Have You Played? is an endless stream of game retrospectives. One a day, every day of the year, perhaps for all time.
RPS Feature Still fun
RPS Feature Pretty pictures
You might have noticed all your friends’ avatars and profile pictures turning into comic book drawings or impressionistic paintings over the last few weeks. That’s because of Prisma, a photo editing app for iOS and Android that let’s you apply a couple of dozen filters to images you feed it. The app goes further than simply messing with the hue like Instagram does, using a process similar to Google Deep Dream to warp and twist photographs – without shoving fucked up dogs in every corner.
I spent last night feeding it game screenshots, to find out what No Man’s Sky, Half-Life 2, SimCity and more would look like if their artists abandoned realism.
Oh man, this is a sad day. Former staff today reported – later confirmed by EA – that the heart of Maxis, the studio behind The Sims & Sim City, is to be ripped out. While satellite studios in Redwood Shores, Salt Lake City, Helsinki and Melbourne remain, the Emeryville headquarters was Maxis as we knew it. It’s had a chequered recent history, particularly with regard to the most recent SimCity, but without a doubt this was a legendary developer.
I dream of a city: dense, apartment blocks and tight terraces, lots of parks, even more trees, great public transport, by a river or lake with forest nearby. I skipped last year’s SimCity for obvious reasons but would like to build this dream in it, coo and aah as it bursts into an unconvincing simulation of life, then probably stop after, say, four hours.
Well gosh golly, as luck would have it that’s exactly how long the newly-released demo offers.
In a final [humiliating capitulation]/[act of goodwill and community empowerment] Maxis will today release SimCity’s offline mode, freeing city builders everywhere from the terrifying fear that a cleaner at the Origin data center will accidentally unplug the servers as he hoovers up the hopes and dreams of the developers. At the time of writing (lunchtime on Tuesday the 18th), the servers are down as the game prepares for the update that will mean the next time the servers are down, you’ll be able to play.
Beneath a mess of half-baked systems and massively detrimental online requirements, SimCity actually had some pretty cool ideas. Simulation of individual people and entities? Community options for those who want them? Curved roads? All interesting stuff on paper. Unfortunately, the reality of Maxis’ latest city builder failed (rather miserably) to live up to those promises, and Maxis has been struggling to build something workable from the pieces ever since. Enter Citybound. Its goal? To construct a city sim from the ground-up with a focus on single-player, out-of-the-not-a-box moddability, and simulating a truly sizable geographical region – not an itsy bitsy ant hill town. Also curved roads. Always curved roads.
RPS Feature Not Exactly What We Wanted To Hear
I recently attended the D.I.C.E. Summit in Las Vegas (which is not related to game developer DICE, actually), and there I interviewed the entire gaming industry. OK, that’s not entirely true, largely because many D.I.C.E. attendees spontaneously break out into hives if anybody so much as mentions the word “indie.” But still, I talked to a whole mess of people. I encountered EA chief creative officer Rich Hilleman on an award show red carpet, so time for chit-chat was brief. Given recent events, however, I had to ask: what’s the deal with EA and hideously botched launches on games like Battlefield 4 and SimCity? And while Hilleman (very vaguely) promised change, I found his response more than a little upsetting. Read on and see what you think.
After months upon months of sidestepping the issue, EA and Maxis have finally seen fit to give SimCity an offline option. Victory! At least, for folks still soldiering on with the beleaguered and – to be perfectly honest – not terribly interesting city builder. But while we wait for modders to laugh off Maxis’ suffocatingly stringent guidelines and finally make the game great, some questions still need answering. Foremost among them, why the not-so-sudden about-face when the company once claimed that separating SimCity from its precious servers would be nearly impossible? According to the developer, it’s because rewriting the simulation to function offline took nearly six-and-a-half months of hard work.
Good news! In a post on the official SimCity blog, Maxis have confirmed that an offline mode is on its way. The new mode is currently in closed beta testing, with promises that it’ll roll out to everyone in Update 10. Maxis first mentioned they were working on the mode last October, although RPS threw sand on the initial claims that offline mode was prohibitively difficult just days after the game was out.
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This might be the wrong crowd for this, but I thought the recent SimCity was a good game. I’m looking forward to playing the Cities of Tomorrow expansion. I’m glad it’s out today, and I like this intro trailer.
Come on Rock, Paper, Shotgun. Want to fight me? Let’s take this below.
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In case you hadn’t heard/forgot/suffered from such a severe case of apathy that you did the human brain equivalent of a driver rollback, SimCity is going to the future. Yeah, it’s still gonna be tethered to the Internet’s infinite, un-flinching tangle of roots, but at least now you’ll have hover tech, environmentally friendly mega-towers, and curvy utopia buildings to compliment all your curved roads. Also, choking sink holes of pollution and corporate control, if a new video walkthrough of a potential city setup is any indication. Omega is a new resource that everyone and their ant-sized, Simlish-barking dog wants, and OmegaCo’s job is to build factories and franchises while also making sure we know its iron-fisted execs really, really liked Blade Runner.
Believe it or not – despite EA and Maxis’ insistence on constant connection – SimCity has mods. Due to a lack of official tools, they’re not particularly elaborate, but people have managed to tinker around under the simplified simulation’s hunkered down hood. Before now, however, Maxis didn’t really acknowledge, well, any of it. But now, it appears that the developer has had a change of heart. It’s hoping to open up a dialogue with modders on its official forums, which is good news! Er, kinda. Problem is, there are still no plans for mod tools, and Maxis has no intention of letting modders change whatever they want.
NEWSFLASH: SimCity still isn’t very good. It mostly functions now, but that doesn’t mean it’s particularly deep or enjoyable. But time has healed part of a wound, so maybe more of it will stitch up the rest? That, I suppose, is the idea behind upcoming expansion SimCity: Cities of Tomorrow, which takes your buzzing metropolis 50 years into the fuuuuuuuuuture. Will this bring it forward (or, I suppose, back) into the Good Ages? Time – as ever – will tell.
Once bitten, and bitten, and bitten, twice shy, it seems at Maxis. After their utterly stupid and inherently selfish decision to artificially force SimCity to be always online, and then lie about why, it seems this time out they’ve decided not to push their luck. Sims 4, the PC and Mac-only release (I can’t see that lasting – surely 3DS, Vita and next-gen ports will eventually appear?) will play one hundred percent offline, according to a report from VG247.
RPS Feature Silence Will Fall
Hello, and welcome to an irregular update on The Silence. The technique publishers use when they want a story to go away. Rather than responding to press enquiries, they instead pretend they haven’t happened, or send prevaricating nonsense which ultimately goes nowhere. So, RPS figures, let’s not let that work. Let’s keep bringing stuff back up, reminding people about it, and letting their silence be a thorn in the publishers’ sides. Today it’s EA, Ubisoft and Deep Silver.
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.
Oh, SimCity. Its launch was far from smooth and yet the powers that be now believe it would be wise to unmoor a series of airships, allowing them to drift into the skies above the game’s colourful sort-of-simulated neighbourhoods. The blimps and balloons cost $8.99, which seems expensive, but at least they don’t have giant adverts printed on the side. I must admit, I was concerned that SimCity might receive a series of pricey add-ons that actually improved the game, making its meager municipal offering rather more sinister, an intentionally hobbled creation awaiting a costly cure-all. In a way, this gust of hot air is preferable. Video below!
RPS Feature Sticking your fingers in your ears helps too.
Why has the SimCity story gone away? It’s a good question. And the answer for it reveals much about how both the games industry, and the games journalism industry, work.
Good news! SimCity‘s gotten a potentially substantial piece of DLC, and it’s totally free. Bad news! It’s a gigantic ad for car company Nissan. Worse news! Its in-game functionality seems to make your city planning decisions even less consequential than before, which is quite a feat. Worst news! SimCity isn’t a very good game at all, even with its online issues mostly cleared up. Contrary opinion! This is one seemingly asinine move I think we should only partially leap down EA’s throat for. So maybe, like, just put in one leg. And do it kind of gently. Avoid the teeth, if you can.
RPS Feature Road Squalor
We’ve had quite a lot to say about SimCity but I haven’t told you wot I think yet. I posted my initial impressions two weeks ago, feeling like I’d only just scratched the surface. I’ve been scratching away since then, off and on, and now I’m ready to tell you what lies beneath.