Sim Sickly

By Shamus Posted Wednesday Mar 13, 2013

Filed under: Rants 175 comments


We have reached the point in the crisis where the gaming media is dangerously close to running out of lede paragraph puns and jokey article titles. Sham City? Sim Shitty? Sim Sleazy? SinCity? There’s only so much we can do with the phonics we’re given. If this crisis continues we’ll run out of lame-ass jokes entirely and be forced to come up with proper headlines.

The SimCity story continues to be a mess. Just to outline the basics for those of you who get your gaming news by jogging past people discussing old IGN threads, the story so far is thus: The new SimCity “reboot” released with this always-online stuff that was either DRM or social networking and multiplayer, depending on who you asked and how cynical they were. The servers couldn’t keep up with the player demand, nobody could connect, the game was broken and crashed a lot, cities would revert to some hours-old state without warning, blah blah blah. It’s the same stupid crap that happened when Diablo III released as a multiplayer-only title, only much worse.

We got a few patches, and then more, and eventually Maxis disabled a lot of the multiplayer features just to give the servers a break. Most painfully, they disabled “cheetah” speed, meaning players that run out of money need to spend more time doing nothing while waiting for the next in-game hourly payment to roll in. All of this brought stability at the expense of making the entire online system completely pointless. (But still mandatory!)

But let’s look at some public statements. Keep in mind that this stuff is a couple of days old at this point. If you need up-to-the-minute news then you should know better than to read my blog. I just got around to playing Max Payne 3 this week, for crying out loud.

As I mentioned on Twitter, I really hate it when gutless, irresponsible, and dishonest corporate hacks bungle things and then cower behind a polite, earnest, and personable face. Yes, I know this is what public relations is for and this is just how business works. I don’t really expect John Riccitiello to come out and admit he doesn’t know how to run a multi-billion dollar publishing company without driving its dependable cornerstone titles into the ground. Then again, Steve Jobs was able to take tough questions and admit mistakes, and that guy did okay.

But whatever. The EA public relations punching bag this week is Lucy Bradshaw. Laying aside her conciliatory tone, let’s look at how EA (by way of Bradshaw) reaches out to fans to explain what’s going on:

In the last 48 hours we increased server capacity by 120 percent. It's working â€" the number of people who have gotten in and built cities has improved dramatically. The number of disrupted experiences has dropped by roughly 80 percent.

So… they have more than doubled their server capacity. And they’ve disabled large portions of the game. And doing this has only reduced the problem by 80%. This suggests that their initial server capacity was way, WAY off. If gutting multiplayer, removing cheetah mode, and adding 120% more servers still hasn’t fixed the problem, then they were off by a ridiculous amount.

So what went wrong? The short answer is: a lot more people logged on than we expected. More people played and played in ways we never saw in the beta.

Keep in mind that all that stuff with Diablo III was, what? Ten months ago? That’s recent enough to be firmly in our memories and still relevant to today’s market, yet far enough in the past that EA/Maxis should have been able to plan against this same fate. They should have made sure they had plenty of extra server capacity, plus more, plus a little extra extra just in case. But instead they had a tiny fraction of what was needed.

Even if there was an “unexpected” demand for SIM FRIGGIN CITY, ONE OF THE MOST ICONIC GAMES OF ALL TIME, EA still shouldn’t have been caught unaware. They publish a huge percent of all AAA videogames, and they have sales data, buying trends, pre-order figures, ad response figures, and a host of other data. They should be able to look at pre-orders and have a very good idea of how many copies they were going to sell.

Still, this is a predictable spin on the story. I suppose “Oh gosh we had no idea how much our customers would LOVE our game!” sounds better than “We had no idea what we were doing and didn’t plan ahead”.

The good news is that SimCity is a solid hit in all major markets. The consensus among critics and players is that this is fundamentally a great game.

Yuck. It’s in extremely poor taste to start crowing about what a “hit” the game is while people are still stuck in a twenty-minute queue waiting to enter the server so they can try and start a city before their next crash.

And while the “consensus” is indeed that it’s a good game, I can’t escape the notion that this is a fundamentally broken game, even if the multiplayer worked perfectly. See, you can’t save. Which means you can’t revert to an earlier save. Which means you can’t build a massive city, unleash all disasters, then reload and go back to building. I’ve been playing SimCity since the first game, and that’s the only way I’ve ever played. Also, the fact that maps are now dramatically smaller also makes the game that much less interesting. I always enjoyed building dense cities, suburbs, and rural areas. Yet what I’m hearing from players is that you can fill up a map in bout an hour or so. (Well, maybe it takes longer now that they’ve disabled cheetah mode, but it’s still a fraction of the size it was before.)

This game would be a tough sell for me even if it didn’t require Origin and wasn’t completely broken.

Also, I want to head off predictable line of criticism:

Shamus! You can’t judge the game until you’ve played it for yourself!

I would like you folks to meet these people:

Pfft. EVERYONE knew that this would happen. If you were dumb enough to buy the game at launch then it’s your own dumb fault.

If you two guys would lock yourselves in a room and try to kill each other, that would be super. I’ll be happy to argue with whoever survives.

And to get us back in your good graces, we're going to offer you a free PC download game from the EA portfolio. On March 18, SimCity players who have activated their game will receive an email telling them how to redeem their free game.

I know that's a little contrived â€" kind of like buying a present for a friend after you did something crummy.

Actually, it’s more like giving someone store credit after they’ve had a bad experience in your store. Oh, you didn’t like shopping with us? Well here is a propitiation that’s only useful if you shop with us again. Still, I give EA some credit here: It’s nice to see them trying to gave people reason to keep Origin on their computers.

One final note is that this whole idea of an “MMO city builder” was already attempted four years ago. And it ended in failure. Maxis broke away from their winning formula to copy a failed contender and then botched the release despite the ominous warning provided by Diablo III.

This isn’t just a single mistake. This is multiple levels of failure perpetrated across several years.


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175 thoughts on “Sim Sickly

  1. Gramana says:

    I remember when EA passed out free copies of Mass Effect 2 after everyone complained about problems with Dragonage 2. To this day I have been unable to access my copy of Mass Effect 2 because the mandatory Origin connectivity threw great fistfulls of generic error messages my way. They really were better off BEFORE trying to court me with more of their awful service.

    1. Um, they didn’t give away Mass Effect 2 because people had “problems” with Dragon Age 2, they were trying to cross-pollinate the two series and gave away ME2 free if you PRE-ORDERED DA2. The DA2 launch was actually rather smooth, although there were a couple of bugs late game that made it impossible to complete some unimportant side quests. But for the most part, people didn’t have serious problems accessing or playing DA2. They might not have been able to access their DLC if they had login problems, but that’s about all the troubles I saw.

      I didn’t have any problems getting my ME2 download, although I had no interest in playing the game so I eventually uninstalled it, and I didn’t have to install Origin that I noticed. You had to install a silly EA download manager, but that was it.

      1. Gramana says:

        I bought DA2 from a shop about a week after release and they tried to give me a free copy of Mass Effect 2. The email I got seemed to heavily imply that it was due to “problems” and not any preorder that I had never made.

        Perhaps the reasons why Mass Effect 2 got so confused might have been related to half of the system thinking I was entitled to it and the other half assuming I was a no good pirate. I must at some point have collated Origin and Unnecessary Grief in my head to the point that I assumed the EA Download Manager was in fact Origin. I can only imagine what horrors were actually lurking further down the rabbit hole.

        As for the Dragonage 2 release being smooth it was certainly smooth by the standards set by the likes of Diablo and Sim City, but back then people were very upset about how unfinished the game was.

        1. Paul Spooner says:

          EA is becomeing more and more like the sketchy guy selling watermellons out of his pickup truck on the side of the road. The whole time you’re making your selection he tells you about his brother-in-law who sells peaches just another mile further on. His sign advertises “fresh and ripe” but when you get it home it turns out both green and a bit rotten inside. Then he knocks on your door. “Hey, I followed you home. Sorry these are rotten.” he says apologetically, “But don’t worry, I’ll make it up to you!”… so he sings you a song he just made up.

          Then you decide to buy your watermelons at the supermarket.

          1. MrGuy says:

            The problem with your metaphor is that no one else has watermellons.

            You could buy grapefruit, or strawberries, or apples somewhere else. But only that guys can sell watermellons. Legally, anyways – you can try buying your watermellons from a sketchy back alley where you might have to do “things” you’re not proud of and may get a virus from.

            Also, if you want peaches, you have to go get them from his brother, and you can bet they’re just as bad.

            1. Paul Spooner says:

              Okay, fair enough. EA does have a monopoly on certain IP. But if that was the only way to get watermelons, I’d just do without. There are lots of other products available. EA preys on the compulsion of “I’ve got to have it!” when we really don’t.

              1. Keeshhound says:

                Yeah, I mean it’s not like watermelon is even that nutritionally important; at best it just sort of tastes ok but bland. Like a lot of EA’s IP.

                1. ima420r says:

                  I don’t eat watermelon but my grandfather used to put salt on his, said it made it taste better. Of course salt costs extra.

        2. Aldowyn says:

          Origin isn’t actually that awful, at least not any more. A bit of a memory hog according to my task manager, but I don’t have problems with it.

  2. zob says:

    I may ruffle some feathers with this one.

    “Keep in mind that all that stuff with Diablo III was, what? Ten months ago? That's recent enough to be firmly in our memories and still relevant to today's market, yet far enough in the past that EA/Maxis should have been able to plan against this same fate”

    I have a theory that, they planned for the exact same fate. They were expecting troubles(not this much obviously) and marketing department looked at the Blizzard and decided it won’t matter.

    And why wouldn’t they? D3 release was an unmitigated disaster and how did customers treat Blizzard? Apart from some reasonable folks internet was full of Blizzard fanboys actively trying to rationalize their faulty purchase, defending a game they paid for yet can’t play due to incompetence of the company. Blizzard gained enormous amount money from preorders and day1 sales. And now they are earning more money through the auction house.

    Only problem for the EA was they were wrong about the scale of the disaster. As you pointed out, they were way off in server numbers. If they weren’t, it would still be profitable for them.

    1. Zagzag says:

      Perhaps they were hoping for some free marketing. I doubt anyone remotely connected the the online gaming scene hasn’t heard of their game now. What an awesome job!

    2. Primogenitor says:

      But then why bother developing a game at all? Just photoshop some SCIII screenshots, pay off the media, and laugh at the suckers that pre-ordered a 404 URL? profit / cost ratio on that would be huge.

      “never attribute to malice what can be attributed to incompetence”

      1. Asimech says:

        zob’s hypothesis accuses EA of sloth & incompetence, not outright malice. And there’s no way EA didn’t know they wouldn’t be able to handle the stress and couldn’t have afforded to rent some for the release.

        Also there’s a vital difference between a bad service, no matter how horrible, and no service. In the latter case it’s obviously illegal, while in the former case you can claim ignorance and maybe avoid legal trouble.

      2. What, never?
        Anyway, malice wasn’t alleged. Just the viability of a way of extracting profits that we wouldn’t be happy about. Nothing personal.

    3. Karthik says:

      The general sentiment about Diablo III appears to be that Blizzard has burned through its years of accumulated goodwill in the Diablo name, and that the next time Blizzard tries something like this, the sales will be less than spectacular.

      This is a hard thing to gauge even with figures (probably even for Blizzard). If it’s true though, the same thing applies here. So EA planning to just ride it out is a terrible idea for everyone involved, including EA.

      EA is taking a sledgehammer to the pillars of its own structure.

      1. zob says:

        That’s or was the genius part of the plan. EA has no goodwill to lose.

        1. Felblood says:

          –but SimCity and Maxis did, and now EA has demolished that for a quick profit.

          This is part of their ongoing stragegy of buying popular companies and turning them into evil, zombie slave versions of their former selves, to prey on the people who trusted the poor zombie in life.

          That’s just sick, right there.

      2. Eruanno says:

        On the upside, the Heart of the Swarm launch seems to have worked perfectly. Then again, anything else from a game that already has had all the server infrastructure etc. for 2 years would have been ridiculous, sooo… yeah.

        1. sofawall says:

          That might be because HotS is literally just a patch for WoL. I mean, on release day (it’s been fixed by now) you could take a first mission campaign save from someone who had HotS, put it in your saves folder, restart the mission and play through the entire campaign, gaining Achievements and everything, without ever buying the game. You were paying $40 for some menu buttons.

    4. “I have a theory that, they planned for the exact same fate. They were expecting troubles(not this much obviously) and marketing department looked at the Blizzard and decided it won't matter.”

      To put this more simply: 12 million sales says Diablo III’s problems didn’t matter.

    5. MikhailBorg says:

      I’m not sure the problems were comparable. I couldn’t play Diablo III on launch day, so I put it aside and played something else, and the next day everything was fine. No queues, no serious bugs. If I were to have a complaint, it’s the poor replay value and the painful grind of getting the Whimseyshire drops (on which I finally gave up, actually. Pandaria missed me).

      1. Kylroy says:

        To which I’d add – multiplayer was at least a nontrivial component of the Diablo experience, hamfisted as Blizzard’s forced implementation of it was. I don’t think 1 in 100 people buying Simcity would have skipped it if it shipped without multiplayer options.

    6. Volfram says:

      While I rarely defend always-on DRM, and ignored every piece of news for the new SimCity game since it was announced to have it, I still maintain that in the case of Diablo 3, it was justified. They’re dealing with peoples’ real money, and wanted to avoid a repeat of Diablo 2, which got hacked to Hell and back again(by Bilbo Baggins).

      Additionally, I do not recall Diablo 3 being an “unmitigated disaster.” In fact, I distinctly recall hearing that several people had finished the entire campaign within 24 hours of the initial game release, and the only reason I’m not a regular Blizzard customer is because they don’t really release games that I want to play.

      The Diablo 3 internet connectivity requirement has always been something I disagreed with the D20 personae over, but to me, it does kind of come off as complaining that World of Warcraft requires an internet connection to play.

      Sim City? I was eager when I heard about it, but the news of mandatory internet ensured I will not be giving EA my dollars.

      1. zob says:

        You managed to ding one of my pet peeves.

        I distinctly recall hearing that several people had finished the entire campaign within 24 hours of the initial game release

        I happen to know two guys who managed to connect and play Simcity for hours, launch day. I guess we must all be wrong, EA is awesome and everything about Simcity is perfect. Considering there are some guys out there who managed to play a game while everyone else couldn’t. As you elegantly pointed out, that makes everything perfectly ok.

        (I’m trying to point out how ridiculous of an excuse “it works on my machine” is. And yes this disclaimer was needed)

        1. Volfram says:

          Alright then, anybody know how to pull up the news articles and foaming rants from around the time of the Diablo 3 launch? I only know of the LoadingReadyRun podcast from about that time, and I pretty much share Graham’s opinion.

          1. Zekiel says:

            Here we go:

            I don’t own D3 and have never played it, but I did follow the RPS news at the time of launch and it seemed like there were a *lot* of people having difficulty with playing it who had no interest in anything beyond the single-player experience. Encouraged me to stay well clear!

    7. The Other Matt K says:

      I suspect there may be another big difference in eventual fallout of this compared to Diablo III: Diablo is a game that thrives on hard-core gamers. There was a lot of grumbling, but most of those people were at least already aware of the continually frustrating growth of DRM, and had at least made peace with the annoyance of Diablo III being online-only, even if they didn’t like it.

      But I think SimCity does a lot more business with a more casual crowd. Or maybe casual isn’t the right word – but I think there are many more people who play SimCity who had exactly zero awareness of the DRM and online-only situation, right up until they bought this game they were looking forward to and it turned into a disaster.

      I think a lot more long-term ill-will is likely to emerge from this. And, at least from what I’ve seen, it looks like the SimCity disaster (and accompanying ripple disasters like the refund issue) seems to have gotten much more news attention (and main-stream news attention) than we saw with the Diablo III launch issues.

  3. Zagzag says:

    I don’t know too much about this sort of thing, but can the cost of running the servers in the long term really outweigh the amount EA think they will make in potential pirates buying the game legitimately? Especially when plenty will pirate just to be able to actually play the game at all.

    1. False Prophet says:

      I know nothing about server management either. But I have to wonder if there are servers handling the multiplayer of older, no longer as popular games they could repurpose to handle a new launch, or if a publisher could temporarily rent server space from a data centre just to handle the initial couple weeks of a launch.

      1. Felblood says:

        They could and they decided not to.

        Whether by evil or by stupidity, nobody should have expected any less.

    2. Daemian Lucifer says:

      Not by a longshot.The majority of people that play pirated games would rather skip the game altogether then shell their money just to try it out.Same goes for the people who buy only used games.

      1. Felblood says:

        I might be wierd in this respect, but I have cracked versions of most of the games I have legit licenses to.

        Why fuss with the bloody disk if you don’t have to, especially when 2000s era DRM is so often the reason older games can’t run on a modern OS?

        1. Daemian Lucifer says:

          Thats why I hate gog.They offer no drm,and perfect workability for win7.They are practically stealing money!

          1. Felblood says:

            Actually, none of the GoG games I have work on this machine.

            I have no idea why. It seems great for everyone else.

            Thankfully, I have my trusty VMware, so it’s not really a problem.

      2. Zak McKracken says:

        This is (reasonably) assuming that people who don’t pay for games still wouldn’t buy them even if they had no other way of playing them.
        Software companies seem to assume that the demand is constant, and every “pirated” (I hate that term) copy equals one sale if it can be prevented. That’s how they compute their “losses” through piracy. Which is obviously stupid, but following that logic, you do make a lot of money be making piracy a bit harder even if it offends a significant portion of your customers. Because those have already paid, haven’t they?
        Following this logic, making a game worse and more expensive for the sake of DRM will still increase sales and profit. This line of thought is pretty close to the form of paranoia where the thought of preventing some imagined harm drives people to do things that actually harm them.

    3. 4th Dimension says:

      First what Daemian said. Many of peoplr that pirate things are either from low income countries so they can not afford 70+ € for such frivolous purposes like games, or there is a culture that considers not pirating things wasting money. They certainly will not be getting those sales. Than there are people that simply can not buy the gamme through official channels. And then there are fence sitters, who are not sure they’ll like it without playing it for quite some time.

      None of these people will buy it simply because it can not be procured through pirates.

      Although the sad (for people using pirated games) thing is, always online DRM IS effective at stopping pirates if you offload a portion of game calculation to servers. Simple checks to see if the game is valid are easily spoofed.

      For example there still is no “crack” for Diablo 3, even tough some people tried to replicate Blizard’s server.
      On the other hand form the recent news (check rockpapershotgun), the servers only handle cloud saves and player interaction and some routing, so cracking is possible tough in my opinion unlikely.

      1. Moriarty says:

        If you try to “crack” D3 you basically end up with the private servers WoW has. Which, while technically the same game is in the end just a community of cheaters, which kills the competitive nature of the game.

  4. Psithief says:

    Is it very easy for companies to just rent a whole pile of extra servers for launch time these days?

    1. Primogenitor says:

      yes, yes it is.

      I suspect the reason they didn’t is paranoia about any cloud servers being “hacked”.

    2. Kdansky says:

      Depends on what kind of server structure you use. If you run on Amazon’s EC2, it’s a few mouse-clicks. If you have your own hardware, it’s another matter entirely.

      1. MrGuy says:

        Just pointing out…

        Amazon CREATED EC2 pretty much specifically because they had a very similar problem to solve. They had peak periods of high demand, they had usage that was flexible over time, and they needed to run something in a massively parallel way while still concealing the “under the hood” nature from users. They needed to be able to add servers on demand, configure them in seconds, and roll them out to handle more load. So they made a cloud.

        The fact that they decided to sell EC2 to the general public was a sidelight – a way to make money on the server space they needed for peak times but didn’t need right at the moment.

        EA (and a few other major publishers) have similar issues. So, even if you’re paranoid that “major cloud providers might be a security issue,” why not create your own? Why SHOULD it take a company with EA’s massive (and massively flexible) load days to bring server capacity online, or reconfigure underutilized resources elsewhere to fix an issue? Even with your own hardware, in your own datacenters, you can use a cloud model to manage capacity.

        In this day and age, this is a very solvable issue. You can save time, money, and egg on yo’ face.

        1. Zak McKracken says:

          All of this sounds entirely reasonable, but something tells me that EA does not work this way.
          After all, they did shut down servers for a bunch of games once, even for games that were less than a year old, because they said it wasn’t worth the ressources. This sounds as if they actually set up a few server racks especially for a specific game. If they had a larger cloud with dynamically allocatable ressources, they could just downsize the servers to the point where there’s several virtual servers running on a single machine and keep it going for very very little money.

          This means: Either they decided to save very little money by disregarding their promises to a small number of customers (who bought the games and reasonably expected to be able to play them, too), or the have it organized in a fashion that makes these things much more difficult to handle, and the SimCity problem much more difficult to avoid than you imagine. In both scenarios, EA does not look particularly smart. Actually, I find it very difficult to imagine any version of this where they are actually smart, let alone have respect for their customers.

      2. Aldowyn says:

        I’m pretty sure they are using Amazon servers, actually, according to some article I read where the guy tested to see if the internet connection was actually needed.

        1. kdansky says:

          I read that too, but I don’t think their software runs on EC2: Because if it would, it would be inconceivable (sic) that it takes them days and weeks to add capacity. I think the EC2 only handles login and similar, but not the actual DRM.

  5. Daemian Lucifer says:

    “If you two guys would lock yourselves in a room and try to kill each other, that would be super. I'll be happy to argue with whoever survives.”

    Laugh out loud line right there.

    Anyway,I just want to say that as a drm always online doesnt work.You can go to the torrent sites right now and find instructions on how to play diablo 3 or world of warcraft on pirated servers.Sure,you wont be able to interact with people that bought the game,but if you wanted that you wouldve bought the game in the first place.So those people that dont want to buy a game will never buy that game,no matter how much protection you cram into it.Theyd rather wait a month or two for the pirates to give them a server of their own,then to give money to someone who doesnt respect their customers.

    Always online should be used for just 2 things ever:MMOs and renting single player games.If you attempt anything else,like stop the pirates,or kill used market sales,you will fail,because those people are not your potential customers.And the harder you try to bully them into buying your games,the lower your chances will be for them to actually do so.The only way you can tempt someone to change their mind and give you money for something they didnt originally want is by providing them with more content,and not more restrictions.

    Its a really simple and logical thought process,and yet so many people struggle to grasp it.It boggles the mind.

    1. Ateius says:

      Like Newell said: You beat the pirates by providing a better service.

    2. 4th Dimension says:

      I’m not sure about Diablo III. From what I saw over at piratebay, there was one project to reverse engineer Diablo III server response and it pretty much failed. Probably since Blizzard offloaded quite a few major calculations off to it’s servers.

      1. Dreadjaws says:

        According to one of Maxis’ engineers, the servers are used for things that are needed in the multiplayer aspect and the DRM thing. He claims the game could easily be patched to allow offline single-player.

        I don’t have the link right now, but the interview is in RPS and a bunch of other websites.

        Edit: I should add that this is not just a guy trying to badmouth EA or anything like that. People have tested the game by simply unplugging the DSL cable and they’ve been able to play up to 20 minutes of the game without connection, which heavily suggests the only reason this connection is required is as DRM.

    3. Zak McKracken says:

      I think the real-world problem attached to this is: How many gamers actually care about it, and how many notice the difference?

      I know quite a few people who don’t really care. People who view it as a good anti-cheating device, and lots of people who don’t even notice or understand the fundamental difference. And these make up a majority, and unless more games have such spectacular launch-failures, they won’t even notice it might be an issue.

      I think what needs to happen is a large game company (or a smaller one) daring to release a DRM-free AAA game with no always-online requirement, where everyone can host a multiplayer game again and everything that goes with it. And it must be a good game, because being DRM-free alone doesn’t make a game good. And they must show to the world that this way they are more successful in the big market than effing EA. Or Valve (because, really, steam is nicer to use, but it’s still a sort of DRM dongle).
      I’ve no idea how or when that could happen :(

      1. Daemian Lucifer says:

        Wasnt that witcher 2?I know it was on gog,but I dont know if it had any additional drm.

        1. Eskel says:

          Yes, the GoG version of Witcher 2 was DRM free from the start. Otherwise, it would contradict Gog policies on DRM.

          Other versions had DRM, which they later patched out. Funny thing is, it was the version with DRM that was cracked and uploded to torrent sites :-D

          1. Daemian Lucifer says:

            So drm does make a difference?The publishers were right all along!

  6. Lupinzar says:

    I played for the first time yesterday. I was out of town on business then had a 4 day convention to work, so I missed the majority of the release problems. With all the server issues aside, this game is not an improvement on SimCity 4. The play style is very different, and there are still the annoying simulation problems that existed in other SimCity games. Lucy is wrong, this isn’t a great game with some launch issues, it’s a mediocre game with launch issues.

    I want to like it, and I will play it some more, but I have a feeling after a few more hours I’m going to lose interest.

    1. Klay F. says:

      I won’t be buying the game at all, but this is pretty much what I’ve heard from people that have bought it. It is apparently quite fundamentally broken simulation wise. From what I’ve heard, the utilities are basically useless, as are fire stations and police. Traffic pathfinding is also completely borked, going by hearsay.

      Edit: Just a quick youtube search basically confirms the latter. If your looking for a laugh I suggest people look up additional videos. Its quite amazing how deficient the AI is.

      1. Hitchmeister says:

        The simulation problems are real, but not quite as bad as the naysayers make it sound. As with any Simsâ„¢ game, the AI is very simple and limited. you can’t just plop things down any which way, or even a model of the real world and expect the Sims to figure out the logistics of using them efficiently. You have to study the behavior a bit and learn how to build to their limitations. I actually enjoy discovering ways to make the simulation work even though I’m not initially privy to the exact rules I’m working with at first. Your mileage may vary.

        1. Klay F. says:

          Well to each their own I guess. I am well acquainted to SC4’s problems, so I’m not trying hate the new one cause its new or anything. It still just blows my mind that from what I’ve seen they didn’t really bother to fix any of the old game’s issues. I wouldn’t have a problem with maybe the economy not working exactly like real life, but its friggin’ 2013, its about time we figured out pathfinding in games where the paths are mostly rectangles.

          1. Duffy says:

            You may be surprised but efficient path finding is an incredibly tricky coding problem. Depending on the level of complexity and efficiency you require the problem can turn into an NP Hard problem fast. For an easier to understand example read through this a bit:

            Even simple grids can create issues, especially if you start throwing in multiple things an entity has to be concerned about.

            1. There’s reasons city planning in the real world is an inexact and massively wrangled-over field of expertise. The problem of what to do about traffic to/from/in downtown cores is tough and often counter-intuitive. For instance, just ramming big highways in from the outskirts never seems to work.

              Edited to add: OK, looking at some comments below, I’d have to agree that having the cars not “know” where their “home” is, is a bit much.

              1. Peter H. Coffin says:

                Heh. What used to work well in the game was just never give the sims roads. Ever. Transit only. They’d whine, but they’d never get unhappier than “need more roads” and would certainly never actually leave over it.

            2. Abnaxis says:

              I see no reason you couldn’t use A* to determine pathing in SimCity (well, assuming your Sims actually have a consistent workplace and home, and don’t just wander around like vagabonds like the game actually does it). The traffic system is just a graph where every intersection is a node and every road is an edge. Cost is based on distance from destination and available road capacity. That’s what A* is designed for.

              1. Deadfast says:

                Supposedly SimCity uses D* Lite. Considering it seems to entirely ignore congestion I don’t know why they bothered.

      2. Lupinzar says:

        Yes traffic still has the same SC4 issues. Cars take the shortest path possible and street density seems to have little or no effect on the path finding. A new annoyance: firetrucks and ambulances can’t reach a building until they pass it on the correct side of the street, even on a 2 lane road. So you get fire trucks and ambulances following these really stupid paths because the developers I guess didn’t want vehicles to fade in and out like SC4.

      3. Charnel Mouse says:

        This thread from the EA forum is on a similar line. I don’t have the game so can’t confirm, though.

        I don’t expect the pathfinding to be an exact simulation, but having people forget where they live and work every day seems like far too much of an abstraction.

        1. Klay F. says:

          The most hilarious part of all this is that the vast majority of the issues would most likely have been found and resolved had they just held a proper beta. Rather than that BS 1-hour time limit thing they did.

          1. Hitchmeister says:

            There’s a phrase that become common, which is, “Beta is beta.” It needs to be amended. It used to mean, “You’re looking at beta game play, don’t hold any bugs you see against the finished product, they’ll be ironed out.” Now we need to say, “Beta is Beta — except when it’s not.” Too often lately, they’ve released limited promotional demo and called them betas. Except, as in SimCity, they sometimes run better than the finished product will and any bugs don’t get fixed.

            So any time we see a “beta” now, we have to figure out, is this actually a beta, or is it a promotional demo?

            1. Charnel Mouse says:

              Huh. I used to complain a lot about demos not being as common as they used to be. I guess this is where some of them went: to a time-limited version so people would have to make a quick buying decision, instead of playing the demo for a while and letting it sink in.

  7. broken_research says:

    according to Rockpapershotgun, the servers aren’t involved in the ingame simulation at all. That all happens locally.

    “The servers are not handling any of the computation done to simulate the city you are playing. They are still acting as servers, doing some amount of computation to route messages of various types between both players and cities. As well, they're doing cloud storage of save games, interfacing with Origin, and all of that. But for the game itself? No, they're not doing anything. I have no idea why they're claiming otherwise. It's possible that Bradshaw misunderstood or was misinformed, but otherwise I'm clueless.”[…]

    So what are the servers doing? Well, alongside the obvious, of being involved in allowing players to share the same maps for their cities, and processing imports and exports between them, they're really there to check that players aren't cheating or hacking. However, these checks aren't in real-time ““ in fact, they might take a few minutes, so couldn't be directly involved in your game.

    “Because of the way Glassbox was designed, simulation data had to go through a different pathway. The game would regularly pass updates to the server, and then the server would stick those messages in a huge queue along with the messages from everyone else playing. The server pulls messages off the queue, farms them out to other servers to be processed and then those servers send you a package of updates back. The amount of time it could take for you to get a server update responding to something you've just done in the game could be as long as a few minutes. This is why they disabled Cheetah mode, by the way, to reduce by half the number of updates coming into the queue.”

    So the servers work to keep cheaters (and presumably hackers) away. That’s. Just. Brilliant.

    Keep in mind this is from an anonymous insider, who may be misinformed or just a disgruntled employee, but his statements seem more bemused than angry.

    1. Sleeping Dragon says:

      On the other hand Kotaku’s and Notch’s experiments seem to confirm those statements and if the thing is pirated in the next week or so we can probably put the whole “calculations that need to be handled serverside” thing back in the orifice it came from.

    2. Volfram says:

      In a game like Sim City, why do we care about whether the players are cheating? Isn’t that half the fun of the Sim games franchise?

      (the other half being nuking your city and then not saving)

  8. Asimech says:


    So the servers are handling less stuff than has been claimed before yet are still having so much trouble.

    I’d now like to introduce a concept I created some time ago: Expectations Limbo. EA has been disqualified for putting the pole too low.

    1. Blue_Painted says:

      Paranoia mode ON.

      If the servers aren’t doing lots of work on game calculations and yet are still overloaded then what are they doing? Just DRM? Or something else? What other data could EA be interested in?

      Paranoia mode still ON.

      1. Asimech says:

        I think it’s most likely that EA decided to cheapskate. Outdated or underpowered servers for example. I got the impression that the servers check the save files for “cheating”, which could strain the servers more than just cloud saving, but I doubt it’s all that thorough.

  9. StashAugustine says:

    Seizing on the good game: Are we gonna see anything on Max Payne? I felt it was basically a less-bad edition of Mass Effect: Pretty good, didn’t quite get the tone of its predecessors but came close, coulda been better.

  10. Hitchmeister says:

    The greatest marketing success of all of this was that bogus “20 minute queue.” It’s amazing how many people still believe it was a queue. (Anyone who did have the game and attempted to log in is excused, you couldn’t see what it was really doing.) A queue would be issuing each player who tried to log in a place in line and as soon as their number came up it would let them in. I was playing World of Warcraft during the height of their going pains in Burning Crusade (I missed the launch). When I got hit with a login queue there, it would say, “There are 1500 people ahead of you. You’ll have to wait.” and I would have to watch that number count down, how ever long it took, until it was my turn to log in. In SimCity, it would say the servers were full so it was putting you in a 20 minute “queue” except there was no queue. The game would simply do nothing while it counted down 20 minutes then try to log in again. You could easily jump the queue by simply restarting the game to try to log in over and over again. Possibly getting in well before the 20 minutes would have run out. Not that it did any good really. The servers were still too unstable to play.

    That’s when it really hit home to me that they weren’t willing to be honest with their customers (including me) about the problems they were having.

  11. And now, here’s Rock, Paper Shotgun telling us that a lot of the annoying stuff that EA and Maxis said was “mandatory” for this game… wasn’t.

  12. Wulfgar says:

    from financial point of view Diablo 3 was success. EA learned from that: they will buy it anyway. long term consequences? not CEOs problem. he will leave company anyway in few years.

    1. In fact, EA CEO John Riccitiello is already on the hot seat. The failure of The Old Republic has been laid heavily on his shoulders. The long-term effects of any policy likely won’t be his to deal with. Short term success looks better for his next job.

  13. Starkos says:

    I really, really wanted to buy this game, but I was on the fence about it as well. The day one launch issues were enough to keep me from becoming $60 poorer. Instead I got my copy of SimCity 3000 to run on my laptop. Which has not only “Cheetah” speed, but “African Swallow” as well.

  14. bloodsquirrel says:

    At least it’s better than Bioware’s PR, where they would have claimed that fixing the broken state of the game would violate their artistic integrity and called their fans entitled for expecting to be able to connect to their servers and play the game.

    1. X2-Eliah says:

      You know, it was far more the journos parroting the line than bioware sticking to that. I mean, they *did* update that ending via free dlc in a pretty big way.

      1. So the crucible-kid is gone and you get something more meaningful than “press three buttons to engage confuse-o-ending of three different colors?”

        1. Tse says:

          You get to shoot at the kid, at least.

          1. Ofermod says:

            Which then triggers an ending in which you lose, and everyone you know and love was wiped out. Since clearly your massive, united galaxy and military readiness score wasn’t going to actually affect your ending and let you win a fight against the Reapers, no matter what the initial space battle cutscene might have looked like.

      2. bloodsquirrel says:

        Bioware themselves were certainly in on the game. Their reactions to criticism were ever-soaked in passive-aggressive self-praise and framing of complaints as the fan’s fault for not liking their masterpiece.

    2. Daemian Lucifer says:

      “You dont get it maan,the servers not working due to massive inflow of people is a representation of the streets in the city being crowded in rush ours.Its a city simulation on multiple levels.”

  15. Hal says:

    I think you need to bring Stolen Pixels “EA Guy” out of retirement, just for this special occasion.

    1. Worthstream says:

      Yes please, do bring him back! :)

    2. Blake says:

      I agree with this statement.

  16. Bearded Dork says:

    The point that baffles me, that I haven’t seen anybody hit on yet, is that the way they had the game set up could only have worked if it was by gaming industry standards an unmitigated flop. If they sold as many copies of the game as they needed to pay for it, and the people they sold the game to actually wanted to play it, the servers would definitely not be able to keep up. So why bother at all? I don’t know if this was expected or unexpected (by the folks at EA/Maxis, I don’t think many others were particularly surprised) or if this was the plan all along, it seems like some where along the line somebody (or more likely several somebodies) failed to do some pretty basic math.

    1. Duffy says:

      Welllll not necessarily. With the caveat of not possessing any hard data we can take a couple of assumptions:

      1. They know exactly how many pre-orders they have.
      2. They know exactly how many copies are going to the stores.
      3. They have absolutely no idea how many people with Digitally Purchase it upon release.

      Of the 6 friends I am sharing a region with, only 1 of us bought a physical copy (pre-ordered from Amazon). The rest bought digital copies after release due to word of mouth. I suppose they could have done some calculations against all the Origin users to try and come up with a number of digital purchasers via Origin butttttt I installed Origin for the first time to purchase SimCity and bought it after launch. Anyone who did what I did would be an unpredictable purchase.

      Of course none of this could matter as I do not know what and why they did things, but it is a possibility.

      1. guy says:

        I’m dubious about that, though. Modern predictive modelling of behavior is pretty good and it seems odd that they couldn’t mathematically extrapolate digital sales from preorders. Digital sales are years old, and they should know exactly what the ratio of pre-orders, day one physical sales, and day one digital sales is from their numerous previous releases. Sure, there’s probably a bunch of factors that go into that and they don’t have quite enough experience to estimate the effects of all of them, but estimating less than half the load implies wild incompetence somewhere in either management or programming.

      2. Bearded Dork says:

        Okay, but if you need to sell whatever ridiculous number AAA producers have pulled out of their collective asses for your game to be “successful” we’ll call this number X, then your servers need to be able to support somewhere in the neighborhood of X subscribers according to standard use schedules, beyond that if you don’t have some early server space in excess of that amount, you are setting yourself for failure. There is virtually no chance that they don’t have that information.

        1. X2-Eliah says:

          And who says that the original servers didn’t already have capacity for X?

      3. Steve C says:

        The whole thing about underestimating demand is a straight up lie. EA has other multiplayer games and now only makes multiplayer games. Many of them are much bigger hits than SimCity (Battlefield) and require much greater server load. They have more than enough info to predict what the actual load would be.

        I think the actual lesson they took from the market research was that gamers expect and will tolerate server problems. It was a choice to under serve the launch, not a mistake.

    2. Daemian Lucifer says:

      I think what happened was this,only in reverse.

    1. Sleeping Dragon says:

      Beat me to it. Now count along with me:

      1) The servers were nowhere near capable of handling just the US launch, much less the global one. See what Bearded Dork said in the post just above.
      2) Then they started switching off features, which seems like a desperate attempt to just weather the storm. And let’s be honest here, in a few weeks the pressure on the servers will inevitably drop. Between D3 and SimCity this could still settle into yet another thing people (unreasonably) accepted as just part of modern gaming.
      3) Then there comes the leak from the Maxis employee that some people mentioned already, and there are more and more reports that confirm this may be more than a disgruntled employee. This leak basically shows that the reason for most of this ordeal wasn’t so much of an exaggeration but rather an outright lie.
      4) As the game slowly moves to some stable and working condition people start discovering that the game has bugs, and not some elusive, exotic bugs but stuff that becomes readily apparent if the game is played for any prolonged length under any conditions.
      5) And as if this cake needed more icing the incredible granularity that was one of the foundations of the marketing surrounding the game and that was sort of presented as a trade-off for cutting down on the scale of the simulation apparently was at best exaggerated, probably is merely illusory and at worst was just another thinly veiled lie.

      It seems like for the last week every day I turned to gaming news I learned of another way the game has either failed or not delivered on its promises. I can almost see the bestseller title: “Put a positive spin on it: memoirs of an EA PR employee”.

      1. Deadfast says:

        Bugs? If you mean the lazy pathfinding those aren’t bugs but programming limitations. Which actually makes it worse in this case. Surely everyone remembers all those videos about how awesome the new Glassbox simulation is and how everything is simulated down to the atoms.

        1. Sleeping Dragon says:

          The moment the lazy/broken pathfinding can cripple your game I move it into bug territory. And I don’t even mean stuff like taking into account congestion or the basic capacity for roads to handle traffic, I don’t know much about programming though personally I think if you can’t create a pathfinding algorithm to operate for your city sim maybe you shouldn’t make handling traffic in this way an aspect of your city sim. No, I mean stuff like vehicles going places they have no business going (I hear garbage trucks are among common offenders) or people getting stuck in an endless loop never getting anywhere. Also, an honest question, do I understand it correctly that things like water and electricity use the same pathfinding as traffic?

          However I was also referring to bugs like a long list of stuff not transferring between cities as it should (I suspect this may be part of the server load problems? but even if), some buildings just ceasing to work for no apparent reason, utility vehicles like firetrucks and ambulances disappearing when their home station is destroyed (as they should) and not being replaced with new ones when the station is rebuilt (and you’re probably going to do some of that seeing as you need to spread and move those around to try and help the pathfinding somewhat, I hear Maxis tweeted this seems to be a matter of the anti-exploit system being overzealous), vehicles clipping into each other and becoming stuck, I also hear that stuff like workers dying being noticed by some aspects of the game but not by others happens a lot (though this might have been misinterpretation of the way the game handles sims and phantoms, which is an entirely separate matter, as it was before that was brought into the light)… and these are just the stuff I sorta heard people complaining about, I’m pretty sure I could hunt down some more if I started looking.

  17. Ever since I heard about the online only requirement, I’ve ignored the new Simcity. Until now, it was a non-entity to me. I followed the disastrous launch news simply hoping things would get bad enough that the backlash against always online DRM would stick this time. I didn’t want customers to get screwed over, by any means, but I also had no real stakes in ever getting this game.

    Until, that is, I started watching the example videos of the terrible AI. Now I really want a modern Simcity, essentially what the new game should have been. Even when broken, it is still beautiful to watch, and I can only imagine what the game might have been if the focus was on a great simulation game, and not on creating a “social experience.” Now I’m not apathetic, I’m just kind of depressed.

    As an additional note, I know there are some alternatives, but none of them are quite what I’m looking for. I already have Tropico 4 and love it, but it’s mostly a politics simulator. Cities XL is pretty busted, Anno 2070 isn’t really my thing, and the Civitas Kickstarter increasingly sounds like either a scam or an incompetent project.

    1. Klay F. says:

      Yet another additional irony is that complex pathfinding could have been offloaded to all those servers. You know, to give them actual purpose.

      1. Wedge says:

        To be quite honest, I think that would have actually have made things WORSE. The servers are *already* having trouble keeping up with demand; I can’t imagine that the game offloading complex calculations to the servers would make things any better. If you think about it, it’s actually *much* more efficient to have each player’s PC doing all the complex stuff locally than having them offload it to a central server that has to do complex calculations for hundreds of people and return results in real-time. Which is to say nothing of network latency issues.

        So it really came as no shock to me when it was revealed that no, game logic is not actually offloaded to the servers and that patching out the online requirement would be almost trivial.

        1. Klay F. says:

          Oh yeah, that actually occurred to me after I posted it. It was basically making a suggestion based on the assumption that EA would have sufficient servers.

          In fact, the suggestion I made would have been an excellent (or horrible, depending on your point of view) way to make an online mode more attractive. Instead of using it as glorified DRM, they could have used it to offer more complex features. Like, if you decide to play it offline, then you get simplified systems, but if you were willing to play online, then you not only get the regional trading stuff, but you could also get servers to do more complex calculations, which could conceivably bring the game much closer to an actual simulation.

    2. Kevin says:

      Sim City 4 with Rush Hour, the NAM mod (which among other things, rewrote the pathfinding algorithms to actually use the Interstates.), and using the traffic configurator to jack road capacity through the roof

  18. Tony Kebell says:

    I swear there has also been complaints of the AI and the simulation “cheating” like the “everysim is tracked and simulated” meaning 1 in 10 is tracked and simulated and the result is just multiplied by ten afterwards.

  19. MaxEd says:

    For everyone who’s looking for a game with better traffic AI: take a look at Cities In Motion. It’s still far from ideal, but I liked it very much, and since transport network is its primary concern, it handles it better than other games. A sequel that comes out this year is promising a lot of tasty things too!

    1. decius says:

      If Cities in Motion would let me design the city, instead of retrofitting it with a transportation system, I’d go for that. Or if anybody actually used the express rather than overloading the local.

  20. Basekid says:

    Even if the server/multiplayer issues are fixed, there are still a lot of other issues that need fixing before this game even becomes fun.

    -Traffic AI is horrible
    -It is way, way too easy to make money. My 1st city now makes 1mil+ profit every 10 minutes. I could build all the great works in a region at the same time. This is just lame.
    -Vague city problems

  21. Paul Spooner says:

    Yes, you could think about it like that. About how sad and wasteful it is to spend years of people’s lives working on a fundamentally flawed premise. About the opportunities wasted, and the failure to own the failure. And it’s all true.

    But there’s a bright side to all of these “original title” releases that are coming out. They are setting us free. X-com, SimCity, Tomb Raider, they’re even using the same titles, as if to say “here are the games you used to love, buy them again”, and promising that we can go back and relive it all.

    But these aren’t the games we used to love, and we aren’t the people we used to be. They never could have been, and we wouldn’t want to be even if we could. We are adults now, and if the industry thinks it can hoodwink us with such obvious tricks, it will discover that the hard way. We, the gamers, the players, the learners, we are strong. We have matured. We are grown.

    Let them put the old titles to rest. Let them call on the old names, and wave the toys we played with as children in our faces. We will pat them on the head, and smile, and leave them behind. Our childhood was good, and the games we played are still valuable. But we play the game of all creation now. The mature calling subsumes the childish. Let us grasp our destiny, our generation, our time. Let us create, and conquer, and live. They can no longer stop us. They never could.

    1. X2-Eliah says:

      Nice manifesto, but there are games with original titles that are actually not bad at all. Out o what you mentioned, I bet most people would call both the recent X-Com and the recent Tomb Raider as good.

      Plus, you know, perpetuating the notion that games are for kids is rather.. childish.

    2. Scampi says:

      How comes I get the feeling that all the refeeding of old licence titles, contempt for gaming customers and short term business plans might be the last attempt of milking the customers for as much money as possible before jumping the ship to do something else profitable?

      I know, the scenario is kinda apocalyptic (well, many people DO call me overly pessimistic-I prefer to call myself a realist-I guess it’s a perspective thing), but your post just gave me that idea for some strange reason

  22. anaphysik says:

    “lede paragraph puns”

    I’m pretty sure my brain’s still trying to interpret that as a complicated pun instead of the typo that it likely is. Such is our curse.

    (GRAH, this ‘won’t remember field entries’ thing is really starting to grate against my obscenely large lazyness stat.)

    1. Neither. “Lede” spelled like that is a technical term in journalism.

    2. Shamus says:

      Re: lede vs. lead paragraph.

      I looked it up, and apparently both are used:

      I decided to drop the more obscure spelling and see how people reacted. Both look correct to me and I’ve seen both used, but until now I’d always suspected that “lede” was the only correct one, and people used “lead” the same way they use “for all intensive purposes”. I’d just assumed it was a verbal corruption of the term. But no, both are used.

      Perhaps lede is more archaic?

      1. I just hate using “lead” (pronounced “leed”) in a lot of contexts because in my head about 50% of the time I read it to mean “that stuff Superman can’t see through.”

      2. squishydish says:

        Old-school journalists spelled their term for the first paragraph “lede” (pronounced as in the first paragraph of “leader”) to differentiate it from the “lead” (pronounced “led”), i.e. metal for casting the letters of the type.
        Middling-age journalists like me who were trained by older journalists also use lede. However, a lot of the young journalists coming out don’t seem to be able to spell anything, let alone know the difference between lede and lead.
        I’d say if you write “lead paragraph” everyone will know what you mean.
        If you write “lede paragraph” some people will assume you misspelled it and other people, like me, will feel a warm glow of recognition. Still others will search for the answer and maybe learn a little something. Choose wisely or whimsically, it’s up to you!

  23. Deadpool says:

    Surprised you didn’t touch on the “This would be impossible to make offline” coupled with several people claiming it is very much possible… Including the fact the game DOES run offline just fine if you cut connection mid game (for ten minutes).

    1. Shamus says:

      I’m still wondering what to do with that. It certainly looks very damning. It looks like the whole “multiplayer” idea is just a sugar-coat over the worst DRM to date.

      I’m hesitant to make definitive statements because the public understanding of this technology is changing so fast, and I don’t want to end up making hyperbolic and hysterical statements only to have them disproven the next day.

      But if it really does look like the “impossible to remove multiplayer” is nothing more than an online tether to fight piracy? Then it will be time for hyperbole and hysteria!

      Or cussing. Probably just cussing.

      1. Deadfast says:

        Well, I guess we’ll see how necessary the online servers are based on whether it gets cracked. And I hope it does get cracked, can you imagine everyone jumping back on the always-on bandwagon disguised as a “service”?

          1. Deadfast says:

            Yup, I was waiting for a guy with a hex editor to do something that an entire legion of EA engineers claimed to be impossible…

          2. Sleeping Dragon says:

            Pitchforks! Torches! Get your pitchforks and torches here! Yes ma’am, this is genuine tar and prime quality feathers. A bag of feathers for you and a torch for your little one? Tell you what, I’ll throw in the pitchfork extra, on the house, it makes me happy to see parents teaching the value of community work to their children. And a nice lynching to you too. (I’ll consider it my Monty Python reference for the topic, feel free to do a more direct one)

            Seriously though, I can’t wait to see the PR department try to put a positive spin on this one…

            1. Cybron says:

              It looks like they’re not even going to try.

              I think they’ve realized that if they acknowledge this it’s just going to get them in more trouble. Instead, they’re just going to pretend they can’t hear you. Unless this gets to critical mass, you’ll never see a statement on the subject.

              1. Deadpool says:

                Agreed. If they had that kind of sense they wouldn’t make verifiable lies as public statements…

            2. Blast Hardcheese says:

              (Bounces stone in hand, feeling the weight)

              All right, Sleeping Dragon, I’ll take two flats and a packet o’ gravel. And a…beard for the missus. Cheers!

      2. newdarkcloud says:

        Funnily enough, I don’t think I can recall you swearing or cursing in your blog posts, your articles, and Spoiler Warning. Because of this, I have difficulty believing you’re even able to swear.

        Perhaps you do, but it just doesn’t seem like you.

        1. I know he’s dropped the odd F-bomb before as well as uttered a phrase that means “male bovine excrement.” It tends to be spontaneous rather than in what might be more prepared or rehearsed things. So if he’s holding forth on a topic, he won’t swear. If something explodes, crashes, or is said that’s jarring, profanity may ensue.

          1. Peter H. Coffin says:

            Nowt wrong with keeping the big guns in reserve pending actual need, if that’s one’s personal style.

      3. Peter says:

        This rockpapershotgun post seems to indicate strongly that the whole required multiplayer stuff is utter rubbish.
        There might of course be more to the story, but this wouldn’t be the first time a games publisher lied outright.
        It still surprises me they do stuff like this. They ought to know by now they’ll be found out, and found out quickly. The few days (if they’re lucky)grace they’ll have of it being pirated can’t outweigh the loss of goodwill this brings.

      4. Scott Schulz says:

        Get out your pitchforks: a modder has successfully altered the code so that it runs indefintely online and saves succesfully on reconnect. Oh, and you can edit outside of city limits.

  24. O.G.N says:

    I can’t fathom why people are so unenthusiastic about EA. It’s not like they break their promises or anything. Right?

  25. Wedge says:

    Diablo 3 was hardly the first time this happened–most MMOs have rocky opening launches. I think one of the issues is that “normal load” for a game is *much* lower than “load on launch day.” If you think about it, most of a game’s population is not playing at the same time: people play according to their schedules, some only play on weekends, etc. The only time that most of the game’s population is going to be online at the same time is…launch day. I honestly would not be surprised if this difference is a factor of 10 or more. From the company’s perspective, it doesn’t make sense to pay 10 times as much for server capacity when after the first week the player base is only going to use 1/10th of it.
    Anyway, that gives me some sympathy when games have these kinds of problems at launch–especially since it’s *so common* that I think they honestly *know* they’re going to have issues, and think that in the long run it will cost them less to just ride it out until usage settles down.

    This is all talking about MMOs, though, which are online-only by design. None of this excuses Diablo 3 or SimCity being online-only games when there is no good god damn reason for them to be.

    1. 4th Dimension says:

      Of course the load is greater at launch, but launches don’t last more than couple of days, and a company as big as EA with as many networked games as they have should always have spare capacity laying around. It’s not like those servers will magically get all of ther techno-magic juices used up for those couple of days, so you couldn’t reassign them after launch. But than considering EA’s policy on hookers . . .

      1. MadHiro says:

        They don’t need ‘spare’ server; they’re using Amazon’s EC2 system. They have, essentially, an arbitrary number of servers available. They just don’t seem to want to set up enough.

        There’s the larger point that it doesn’t matter how many servers they have, because players want to play with their friends (thats kinda the whole point of this game’s design, right?) which requires people to congregate on the same server. You quickly Kevin Bacon from there to many people all wanting to be on the same server, even if there are other servers that are available and lower load.

        1. 4th Dimension says:

          Oh, I supposed that they are using their own capacity, not “infinite” Amazon servers. Also I heve a feeling that for something to crash on Amazon you need a really bad arhitecture.

    2. newdarkcloud says:

      There is exactly one reason Diablo 3 required the always-online DRM, the auction house. Since they have to be able to prevent hackers from hacking the game to get all the cool stuff to sell, they need the item list on their servers, controlled by them. This is why there isn’t a separate single-player mode.
      If you hated the auction house already, here’s one more reason.

      Although for SimCity, there really was no excuse. “A Persistent World” is a pointless thing that no one asked for. Even then, you don’t need a server for that. It’s called Animal Crossing.

      1. Peter says:

        The auction house was no excuse either. There’s nothing that would prevent them from what they did with diablo 2; create Singleplayer only and Multiplayer only characters.

      2. Sleeping Dragon says:

        And bam! A week after the release, two days after the leak from Maxis RPS reports that someone was able to run the game entirely offline (sans saving and multiplayer features of course).

        Right now I’m just waiting for EA to try to sacrifice Maxis to the mob by claiming that it was the devs who lied to them about how the game works.

      3. Peter H. Coffin says:

        “A Persistent World” is a pointless thing that no one asked for. Even then, you don't need a server for that. It's called Animal Crossing.

        Bwahaha! That made my morning.

  26. Jarenth says:

    If you two guys would lock yourselves in a room and try to kill each other, that would be super. I'll be happy to argue with whoever survives.

    Shamus, are you sure about this plan? The best case scenario here is that you’ll have to argue with an adrenaline-fueled, probably blood-spattered murdered who already has reasons to not like you.

    The worst case scenario involves them teaming up to design always-on-DRM food.

    1. “an adrenaline-fueled, probably blood-spattered murdered

      Only in the Zombie Apocalypse threads.

    2. decius says:

      He’s lying. He’s just going to keep the victor locked in the room with the loser.

  27. Nytzschy says:

    This has been a really entertaining disaster to watch. I give it an 8 out of 10. (The disaster, not the game.) The heap of problems just seems to be getting bigger, even if the central problem of poor server coverage is necessarily not going to be a long-term issue for this game.

    I must admit, though, that some of my enjoyment is due to Schadenfreude from the let-down that was Spore.

  28. MadHiro says:

    As people are poking into the under structure of the game, some ugly facts are being discovered. The Sim City Reddit section has some pretty killer stuff.

    The total population of cities is misreported by the game; as your city increase in actual population, the game adds an increasing quantity of ‘phantom’ population to pad out your total numbers so you feel like the city is impressive. They don’t do anything. They don’t interact with the simulation in any way. They just hide how weak the game’s system is.

    There’s no persistence to any of the Sims in the game; you can ‘follow’ them, but its pretty meaningless. Since the Sims exist only as mindless agents pumped along the roads like water and power and poop, there are very specific and limited methods for creating road lines that work.

    Its a tiny, weak game. The DRM/Server troubles have just masked that fact.

    1. StashAugustine says:

      They probably could have gotten away with it if the rest of the game wasn’t borked. It’s kind of the gameplay version of story collapse: once you see the critical problems with the game, then you start seeing all the other problems.

    2. Alan says:

      My own experience with SimCity is pretty old, but hasn’t it always been that the Sims themselves (and their cars) are calculated as groups and traffic flows, and what you see on screen is just a representation? Coming from that point of view, I would expect exactly the behavior you describe for the Sims. Thus, it’s amusing to see them walking around, but don’t expect much out of them.

      1. Nytzschy says:

        I think the problem is two-fold: this version was over-hyped and it’s also an ungainly compromise between simulation and representation.

        This article seems to state the problem well:

        Several players have noted that the characters in the game don't actually have any permanent jobs or homes. They simply walk to the nearest available open job or a suitable home at certain times, a simplification that creates major headaches in city planning. Sims that start walking don't switch to mass transit if they don't find a job nearby; kids don't get to schools easily; all cops go to a single crime scene even if police stations are carefully spread in different parts of the city. School buses, fire trucks and tourist hordes all seem to have trouble finding obvious routes to their goals. As a result, designing a functional city may mean planning a street grid and placement of different facilities in a deeply counterintuitive way. Players have to design their cities to suit bad algorithms, not realistic goals.

        One popular emerging strategy is to construct a city with one long, single street winding back and forth like a snake. This enables players to reduce the problems of having school buses that cannot find students and fire trucks that refuse to go where they are supposed to. One way to avoid suffocating traffic jams is to fill the city with wide avenues, resulting in weird maps where normal streets are used as sparsely as possible.

      2. guy says:

        Apparently they said that they were going to track individual Sims like this was Dwarf Fortress or Tropico. I honestly don’t see the appeal of doing that if the number of unique entities is so large they’ll just fade into a uniform wall of numbers anyhow, but I guess there’d be the occasional Cacame, Elven King Of Dwarves incident that could make it all worthwhile.

        Anyways, the point isn’t that this is the same sort of thing as the earlier games, the point is that they said it wouldn’t be.

        1. Sleeping Dragon says:

          Precisely. I don’t think people would have that much of a problem with people and cars on the street being only a representation of the general populace and traffic, as it was in the older games. The problem is that they decided to market the game in a fashion that was not reflecting its actual state, largely presenting the granularity as a trade-off for the smaller simulation scale: yes, your city will be way smaller than what you had in previous instalments, but on the other hand “every citizen would be simulated” including their job and personal life. This wasn’t something that would necessarily appeal to people who were into city Sims but it was at least something that they could grudgingly understand as technical limitations. I think this might have also been an attempt to market the game to people who weren’t that interested in the strategic simulation of SimCity but were more into the personal simulation of the Sims, and EA has a growing history of trying to compensate for the unreasonable budget of a game by targeting it at a broader or different demographics than the previous instalments in the series, a way to create an impression that you could follow the stories of individual people and families in the city you created.

      3. Asimech says:

        From what I understand, this time around it actually is a simulation (though poorly done), meaning that if pathfinding fails it can have gameplay consequences.

    3. Chris says:

      This is my favorite Reddit thread about Sim City at the moment. No jobs, no shopping, happy citizens.

  29. Damian says:

    Over 75 comments and no-one’s said “but Civitas is on Kickstarter”? How are people supposed to complain about Civitas being a scam if no-one brings it up, eh?

    1. Bearded Dork says:

      See comment 18.

  30. Hieronymus says:

    “If you two guys would lock yourselves in a room and try to kill each other, that would be super. I'll be happy to argue with whoever survives.”

    Shouldn’t that be whomever?

    1. Shamus says:

      Do you wanna go in the room? I think you're telling me you want to be next in the room.

      I kid. Perhaps I'm giving away my grammatical ineptitude, but the way I wrote it sounds more correct to my ear. I've always had a hard time with “whom”.

      1. Oleyo says:

        I wanna go in the room! I bet it has a shorter queue time than Simcity!

        Oh, and the best headline so far has been:

        “They built this city to shock and troll”

        Just try and say that without singing…

        1. Aristabulus says:

          Someone should pitch that to Weird Al and Grace Slick as a power ballad duet…. pure gold. ^_____^

      2. silver Harloe says:

        Just remember this: “who = they, whom = them,” and your grammar will never fail you.

        I’ll be happy to argue with they.
        I’ll be happy to argue with them. <= correct. ergo, whom.

        On the other hand, "whom" is dying out in English, and you kinda sound snobby if you use it, so "whoever" was fine.

      3. Soylent Dave says:

        You use “who” whenever it’s the subject of the sentence clause (i.e. generally before the verb)

        You use “whom” whenever it’s the object of the sentence clause (i.e. generally after the verb).

        You also use “whom” after a preposition (e.g. in this case ‘with’).

        But if in doubt, you use “who” because “whom” is getting a bit old-fashioned nowadays, even in the UK. So I imagine it’s even more out-of-date in the colonies.

        (or use ‘whichever’ which is generally apropos, and harder for people to get all grammar fascist on you about..!)

      4. Porecomesis says:

        If it makes you feel any better, I somehow wrote “You’re talking too long” instead of “You’re taking too long”. I am ashamed of myself. Also, I’d go with “whoever” as well.

  31. ENC says:

    No one’s perfect; even Half-Life 2 (or so I’m told) had a failed launch because of the amount of authenticating required for a solely single-player game (when this new Simcity is far from it in design and purported calculations required). Even the original WoW launch was catastrophic, and the ones after it were only marginally better for the expansions.

    1. burningdragoon says:

      Sure but with experience should come progress, not a new “just how it is for these things”

  32. Neko says:

    Pfft. EVERYONE knew that this would happen. If you were dumb enough to buy the game at launch then it's your own dumb fault.

    Oooh, I’m definitely in this corner. The other guy won’t know what hit him. Just gimme the bell! Gimme the bell! Ruuaaaarrrgh!

  33. RTBones says:

    Here’s some food for thought: with all the issues regarding servers and whatnot, one of the consistent complaints about the game is the small gaming area. I would not put it past EA/Maxis to up the micro-transaction ante by simply allowing you to purchase additional 4 square mile areas at the low, low price of X-Y-Z dollars/pounds/euros/dinars/rials/ringits/rupees/yen/etc. Low enough so that if you keep building your city, you wont think about paying to expand the area to build it in, and high enough that they’ll still make bucket loads of money.

    1. Daemian Lucifer says:


      I prefer saying moneys.Its much easier to write,and encompasses all of those.Other alternative would be gold coins,or gold pieces(gp),or simply gold.But moneys still sounds the best to men.

      Anyway,your idea is fiendishly smart,and if this was some other company,I would be worried.But ea has stopped being smart long ago.Now even if someone there had that idea,theyd decide “so if we can make bunch of moneys by making them pay 0.5 moneys for some extra space,magine how much more we could get by selling it for 10 moneys!For even less extra space!We will make a fortune!”.And then theyll blame the pirates for that plan failing.

  34. Zanfib says:

    Two men enter! One man leaves!

  35. Daemian Lucifer says:

    People keep going on and on about diablo 3,but didnt ea have a similar debacle already with spore?Has that slipped everyones minds already?How many times will they have to screw up in ever increasing ways before they finally crash and burn?

    1. Paul Spooner says:

      I know right? When will we learn?

  36. Venalitor says:

    Reading this I just remembered that I have games on Origin and never reinstalled it after getting a new computer. Meh.

  37. Brandon says:

    I am having an idea to build a game simulator that lets you create and run a Game Design studio. I’ll take a page out of the SimCity books and let you unleash disasters on them.

    This particular disaster would be a combination of “catastrophic launch day failures” and “PR nightmare” disasters.

    … Yeah, okay. It’s weak. I’m tired and really don’t have much to say about this thing, other than to express amazement that despite all of the resources EA has, they still screwed this up so badly.

  38. Kanodin says:

    I don’t have anything to add about simcity, I gave it up as a lost cause the second online only was announced, but I find it hilarious that steam right now has daily specials on Tropico 4 and Anno 2070.

  39. arron says:

    What is also annoying is that it’s patently clear to anyone who understands how a client-server model works that if this was a server based system, the data would be on there all the time and if you have a network interruption it still would be on there when you reconnected c.f. Second Life.

    The bandwidth required for moving data off the client, doing serious calculations for the simulation and then moving it back would make no sense whatsoever. The server bandwidth requirements would be enormous. Having a server only simulation is secure and easy to share data across clients but would be very expensive (as you replicate the game hardware on a machine EA is paying for) than using the multi-core machine and RAM on the client.

    Even this client-based-game was too much for their network service, so that’s why cities were tiny compared to earlier games. And because EA didn’t want to pay the money for the unnecessary surplus server requirement to play the game when you have thousands of people dumping data (that isn’t necessary to play the game) onto your network.

    So I had my doubts given lost data and the load required for something like this, than it wasn’t anything more than an always on DRM and cloud saving solution. If all your data was already on the server, you wouldn’t lose your city when it disconnected. EA were doing the engineering on the cheap and innovating through PR/Marketing again.

    The really annoying thing about this is how Maxis/EA maintain there is no way they can make offline work. Microsoft tried that with the Internet Explorer browser in the court trial when they said that Windows would die if IE was disabled. This was their lynchpin defence for not allowing other browsers on Windows. Well, it was proved that you could very easily remove IE and Windows was fine. Egg on face for Microsoft there.

    Maxis could have fixed this very quickly by putting back in the offline functionality that was ‘missing’. A save/load routine to/from a local disc wouldn’t be a long job given they could probably reuse some existing code and serialize the data in the game through it. They could then add an option to turn off the server syncing, or do this automatically if there is no network connection.

    Of course, Maxis are never going to do this because the DRM is then bypassed and EA lose all justification for what they’ve done. Piracy may then go through the roof.

    This is why you’re buying a bus service not a game. And when the service stops, you have no ride home and EA have your money.

    Of course, the game will be hacked anyway to give offline play so all of EAs PR spin and stonewalling has been proved useless. Nice one EA :)

  40. Hitchmeister says:

    I’m pretty sure you’ve used the image illustrating this entry before. But today I finally thought to go look up the source of it. Now I just have to point out that it would be more appropriate for a item about Aliens: Colonial Marines. (Minor internets for anyone who gets why.)

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