SimCity Leads Depart EA To Go Indie, Grade Jelly

By Nathan Grayson on July 17th, 2013 at 11:00 am.

I was going to begin this post with a lament of “Oh, SimCity,” but then I discovered that Adam had already done that in our most recent piece on the fallen city-building empire. Describes the dismal set of circumstances surrounding the game rather perfectly, though, doesn’t it? Nearly everyone’s agreed that EA’s overly simplified, always-on catastrophe – which is said to be the subject of Syfy’s next disaster flick, SimCitynadovolcanoavodcado – botched its landing, and now it seems that a trio of its own developers agree. Fortunately, instead of leaving games altogether and becoming doctors/lawyers/mathletes like their mothers wanted, former creative director Ocean Quigley, lead architect Andrew Willmott, and lead gameplay engineer Dan Moskowitz have formed an indie studio called Jellygrade. Their first project is – what else? – a simulation.

Quigley broke the news on Twitter, explaining:

“We were lead developers on SimCity, SimCity 4, Spore, and The Sims 2. We love making simulations. We’re making a simulation about the dawn of life on earth; about lava, water, rock and the emergence of the first primordial creatures.”

The new game – which already has some early concept art and renders – is set to lead on iPad, but will hopefully slither onto the dry, highly evolved land of PC “in time“.

Meanwhile, speaking with Polygon, Quigley explained that he left EA in part due to “the blundered launch of something that I had poured so much love and attention into,” but also because he’d been working at big studios for nearly 18 years. He wanted a change of pace, and his next big idea – what with its highly specific focus – didn’t really fit with EA’s M.O.

“This is a little too weird and science nerdy for EA… The geo-physics and biology of the early Earth struck me as a rich and interesting subject for a game. I do like science. I do like knowing what is actually happening in the world and it seems like a rich subject matter.”

“A lot of the ideas that we have about the early emergence of life on Earth were in the early development of Spore but were lost as it became a much more cute game and less a game about physical processes. Those are things that I have been wanting to get back to, to deal with that subject matter.”

Science! Also, come on: the man’s name is Ocean. From it he was born, and forever shall he be destined to simulate its most minute of hyper-complex particle physics. So it was written in The Prophecy.

Hopefully we’ll hear more (especially on the PC front) soon. For now, though, it sounds like the right move for Quigley and co, so best of luck to them.

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40 Comments »

  1. lowprices says:

    Ocean Quigley! What a name. He sounds like he solves murders in his spare time.

    More on topic: SimCity boo, simulations free from bad AAA dev nonsense yay.

    • cunningmunki says:

      “Ocean Quigley and the Case of the Missing Offline Mode”

      • lowprices says:

        “I’ve gathered you all here in the Accusing Parlour so that I may deduce the identity of the murderer using this simulation of the events that I built.”
        … Connection Lost
        “Hang on, I’ll just try again.”
        … Connection Lost
        “Hmm, the servers must be down. If everyone will kindly wait here for an hour or two, I will solve the crime once server maintenance has been completed.”

        “Couldn’t you run the simulation offline?”

        “No. Essential calculations are offloaded to the crime-servers, as well as traffic behaviour.”

      • RedViv says:

        Ocean Quigley and the Traffic Connection Murders

        • BooleanBob says:

          Ocean, Quigley and Nounforafirstname, solicitors.

          • The Random One says:

            John should name a child after him!

            Then he’d be Ocean Walker!

            As the prophecy foretold!

      • Synesthesia says:

        Where is lord custard smingleigh when one needs him? His new gig at SUSD might have made him forget about us? Could it be?

        • Gap Gen says:

          I heard he started a competing show, Pipe Down And Take A Seat.

    • Ergates_Antius says:

      Also, I somehow doubt that parents who name their offspring Ocean particularly want them to become “doctors/lawyers/mathletes”.

    • Bugamn says:

      But is this a name that will respect our pleas of No Oceans?

      • The Random One says:

        If says he’ll release his game on different dates for different parts of the world, we reply “No, Oceans.”

    • SuicideKing says:

      Ocean Quigley, Maximum Wiggly.

  2. XhomeB says:

    Great… It’s only a matter of time before Maxis joins Bullfrog, Origin and Westwood, it seems.

    • bstard says:

      I’ll drink to that. As long as the guys who used to make nice games now go indie all is well in the state of Gamesmark imo.

    • BobbyDylan says:

      I thought they did so ages ago. This was just EA playing with it’s new Defib set it got for christmas.

    • Rahdulf123 says:

      It won’t happen, sadly. Maxis is in for far worse fate – creating Sims expansions until the end of time.

    • Triplanetary says:

      Don’t forget Bioware!

  3. Pich says:

    Another one bites the dust.

  4. Muzman says:

    “Nearly everyone’s agreed that EA’s overly simplified, always-on catastrophe…”

    …that made them a tidy bit of money, from what I understand it.
    With ‘Grown Ups 2′ topping the charts as well is there incentive left to make good stuff? (was there ever?)

  5. guygodbois00 says:

    “Fortunately…”. More like: unfortunately.

  6. Danda says:

    So it’s official, even the developers admit with their departure that SimCity was an epic clusterfuck.

    This would be a good time to patch it for offline play. In that case, even I would buy it (for $10).

  7. Koozer says:

    Looks like the twenty-billionth sand variant on the iPad. (apologies to any games that came before sand). It may be better, but I am terribly cynical, especially when it comes to iOS games.

  8. BooleanBob says:

    But what were they doing during SimCity 2 and 3? That’s quite the CV gap.

  9. Bullitt says:

    I read up to the bit where you said the word ipad. gg

  10. AnotherGamingEnglishman says:

    So err… I read the title as “Grace Jelly”, and immediately assumed it was some Grace Kelly related EA jealousy pun. Then when typing Grace Kelly (y’know, to see if she had a particular tendency towards jealousy of course), I ended up typing “Grave Jelly”, which sounds morbidly wobbly.

  11. darkhog says:

    “We’re making a simulation about the dawn of life on earth; about lava, water, rock and the emergence of the first primordial creatures.””
    Sounds like SimEarth to me…

    • Doganpc says:

      Shhh, don’t make such defining statements you might wake the lawyer trolls.

  12. Trinnet says:

    That certainly sounds like a game I’d be interested in, I’m just a little leery because it’s coming from the guy at EA who was most vocally against SimCity having an offline mode.

    Ocean’s is the guy who kept calling single player experiences ‘lonely’ – it seems a bit rich for him to now be saying that what he really wants to make are nerdy simulation games.

  13. derbefrier says:

    I dunno if this is anything to be excited about. EA. May have been responsible for the drm but even if there was no drm Sim City would still be a shiity game. Seems to me they are trying to distance themselves from a failure of a game by pointing at EA and playying on peoples bias towards big publishers.

    • cocoleche says:

      But we don’t know anything about the level of EA’s involvement in the development process.

      • Baines says:

        How involved is EA going to get into the details of a simulation? Some of SimCity’s issues come from the basic design and implementation of their city simulation.

  14. engion3 says:

    They are going to make a successful game, be purchased by EA, and start the entire cycle over again.

  15. Sathure says:

    “A lot of the ideas that we have about the early emergence of life on Earth were in the early development of Spore but were lost as it became a much more cute game and less a game about physical processes.”

    Sigh.. Spore had such potential in the early preview with Will Wright where it actually tried to do some sciencey simulations.

  16. hehehe says:

    It’s like Civ V all over again. Make a mediocre dumbed down product that won’t appeal to the old player base, and quickly loses the interest of new players due to the poorly balanced and thought out game play. When nobody is happy with your game even after trying to fix it, abandon ship. Any ideas what the next beloved franchise to be revived and mishandled will be?