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Throwback Thursday: That Saturday morning feel

playing video games with friends Saturday mornings meant a lot to me back in the day. It meant that I was free to play video games all day long, because I was absolutely prohibited by my parents to play on weekdays. I would wake up earlier than I would have on a weekday, because I didn't want to waste my golden gaming time. I'd hurriedly go to the room where my console and PC were kept and excitedly flip the switches, crank the knobs to introduce life to my electronic friends. I would think for a moment and browse through my collection of games and once I picked out that cartridge or diskette, I would lose myself just playing. Next thing I knew, it was time for lunch and I had to go down -- grumpily I might say -- to hurriedly finish my food and continue my pixelated adventure. And then it would be time for dinner and soon after, for bed.

This steady cycle lost itself significantly when I was in high school where bedtime didn't really mean 9pm, but only because that quest or mission could now easily finish at around 2 or 3am. That youthful stamina! How I miss it! Nowadays, I could only take a maximum of 2 hours per gaming session. More than that and I would start to get cranky or my wife will start giving me the evil eye and nag me that I’m spending too much time in front of the computer again.

final-fantasy-viii-battle-theme

Saturday mornings meant the start of gaming freedom. Nobody can tell you what you can or can't do. You can go wild and play that game of Elevator Action for the umpteenth time and no one is going to judge you since it is, well, a Saturday morning.

2413200-elevator_action_fc

Now being 30 something years old, I still go into my Saturday mornings bright eyed and excited -- excited to spend more time with my wife to go that movie date that we planned a few days before and to enjoy her company. And if she is the mood, we'd build our cities together in SimCity or level up our characters in Torchlight 2. God I still love my Saturday mornings!

Staring at Screens episode 21: A Tale of Two SimCities

Staring at Screens episode 21 is out! The show notes describe the episode way better than I ever could, so I shall take a step back as I open this tiny little umbrella over my head.

This week Dave hunts animals in Tomb Raider and then gets distracted by SimCity, Joel hunts people in Crysis 3 and only stops for SimCity, Vick develops a conscience about letting bad things happen to Sims in SimCity, and Lisa rounds out the discussion about SimCity with still more SimCity. Yes, Dear Listener, if you haven’t already figured it out, we have SimCity on the brain this week!

And because this deserves a special mention:

Also, Will Wright, if you’re reading this and you remember meeting an 8-year-old SimEarth-obsessed Dave in Taiwan 22 years ago, please feel free to contact us to corroborate his fantastical claims.

This is the link, Will Wright. Email it. Tweet it. Show us. Show us the truuuuth!

I'm so jelly.

After listening to this week's episode, please drop by the episode thread in our forums and share your thoughts! We also have a dedicated SimCity discussion thread for the community.

The Painful Truth Behind SimCity’s Release

So. SimCity. Which side are you on?

The debate about always-on DRM has flared up and waned multiple times now. It found life as a hot topic when Assassin’s Creed II was released for the PC. We saw it enjoy a brief resurgence just last year, riding high on Diablo III’s launch. Most recently, we saw it this past week as gamers, critics, and the internet at large busily proclaimed SimCity as the blunder of 2013.

Always-on DRM is a curious topic to discuss in that no one is really for it: people will always choose smooth, uninterrupted gameplay over the ever-present fear of being booted from the server at any moment. People will always want to get into the game sooner instead of having to log into a series of services before even seeing a title’s main menu. People will always go for something permanent over a product that only half-exists on their end: the other side is of course housed in the developer’s servers, and lord knows when the powers-that-be suddenly up and decide that it’s time to shut the servers down, consigning all the data on their end to an oblivion bound by bureaucracy and red tape.

We certainly tolerate always-on DRM though. And for what?

I think the only good explanation is that we’ve resigned ourselves to the reality of the times. This is what our rampant piracy has gotten us into, we are told. This is how the developers ensure that we are always playing the game that they meant us to play, and in the way we were meant to play it. This is how we can “enhance our gameplay experience” -- by letting us post game-related stuff on Facebook, or, if we are especially blessed, on second-rate community sites designed to look like Facebook.

We’re told that it shouldn’t bother us if a game requires us to always be online; we’re almost always online most of the time, anyway. I’m online as I type this. You’re online as you read this. Never mind that everyone’s in-game stability has more to do with the servers we’re connecting to than our own internet connections.

The biggest loss with SimCity, however, is simply our ownership of the game itself. It used to be that buying a new game for the PC came with a special thrill -- an electrifying feeling that I was carrying home a box that contained an entire world in it. First they came in floppy disks, and then on CDs. They came on multiple CDs, then DVDs. Now, they don’t even come in anything at all -- I just download entire games through the internet via Steam or GOG. They’re the same full games, though, and while Steam is technically DRM, Steam never follows me around wherever I go like an annoying sales clerk, waiting for my internet connection to hiccup for two seconds so it can hustle me out of the store without explanation.

The developers have stated that an offline-only SimCity is simply impossible, basically telling us that what we have on our hard drives is half a game: data files and game systems and preconstructed content. Everything we create goes to the server, where it stays for the rest of eternity. Without the internet or without their servers, all we have is half of the game, and it’s not even our half, so to speak. Let me remind everyone that SimCity is inherently a single player game by concept and design.

Now this single player game is like a nuclear launch procedure, and we only have one of the keys. It’s all just a bit disappointing.

And now, to close this brief statement: something cheesy and different! To set the mood, here’s one of my favorite scenes from my all-time favorite sci-fi show, Babylon 5:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bVbnRbTi5XA

"No. We have to stay here and there's a simple reason why. Ask ten different scientists about the environment, population control, genetics and you'll get ten different answers, but there's one thing every scientist on the planet agrees on. Whether it happens in a hundred years or a thousand years or a million years, eventually our sun will grow cold and go out. When that happens, it won't just take us. It'll take Marilyn Monroe and Lao-Tzu, Einstein, Morobuto, Buddy Holly, Aristophanes... and all of this... all of this was for nothing unless we go to the stars."

One day, when humanity has taken to the stars, we will have all those people and ideas preserved in whatever devices our descendants will be using to store data then. Marilyn Monroe. Lao-Tzu. Kaz Hirai’s Ridge Racer video clip. Everything that humanity has accomplished.

Everything... along with one half of an ancient, obscure game from 2013 called SimCity.

SimCity: What do you think?

It'll probably be a few more decades before the much-awaited Sim Sim comes out, but in the meantime, the SimCity name is enjoying a newfound burst of popularity with this week's release of the latest in the series: SimCity.

I wonder if we're doomed to reboot all the big gaming franchises over and over, wiping the slate clean every couple decades or so to give the younger generation a fresh start. It's a thought that makes me quite, well, ambivalent. But imagine that. Coming out in 2023: Assassin's Creed. It's not a remake. It's a reimagining!

We're here to discuss the current iteration of SimCity, though. The game has been out since the beginning of this week, and I've seen more than a few people rushing out to get their hands on the game. I'm waiting it out -- more because of the fact that I'm drowning in my gaming backlog as it is than any cheapskate tendencies I might have -- but if you're one of the loyal fans who snapped up the title, what are your thoughts? Are you chomping at the bit to lay down a nice and efficient grid system in a quiet and traffic-free neighborhood, or perhaps you can't wait to unleash a horde of zombie goodness onto a bustling metropolis?

Or do I dare ask if you've been having server problems? I am a first-week Diablo 3 survivor, and I, too, have known such suffering.

Share your thoughts! Organize some games! You just might get me to drop some money on this immediately if you love it that much. 8)

SimCity V

While working here at the office, I found this thread on a forum that says there is a new SimCity incoming. This article was posted on a Spanish website (so you better translate it to English). According to the website, EA/Maxis are planning to release the game next year (2013). The said game will include a multiplayer mode that is based on the old game SimCity 2000 Network Edition, where mayors can share materials with other mayors and cooperate in the development of cities or compete against each other and they are really gonna make it more dynamic and interactive in terms of the city's situation.

Note: The following images are just concept art.

What do you think guys? Is this even true? If yes, will you play it?

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