Weekly News Roundup (31 March 2013)
A blah of a week. By blah I mean it was just one of those weeks that, for whatever reason, seemed to go by pretty quickly, but not productively, nor that smoothly. Easter aside, the 6 (that’s SIX!!) hour disruption to my Internet connection on Thursday was a main blah catalyst. Not being able to choose from my preferred activities of work, video streaming or even SimCity gaming, all of which require the Internet, made the net disconnect feel almost as disorienting and disconcerting as a electrical blackout. Smartphone + 3G eventually saved the day, although there goes a large chunk of my monthly data allowance.
I need to get out more.
But not before I present to you this week’s WNR, of course.
So what would you put on a billboard in Times Square if you were offered one for free for two weeks. Well, for Brooklyn based band Ghost Beach the decision was simple: promote a debate on the web piracy problem.
With controversial slogans such as “Piracy is Robbery” and “Piracy is Freedom” adorning the billboard, the band hopes to get artists to pick a side in the piracy debate, to state whether they’re for or against piracy.
So far, most artists have chosen piracy over, um, not piracy, but you would probably expect that from any Internet based campaign, even if it is being advertised in the real world.
But I do think that I, like a lot of other people, aren’t for or against piracy. We simply deem it a nuisance that isn’t doing nearly as much damage as those on the “against” side suggest, and it’s nearly as harmless or to be accepted as those on the “for” side of the argument. Instead, it’s simply a phenomenon that exists, that can also be harnessed for the greater good. Piracy can be good, it can be bad, but efforts has to be made to try and make it irrelevant. And Ghost Beach, while nominally on the “against” side, is doing just this by making their album available as a free download for those choose not to buy it.
The SimCity DRM debacle continues to entertain, as EA Labels boss Frank Gibeau this week tried to talk down the controversy by suggesting that the “always-on” DRM isn’t a DRM at all. Gibeau says that in the same way we shouldn’t complain about MMOs being online only, we shouldn’t complain about SimCity’s DRM because, well, it’s just like a MMO really.
Except that it isn’t. And even if it is, it’s a crappy MMO that’s been very badly implemented.
While it’s true that Maxis, the developer of the game, tried to tie in a lot of online and social element into the core game mechanics, but the fact is that you spend most of the time in SimCity managing a city (surprise, surprise!) by yourself. And as far as the game is concerned, and very unlike a MMO, interacting with another human player is completely optional, possibly Maxis’s intention to cater to online hermits like myself. So if this option is given, the option to play offline should also be a given, but the fact that there is no offline mode or local servers is either just laziness, or as most seem to believe, a very cynical attempt at a DRM.
I mean just for the sake of efficiency, and for the sake of those that do have friends or chooses to play online, at the very least, social hermits like myself should not be using up valuable server resources when all we want to do is to sate our megalomania desires in the seclusion of our darkened gaming rooms.
If SimCity is a MMO, than it’s a pretty bad one. If it isn’t, then it’s got crappy DRM. EA/Maxis needs to choose which bed they want to lie in.
And as for Gibeau’a assertions about the unexpected success of SimCity being the cause of the server problems, and that the problems aren’t unique to EA, but sorry, these excuses don’t fly. With pre-orders for SimCity starting way back in 2012, there’s no excuse for underestimating the popularity the first new game in a series for over a decade (Diablo III anyone?). And as for other publishers having similar problems, this is true. And this is also why EA should have learned the lessons from Activision Blizzard, Steam and Ubisoft, because this is definitely not the first time something like this has happened, so why was EA so blindsided by it all? An honest series of f*&$-ups, or cynical attempt at putting in DRM, and then even more cynical bottom-line bullshit by not spending enough on servers? You decide.
So it was probably bad timing for Microsoft that the latest leaked info for their upcoming Xbox 720 console used the phrasing “Always On, Always Connected”. You don’t need your own Jump to Conclusions mat to jump to the conclusion that this feature may be less of a feature, and more of a DRM for the Xbox 720.
But even assuming that the leaked info is real, and there’s already newly leaked stuff that seems to point to at least some of the info being wrong, the “Always On, Always Connected” feature has already been explained before, and it’s really just another way of saying “stand-by mode”, to allow the console to be quickly turned on, as well as to run background sync and updates. While this doesn’t rule out DRM and online based authentication, especially when combined with the rumour that Xbox 720 games will be run directly from the HDD, it’s kind of a reach to suggest “always-online” DRM will be used.
The other rumours aren’t that new either, what with Kinect 2.0, a Blu-ray drive (if the 720 is to have any kind of optical disc support, it would be kind of pointless to still use a DVD-ROM drive given the price difference between it and a Blu-ray reader drive), and larger HDDs. We’ll know more in two month’s time when E3 is upon us.
And that’s all for this blah of a week. Hoping next week runs a bit more smoothly!