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EA, your SimCity is broke

I've been putting a lot of time into SimCity over the past few nights, whenever the temperamental servers would permit it. I'm not able to experiment with the social features as much as I'd like to, because they're not really working. And besides, most of my friends are either not able to log into the game, or they've been pushed onto different servers than the one I'm in. But I've still been playing. And, as I played, I learned valuable lessons, changing how I approach building my metropolis. The biggest thing I've taken away was not to let my ambition get the better of me--to make sure I'm able to support a healthy, growing city.

If I can't afford to plop down another power plant, I shouldn't build any more factories. If my roads are already struggling with traffic, I shouldn't build more neighborhoods. The more I play SimCity, the more I realize that many of the game's online problems wouldn't exist if the Electronic Arts approached the launch with the same logic Maxis baked into the game itself. In a way, Maxis created a cautionary tale about ambition gone unchecked with SimCity, and then EA ignored its lesson.

SimCity's online issues are inexcusable. Not bad, not unfortunate, but outright inexcusable. As I write this, the servers are actually offline, preventing me from logging in to check up on my bustling metropolis (B. Buttercup Forest, in case you're wondering). I need to log in, too--you need to be connected to EA's Origin servers at all times while playing SimCity, irrespective of whether your play session involves others or not. This time, it's telling me that my login information is incorrect, but also that the servers are down, and also that it's still authenticating with SimCity servers. Even if it did work, there's a chance I wouldn't be able to play my city--the server I signed up for, US East 1 (the only one available when I loaded the game up), is marked as "Busy," meaning I might need to wait 30 minutes before even attempting to log into it at all. No, that's not a 30-minute queue, that's a 30-minute timer, letting me know when I'll be allowed to try and click play again. If the server is still full, I'm looking at another 30-minute timer. 

And I've had it better than most people. I've got a friend who's caught in a loop right now, where the busy servers force him into repeating the tutorial over and over again, and I know others who simply haven't been able to log into the same server consistently. Another friend had his city simply vanish--something that actually happened to some people pre-launch when the servers were live for reviewers. We were told that this was a pre-release thing that wouldn't happen after the game was live. It did.

So far, information on exactly what went wrong is inconsistent, but every single excuse given has a SimCity in-game parallel that should have taught EA and Maxis how to plan better. Yesterday, SimCity's official Twitter claimed that "Some servers are seeing a lot of traffic," and then suggesting that players try joining other servers--a less-than-ideal response, considering how joining other servers means abandoning any friends on your old one (not to mention the cities and districts you've been painstakingly raising). Meanwhile, in SimCity, when you've got too many people trying to go to the same place, the answer is to improve the roads, solving your traffic problem by fixing what you have, not abandoning it entirely. The other solution is to plan your roads better, refusing to allow your city's traffic problems to get out of hand by anticipating who will need to go where, and when.

EA's Origin Twitter account had some excuses, too. "Due to the high demand for SimCity, Origin has experienced delays impacting a small percentage of users," it said, drastically underplaying the problem. That's not really acceptable either--my town's citizens wouldn't be happy if I said that some would go thirsty because I had a high demand for water. The answer is to plan for needing water, instead of letting things get out of hand and then trying to do damage control.

When it comes down to it, SimCity's botched launch is unforgivable because EA and Maxis created the problem, allowing ambition to trump practicality. EA allowed itself to release a product that required a constant internet connection, without having the systems in place to make sure it actually worked. And it didn't work. If EA couldn't assure a smooth launch with a game this size being always-online, then it shouldn't have done it to begin with. Of course, the MMO sector--in which EA competes with numerous different games--has been running this kind of operation for years, so it's not like they didn't know what they were getting in to.

Even though it's arguably better for it (the social aspects add immense value to the city-building franchise), SimCity didn't need to be an online game. It's as simple as that. Being an always-on, connected social experience was a choice that the developers made without the infrastructure to support it, and even if it had the best of intentions, that doesn't matter to consumers. No matter how much more advanced it would make SimCity feel, or how much better of a game it would be if it all worked, that doesn’t change the fact that, currently, the game is functionally broken. If SimCity's launch was a city within SimCity, it'd be bankrupt within minutes, with indicators flashing all over the screen saying what went wrong--providing we can even log in at all.

You know that kid at parties who talks too much? Drink in hand, way too enthusiastic, ponderously well-educated in topics no one in their right mind should know about? Loud? Well, that kid’s occasionally us. GR Editorials is a semi-regular feature where we share our informed insights on the news at hand. Sharp, funny, and finger-on-the-pulse, it’s the information you need to know even when you don’t know you need it.

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50 comments

  • NullG7 - March 11, 2013 9:04 a.m.

    This is the reason I was on hold with EA for over an hour the other day waiting to receive service for a different game...
  • sxh967 - March 8, 2013 8:46 a.m.

    If they moved everything onto the cloud so that I didn't have to pay for a decent computer to run it, I would give them the benefit of the doubt. But people have to pay for a decent gaming machine and THEN pay for the game which doesn't even work as it should... that's a piss take. The always-online thing is a very bad thing for consumers. Just like others have said - they will just shut down the servers in 2 years max and then we'll all be forced to buy the next game. I hated the fact that they were doing it with games like Fifa but at least with those games you could still play offline with your mates etc. Now it's just a case of you can't play at all. I hope EA does a total exclusivity thing with Microsoft then I can just buy the PS4 and forget about those shitheads ;)
  • bksmilton - March 7, 2013 8:15 p.m.

    I didn't have to wait for SimCity to come out to tell you EA was freakin' incompetent! Look at all the outstanding issues with The Sims 3. After YEARS of that game being out, and they still can't pinpoint the half freeze issue? Yeah right. People have to rely on third party fixes to solve their issues because EA is either too lazy, stupid or just don't give a damn! This is nothing new here. Just more of the same old EA. "Forget fixing issues. Lets just make more DLC, sequels and garbage to pump money from the wallets of the consumer" - Somebody somewhere in EA, I'm sure of it.
  • Jennero_Rossi - March 7, 2013 4:46 p.m.

    I haven't had anyone these issues except having to log into a Euro server. I really hated that it took and hour to decompress some files before I could even get into the game.
  • Darkwinters - March 7, 2013 1:53 p.m.

    So what is going to stop EA in a few years bring out a new SIM CITY and go ''LOOOL New game so we have to shut the servers down'' Just so you HAVE to buy the new game i you want to keep playing.
  • FemJesse - March 7, 2013 2:48 p.m.

    You spend 60 hours playing SimCity then your entertainment value is 1 dollar an hour which I don't know about you, but it's pretty cheap for me, considering I pay 50$ a month more for a cable package and don't watch anything near 50 hours of TV a month. You go to a movie and pay 12-15$ for a 2 hour film that's way more costly than the entertainment value of a sandbox style video game. I'm not against having to buy a new game in a few years if this one would just WORK for NOW.
  • christian-shaffer - March 7, 2013 4:39 p.m.

    The problem is you should have the option to buy a new game in a few years. It shouldn't be a forced decision.
  • FemJesse - March 8, 2013 12:13 p.m.

    I would argue that you should do your own research about the products you want to purchase and then make your decision based on that. You know what you're getting into.
  • Darkwinters - March 8, 2013 4:53 a.m.

    Sounds like good value but you see i can still play Sim City 2000. Bet you can not play this game in 5 years time as EA will shut down the servers for the new game. I do hope this get sorted as i want to play >.<
  • FemJesse - March 8, 2013 12:14 p.m.

    If I get 1 year of enjoyment out of this game then I will have considered it worth my money. I'm sorry that you don't feel that way, agree to disagree I guess.
  • CrashmanX - March 7, 2013 1:49 p.m.

    How do companies not anticipate this shit for Launch week? Like seriously, rent a TON of servers from other companies if you have to even if it's just for a few weeks to compensate for the additional load of Launch week. You do HOW many tests to gauge interest and then when you realize the game is becoming SUPER popular again you drop the ball and fail to prepare servers? Jesus Christ, this is worse than Diablo III launch day.
  • Rowdie - March 7, 2013 9:04 a.m.

    EA is EA. I've considered it a negative if EA was involved with a game for more years than I can recall, but they're just too big to totally ignore. Plus they constantly buy great developers. They fought to get their won servers on XBL and at this point I consider that the only issue. I dread that handoff. UGH :(
  • Z-man427 - March 7, 2013 8:31 a.m.

    This does suck majorly, but can you really say you didn't see something like this coming? I mean, EA is notorious for screwing their consumers somehow. And Always-On DRM is usually bad for consumers, no matter how stable the servers are. It's kind of the perfect shit-storm. I hope they get the servers fixed soon and/or patch the game to allow an offline singleplayer mode. But I know at least one of those won't happen.
  • Eo1spy - March 7, 2013 6:59 a.m.

    This is why there needs to be a proper distinction between single and multiplayer. What is going to happen when EA takes the servers down? You won't be able to play the game anymore. You can still play Simcity 2000 perfectly fine.
  • FoxdenRacing - March 7, 2013 10:30 a.m.

    And that's all according to plan. A few clowns are trying to bring 'Planned Obsolescence' to video games, by transitioning from products to services.
  • Eo1spy - March 7, 2013 11:13 a.m.

    I hate that direction. If it's the future of gaming then I'm out.
  • sxh967 - March 8, 2013 8:40 a.m.

    Me too!
  • KA87 - March 7, 2013 6:27 a.m.

    Always on DRM strikes again. When will developers learn not to align themselves with that evil temptress? Have they not noticed the demon spon she sows?
  • CUFCfan616 - March 7, 2013 4:23 a.m.

    well this has put me off buying one of my most anticipated games of the year. Well done EA. This reminds me how everyone was up in arms with Valve first announced that you needed an internet connection to authenticate Half Life 2, except not as bad. Of course EA will sweep this under the rug and pretend nothing happened and go back to annual sports games and we'll be left wanting a proper new Sim City. Out of curiousity though, what will happen to the game after they close the servers in a few years time? You won't be able to play it full stop? Most of my most played strategy & simulation games are years old. Rome & Medieval 2 Total War, Civ 4, Sim City 4. All great games that I love playing today. I'd be pissed if I was unable to play them down the line because some joker decided that games need to always be online to play a single player game. Contenders for disappointment of the year so far- Aliens: Colonial Marines and now Sim CIty

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