SimCity Boss’s “Straight Answers” Seem Pretty Wiggly

By John Walker on March 16th, 2013 at 12:32 am.

GET IT?

What Maxis are doing is frankly peculiar. Earlier this week we posted a story revealing that claims that SimCity required online servers to run non-regional computations were not the case. That night we were promised a statement from the studio, but heard nothing. Repeated emails to EA have resulted in no response since, and the whole situation has become more muddy with each day. It’s since been revealed that population numbers are nonsense, even down to leaked Javascript code featuring “simcity.GetFudgedPopulation” as a function. We’ve learned that city size limits are arbitrary, pathfinding is rudimentary at best, and Eurogamer’s absolutely superb review lists many more bugs, broken features, disappearing pretend-money and never-arriving resources.

So it’s all the more odd to see Maxis head Lucy Bradshaw acting as if none of this is happening, and instead just carefully rewording her mantra of how SimCity is only supposed to be played online, but this time leaving out the bit about server-side computations for local play.

This week’s fuss all began after Bradshaw’s repeated statement that SimCity needed to be online simply to function. A claim we learned was not the case.

On the SimCity blog on 20th December 2012 Bradshaw wrote,

“GlassBox is the engine that drives the entire game — the buildings, the economics, trading, and also the overall simulation that can track data for up to 100,000 individual Sims inside each city. There is a massive amount of computing that goes into all of this, and GlassBox works by attributing portions of the computing to EA servers (the cloud) and some on the player’s local computer.”

Speaking to Polygon on the 9th March she again said,

“With the way that the game works, we offload a significant amount of the calculations to our servers so that the computations are off the local PCs and are moved into the cloud. It wouldn’t be possible to make the game offline without a significant amount of engineering work by our team.”

And talking to Kotaku in the same week, Bradshaw yet again stated,

“Online connectivity as a creative game design decision was infused into the game’s DNA since its inception and so we’re fully committed to delivering against that experience first. A significant portion of the GlassBox Engine’s calculations are performed on our servers and off of the player’s PCs. It would take a significant amount of engineering work from our team to rewrite the game so that all of those functions are calculated locally without a significant performance hit to the player.”

In today’s posting the studio boss writes,

“From the ground up, we designed this game with multiplayer in mind – using new technology to realize a vision of players connected in regions to create a SimCity that captured the dynamism of the world we live in; a global, ever-changing, social world… We also made innovative use of servers to move aspects of the simulation into the cloud to support region play and social features.”

Spot the difference.

RPS knows that the “simulation” being run on the EA servers is about 1% of the simulation being run on your own PC, so even this rebranded version of the claim still rings a little oddly. It’s not clear what exactly is so innovative about having interactions between different players be handled by online servers – that’s kind of how multiplayer works. But yes, it’s absolutely undeniable that the multiplayer aspects of the game require connection to the, er, multiplayer servers. No one was disputing this, because to dispute that would be frog-hatted mad. The reason there was any fuss in the first place were the claims that the servers were involved in much more, aspects that were they really calculating would indeed deny the simple possibility of a single-player, non-regional version of the game.

And let’s stress again here: If Maxis wanted to make an online-only, multiplayer-only version of SimCity, then that’s their call. No one has a God-given right to a single-player version, and while deliberately shooting themselves in the foot with a cannon by refusing to offer one seems a little odd, it’s Maxis’s call. The issue that RPS has only ever wanted to tackle was getting to the truth about why not. And as many have since demonstrated with offline play hacks (there’s a new one here), we didn’t have it. We could indeed write a very decent, very sensible editorial on why not offering single-player for a SimCity game is hard-boiled lunacy, but that was never the point.

Bradshaw’s post, which appears to be some sort of attempt at damage limitation – without actually ever addressing the issues raised – re-emphasises the point that they wanted it to be always online because of how they designed the game. She then lists the functions those server sums supply. And they’re what we already knew – they let the social game be social. This list that is basically just “the game has co-operative multiplayer” eight times seems to be an attempt to reveal just how grand this aspect is, how intrinsic it is to… something. It doesn’t manage this. What we’re learning from the many players posting videos, and the reviewers who actually played the game properly before smothering it with rosettes, is that those regional functions don’t work very well either.

Things then take a turn for the darned strange when Bradshaw adds,

“The game we launched is only the beginning for us – it’s not final and it never will be. In many ways, we built an MMO.”

In almost no ways have they built an MMO. The first M rather puts pay to that suggestion, with minimal numbers of players interacting, and even then interacting through relatively remote systems. Let alone that it’s a management game that previously functioned perfectly well without the addition of social aspects – which is what makes it so mystifying that apparently adding something has caused so much more to be taken away. But the association with an “MMO” is an essential part of the vocabulary Maxis and EA want us to use, to reinforce the notion that this hasn’t been about piracy, preventing solo-play cheating, and controlling players’ experiences. “Oh, MMOs,” we’re supposed to say. “Yeah, good point, because you couldn’t play World Of Warcraft offline, could you? So this must be the same.” We’re asked to ignore that SimCity looks, feels and plays like a single-player game with some multiplayer functionality, and instead conflate it with an entirely different type of game. It’s a blatantly fallacious stance, but one that’s unfortunately perpetuating. (Check out many other sites’ coverage of Bradshaw’s statements this evening.) Bradshaw then says,

“So, could we have built a subset offline mode? Yes. But we rejected that idea because it didn’t fit with our vision.”

And this is something else we’ve been meaning to mention. This notion that SimCity was born in Maxis’s womb as a permanently online, perpetually social game, is somewhat at odds with, well, Maxis’s own words from just a year ago. Back then they made it clear to the press that the internet would only be needed to boot the game, and then it could run offline after that. These straight answers seem as wobbly as the new SimCity’s roads. A game that was always intended to be so intrinsically online that no offline mode was even conceivable, except for last March, a year before the end of development, when it was.

Obviously we would still desperately love to hear from Maxis to explain the discrepancies we’ve discussed. To ask why it was repeatedly claimed that the servers were so integral for running the core game, when all people needed to do to prove otherwise was pull the ethernet cable out the back of their machine. We want to know how a game that a year ago only needed the internet to launch, is now a game that was originally conceived to be permanently online. If this is a confusion, then please do clear it up for us.

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282 Comments »

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  1. Renato84 says:

    What did you expect from EA/Maxis? A consumer-friendly answer? We’re trying to argue with walls. And boy, those walls hate us. Just stay away from them.

    • Jonesy says:

      Stay away from them? No! Keep hitting them. Put a sign on their collective back which reads ‘Never stop kicking me.’

      Call a normal person on their BS and they’ll grin sheepishly, chuckle, and admit defeat. These guys just keep on piling it on. They lie to their customers, and then make excuses and lie more when asked for a straight answer. The worst part is how stupid they must think that their customer base is to keep shoveling shit their way and telling them it’s a delicious monte cristo.

      • fabulousfurrygingerfreakbrothers says:

        Ah, well, Jonesy, that’s where you’ve gone wrong. We are not ‘customers’. We are ‘consumers’.

        • Arona Daal says:

          Are we not becoming more Customer and less Consumer,
          if they try to become more Online-Service and less Offline-Product ?

          • carol391 says:

            Its definitely the most-financially rewarding Ive ever done. Make money with Google. last monday I got a new Alfa Romeo from bringing in $7778. I started this 9-months ago and practically straight away started making more than $83… per hour. I work through this link, GoogleJobs.com

        • sPOONz says:

          I agree with this. The problem with these big companies is it become only about ‘consumers and shareholders.’ All of the creativity and love for the art of games get washed away by the tidal wave of Potential Profit.

        • arccos says:

          The scary thing is, to many “Free” or F2P game developers these days, we aren’t even Consumers, we’re Product.

        • analydilatedcorporatestyle says:

          I’m far too high on prawn cocktail flavoured crisps to differentiate.

          I think it is up to EA to decide what we are and if we are indeed worthy of a good product though!! They have focus groups that know far more about modern day gaming than people who have been there since its birth!

          Step away from the abomination whilst we monetarise it are words we should all take heed of!

      • mrmalodor says:

        The trouble is, a lot of their customer base IS pretty damn stupid. All these “MMO” games cater to the generation of gamers that grew up playing World of Warcraft. Those are some of the most gullible, stupid people on the internet.

        • sPOONz says:

          Err, no.

          • mrmalodor says:

            Absolutely yes.

          • ScubaMonster says:

            mrmalodor – lol how old are you? Do you know that MMO’s have been around for over a decade before World of Warcraft? You can’t possibly lump every single person into that category. Also you are the idiot if you honestly believe all players of one particular type of game are the stupid ones. Get off of your pretentious high horse.

          • AlienMind says:

            oh fuck and all bad words placed here yes

        • sPOONz says:

          Go on then. Explain your statement in which you state an entire group of people are the “most gullible, stupid people on the internet.”

          Without refering of course to your own prejudices.

          • aliksy says:

            They’re paying a subscription fee to play WoW. In 2013.

          • MrLebanon says:

            Because said people feel that playing a single player game requires an online connection cause EA told them they need it? Seem pretty gullible and stupid to me

          • ScubaMonster says:

            MrLebanon – did you even pay attention to the conversation? This particular argument is related to World of Warcraft. Please, do tell us how WoW is a single player game. We’re not talking about Sim City in this comment thread.

          • ScubaMonster says:

            aliksy – Other than a handful of games like GW2, most F2P games are shit. Pay to win, horrible restrictions, etc. That said, I have no interest in paying a subscription for MMO’s anymore, but don’t really play them that much anyway.

          • AlienMind says:

            They bought EA games even after EA was proven to be a liar and criminal against data protection (see origin.de). What do you call a person who doesent’ even care about being raped by big corporations?

          • aliksy says:

            @ScubaMonster
            Some (many) F2P games being crappy doesn’t make paying for WoW any more sensible. Ok, I’ll concede I think WoW is a shitty game to begin with so I’m not really being objective.

          • Graerth says:

            If you spend on average an hour a day on playing something, paying what WoW costs doesn’t sound that silly if you like it more than it’s competitors. Atleast if you’ve happen to got some income (but you could buy another game every few months….which alot of these people wouldn’t play anyway).

        • theigor says:

          Yes young people are terrible and should get off my lawn

        • Focksbot says:

          I see where you’re coming from, but let’s get it more accurate, shall we? It’s not that they’re gullible and stupid – it’s that they’re erratic and malleable. That’s my experience of the bigger part of the MMO audience, that they’ll whine and complain about nothing at the drop of the hat, but then swallow any old bullshit and forget they were ever unhappy the next.

          Its: “Oh my God I haven’t been getting any rare drops all week the game is cheating on me how could you do this, oh wow, a new dungeon with cosmetic prizes have some more of my money.”

          Big companies like EA seem to be entirely geared towards dealing with that mentality – respond to every complaint with a hand-wave and a promise of extra sugar and expect everyone to be complaining about something else the week after next.

          • ScubaMonster says:

            I always hated it on MMO forums when I would post a legitimate complaint then have a pile of people say why I’m stupid and wrong and the game developer can do no wrong.

    • Premium User Badge

      colossalstrikepackage says:

      Good work RPS. Keep on calling Maxis and Brasshaw out for an explanation. It’s really not acceptable to keep on lying to our faces. They screwed up, need to apologise, explain and then fix this game. You simply can’t get away with this in today’s world.

      • Samwise Gamgee says:

        touché

      • Phantoon says:

        Sure. It’ll go on, people will get bored of hearing it, and they’ll ignore RPS rather than stop buying EA’s garbage. In fact, it’s not enough to lambast them ONLY for this game. Why are microtransactions a central part of Dead Space 3?

        But again, won’t matter. People will stop caring when it becomes inconvenient. Which will be the next time they announce a new game.

        • Grey Ganado says:

          Microtransactions are not a central part of Dead Space 3.

        • zakihashi says:

          This is what happens when you comment on a game you never played, you feed lies as much as EA do.
          I haven’t even noticed the micro transactions in Dead Space 3.

          For SimCity, the servers might take a load of the calculations. They haven’t proved that SimCity works well in offline mode. They showed that a single city works well in Offline mode, for all we know all the calculations for the region is actually done on the servers. Another reason to believe this would be the fact is that everything region wide is a significant delay on, if the servers are down, this regions is no function in at all, also the fact that it didn’t work on the offline mode.

          So maybe a single town/city is doable in offline mode without significant work from their engineers, but the game is a lot bigger then the single city this time around. I don’t beleive what EA says, but I don’t believe the communities crying either. On no part have anyone proven anything. So as it stands, you’re all liars in my eyes, crying like babies without actually knowing all the facts.

          • MrLebanon says:

            ’cause simcity 4 had so much trouble handling regional economics that it needed online servers /sarcasm

      • Mrs Columbo says:

        Yeah good work RPS guys. I appreciate the dogged persistence that the writers here have over important issues like this. It’s one of the reasons that RPS is the only site I bother with for game information.

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          colossalstrikepackage says:

          Ps – I have been meaning to say that I am a huge fan of your screen-name. Made me pine for the good old days of Colombo turning around and saying ‘and one more thing’. Feel a little silly for not having thought of it myself.

    • Jason-Milardo says:

      what Troy implied I am dazzled that a mother able to get paid $8509 in 1 month on the computer. did you read this site… http://www.miniurl.com/sa/earn-cash

  2. Meat Circus says:

    Christ, these people are so fucking inept they can’t even convincingly lie to a credulous audience of gamers whose brains have been addled by decades of PR bullshit.

    • TillEulenspiegel says:

      The funniest thing is that even after all the new revelations this week, she hasn’t come up with any new talking points. Bradshaw is just repeating the exact same things they’ve already said.

      • Vorphalack says:

        If the bullshit wont stick, rephrase it.

        • Premium User Badge

          colossalstrikepackage says:

          That might work if you’re not standing in the middle of a crap-tornado.

      • HadToLogin says:

        If case you didn’t know, lie becomes a truth only after one million repeats. If she’d change lie every time, it couldn’t become the truth.

      • ScubaMonster says:

        If you say it often enough, people might start believing it.

      • LintMan says:

        Listening to what these people are saying is styarting to make me feel like I’m trapped in Orwell’s 1984, being indoctrinated with newspeak. Like if they repeat it enough, we’ll come to believe it no matter how bogus it is.

    • robtoo says:

      My guess: at some point, the LookingGlass spec really did have significant amounts of simulation being off-loaded to the cloud, but either that was never implemented because it was just easier for the front-end team not to have to rely on the back-end guys, or it was implemented then they pulled it for performance reasons.

      Which means Lucy Bradshaw wouldn’t so much be lying as singing from a very old and very out-of-date hymn-sheet. And she’s only just found this out and is now back-pedalling, desperately hoping that noone will notice.

      • Sheng-ji says:

        Which would also explain why the simulation is so simplistic, despite what we were led to believe.

        • Meat Circus says:

          It’s all our atrophied little gamer brains can handle.

          Hey, could be worse, at least it wasn’t reimagined as a corridor shooter.

          • appropriate touching says:

            But this time, the corridors are curved.

            Good article.

          • Arkh says:

            Wait some time for SimCity Streets – where you play as a cop in simcity.

          • cauldron says:

            Well, that may be a good game…

          • Sleepymatt says:

            Hard to convict thieves and home intruders when everyone’s sharing their homes, spouses and jobs. And god love those poor traffic cops….

      • HothMonster says:

        Yeah like a 60$ one time purchase was ever going to get you “lifetime”(as long as EA says the game is alive) access to your own private high powered vcpu that would be doing the brunt work of your calculations in realtime with enough bandwidth to make the game even remotely playable. Those claims always reeked of bullshit.

        They didn’t even bother to throw enough money at some extra launch servers.

        • hitnrun says:

          It may reek of shit, but damned if the commenters on generalist gaming sites aren’t slurping down every brown-black bit and asking for seconds.

          The more you think about the claim, the more unbelievable it gets – and it was just as absurd six months ago. How could EA make a profitable game by providing supercomputation for millions of players? WHY would they do such a thing? How could such a concept compete with the simple alternative of letting gamers’ own high-powered computation devices, which they have anyway – they’re calling them “PC’s” – do the work for each individual player? What the hell was EA going to do with hundreds of millions of dollars of redundant hardware after the launch period? Stick it up their collective ass?

          • TechnicalBen says:

            People don’t believe the truth. They’ll lap up lies. But tell them an honest fact, and they walk away or claim “ridiculous”. Thankfully a few do still see the reality. Stick with those, avoid the “reality distortion field” of the likes of EA. :P

      • smb says:

        I wonder if such a change had to do with worries about connectivity. Somehow I doubt the game would run with even slight hiccups, if the simulation was done server-side. Perhaps they had “100,000 individual Sims” and larger maps before that point, becoming too system intensive when the calculations were run by a client (and a mess for the smaller map size.)

      • AlienMind says:

        O rly? So why does a person who does not lie deliberately goes into dialogue mode if this person hears something contradictory to their beliefs? This woman is ramming onward in monologue mode hard!

  3. trjp says:

    Scripting languages like ECMAscript (as Javascript is properly known) and LUA are often used for content creation around game engines – they have all the features needed to enable people to create content without needing to consider more complex things like OO methodologies, memory management and other stuff like that you don’t want anyone outside the core progamming team to access.

    The ‘was this intended as a Facebook game’ comment sounds snidey – at the very least it demonstrates a lack of understanding of how games are developed.

    There’s plenty of material in this story that you’re evidently going to keep kicking without showing yourself up in that department surely?

    • TsunamiWombat says:

      Even if Javascript is a ‘red herring’, it is hardly the crux of this article, nor the central thrust of the ongoing coverage. If this is the case, they can simply explain it in a PR release. Yet somehow, asking for understanding and explanations from developers is a terrible, naughty bad thing to do?

      • John Walker says:

        Removed, to avoid the distraction from the core point.

        • trjp says:

          I can only bow to that – we don’t need to bring Facebook gaming in until they do release it there eh? :)

          • Seiniyta says:

            Well, one of the developers on twitter said the reason they programmed a lot in Javascript is because it’s easy to modifiy and very mod friendly.

      • trjp says:

        In fairness there are so many fish lying almost dead in the barrel that is this story that to add any more is churlish? :)

        Meanwhile, isn’t the game working perfectly yet? That’s the idea here isn’t it?? :)

        • Phantoon says:

          Just because one thing is shit and another thing is not quite as much shit doesn’t mean you should ignore the thing that isn’t as bad. We still punish theft even though it’s not as bad as murder.

    • motoki says:

      But it IS like a Facebook game by design in many ways. Or if you don’t want to use the F word then a ‘Social Game’. It’s more like that than an MMO. With a Social Game there is some interaction with other people but it’s indirect and not in real time. ie You visit someone else’s city/farm whatever and maybe do some light interacting there when that person is offline and vice versa they go to yours when you are offline. This is how Sim City is setup too.

      Obviously the visuals are of a much higher caliber and the budget is much, much bigger. I don’t think anyone will argue that. But the core philosophy? I think they are trying to take design elements from social gaming and move it from Flash and Facebook to the big time AAA big budget.

      • newprince says:

        Well, okay, but tell me it’s a AAA Facebook game from the start.

  4. rockman29 says:

    No matter how many times she tries to say it, we know what really happened.

    And after the millionth time she says it, we’ll still know what really happened.

    It doesn’t change a thing. The game is right in front of us already and it doesn’t change a thing.

  5. fabulousfurrygingerfreakbrothers says:

    MMO is meaningless these days to most people. Or rather it just represents ‘a game that has to be played online’.

    Good stuff again, John.

    • mrmalodor says:

      There is also a surprisingly large subset of gamers who believe that anyone who doesn’t play MMO games is a social outcast. All the normal gamers play MMOs, they say.

  6. Renato84 says:

    I’d love to strap Lucy around a chair and make her watch me happily playing Dark Souls on and offline for hours, until she cries like a baby, finally realizing how utterly stupid EA/Maxis has been regarding the online components of SimShitty.

    • TsunamiWombat says:

      She is likely very aware, but the Executives of EA/Maxis likely are not or don’t care. This was a business decision, full stop. EA decided to roll the dice and experiment with SimCity, to see how far they could go. It was a sacrificial lamb for the future of DRM development.

      • Retaliation says:

        Now if only they had the nerve to do the same for game developement.

      • Premium User Badge

        colossalstrikepackage says:

        Perhaps – but the buck stops with her on this game. She signed off on it and made those statements as head of Maxis. She has to come out and apologise so that her company can move forward. I don’t see Maxis recovering from this otherwise.

        • Antonius says:

          Perhaps – but the buck stops with her on this game. She signed off on it and made those statements as head of Maxis. She has to come out and apologise so that her company can move forward. I don’t see Maxis recovering from this otherwise.”

          This. Lets be fair, this is, as has been said, an experiment by EA. But the problem here is that Maxis are bearing the brunt of the feedback.

          And who is to say that the experiment by EA has more than one outcome?

          1. See how always-on DRM in a game that doesn’t need it is taken: Result: Failure.
          2. See if its possible to grind away all respect and love for an old game studio using the one franchise its beloved for: Result: Ongoing; Trending towards success.
          3. See if its possible to shutter studio from 2 being success or failure: Ongoing…

          • barney says:

            You make points 2 and 3 in jest, but “buy to sell” and even “buy to kill” are not ludicrous ideas to massive capitalist corporates. Microsoft, for instance, has a long and inglorious history of buying up small disruptive business to get their IP and destroy it. And the thing is, although heads may roll over the demise of Sim City as a glorious franchise, there will be people higher up the chain satisfied that, although it isn’t half as lucrative as it could have been if treated with honest nurture, at least it isn’t being lucrative for someone else.

          • Premium User Badge

            Wisq says:

            Yeah, but there’s no way that EA wants to kill Maxis. Not with The Sims being such a cash cow.

            Regarding the first point: Have they really failed? I wonder what their sales figures really are, once you subtract refunds.

            I work at a 150-strong gen-Y company full of gamers — our CEO himself was the top ranking Diamond League SC2 player for a bit. And I know that even amongst our company of smart, educated gamers, for every one of us that knows what a BSfest SimCity 2013 is and is refusing to buy it, there’s five or more that went ahead and bought it and are playing with each other in company regions.

            They may or may not get bored with it pretty quickly and drop it, but they bought it, and they’re not going to ask for a refund. Even two of my closest colleagues are playing it with each other, knowing how fucked up the engine is (mostly via me), because they still find it fun — and let’s face it, they have stable internet connections, and money to burn. (Or maybe they just bought it in order to troll me, not sure.)

            So, I dunno. I feel like it’s entirely possible that this was simultaneously a massive failure amongst the informed, vocal gamers, and yet also a massive success amongst the regular and/or casual gamers. The ones who might (at most) look at the Metacritic score, or ask their (equally uninformed) friends’ opinions when deciding what game to buy next. Or join just because all their friends are, so it must be good, right? And then convince themselves it’s good, because that’s what you do when you get ripped off.

        • Azhrarn says:

          She may have signed off on this game, and I hope for her that she realizes that she and her studio are the sacrificial lambs here. They’re on the block, attempting to bullshit their way into EAs latest DRM experiment. This will backfire spectacularly, and Maxis will be closed and she and all her colleagues are all going to be fired. Not for making a bad game, but for allowing EA to dictate the execution of it.

          She seems damn aware of that, hence her mindless repeating the lines EA PR lets her have. There’s no passion anymore, she knows she’s doomed herself and her studio.

          • TechnicalBen says:

            A sacrificial lamb is more putting your self on the line to save others. This is more akin to driving the bus off a cliff.

          • barney says:

            She probably argued against all of this violently (these are obviously not great ideas that developers suggested — they’re cynical business; the publishers requested this, trust me), but if she’s got any hope of making EA / Maxis continue to work together (save firing a lot of people), she’ll do what they tell her to do and eventually the people at EA will realise they fucked up badly and she’ll get promoted and listened to in future. She weathered their bullshit and kept a polite attitude, didn’t bitch in public, towed the party line. If she speaks up and, like the anonymous devs, says “You’re right, this is all bullshit. The truth is we sacrificed time that would have better been spent finessing the game’s crucial internals to cobble in completely facile if not detrimental features at the request of the publisher”… She’ll be fired. Us and our mates will say “well she came clean in the end”, but that’s the only payoff.

          • TillEulenspiegel says:

            An honest person who fights corporate management and gets fired then goes on Kickstarter and raises a couple million for their own sim game. There’s actual monetary value to being a folk gaming hero these days.

            As opposed to the shill who will eventually be out of a job and have zero credibility with the general public.

  7. Laserhead says:

    Does anyone know how well the game has sold? Unless people aren’t buying the game Maxis aren’t going to change anything…

    • TsunamiWombat says:

      Initial sales were probably high – hell, the initial sales of Colonial Marines were high. The proof is in longer term purchases and more important, DRM sales. We won’t really know how well it’s ‘performed’ till the first inevitable DLC package, because games these days are little more than market penetration vehicles for DLC.

      • AlienMind says:

        And you know why they are high? Because Gearbox knew they are sitting on a golden IP implemented in a crippleware title and deliberately ditn’t release a demo. And all fucktons of gullible people were framed like the good sheep they are.

    • Simes says:

      That’s why we need to get refunds on digital goods into consumer rights law, if it isn’t already. If they can take your money for a crappy product and not have to give it back, then that’s what they’ll do.

  8. Flappybat says:

    Nothing wrong with using Javascript.

    Fudged populations shouldn’t really be complained about, we can’t expect them to run millions of agents.

    • sharkh20 says:

      They could just, you know, show the real number instead? If I have a not fudged population of 10,000, why not show me as having a population 10,000.

      • Vorphalack says:

        I’ve been wondering that myself. In those tiny little boxes they give you to build on, there isn’t realistically room for 100k+ residents and commuters, unless you make a full high density residential city (and yes I know that can be done, but it’s daft). For a balanced city with recreation, industry, residential, commercial and service buildings, 10-20k population in 2km² sounds more or less believable.

      • Ninja Foodstuff says:

        They didn’t want to call it simvillage

      • aepervius says:

        It was probably due to PR. Have simcity only have a few thousands simulated inhabitant and the outcry of “simtown” would have been even worst. Here with just a bit of fudging they still get to say “yeah but you can have hundred of thousand inhabitant ! So it is a city !”. The problem is, their fudged numbers rather than being cosmetic *break* the simulation even more.

    • OfficerMeatbeef says:

      Fudging the pop. numbers is not in and of itself a problem, and nobody with sense would expect the game to be actually simulating a million+ individually, of course. The trouble is:

      1. Residences are clearly defined to house a certain number of people. The game just adds phantom arbitrary people as the city grows, making these residence limits completely pointless beyond the early game and allowing no actual planning in this regard.

      2. More importantly, this population fudging seems to have been done without actually scaling it to the rest of the simulation, which is the craziest thing imaginable and seems to suggest it was done at the last moment, presumably to make the very small “cities” seem larger than they are? This results in most of the fudged population (I’ve heard numbers as far as 80%) literally sitting around unemployed and useless, completely destroying the entire point of the sim.

  9. Discopanda says:

    Get fudge, you say? Well, at least we can all agree with Maxis that fudge is delicious.

  10. TsunamiWombat says:

    I think time and again Developers and Publishers have been caught in bald faced, blatant lies, and never been called to account to it – and frankly, we the purchasing public should learn to trust NOTHING that comes through ‘official’ sources as it relates to video-games as a product, due to the complete lack of ramifications for these companies.

    • Beernut says:

      I’m not that pessimistic yet. There are still a lot of respectable publishers/developers, whom I trust to tell the truth about their products. Usually because they have earned this trust by backing up their claims or just communicated in an open and honest manner in an instance where they did mess something up.

      Consumer goodwill is a very fragile thing though, and EA’/Maxis’ current strategy of damage control and the fact that they’re not willing to take responsibility for even the most obvious misinformation will probably lose them a great deal of trust in the short- and midterm. And at the point at which harsh criticism of shady practices is spread to a larger audience via mainstream-media and no longer confined to an small group of informed journalists, bloggers and their respective readers, even a thick-skinned giant like EA will have to deal with the problem before it negatively impacts their business.

  11. subedii says:

    The cynic in me says that all this basically doesn’t matter, even if you’re upset. They have your money.

    However, given just how monumental a bodge job the launch has been after all this (Amongst other things I can’t remember another game that Amazon had to pull from sales for a short time, and then put up again with a warning message) reaction to future titles is going to be way more tepid. At the very least, I can’t really see future releases coming out without basically every interview asking the same question: “Are you going to do this all over again?”

    Who knows. By this stage, I’m basically expecting the more indie based devs to have a closer connection with their communities and not hold them at arms length with PR-speak that nobody actually believes. I don’t really expect much of the major players anymore. Then again, I’m not sure whether companies like CD-Prokjekt count as “indie”, but I still expect that when they release their next game on GOG, DRM free is still going to be the general rule.

    • TsunamiWombat says:

      The second crash is coming, and it will be terrible and glorious,

      • subedii says:

        Not that I disagree that another videogame crash may be on the way with the next generation (I mean heck, we’ve already seen a fair few major players fold in the latter years of this generation), but I don’t think it’s going to be DRM related, or at least not as a main point. Unless maybe the consoles really do go through with killing the rental market.

        Personally I suspect that ridiculous production values and price points, coupled with low sales as a result, is going to kill off a tonne of the competition come next gen.

        • TsunamiWombat says:

          Not DRM specifically, but rather the feeling of being abused consumers begin to have, and a sense of general malcontent born from these never ending PR nightmares. Half of the crash was the loss of consumer faith in the product and the publishers.

        • fabulousfurrygingerfreakbrothers says:

          There’ll never be another video game crash. Some big companies may go out of business, but video gaming – PC, console, phone – is as mainstream an entertainment as film these days.

          Certainly more so than when me and my mates were playing budget games on our Speccies and C4s when the last crash happened. Never really noticed it, I was too busy typing in a 6 page Defender program from a magazine (that didn’t work, I’ll never get 12th March 1985 back).

          • subedii says:

            I guess that’s what I mean by crash. Basically more of a re-organisation and re-prioritisation.

            At some point, the understanding will have to be hammered through that the current blockbuster focused “All-or-nothing” model just isn’t viable for everyone to chase, as much as everyone seems to want to be sitting on The Next Call of Duty.

          • fabulousfurrygingerfreakbrothers says:

            @subedii
            In a way I’d love it to happen, but without it we’d lose our favourite AAA games – the likes of Skyrim for me, COD for someone else.
            A big problem, as you say, is the all-or-nothing model. It seems publishers are not just looking at Hollywood for their narrative and structure but also their business plans: stack on week 1, week 2 great, 3rd break even, forget the rest, it’s all just profit if the first 2 weeks did their job.

          • subedii says:

            It still works for some. But a big part of the reason that THQ folded is that it kept trying to be a mega-blockbuster house when none of its titles suited the job.

          • The Random One says:

            @fabulous: We all have our AAA games we love, but you can’t make an omelette without breaking a few eggs, and the current model is set up so that almost every game needs to perform as well as only two or three games a year possibly can. Enjoy your Skyrim and tell the others to enjoy their CoD’s while they’re around.

          • fabulousfurrygingerfreakbrothers says:

            @Random

            I’d be ok with that, ultimately. I spent more time last year with FTL, LoG and CK2 than any big games (KSP too, but that’s probably more acronyms than is good for anyone). I just think it’s difficult to draw the line where above – you’re too big, you die, below – you all survive. Who would you like to die, who to survive? EA would go, would UbiSoft? Bethesda? Are we talking just publishers here? Who would a crash take, and who would we want it to take? And what would that mean for investment in video games? After the last crash the cockroaches still standing tall were Microsoft (I have no problem with MS).

            Blimey, what if Valve went in such a scenario? Not the end of the world, but that would be a lot of games lost.

          • Baines says:

            THQ had games that theoretically could have been mega-blockbusters. The problem wasn’t the games, but rather that there will only be a handful of “mega-blockbusters”, and reaching that status is luck as much as anything regardless of how much money you spend.

            But the big companies all chase the mega-blockbuster as if it is attainable simply by tossing money at it, that they can just usurp whatever existing franchise has that label in that genre or just take that label for some other genre. Thus they spend insane amounts of money chasing the end of a rainbow for the pot of gold.

    • mrmalodor says:

      They sure don’t have my money. And they wouldn’t have your money either if you had an ounce of patience and self-respect.

  12. Sheng-ji says:

    I still don’t accept that “always on” is about Piracy, though I’m sure the DRM aspect is quite the sweetener – I am convinced it’s primary purpose is all about selling micro-transactions.

    This is why they insist on the multiplayer aspect, what better advert for a new skin is seeing someone else, a friend using it in a game. What better form of advertising your micro-transactions than integrating them directly into gameplay, just look at how pushy the sims store is, there is advertising every step of your way into the game and then in the game itself, when you enter the build or buy mode, there it all is, greyed out, ready to be purchased.

    I think the plan was to get even pushier with this. Hell I think the plan is still for them to be super pushy with this, after the hullabaloo dies down.

    • SkittleDiddler says:

      “Pushy” pretty much describes their behavior so far. And you’re right, they’re only going to get pushier. Expect more and more dishonest corporate-speak as this debacle rages on.

    • unbias says:

      Ya, it probably isnt simply piracy, piracy is probably the excuse. The reality is probably a lot worse, complete content control and a stronger ability to manipulate the consumer into continuing to purchase dlc to, “keep up with the Joneses”.

    • Ninja Foodstuff says:

      Yup. There’s already the abhorrent (both in concept and vernacular) mention of “gifting” things to neighbouring cities. Sure there’ll be a McDonalds and KFC expansion at some point

    • DiamondDog says:

      My thoughts exactly, Sheng. It seems like for some publishers fighting piracy now goes hand in hand with creating a walled garden for their games. Games that are now considered services. They need to control mods and the way people play the game so that when DLC is rolled out it has a better chance of selling. They need a captive audience, essentially.

      Another point made by someone else in these comments is the ability to control the longevity of a title. When a new game in the franchise gets released they can cut off support from the older game a lot easier if they have control over what gets added to it. If modding has been limited then people might be less likely to stick with the older game that doesn’t have a community still making content for it.

      EA probably don’t want to hand you a game packed with all the features you’ll ever need that you pay for once, and will last you for years and years with community support.

    • PedroBraz says:

      The purpose is datamining. To Analyse your play style, to be able to create DLC people like YOU might be suspectible to buy.

  13. Premium User Badge

    El_MUERkO says:

    Take the GFX engine of Sim City, bolt it to the gameplay of Sim City 4, polish it a bit, be given ALL THE MONEY.

    How fucking hard is that? Seemingly impossibly hard.

    • TechnicalBen says:

      Much much easier and profitable to:
      1) Make an empty engine (Glassbox?)
      2) Add some empty shiny shine (literally, the art assets just “fudge” the numbers. ;) )
      3) If the game does not work as planned, offer DLC at high prices to “reduce traffic” and “increase industry jobs” and “lower fires”
      4) Add lots of disasters so no one realizes the City falls apart at the 100k sims level
      5) Sell more DLC… oh, they realized it was all an elaborate scam? Ah… new plan!
      6) Run to the Caymen Islands.

      10) Profit!

  14. Tams80 says:

    If the “players’ computers don’t have enough power” part was in reference to simulating the actions of real players across a whole virtual globe, I could see a valid argument. Even realistically simulating a few real players.

    Their servers clearly aren’t doing that though and the game clearly wasn’t designed in that way. I therefore can only laugh at this debacle.

  15. smb says:

    The tone of these articles is constantly harping over wanting a single-player offline experience contrary the design vision Maxis has always billed the game as: a service platform, not a done-and-dusted boxed game. The business model, marketing, and online-requirement all point to their aim being similar to that of an MMO. But instead, you’re constantly stating that “this should be single-player because I want it to be.”

    How can we discount the idea of a constant stream of future MMO-like updates that adapt to player demand over the course of its longer development cycle? (Which is what DLC and microtransactions allow for.) We’re already seeing evidence of that, from tweaking pathing to suit the demands of players instead of sticking to their original design intent for those systems (https://twitter.com/vertexnormal/status/312307719782690817). I’ve been following many of these devs on Twitter as of late and seriously, they’ve been directly opening dialogues with players left and right, just like you’d see with class balancing in any MMO.

    • TsunamiWombat says:

      Ideal dreams have to be balanced with the reality that not everyone necessarily wants that. Furthermore, we the jaded no longer feel developers have the best interest or enjoyment of the consumer at heart – why should we?

      Fool me once, shame on you.

      Fool me 2847321 times, shame on me.

    • John Walker says:

      I think you might want to take a second stab at reading the article.

      • smb says:

        I’m merely speaking about your argument against it being called an “MMO” which I feel isn’t support by much more than your wishing for bygone SimCity games reincarnate:

        “Let alone that it’s a management game that previously functioned perfectly well without the addition of social aspects…”

        “We’re asked to ignore that SimCity looks, feels and plays like a single-player game with some multiplayer functionality, and instead conflate it with an entirely different type of game.”

        When you approach it with a single-player mindset, there’s no doubt you will find depth in interaction and co-operation to be lacking. As pointless as dungeon raids and PVP to the solo MMO player. If Blizzard goes out of their way to cater towards solo players in WoW, why is it okay that THEY aren’t able to play offline?

        • Sheng-ji says:

          No matter how you approach it, you can’t describe Simcity as an MMO and consider it an honest description, can you?

          • StranaMente says:

            My problem with SMB is the he/she is clearly too informed to simply be an idiot, and doesn’t look like a troll.
            Because it already happened elsewhere (see the neogaff incident) I’ll err on the side of caution and say he/she is an undercover EA’s pr.

        • fabulousfurrygingerfreakbrothers says:

          Replace ‘Online’ with ‘Organ’ and I can by your claim call my penis an MMO. Ignore the fact that I usually play by myself, and have NEVER played with more than 8 people, and it’s much smaller than they’ve been used to. It’s an MMO – at least, if played with the right way.

          Does that sound right to you?

        • PacketOfCrisps says:

          Go look up what MMO actually means and then get back to us.

          • smb says:

            Though it has some “massive” aspects in the sense of a global market for exports, I suppose labeling it an MMO is a stretch (in its current form, anyway.) However it’s clear that this is billed as a service platform that should become increasingly complex as time goes on. Only time will tell how well that works out.

          • fabulousfurrygingerfreakbrothers says:

            Would you describe the game battrick as an MMO? There are 7000 people from across the world playing this game. They play online cricket matches against each other. They buy and sell players to each other, and make them available for international matches. There are match orders to be set, leagues to promote out of or relegate from, and logos to be made. Is this an MMO?

          • PacketOfCrisps says:

            I’m not familiar with the game and it is difficult to base an opinion based solely on what you said. MMO’s are generally defined as being persistent online worlds where players can interact with each other simultaneously. Bar the leaderboards/global market guff in Sim City, it is basically just a lobby based game where a small number of people can join your game and interact to a very limited extent. Counter-Strike is more of an MMO than Sim City, at least the interaction in that game is more overt.

          • smb says:

            @PacketOfCrisps
            What is persistence if not a server constantly saving the personal progress of everyone connected? The bulk of World of Warcraft involves saving individual quest progress and inventory on its servers, otherwise its implementation isn’t much different than drop-in/drop-out coop like Borderlands or Torchlight II. The region in SimCity might function as a lobby, but so does the world in an MMORPG. Until you join a party or guild… you’re playing the game and questing as a single player. In fact, Blizzard goes out of its way to balance and reward this playstyle.

            Oh, an interesting note about persistence in SimCity… If you abandon your city, it stays in the same region untouched. If someone else reclaims it, they have to deal with the same issues and struggles the previous mayor left behind.

          • PacketOfCrisps says:

            Sorry, but your application of the definition is ridiculous. Counter-Strike servers are persistent as well, is that an MMO now? After all, progress on the server continues even when you log off. I just want to highlight one quote which I think is the crux of this entire discussion.

            “The region in SimCity might function as a lobby, but so does the world in an MMORPG”

            These two things are nothing alike and I go back to the original definition: MMO’s are defined as being persistent online worlds where players can interact with each other simultaneously on a massive scale (missed that part last time). There is virtually no interaction between players in Sim City, never mind simultaneous interaction. Sim City certainly isn’t massive either; just because everyone playing the game has the ability to join your server does not mean that the game is massive. During actual gameplay there can only be a limited amount of people on the server at one time. As soon as you log into WoW you are in a server with thousands of people and you can interact with them all directly. You can’t do that in Sim City, it is not an MMO and it is only being labelled as such for some ridiculous PR reasons.

          • smb says:

            I see, so basically what defines an MMO is whether or not you can use it as a glorified chatroom on a whim?

            Anyway, I do think calling SC’s region gameplay an MMO is a stretch. The statement is likely made from the perspective of creating and maintaining servers to accommodate thousands of simultaneous players and keeping track of their progress. That kind of persistence is no different from an MMO server.

          • analydilatedcorporatestyle says:

            smb, you are just adding weight to the argument that all Geordie Nation/Toon Army/Barcelona of the North supporters(NOT Geordies in general) are as thick as fuck!

          • PacketOfCrisps says:

            “The statement is likely made from the perspective of creating and maintaining servers to accommodate thousands of simultaneous players and keeping track of their progress.”

            There aren’t thousands of simultaneous players, that’s the whole point. Those “thousands” can never directly interact with each other at the same time and you can hardly label leader boards etc. as interaction, it’s not. In Planetside 2 you can see hundreds of players at once and you can directly interact with them. Do you see hundreds of cities while playing Sim City? As for keeping track of their process..so what? Every multiplayer game with a leveling system does that but you wouldn’t go around calling CoD an MMO.

    • Premium User Badge

      mpk says:

      Ok, so: the point isn’t that this is a traditionally single player game that has been taken online. The point is that this is a traditionally single-player game that has been forced online, that the online functionality is unnecessary and basically all asynchronous anyway, that the spokespeople from EA/Maxis have been – blatantly and unrepentantly, it seems – lying to their customers and that the game doesn’t work: it’s a broken product.

      Having the same business model as an MMO does not make the game an MMO – EA have already stated that it’s their intent to have micro-transactions at the core of their games going forward. Building a social framework around the game and introducing ways to spend real money on ingame items isn’t a way of turning Sim City into an MMO, it’s just making it a triple-A facebook game.

      • smb says:

        Building a social framework around an RPG is exactly what made World of Warcraft, and countless other MMORPGs. Why is this different? Because you used to play SimCity 4 on your laptop without Internet? That’s as fallacious as denying WoW as an MMO because I did the same with Baldur’s Gate. Being developed as a service platform DOES change what it is. If you don’t like it that’s fine. It it’s a business model that is poorly implemented, then call it out for being a poor service platform, not for simply choosing to be one.

        I’ve always held that games should be judged based on what they intend to be, not for what they choose not to be. Which is why I feel that when you criticize a dumb action game for not approaching deep issues.. it’s missing the entire point they created it – for a bit of mindless action. Same goes for this. They intended to approach SimCity from a different and social angle, so why don’t we judge it merely based around how well it accomplishes that? With the mindset of it being created as a social and co-operative experience?

        • Sheng-ji says:

          I agree we shouldn’t judge games on what they intend to be but surely we can judge companies on why they intend for games to be a certain way. People are not saying they are upset because it is always on, people are saying they are upset because of why it was made always on. You can’t move without seeing the phases DRM or microtransaction. These are what people have a problem with and despite statements to the contrary, the social gaming aspect doesn’t seem to be present.

          It’s like Agricola (Except Agricola can be played solo, it was designed that way from the ground up), you all play your individual games but barely interact with each other. If that’s what Maxis wanted, it’s not what they are saying. They are talking up the social aspects as if it’s the answer to all social networking rolled into gods gift to gaming.

          Can we judge them on failing to achieve their targets too?

          • Giuseppe says:

            What we can definitely judge EA on is their lying through their teeth, their false advertising and their seeming obliviousness regarding some fundamental issues that have been raised about this game; like the fact (almost) nothing is simulated server-side, like the plethora of bugs and glitches the game is ridden with and a simulation engine that appears to be fundamentally broken.

            If SimCity was intentionally designed to be an MMO of sorts from the beginning, like they say it was… did they intentionally lie a year ago when they said it wasn’t? Or are they lying now?

        • fabulousfurrygingerfreakbrothers says:

          When the fuck did games become ‘service platforms’? Did I miss the memo?

          • smb says:

            It’s a different approach to game development. The release version of a boxed product is intended as a single complete experience, with post-release support focused around ironing out bugs. Sure, some developers might add and tweak features to suit player feedback, but this is limited in scope because publishers require a justification to continue its funding (i.e. better game = increase in sales.) Games that flop at launch remain buggy and unfixed due to publishers giving up and cutting their losses.

            Expansions work the same way, but obviously less work is involved since they build upon the original product.

            With a service platform, the “live game” is treated like a constant work-in-progress that perpetually evolves around player feedback. The launch experience is dramatically different and less feature/content-complete than it is just a few months later. MMOs launch with a decent amount of content but they’re never a completion of the developer’s intent. The engine is designed in such a way to facilitate new gameplay features at a consistent rate, keeping players interested and supportive of the business model (subscriptions, micro-transactions/DLC.) This kind of “live game” development cycle lasts for years (if not decades), unless it loses profitability or is shut down by the publisher. Obviously it’s easy to exploit, but it can allow for games with a scope that would be impossible to fund otherwise.

            I guess DLC functions as a middle ground in some cases. At best, you see a year or two worth of post-release support unless they continue adding to it (as with Civ V.) Obviously there are many exceptions (indies and such) but you get the point.

          • fabulousfurrygingerfreakbrothers says:

            Yes, I understand the concept. Where games are concerned, it’s a horrible and depressing business term.

            EDIT: It’s the term, not the practice. I can’t see myself giving my 8 year old nephew 40 quid at Christmas, ruffling his hair and saying “You go out and get yourself a nice service platform, son”.

          • smb says:

            The scope of something like Ultima Online wouldn’t have been possible for a regular boxed game. That’s why I’m interested to see where this goes for something like SimCity.

          • BAshment says:

            so you pay full price for an alpha with all the restrictive features of an mmo. with none of the bonuses of said genre, like more then 7 other players online (even less you can actually interact with direct trade) or a universal economic system. paid dlc in a free to play game is understandable but this just seems like a con.

          • jalf says:

            Err….. Yeeeah, kind of. Except that EA (or other publishers) are never really willing to *provide* a service.

            They want all the revenue of a service (preferably monthly fees plus microtransactions, DLC etc), but they don’t want to provide a service. A service generally offers guarantees about things such as availability. It is *a service*, an ongoing thing that they have to keep afloat, and that’s where they suddeny look all panicky and start whimpering “but… but that sounds expensive. Can’t we just set up a handful of servers for a couple of years and hope they can handle the load? If they can’t keep up, we can always set up a few more once we know it’s really necessary. And when people start to lose interest, we can take the servers down again, right? I mean, to save money.”

            That is not a “service”. If they want to provide a service, then they have to do a hell of a lot better, and they have to take the “service” aspect seriously. Not just use it as a fancy word for “wringing more money out of customers, with the same amount of effort”.

            If it was a service, they would have had to scale. All the time. No matter how many people try to play.

            GMail is a service. They keep that shit running, no… matter.. what. Simcity is not a service.

        • Lemming says:

          “Building a social framework around an RPG is exactly what made World of Warcraft, and countless other MMORPGs. Why is this different? “

          Because it was called “World of Warcraft”, not “Warcraft 4, now with added online features.”

          Do you see the distinction and all that implies?

          • smb says:

            Because it’s called SimCity, not “SimCity 5, now with added online features”? They certainly took a different approach here.

          • Lemming says:

            @smb

            If they’d called it SimCity World, or SimCity Online or similar, there would have been less of an outcry. Sure, the dismal launch failure would’ve been apparent, but you wouldn’t have an army of SimCity fans complaining. It would’ve just been seen as teething problems for a lesser game in the SimCity franchise.

            However, they sold on the SimCity name of old, and marketed it to existing SimCity fans. They’ve made their bed, now they have to lie in it.

        • analydilatedcorporatestyle says:

          Eight, yes 8 is now classfied as MASSIVE

          • Giuseppe says:

            Well 8 is a massive number if you’re used to playing with yourse… erm, I mean single player.

        • Premium User Badge

          mpk says:

          Building a social framework around an RPG is exactly what made World of Warcraft, and countless other MMORPGs. Why is this different? Because you used to play SimCity 4 on your laptop without Internet? That’s as fallacious as denying WoW as an MMO because I did the same with Baldur’s Gate. Being developed as a service platform DOES change what it is. If you don’t like it that’s fine. It it’s a business model that is poorly implemented, then call it out for being a poor service platform, not for simply choosing to be one.

          World of Warcraft was designed from the ground up to be a game that involved players participating in a shared world and directly interacting with hundreds, if not thousands of other players on a constant basis. This “service platform” – and if that isn’t something that we should be screaming to the heavens in disgust about, then I don’t know what is – has taken aspects of the original Sim City games and bolted on multiplayer.

    • barney says:

      I’m amazed that in all this huge thread of argument with you nobody’s managed to coherently express this, but a large part of MMO is that the game itself is online. You connect to the server not simply to check in, but to determine the state of the in-game universe, your possible actions, and the ramification of your actions. In other words, the online, massive and multiplayer aspects of it are crucial to the integral user experience of the game. This is not at all the case with Sim City. There is apparently some vague intent to implement this kind of stuff maybe perhaps kind of, but at its core, this game has none of these features. The fact there are certain limited, asynchronous interactions with other players and can save games in the cloud is completely different to a game which entirely hinges on synchronous interaction with an online universe.

    • newprince says:

      Maybe because it’s not actually an MMO in any sensible way?

      I play APB:Realoded. It’s got microstransactions, it’s always online, all of it. I’m perfectly fine with that, because it’s an actual MMO. There is no single player aspect; I am in a simulated city where my only interaction is with other players. I’ll pay for cosmetic stuff, because hey, I can look different from my friends and enemies.

      SimCity, by contrast, is a simulated city I create. Even if other people can see my city, they have no agency in it. At best, I can have limited interactions with other cities. This is not an MMO. This is a single player game with some online multiplayer aspects to it. At absolute best, it is a game like games used to be: a single player game with some online aspects. Them requiring online-only does not suddenly make it a multiplayer, and it DAMN SURE doesn’t magically make it an MMO,

      You cannot consider it an MMO simply because they say it is.

  16. Burius1981 says:

    Thank you RPS for articulating what many of us have been thinking.

    Also: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mVgXGw_XhRQ

    *My wife has been watching a lot of that show on the netflix.

  17. The V Man says:

    Well, I knew EA wasn’t to be trusted. I already avoid their games because they have a penchant from breaking promises and offlining game servers they control just so they can push you to a newer version, but I didn’t expect this from Maxis – and perhaps I’m naive based on their relationship with EA.

    It’s sad but everything they’ve said is a lie and we can’t expect that to change.

  18. MalikDama says:

    Not just about DRM and piracy; it’s about forcing you to buy the next version when it comes out because they will take the old servers offline.

    • WebFusion says:

      Agreed – at this point, Ea’s been down this road before (Spore, anyone?). The marketing strategy for EA is consistently to over-promise, under deliver, throw 6-8 pieces of DLC out the door, and follow up with a sequel. This game had built-in obsolescence written all over it.

      I think the real tragedy here is that the studio that we all knew as “Maxis” no longer really exists. This has proven that they are no longer kings of the “simulation”, and the fact that they’ve created a game that is actually SMALLER than a game released in the same genre a decade ago proves to me that they no longer have the talent or the will to produce anything “revolutionary”.

      We’re told all the time how “risky” the gaming business has become for these studios, and yet they continually ignore a fundamental truth of successful business – give the customers what they want. When I read these pompous (and frankly dishonest) statements about how what some of the fans wanted didn’t match with their “vision” for the game, it makes me wonder how the hell these guys are able to stay in business in the first place.

      Meh…no matter, really. I’m sure there are a few studios out there who are reading all this consumer feedback and already making plans to deliver the game people really wanted. There’s obviously still a market for a game like this – as soon as someone does it RIGHT, they’ll make money hand over fist.

      At any rate – while I’m a huge fan of the series, I’m glad I held off ordering after playing the Beta. Vote with your wallets folks – if a company like Maxis wants to ignore its customers, then they deserve to go out of business. RIP Maxis.

      • Arkh says:

        How they don’t go out of business? The Sims and micro transactions.

  19. Giuseppe says:

    Keep at it, RPS! These articles are delicous :)

    • Convolvulus says:

      It’s sad how pretty much every other site is just repeating Bradshaw’s statements on her behalf. Polygon in particular seems like total garbage at this point.

      • Giuseppe says:

        It would be easy to think that the reason for that is merely that some people are gullible enough to accept these explanations without question. However the cynic in me is convinced it’s more a case of EA using various tactics to make publications and websites buy into their “vision”. And I mean “buy” both figuratively, and literally.

        • Convolvulus says:

          I don’t think it takes a cynic to come to that conclusion. EA controls quite a bit of information that Polygon needs for click-bait. If they based their site on good journalism instead of good corporate relationships, they wouldn’t look so foolish right now.

          • Lemming says:

            Unfortunately, American-based media are worthless in this regard. It’s 99% corporate mouth piece. It’s much better to stick to European/British media outlets. If they talk shit, at least you know they are talking shit. American media is so entrenched in the capitalist ideal that they have to be seen to be corporate friendly, or they’ll soon find themselves very isolated indeed. The outspoken America media outlet is a very rare thing indeed, and is often seen as a focus for ridicule.

            It’s also part of the reason EA will probably not give a shit about this whole thing. As long as ‘merica thinks they are good, they’ll always be making money hand over fist.

    • Arkh says:

      To quote a fellow RPS reader:
      I didn’t buy SimCity and it already provided me with hours of entertainment,.

  20. Premium User Badge

    mpk says:

    EA/Maxis will put the shutters up and wait this out. I’ve no doubt that the game has been selling well – despite the negative press – and they know they just have to weather the storm. There is literally no way for consumers to strike back at company’s like EA. They can keep on doing and saying what they want, because they know the product will sell.

    • fabulousfurrygingerfreakbrothers says:

      That may be true. That doesn’t mean anyone should stop. It’s not about what EA hears, it’s about what their potential customers hear.

  21. misterT0AST says:

    it’s funny to see some people actually believing this will in any way be a problem to EA.
    They’ll shrug it off, sell another game, repeat.
    Ignoring outraged minorities is pretty much their specialty now.

    They’re not concerned, they’re not even embarrassed. They just don’t care about the whining.
    The money came in. Nothing else matters. If the PR guys won’t be able to handle the heat, EA will just hire new ones.

  22. x3m157 says:

    How do you shoot yourself in the foot with a canon? Unless you’re so out of tune that it’s sharp enough to cut…

    **EDIT** since fixed.

    • TechnicalBen says:

      First hit on google. :(
      http://www.geekosystem.com/homemade-cannon-death/

      Although I would expect during times of war when they had cannons it was very easy to shoot ones self. You have to load the gunpowder FIRST, then drop the cannon ball in. Yep, you drop the cannon ball in on top of gunpowder. Using a metal cannon ball? Ouch. They could get blown away while loading the thing. I would guess most were trained not to though.

  23. Hoaxfish says:

    Bit cynical, but is Bradshaw an actual “important person” in Maxis/EA, or is she basically the sacrificial goat?

    Is EA going to call everyone misogynists for attacking Bradshaw’s words, and use it as a loophole to avoid the actual issues?

    • John Walker says:

      Bradshaw is the studio head, and has worked there since SimCity 3000.

      • Hoaxfish says:

        Is that what a “General Manager” is (which is what the blog posts list her as)?

        I guess “Studio Head” sounds just as nebulous in terms of what the “damage” would be in losing one.

        • Sheng-ji says:

          Yup, in the studios I’ve worked for which are owned by bigger corporations and considering Microsofts Phil Spencer also describes himself as a General Manager half the time, it can mean roles a lot bigger too!

          • Hoaxfish says:

            I’m not really thinking about the size of the job, but the “PR” impact.

            Like if Double Fine sacked Tim Schafer, it wouldn’t just be “they’ll just bus another guy into the same position” but also “holy shit, he’s like their figurehead”.

            As far as I’m aware she’s not “Will Wright” in terms of recognition in the SimCity/Maxis branding (frankly, I’ve never heard of her before this).

          • stupid_mcgee says:

            Well, yeah. I mean, Will Wright was the co-founder of Maxis. And he’s gone.

            Rod Humble was to be Wright’s successor. And he’s gone.

            Currently, Maxis is nothing more than a brand name. Just like BioWare, which will be even more true once David Gaider leaves.

        • 00000 says:

          In the end a “General” Manager needn’t have any knowledge about what their company produces, they only need to manage it. And there a lot of things that need to be managed in a large cooperation set out to destroy PC Gaming like EA which doesn’t require you to understand nerdy terms like ‘MMO’ or ‘the cloud’. For all we know Lucy Bradshaw is utterly clueless about how the Glassbox engine works and might have never touched a Sim game in her life. When talking to the media, she only needs to reiterate something that some people said at some meeting somewhere – probably from the same source that claimed piracy and an early launch are bigger deals then waiting for computer scientists to finish tackling the complexity of simulation at the scale expected from SimCity.
          It is still EA we are dealing with, fellows, they probably hire people for similar positions from a completely different industry on a massive scale, who then proceed to hire even more people from even more remote industries.

          • Arkh says:

            Regardless, she is speaking on Maxis behalf, and she is stating Maxis official instance on this matter.

  24. 1Life0Continues says:

    EA is essentially putting its hands over its ears and closing its eyes and yelling “LALALALALALALALAICAN’THEARYOULALALALALALALA” at this point.

  25. sharkh20 says:

    I just don’t even understand how regional play couldn’t work without an internet connection either. How hard is it to make it so instead of using snapshots of cities taken from saves on their server, the snapshots are taken from our local city saves instead! WOW! IMPOSSIBLE! Nothing about the region play is in real time. Nothing changes in your other cities when you aren’t actually playing them. In fact, all of this would run BETTER locally because you wouldn’t have to wait for the servers to send and receive data. This whole situation gets me so aggravated.

  26. Premium User Badge

    Keirley says:

    Just wanted to say thanks for the stellar reporting on this, John. Glad to see you keeping up the pressure on EA and Maxis.

  27. TwistedRaven says:

    Great writting, John!

    As for the fact of EA and Maxis, It’s getting pretty ridiculous.

    They’re holding an attitude of “I hold your money now, too bad!”.

    I actually wanted to try SimCity for a change and I’m boycotting it, as most of EA’s games, due to this stupid fact.

    It shouldn’t *actually* be allowed for companies to do these kind of bull.

  28. F33bs says:

    What a mess this has become. All just for some DRM that is probably well on it’s way to being cracked already. The real loser here is Maxis. To me they — along with developers like Valve, Bethesda and Creative Assembly — have always been of a certain standard in gaming that I would feel perfectly comfortable purchasing one of their games because of their pedigree of creating a consistent, user-friendly product. They aren’t perfect, but I trust them.

    Not any more, which is a shame. Playing Sim games used to be a real treat for me, and the good aspects of this SimCity show that Maxis still has that creativity: the brilliant infographic visualizations, sound design, seemingly intuitive interfaces, etc. I played the beta, loved it and thought it was a great leap forward. In so many words: this game could have been GREAT. It could have been a defining turn in the series in a GOOD way. They could have worked on the bugs and the kinks and ironed out a truly fantastic simulation. But they didn’t, and they chose to lie about it to cover up a stupidly nonsensical online component, to hide a draconian DRM policy forced onto them. Now they get to live with that. It’s sad, really.

  29. slpk says:

    I can see how they could build the game in a way that huge servers were needed to run it. Simply, by needing to track data from 100,000 sims throughout their lives in the city.
    What boggles my mind is why do I need that. Last time I saw this game was called SimCity, not The Sims.

  30. guygodbois00 says:

    SimCity, EA, hahahahahaha. I’m following all of this on RPS; it has an entertainment value of a great TV comedy show. Fawlty Towers?

  31. StranaMente says:

    Here is solitaire, the card game MMO!
    You have to be online to let our servers do the hard work on the cards, and you can beat the high scores of your friends, share decks and play asynchronously with them!
    The game?
    It’s solitaire.
    Yes you play alone. But on line. Because… the servers… and leaderboards… and stuff.
    MMO.

    • PacketOfCrisps says:

      Well played, good sir. You have just described the PR guff of every recent shady release (I’m looking at you, War Z). The fascination with calling multiplayer games MMO’s is just baffling. Even more baffling is that people actually listen to that stuff.

      • TechnicalBen says:

        Except with War Z you might find some cards missing, others duplicated in vast numbers so as to become useless or problematic to gameplay. Oh, and an option to buy DLC for one time use card to “fix”, um I mean “add value” to the game. ;)

  32. Uthred says:

    “Since been revealed that the population numbers are nonsense”? Wasnt this revealed when the paper on the engine was submitted at GDC? It’s also not entirely accurate (the number of citizens is accurate, the “real” number people “found” was the number of agents/actors in the city, again, this was all in the paper on Glassbox, so its not new), its the kind of overly negative nitpicky interpretation that seeks to pile on top of actual legitimate complaints

    • fabulousfurrygingerfreakbrothers says:

      Ok, I can barely understand your post – not because it’s badly written, but for the same reason the explanation Maxis gave about the population: I don’t understand it! A population is a population. If you’re simulating a city, that’s important, no? If it’s something to be gamed, then fine, I’ll game it, but it’s definitely NOT a sim then.

      • Uthred says:

        In short, lets say the game says your population is 100,000. That is the actual population of your citizen, but the game doesnt simulate every individual (presumably because your machine would shit itself), it simulates a sample of your populatio, lets say 25%, in this case 25,000. The “real” population numbers people are shitting the bed over is this population of actors/agents i.e. the 25,000. Their behaviour is simulated and then extrapolated back up to influence the behaviour of all the non-simulated citizens. It’s still a better/more “realistic” simulation then the old largely abstract simulation from games like SC4. It just isnt a true 1:1 simulation, it was also publically available knowledge prior to the games release. But at that point people werent losing their shit over the legitimate issues with the game and scrambling around for any more shit, no matter how nitpicky, to throw on the pile

        • datom says:

          Two quick points:
          1) This is not the problem. The problem is that the game falsely inflates the population counter by adding phantoms. That number increases exponentially as your population rises, so instead of storing 6 sims per house it doubles that. This is simply a fudge, like the code says, to provide a 100k population from a 20k max map.

          2) I’m sure the paper at GDC was great. Can you hand a copy to EA? It seems to fly in the face of their own quotes – see the 100000 simulated beings quote in the news post.

        • khulat says:

          You may want to read what is actually happening:
          The only number that is fudged is the total population count. Which means that in bigger citys only 10% of the population is working, and you have this huge number of phantom citizens that do nothing.
          Which is a really really lazy way to inflate the numbers.

  33. Tuor says:

    While EA might be able to weather this, I don’t think Maxis will. Their name is ruined in the circles of People Who Know. They will simply be another name now, one that happens to be involved with EA in making games.

    I dunno if this is what Maxis expected when they became part of EA, but now they’re merely a veneer on the beast that is EA, one that will wear away over time, until eventualy EA puts it out of its misery. And when that happens, all the euologies will focus on the distant past, when Maxis meant something.

    • Paul.Power says:

      To be scrupulously fair to EA, SimCity 3000 and 4 both came out after they acquired Maxis and they were both great games. Heck, EA managed to steer 3k out of the development hell it was mired in at the time.

      But yeah, it’s been a long time since then, and the current situation stinks to high heaven.

      • TechnicalBen says:

        Owners change. Directors get replaced. EA may have been good, but did they keep to it?

  34. homskillet says:

    registered for RPS specifically to say that this article is really awesome

  35. AngoraFish says:

    I don’t get how CitiesXL never gets mentioned in these articles or discussions. Same shitty approach, same shitty outcome. Reading these articles, it always reads as if EA is somehow pioneering the always-online city building genre.

    In fact, Monte Cristo offers at least one very prominent example of exactly the same thing happening, and generating exactly the same reaction.

    Given that EA have had several years in which to avoid making the same mistakes, it’s even more astounding that EA have nonetheless managed to repeat nearly every single one of them.

    • stupid_mcgee says:

      Cities XL ended the multiplayer aspect back in 2010. Also, you weren’t forced to play online. It was a feature, not a mandate.

  36. Allafif says:

    RPS may not be getting replies because they’re on EA’s shitlist now. But you folks are great for not swallowing their bullshit and asking for seconds.

  37. sabasNL says:

    They treat their customers, the fans of the old SimCity series, as morons, just telling PR lies and empty promises. First I felt a bit sad for the developers, having such a failed launch, but now I see nothing but an uncompleted mountain of garbage. This game has (had) alot of potential… But they ruined it.

  38. stupid_mcgee says:

    “And let’s stress again here: If Maxis wanted to make an online-only, multiplayer-only version of SimCity, then that’s EA’s call.”

    Fixed that for you.

    When it comes to Maxis, the buck starts and stops with EA.

  39. Strife212 says:

    The population numbers are artificially inflated sure, but that just means that it displays a larger number than actually simulated.

    I think it’s a little unfair to criticize it for that. Going by that metric, all the previous simcities have no population whatsoever.

    • Arkh says:

      Older SimCities never promised to have every Sim simulated.

    • datom says:

      No, it doesn’t. These are simply phantoms created to make it look like you have a 100k city, when in reality it’s a 20k small town.

    • TechnicalBen says:

      No, the problem is not “they inflated the numbers” it’s that they “bugged and inflated the numbers”.
      They increase the population number artificially and forgot to allow extra jobs, shops or commuters to fill in the extra numbers. So the size of your city grows, but your TAX revenue does not. Or the size of the city grows, but your workforce does not. Or the size of the city grows, but as the population is “pretend” it cannot go to the hospital and all dies, gets unhappy, causes crime etc etc.

      It’s not that the number increased, it’s that they forgot to increase or adapt anything else to match it.

  40. MOOncalF says:

    Why is gibberish all we’re getting out of these people? It’s like a five year old got caught smearing mud on your breakfast and all they can do is burble and sulk about it.

  41. holymadman says:

    Im cheering for EA to continue this line of BS. I dare them to go on. Because after x amount of time, people will stop buying their games and that will end them. Best part is, they wont even see it coming since they are blinded by all the millions they have but they will lose them if they keep it up.

    Go on EA, entertain us a while longer with your attitude.

    • Autisticus says:

      I’ve gotten more entertainment out of EA’s blundering than I will ever get out of this insult to the franchise they call a game service.

      Not that I would want to play a game that progressed on this path: http://i.imgur.com/67BS0yA.jpg

      • iniudan says:

        Thank for the link, Sim City 5 just look so pitiful when compared to it peer.

  42. Mephz says:

    I’m kind of looking forward to the arrival of the first sim city 5 dlc. I assume they will close the servers to everyone that doesn’t upgrade after all.

  43. Engloutie says:

    The Eurogamer review is really brilliant and precisely to the point. SimCity is a glass box, shiny and smooth on the outside, but when you look closer you see it’s empty, and it breaks easily.

  44. Arkh says:

    Thanks John and RPS for keeping up with this case. This is why I love you guys and why I come here.

  45. Gravy says:

    Not to mention EA have been censoring the customer service number from their forums, I guess in an attempt to cut down on refunds. Now they have been paid for something falsely advertised, they can stick their heads in the sand until the DLCs come rolling out.

    Good on you John and RPS keep fighting the fight.

  46. Premium User Badge

    ts061282 says:

    Someone, ehem, needs to kickstart that class action suit. Also, this, THIS, is games journalism.

  47. BlackKraken says:

    Good article.

    This is a bit of a jump I’ll admit, but to me it looks like Maxis might be next on the EA chopping block…

    It’s head will go well with Pandemic, Redwood and Bullfrog’s on EA’s trophy wall.

    Right next to the empty space reserved for Bioware.

  48. theirongiant says:

    Truly, the greatest DRM ever devised was designed a game that no-one wanted to pirate. Well played EA, well played.

  49. sinister agent says:

    This is eerily reminiscent of a number of jobs I’ve had where I’d come to a manager with incontestible facts about things that we were doing wrong, which they would simply pretend weren’t happening, with increasingly infuriating doublespeak. You end up wanting to grab them by the shoulders and scream “WE CAN FIX THIS IF YOU STOP BEING A COCK. JUST ADMIT IT BEFORE IT’S TOO LATE YOU FOOL”.

    • TechnicalBen says:

      Yep, totally agree. I got told “Everyone lives in a house so everyone is a potential customer of [product we sell linked to houses]”. I said that is not always true, that the majority are, and my figures/work can only reflect the facts. I was told that management said “every one lives in a house” so it must be true.

      My first customer was on day release from prison. Kind of put that “fact” to rest. :/

      They are a massive company too, one that gets in the news. So if you see any stories about big national companies collapsing, breaking, getting fined for things they should not do, it’s usually because half the managers actually believe the lies (or convince themselves of them). :(

  50. bar10dr says:

    Read through all the replies on her post…
    http://www.ea.com/news/simcity-update-straight-answers-from-lucy

    • mrmalodor says:

      Yup, that’s pretty significant if the people writing and thumbing up those comments actually bought the game. If your own player base is against you, you know you did something wrong.