Maxis says "always-online" wasn't a DRM requirement forced onto them by EA, but a design decision to make a better game, as hackers produce mod that allows for offline play, as well as the ability to destroy anyone else's city
The SimCity DRM controversy refuses to go away, even as Maxis, the developers of the SimCity series, defended the use of the "always-on" DRM, saying it wasn't a forced requirement of SimCity's publisher, Electronic Arts.
Maxis's general manager, Lucy Bradshaw, posted a blog entry explaining the rationale behind the use of always-on DRM, to defend EA from angry gamers that have accused the publisher of forcing Maxis to use the controversial DRM scheme in order as a form of anti-piracy protection.
Instead, Bradshaw says that the decision to make the game always-online was a design decision made by Maxis.
"From the ground up, we designed this game with multiplayer in mind – using new technology to realize a vision of players connected in regions to create a SimCity that captured the dynamism of the world we live in; a global, ever-changing, social world," Bradshaw posted on the EA blog.
These words will surely further anger critics, who have noted that some of the game's worst problems comes from these multiplayer components, which often get in the way of people who simply want to play the game offline.
For example, the game forces updates between cities the same region to occur through EA's servers, but due to ongoing server problems, the updates are often not instantaneous, and synchronization issues are plenty (especially in relation to traffic management, and inter-city trading). While going online is unavoidable for those playing with friends the same region, those playing a single player game and managing all the cities on one computer are forced to update via online servers even though it would be more efficient to do the update locally.
Some have also expressed concern that the online requirement and the resources it forces EA to maintain has meant that some features, such as larger cities, may have had to be turned off or removed from the final game.
EA and Maxis have both claimed that the online interaction is essential to the way the game works, but hackers have partially disproved these assertions by producing a hack that allows the game to be played offline for single player regions. The hack also allows for larger cities, better population management, and a fix for traffic issues - and other things deemed to be "broken" in the official version.
But the hack also has a devious side-effect, and exposes a flaw in the SimCity security system. Using the hack, an user with malicious intent could "invade" a stranger's city and wreck havoc on the city. Ironically, the use of always-online DRM and online saves allows this hack to be far more dangerous and irreversible than if users were able to store their cities offline.