Friday, 8 March 2013

SimCity: The Debacle

SimCity is one of the most renowned series EA has ever had, and is to this day a favourite to many. The SNES version of the original is even regarded to several as the best game of all time, so you wouldn't be surprised to hear how huge the hype was for the new entry into the series released this week. Unfortunately, that hype has turned to despair as everything that could have gone wrong has, and worse.

Reviewers praised the game across the board from their experiences with the beta/review copies. Cities where fun to build alongside friends who built theirs next door, and the new elements added made for a fantastic experience with every new city. As soon as it hit launch though, things went pear shaped. Here's where problem number one arises. SimCity requires you to connect to a server to play. What this means is, it kind of works like an MMO, where each server can handle so many players at one time before you get caught up in a queue. EA had originally set the release dates spread out to ensure overloading never happened, and everyone could get on at once, but they had obviously forgotten just how big the demand was for the game, and no server was ever empty. This left many gamers waiting in queues for over 2-3 hours just to get into the game. What's more, the servers where unstable, and many would get disconnected from the servers mid-game and lose all of their saved data.

An example of the queue time, some go as high as 3 hour waits.

Due to the server issues, patch after patch was sent out in an attempt to sort the game, so if you weren't waiting in a queue, you where waiting for an update. Which never worked most of the time, so the issues continued. EA even removed a lot of the major features, cheetah mode(fast speed) and leaderboards are gone, two key features which made the game even more fun. This has caused a lot of people to abandon the game either entirely, or until it's stabalised, and even now major gaming websites and personalities, like Destructoid are warning to avoid the game until the issues are dealt with. Overall, the fact that they need to put you on servers for what is, for the most part, a single player experience is outright stupid. Sure, it has multiplayer in which you and friends play in different cities in the same zone, but that can be done outside of servers. You can't even play the same city in a different server, it's an atrocious move in every respect.

Another major issue, though this could easily fit in above, is Always-Online-DRM. It's fits in with the servers, and is just another thorn in gamers' sides. Do we really need it still? Ubisoft and many other publishers have learnt that it doesn't help matters, but only dampens them. EA are still one of the few who have yet to grasp just how damaging it can be. It removes the idea of you actually owning the rights to the copy you now own of a game, and instead all you have is a contract, or a pass to play it. Which leads to the last issue that has plagued this.

Servers are 95% of the time full, so you can't get in
A consumer recently approached EA about claiming a refund for the game due it being unreliable, unstable and basically unplayable. Whilst in a chat with an EA customer service representative he was denied a refund, and then told that if he continues with disputing his right to a refund, he'd get banned. The full conversation is linked below.

Also worth mentioning that TotalBiscuit put out a warning to all UK consumers that they should check the Sales of Good act if they are refused a refund from EA, so please do so if you already own the game and wish to claim a refund on it

Now i won't lie, i want SimCity. It looks fantastic when you get into the game, but that is only IF you can get into it. With server issues, game patches to hide behind every issue the game has, be it instability or whatever, and it being always online DRM'd whilst being a single player title for the most part leave me wondering if i'll ever get to play it. If i was to even consider purchasing this down the line, then they would need to remove the always online part part of the DRM and make it more in line with what other platforms do, register your product online then you can do what you will with it after. And then there is the server issue. If they are so hell-bent on keeping this idea here, then they need to quadruple the size of the servers at least. The demand for the game is high, very high in fact. We aren't buying this game to sit in a queue for 3 hours at a time, we're buying it to play it when we want to play it. Learn from this EA, and every other developer/publisher for that matter. This is not how you release a game, this is how you destroy it.