Tobold's Blog
Saturday, March 16, 2013
 
SimCity multiplayer fail

Assume for a moment that somebody believes in the marketing of EA Maxis, that the always online DRM is necessary because SimCity is at its heart a multiplayer game. In that case that person could reasonably expect to be able to play SimCity as a multiplayer game with strangers. Thus it is somewhat surprising (and surprisingly under-reported) that the "looking for group" functionality of SimCity isn't working. You *can* play with invited friends. But both finding an empty spot in a public region of other players and getting other players to join the empty spots in the public region you created is next to impossible.

This is not by design, but by sheer incompetence: The "join game" interface has no capability to sort regions, to show only those with cities available. You only see a handful of regions, usually old and full ones, and the display of how many players are in that region isn't working correctly. So even if you click on a region which is shown as not full, it might well be full, or have abandoned cities instead of empty spots. Of the hundreds or thousands of regions in the game, only a handful is shown, and the "load more results" button only shows a few more.

As reported elsewhere, the longer you play SimCity, the more gamebreaking flaws and bugs you find. That is also very much reflected in the Metacritic score, which was 91 on release due to some so-called "journalists" producing rave reviews based on short gameplay sessions at EA before release. Now that some real game reviewers had time to actually play the game in depth, the Metacritic score is down to 64, a truly bad score for such a high-profile game. But a fitting one. All there is left to do is waiting for what free game EA is offering on Monday as compensation.

Comments:
Sadly, gamers will soon foget about "what-EA-did-to-theri-customers" and move on to the next "big EA title".

As someone correctly said on a forum, gamers have shitty meomory.

The only way to stop a company from treating its customers as shit is by completely stopping purchasing their products. Everything else is just a bunch of words in a sea of lies.
 
To be fair, maybe some of those things will be made to work over time. Though it bodes ill for the viability of the basic game concept, which clearly hasn't really been tested yet and simply may not work out.
 
Gamer memories may be short, but those Metacritic and Amazon scores aren't going anywhere. Regardless of any bug fix patches they make for this product, they have to make another version of SimCity that fixes all these flaws and gets a new set of perfect reviews ASAP.

In a way, SimCity being such a disappointment could end up being a benefit to EA, since they will no longer be compared to SimCity4 and to the other modern city builder games, but just to this version, which has set such a low bar that they should easily be able to ship something which looks amazing next to it in a year or so.
 
Gamers might not shy away from the next EA title, but Maxis itself might be in trouble. Coincidentally, there is an another sequel to a beloved series that has a Metacritic score of 64, and it pretty much killed the brand.
 
>To be fair, maybe some of those
>things will be made to work over
>time.

Because them not working out of the box after nearly a decade of development is reasonable?
 
I agree with the blog post. The amount of bad design decisions and pure incompetence is overwhelming. Even if the launch went perfectly smooth, there are so many horrible game design flaws. They spent far too much time and money on marketing, although I'm sure it worked at bilking customers out of their hard earned money. I'm done with EA and Origin.
 
It's looking more and more that the problem with some of these recent releases like Mass Effect, SimCity, and TOR don't like with the subsidiaries, but with EA itself.

It makes me wonder what the hell EA is doing to fuck up so many titles.

 
Maybe I'm forgetting something, but I thought there were several ways to filter regions, including by map and by whether they have abandoned cities. I thought that got disabled to help with server load, not some "epic whiff gg noob designers" - which is the tone you're conveying to me.

It would have been better if they implemented it correctly in the first place and kept it enabled, but it was an error in execution rather than a missed design.
 
Maybe I'm forgetting something, but I thought there were several ways to filter regions, including by map and by whether they have abandoned cities. I thought that got disabled to help with server load, not some "epic whiff gg noob designers" - which is the tone you're conveying to me.

It would have been better if they implemented it correctly in the first place and kept it enabled, but it was an error in execution rather than a missed design.
 
I'm just gonna leave this here:

http://www.cinemablend.com/games/SimCity-Hack-Lets-Users-Destroy-Anyone-Online-City-Thanks-Always-DRM-53685.html

I will give this game some credit. I've never had so much fun with a game I don't play.
 
Sadly, gamers will soon foget about "what-EA-did-to-theri-customers" and move on to the next "big EA title".

Well, that is sort of the problem. Is a gamer supposed to make some sort of principled stand against a company when, say, Battlefield 3 was such a fun, knockout performance? If Mass Effect 1&2 were one of your favorite games of all time, is it even rational to let the last part of the trilogy go unplayed because of Origin?

In some ways, these embarrassing PR stories should be enough to enact reform by themselves. If they don't, well... I think it has less to do with "short gamer memories" and more with a rational consumer not talking themselves out of 100s of hours of cheap entertainment due to one particular design bullet-point. It might be a dealbreaker to you and me, but it's also us cutting the nose to spite the face.
 
Knowing a company like EA, preordering a game can be a suicide. If anything, WAIT and check the situation after the official launch.

THEN, if the game seems to be what EA promised, buy it.
 

It makes me wonder what the hell EA is doing to fuck up so many titles.


It's really very simple. People do matter. No, they CANNOT be replaced in any sort of easy way. No, that random 22 year old college grad will NOT REPLACE the 35 year old veteran developer. No, all 35 year old veteran developers ARE NOT created equal.

And when I say "game developer" you can replace that with writer, singer, engineer, or doctor.
 
Why are there no sortable regions? I have not ONCE been able to join a single one. Why do some regions say founded in 1969? Why arent these removed they are bugged.

WHAT THE HELL HAPPENED TO THIS GAME!
 
A GBTV host had an interesting question: how much less backlash would their be if it had "Online" or "MMO" in the title? Rational consumers expect launch issues and online access in that genre.

On the TWIB podcast, one of the hosts played & recommended Sim City and the other was playing a stolen Tomb Raider. (Again, why would a publisher ship a AAA game without DRM?) Curiously, none of the vid/pod casts I listened to recommended against Sim City.


 
Since the late 90s much of the performance issues associated with online systems is in the past.

This is why EA's Sim issues are all the more perplexing. People who can code, manage and deploy complex net centric services exist. But somehow EA didn't hire them... they hired the B-team.

Here's my theory... SimCity MMO was late to code complete due to Studio quality issues. New EA server farm facility in Texas was recruited to "make it happen". New server farm personnel did not have the exec seniority to tell the EA studio "it's crap fix the client".

Oh I can hear it now. "we can fix the client server issues at game launch" "it's just a minor update to the communication layer", "Don't worry we won't blame you." "what you need something in writing? don't you trust me?"

The big lesson from this is pretty stark. BIG Online services need BIG talent and BIG investment that the Game Publisher/Studio funding model may not support.

So... as all games go online... will the EAs of the world survive?

In other words how do you get an investor to invest in a "platform" and not a game? Think kickstarter... would anyone here invest in a game that launched a great "service" that made other games more effective?

Would you kickstart Neverwinter part X? When the company told you that half the money is going to the Web Site and Services to help launch Beholder Pet Battles?
 
After reading your many posts on this topic I wonder why the heck they bothered to release this unfinished product? :/
 
Imagine Sim city societies was even worse. So bad nobody remember it or talks about it...
 
SimCity deserves a 91% assuming that you hack it to run offline, toggle syncing and increase city size.
Such a shame, EA probably has crippled Maxis.
 
Too bad that if you hack it, EA will ban your Origin account and you will lose all access to your EA games.
 
The trouble with the online only and leaderboards is it prevents players from modding the game into a more enjoyable experience. I wish they had implemented a more clever 'phone home every few hours' or something to trip up the pirates, but still make the game mod-able. Remember, simcity4 has terrible traffic/commuting out of box, and the mod community fixed it, and added a ton of transportation features.

How to fix simcity.
1. Reduce residential tax income by 75-80%. Right now, for the same surface land use, low wealth residences give 80% of the income industry does, medium and high wealth gives more. Since unemployment isn't very painful and going to work adds a lot of traffic, industry needs to add 3-4x the revenue of residential to be worth zoning at all. And you have to need that extra revenue to stay balanced.

2. Eliminate agents for sewage, power, garbage, recycling, and water. Make them just city wide total demand that is filled or isn't. Tech progress is city wide, no need to spend so much computation on agents just to handle water.

3. Having eliminated half or more of the agents, double or triple the map sizes.

4. Fix the building info messages. 'Needs places to ship freight!' never actually means there aren't places to ship freight. I've never seen an industry building with more than 2 loads of freight in it, freight just doesn't pile up. This message really means that the building isn't open long enough, it pays workers for showing up, not for working the whole shift, and produces freight only while open. So workers that show up late cost the industry full money without contributing full freight and the building goes out of business. Message should be 'I've been closed too often recently'.
'Not enough shoppers' on shops that don't have any goods left. That's just lazy. And so on. Needs better feedback about what's going wrong in the simulation.
 
@Tobold
If I was to buy SimCity with the intention of hacking it, I would register it to a throwaway account before proceeding to delete the two lines of code that post disconnection warnings and force shutdowns for not being connected.

I must say I am very surprised that a game where all the calculations are made serverside can run as completely and customisably when accidentally removed from said server.
 
This comment has been removed by the author.
 
"As someone correctly said on a forum, gamers have shitty meomory."

Game companies are going to make mistakes, it will happen. This is why you wait 2 weeks for the game to be released and reviewed. Then when you are satisfied with the opinions of qualified game critics you can take a shot and try it out. Just because a company releases a bad game, doesn't make all their games bad. Its the buyers responsibility to know what they are buying and whether or not it is worth the money. Buying a game on opening day(week even) is a big risk for a buyer.
 
"A GBTV host had an interesting question: how much less backlash would their be if it had "Online" or "MMO" in the title? Rational consumers expect launch issues and online access in that genre."

Sure doesn't seem that way when you are in the middle of a bad MMO launch. Or a month later when 80% of the customers bail because the game shockingly does not have the same polish as an MMO that's been out for a decade.

We're a fickle bunch. That's not to say this time there aren't extremely legitimate complaints, but let's not act like gamers are usually a patient group.



 
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