SimCity’s DRM A Necessity, Says Maxis’ Lucy Bradshaw

With the vast power of the GlassBox Engine, DRM a must, she says.

Digital rights management is a loaded topic in the games community, that almost goes without saying. Restrictions on how often a game is downloaded or requiring a constant Internet connection, employed to combat piracy, often come at a detriment to players and are in general seen as manipulative and in poor taste. Responding to this assumption is Lucy Bradshaw of EA Maxis, who recently took to the SimCity blog to clarify the need for DRM on the upcoming reboot after discussing the topic in a recent (rather hostile) Reddit AMAA.

As any SimCity fan knows, the interactions between the many elements of the game are integral to its entertainment value. Pollution, traffic, trading; a vast network of information is exchanged with every simulation. Ms. Bradshaw, a longtime fan herself, says the task of computing these interactions with the new GlassBox Engine is enormous and that to adequately handle the burden, they have to split it up between the Cloud and PC. Now that players can now create highly unique cities that are "economically integrated into a larger region", building the game to be connected to the Internet becomes a necessity:

"You’re always connected to the neighbors in your region so while you play, data from your city interacts with our servers, and we run the simulation at a regional scale. For example, trades between cities, simulation effects that cause change across the region like pollution or crime, as well as depletion of resources, are all processed on the servers and then data is sent back to your city on your PC."

She goes on to say that the servers will update every three minutes to keep all the cities in every region in sync with even the most recent changes. The interconnectivity also allows them to compile data in order to offer weekly global and local challenges and worldwide leaderboards.

SimCity was among my first PC games and I've been playing it nearly half my life at this point. While I resent online-only play, especially during the rare Internet outtage, and dislike most multiplayer experiences, I'm still interested to see how it works out. What will it mean for the future of the game, though? When players are still chugging away decades later, as they tend to do? How Maxis will approach this problem is one question I'd like an answer to.

SimCity is expected on PC and Mac on March 5, 2013.