional, there are many people that just want to build cities by themselves... i seriously don't understand this decision.”
In all, seven developers from Maxis, the EA-owned subsidiary behind SimCity, were on hand to answer questions about the reboot, expected to launch on March 5, 2013. Among the top-voted questions, creative director Ocean Quigley confirmed the game will require EA's Origin service to launch, then later said fan favorite city tweaks like subway systems and terraforming will not be included because “there's just too much to do.” (Another staffer replied to a similar question by stating, “Streetcars is [sic] really where it's at.”)
The Maxis staffers did not answer questions about the game coming to OS X, a platform that still lacks Origin support (though EA promised earlier this year that it would soon arrive to OS X and other platforms). And deeper questions about online requirements, particularly how they will be handled whenever the game's servers are shut down, were left unanswered.
Quigley reaffirmed Maxis' desire to allow for modding: “Our simulation engine (GlassBox) is modular, our data format is the same one we've been using for years (SimCity 4, Sims2, etc.), so we've laid the groundwork,” Quigley said before adding that the new game's animated buildings may complicate eventual modding support and, like SimCity 4, could take over a year to be up and running. (A crucial asterisk: Some users pointed out that an always-online component will affect the game's moddability, a point Maxis did not respond to.)
Though the AMAA was dominated by dislike for Origin and online requirements, Maxis did respond to those questions—if briefly—and rattled off plenty of minutiae for series diehards to lap up. But EA and Maxis had to expect such vitriol going into an online forum as fiery as a reddit AMAA. The companies' failure to respond to top-ranked posts with any semblance of a human touch may not doom SimCity's sales come March 5, but EA's battle to regain players' trust didn't get any easier after Friday's miserable social media showing.