Editorial

Published on March 8th, 2013 | by Jonathan Beck

23

SimCity – Why This Is My Last EA Game

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I’m going to preface this editorial by saying if you came here expecting me to fly off the handle, go nuts, kick ass and take names, you’re about to be disappointed. I specifically waited on writing this article so I didn’t do exactly that. Check twitter if you want to see me hoot and holler.

I don’t know if you’ve heard yet, but SimCity is having some problems. You may have seen my twitter page blow up several times regarding the issues EA is currently facing. That’s out of my system now, and I still have yet to be able to log in to the game. At this point, all I have left is disappointment and a little regret in my purchase. I’m disappointed in EA & Maxis to be sure, but also in myself, for not seeing this coming a mile away.

We all knew there were going to be issues with the launch of SimCity. There’s yet to be a game that features this kind of always online DRM that didn’t launch with issues. EA of all people thought they could change that, and successfully launch SimCity. Their “beta” (see also: Marketing Stunt) gave me no issues, so I figured they’d taken enough precaution and really loaded up their server back end to make sure they could support the load. I hadn’t even heard there were issues getting in to the beta until the launch happened so I assumed, like a fool, that everything would be okay. Then we all know what happened. The game launched, and fell flat on its face. Not because it’s a bad game, far from it actually, it’s fantastic when you can get in.

To put it bluntly, the launch was a Chernobyl level meltdown. First, there was no preload period for the game, which caused the servers to crumble under the weight of everyone with a PC trying to download it at once. It was showing up as unavailable in certain regions, and then as it launched in more places around the globe, the stress got worse, until EA literally took the entire back-end offline to deploy a series of patches. Those patches disabled leaderboards, friends list, and the ability to play the game on Cheetah speed. Now not only can you not play the game, but they’re stripping features out of a title you’ve paid for.

They further insulted gamers by announcing the addition of 2 additional servers, one each for US East and US West, as if that would somehow have an impact. The game, at the time of writing this, 72 hours after launch, is still unplayable. I haven’t been able to log in for 3 days. Even when I could get logged in, the regions don’t self-replicate. If you start a city on US East 1, then log in to US East 2, your game is gone. I hope you enjoyed the tutorial as well, because it shows up on every new server you join. The team at Polygon is so taken aback by the tragedy of this launch, they’ve revised their review score twice. From a glowing 9.5, to an 8.0 and today, to a 4.0. I’m not even comfortable doing a review for this game as I haven’t really gotten a chance to play it.

It would be bad if EA just couldn’t get their servers in order, but they’ve been downright hostile to their customers. I’m sure everyone has seen this image of someone talking to EA’s Origin support and attempting to get a refund for their copy of the game. Not only does the support tech refuse the refund, but says if the return is disputed it will result in an account ban. The official Origin Twitter has since stated that they won’t be banning accounts for attempted refunds. A rare response from what may be the worst social media team in the gaming industry. This is the same team that refers you to register a complaint on the black hole that is their forums. There, it will go completely ignored while they respond to one of the 6 people who have been able to get in and play the game. EA as a company could not look less caring in this situation. Refusing any kind of refund, or hell, even maybe some free DLC or a voucher for another Origin game at this point. It’s gotten so bad that yesterday Amazon pulled the digital version of their game from its site and warned users of the down server time. They’ve since put it back up, but as a PSA, don’t buy it. At least not until they work out the issues. It must be great to be the head of Public Relations at EA, because you make big money to make your company look absolutely terrible to the people you’re trying to sell products to.

So why did I wait three days to finally say something official about this? First off I wanted to cool down from the white hot, seething nerd rage I was engulfed in. Secondly because I wanted to see if EA could fix this mess in a reasonable amount of time. I, like everyone else who loves SimCity, want to love this game. Even when EA announced that it was going to have the asinine “always on DRM” that required you to connect to the internet to play what is essentially a single player game, I sucked it up. It’s SimCity after all. I grew up on this game and all its variations. The hours I have spent in SimTower border on the obscene. I didn’t care what hoops I had to jump through, I just wanted to build cities and watch my citizens shower their praise down upon me. When you can get in and play the newest iteration, it is truly something excellent. While I may not think the always online functions of SimCity are needed, they do add an interesting community element if you plan to play with friends. I can say with complete honestly that we at KBMOD could not wait to start a region together and get in the game. Sadly, we haven’t been able to get really started on that yet.

What really is the most disappointing thing is, those features don’t add enough to validate this kind of problem. While in theory it’s interesting for you to team up with a friend and share power and resources, it’s a lot more interesting to actually play the game you paid for. Some paid a very high price to get extra content for the game that they also can’t access. I’m frustrated with a 60 dollar investment, I can’t imagine how upset the Digital Deluxe buyers are. SimCity at its core is still a single player game, you can fully enjoy it playing alone, or you could if it would launch. That’s why this failed launch is even more disappointing than the now infamous Diablo III Error 37 debacle. Games like Diablo should be played in a group, it enhances the experience.

Server issues aside, they couldn’t effectively do something like implement an offline mode at this point. The city sizes are limited quite a bit, and you essentially have to build in a region with others to make your city successful. Your other option of course would be to start your own region and build all the cities yourself, but it seems that would get tedious very quickly. There’s really only one effective way I could see to fix this and not require a constant connection to their servers. Let gamers host their own regions. We’ve been doing it for decades now, between dedicated servers for every shooter under the sun, to persistent Minecraft servers, hell some people run their own WoW servers much to Blizzard’s dismay. It isn’t a perfect solution obviously, because you’d still always have to play on someone’s server as the game is currently designed. However if Maxis and EA had a little foresight, and gone in with the idea that you could play the game alone or with a group, it could have been built to offer advantages to playing together but still offered the core game when playing alone.

What this all boils down to is this is likely my last EA game purchase, and I’m sure I’m not the only one thinking this right now. It will also make me think long and hard about pre-ordering a game, not just from EA, but in general. Pre-order bonuses get more ridiculous every year, because we keep letting them. Every time you buy a $120.00 legendary edition of something, you tell a game publisher that they can get away with charging you that kind of money. I know you’ve been told it before, and you’ve likely ignored it just like I did, but you truly vote with your wallet. If we keep sitting here and taking the abuse, they’re going to keep on dishing it out.

There’s going to be a big shift in our industry in the next decade, and I think this launch will likely be remembered as one of those “beginning of the end” situations for the old paradigm. Those that keep clinging to the old ways are doomed to fail by them. We’ll see where the chips fall, but I can tell you right now, I’ve got an hour into a broken, $60.00, SimCity, and 55 hours into a $2.50 Indie title called The Binding of Isaac. Things are going to change, and EA is about to be left far, far behind. I can’t imagine this is the last time they screw up, or maybe it is, because they might not be around much longer.

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hexidecimal

Jonathan BeckJonathan

I'll drink a beer with you at a party. I know hardware things and enjoy talking about them. I am still your new best friend and most trusted confidant.


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  • CheddarChezz

    I am one of the fortunate ones who now has around 23 hours played.. and because of that I am lucky enough to not have had a rage inducing moment yet. What I can tell all of you regarding a review of the game, it is addicting. Once EA sorts the servers out (which hopefully they do sooner than later) you will all fall prey to it. Since the game launched I have not had a good nights sleep (on purpose.. since I can’t stop playing it). I have been terrified every time the game tells me ‘SimCity servers are down. Trying to reconnect,’ because I fear that I will lose the last 4 hours of progress. I have actually paused the game and made dinner to make sure they were online before I turned it off. I agree 100% that there should be an offline mode ESPECIALLY considering all of the people who can’t play the game they paid full price for. Get your shit together, EA, because the end is inevitable if you continue to launch games like this.

  • BeerBelly

    Expecting the release to be in anyway flawless would be a delusion and parts of this article yet well written are misleading. Never get angry about a video game, tiz not worth it brother Hexi.

    • Can you elaborate on what you thought was misleading?

      • BeerBelly

        The image you linked http://i.imgur.com/K3KFAI3.jpg isnt as straight forward as it looks. The person requesting the refund also states they might chargeback through their Bank, which even on a platform like steam will get your account red flagged and or Banned.

        • Dat_Bro

          Sir, you seem to have missed the point. Steam is good about refunds, and offers 3rd party content for a massive amount of their business. This it EA’s game, and they refused to give a refund because they’re greedy, and would not honor their own quote. This is something people spend their hard earned money on. EA offered a product, people paid for it, and they cannot use it. It makes perfect sense that the gamer in question would be entitled to a refund, but he was denied it. Don’t compare EA to Valve, it’s a ridiculous comparison.

    • im also curious to hear what you thought was misleading?

  • Demo

    When you said “this is likely my last EA game purchase” did you mean:
    “this is likely my last EA game PRE-purchase”?
    Because if its the former than you are walking away from Crysis, Battlefield, NeedforSpeed, DeadSpace, MirrorsEdge and innumerable probably phenomenal experiences in the future (and backlog if you were waiting for a sale on anything *Dragon Age*).
    I just find it hard to believe that EA would not be a part of just about any hardcore gamer’s diet in the next 2 years at some point.
    Are you just saying that for a reaction?
    Maybe you should put a counter on your frontpage: “Days since last bought an EA game.” See how big a number you can get.
    Then you have a nice article as well: “Why I made it 254 days without buying an EA game, and why I’m returning to the trough now.”
    Also, do F2P EA games count for your pledge or not? eg. Battlefield Heroes
    Sincerely,
    Demo

    • That’d be fine with me honestly. I don’t like Battlefield, Need For Speed hasn’t been great since Undergroud 2, Didn’t care for Dead Space and Mirror’s Edge gave me motion sickness. After this I’d be hard pressed to give them more money. Wasn’t doing it for a reaction I promise you.

      • Trikay

        Mirrors Edge gave you motion sickness? Pfft, who doesn’t like extreme camera shake and 45 fov…

  • Trikay

    Great, well written article, but the server problems where obviously going to happen. It was painfully obvious with Diablo 3 and it was even more obvious with SimCity since EA doesn’t even care about the quality of their games. While Activision isn’t a good company by any means, at least they make sure that their AAA games are playable. EA doesn’t really give two shits. Sad to see the final blow to Maxis tho.

  • Ruthless Badger

    I completely agree Hex. The last EA game I bought was Battlefield 3 and because I was disappointed with that game I have held off on buying any EA games since. I’m not entirely opposed to buying EA games but the game has to be really good for me to buy it. Sim City had the potential to be that, but seeing what happened I don’t know if I would buy it even when they do get the servers fixed in fear that they might mess something else up. There are many good games from companies that I would like to support, and I don’t want to support a bad company that mostly makes mediocre games. Even the games people like Crysis, Dead Space, Mass Effect, all have flaws to me that don’t make them worth $60.

    • Trikay

      Let’s be honest tho, is any game worth 60 dollars anymore?

      • Ruthless Badger

        Bioshock Infinite is worth $60 to me. I will likely buy Watch Dogs for $60. Even if it wasn’t $60 there are many games that are worth more to me than EA games.

        • Trikay

          I’m getting Infinite on launch for $26; can’t actually find if for anything higher that 50 dollars. Watch_Dogs has really good marketing just like AC3 and that sucked ass. Ubisoft does marketing very well but their games rarely if ever hold up to expectations.

          • Ruthless Badger

            I liked Assassin’s Creed 3 and I didn’t buy it because of marketing. I bought it because I like the Assassin’s Creed series, and Bioshock Infinite is on steam for $60.

          • Ruthless Badger

            I see Infinite for $60 everywhere, where did you find it for $26?

        • Trikay

          Getting it off the thousands of people who bought an AMD card and are selling Crysis 3 and Infinite for cheap. Greenman Gaming has the game for like 45 dollars and you get 2 extra games for free. With Steam you also get extra games for the price.

          As for Assassins Creed 3, I felt like the game was just Assassins Creed 2 with a different story. The story itself was pretty boring and the main character was awful. Definitely the last Assasins Creed I’ll ever buy. I do realize that a lot of people like it tho, but the same can be said for MW3…

  • Jay Nova

    Good thing Crytek left EA.

    • KetchupHater

      I think Crysis is still part of EA. Crysis 3 is only available on Origin.

      • KetchupHater

        Wow, typo. *Crytek

        • Jay Nova

          Crysis 3 is Crytek’s last game for EA.

  • Jay Nova
  • Fidees

    So yes, it is horrible that it didn’t work for a few days. I thankfully had other things to do and whenever I wanted to play I have been able to. I have to say that I really have been enjoying this. And I mean really enjoying. Sure what they did is not acceptable, but this is the first attempt any game has ever made at having server side processing. All the regional calculations are definitely done server side. Now did they only make it work this way to make it DRM? I’m not sure, but if it was, why doesn’t any recent releases such as Dead Space 3 have it? Maybe this was just supposed to be the first attempt at crazy DRM. I don’t know. But I will say that I LOVE regional play and playing regions with friends really is a great feature and adds to the game by a lot. They said they also plan to make the cities larger (which I am currently okay with making trade offs with small cities). They are also giving out a free game of sorts, even if it is less than $30 I will be happy with that (I would wait five days for a functional game if I get $30 out of it). The only thing that I still ask for is that they need to make cities available across all servers. If they add that I will be very satisfied.

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