SimCity Is Broken, And It's Not Just the Servers

lord pickle

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Apr 9, 2009
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"I also don't want to pass judgment with an official review until SimCity plays exactly how Maxis envisioned"

-Greg Tito

That's pretty generous of you given that that EA and Maxis decided to release the game in a broken state. How is it that with a company as powerful and wealthy as EA in an industry where games are regularly pushed back in their release date to ensure this kind of bullshit doesn't happen they manage to release SimCity in this state?
 

rainbowunicorns

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May 18, 2009
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Maze1125 said:
Edit: And, as for an non-existent game being a bad analogy? Okay, here's an edited version that's entirely true:
What if, when Half-Life 2 was released on Steam and it was so popular that it literally crashed the Steam servers so no-one could download it? Would it have been appropriate to review it as "Couldn't even play the game; Rubbish. 0%"? Of course it wouldn't.
Such a review would correctly state that Steam was an unreliable service that made it impossible to play Half-Life; I'm pretty sure there actually was a lot of negative talk about Steam around that time, as it was a bad service. Whenever the reviewer could launch the game, he would then review it based on that.

Personally, I would like to see review publishers commission two reviews for a game, one for launch and one for when the game's publisher approaches them and says "Okay, the product is actually finished. Would you write our end-state review? Here's payment for the article up-front, because we know it wont drive any traffic to your site.".
 

SonOfVoorhees

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Maybe all they should do is bring out the other, better simcity game. Make its graphics better and re release that. :)
 

Slash2x

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DrunkOnEstus said:
AC10 said:
What's so threatening about a ban if you can just "be back"? To think that I've been all nice to people and upstanding for nuthin! : )

OT again: Cities XL even looks better than this. I guess all that's selling is a name in this case.
To be honest XL does look better, I was thinking of going retro now http://lincity-ng.berlios.de/wiki/index.php/Main_Page

You know what with the free game and all that ;)
 

Alcaste

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PH3NOmenon said:
Where was the newspost detailing how the SC2 servers crumbled when HotS launched?
Well, to be fair, the HotS launch was incredibly smooth. I can't find any reports of long-term issues. In fact when I searched for it, some of my results were for SimCity.


OT: Thanks for the article. Every time I get tempted, something like this brings me back down to earth. I think I'm going to go fire up 2000 again, though. I always did like that one...
 

Greg Tito

PR for Dungeons & Dragons
Sep 29, 2005
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Hey gang,

I just wanted to drop in to explain the not-review of SimCity. It was an editorial decision we made to let you know what our issues with the game are in its current state, and to warn you about what you'd be getting into if you purchased it right now. But we didn't want to cement our official opinion and score at this time. The game that's on offer is bad, which this editorial addresses, but it's not the SimCity that will exist a week from now. As with an MMO, we felt it would not serve the consumer to publish a final review until we spent enough time with the game to deliver a fully informed opinion on everything the game has to offer.

On the other hand, we felt it was necessary to point out the failings of the game now, so that you had some frame of reference as to purchasing SimCity or not. Plus, I got to be a little more damning and less even-handed than I'd have to in an official review. It was fun to write a rant. :)

Greg
 

Fasckira

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Oct 22, 2009
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RvLeshrac said:
"...not our official opinion..." As usual, while the games industry burns down around them, the 'journalists' fiddle.

The game is broken. It should be reviewed AS IT WAS RELEASED TO CONSUMERS. Anything else is base cowardice, fearing for ad revenue provided by the games industry and "exclusives."

Would you review a car the same way? "Looks nice, but we're going to hold our reviews for a month until Ford puts working engines in."

How about a restaurant? "Waiter shat on our plates, but we'll wait until the replacement meal comes out before giving you our full review."

Review. The. Damned. Game. As. Shipped.
Bit of an over-reaction.

Likely the full review later on will also cover all the problems so far but at present any review of the game will be hard pushed to avoid devolving into a rant about its issues. If a review were to be released now that covered the game and avoided talking about the problems then it'd be stoned for being biased.

Cant really refer to this as base cowardice after hes just written a two page article about all the faults in the game.
 

Fordo

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Greg Tito. Great read. Thank you for taking the time to do it. I'm one of those with great memories of SimCity as a kid, but very leery of placing myself in a position where I simply regret my purchase of SimCity.

I completely respect your opinion wanting to wait to review a game that in many ways as you point out, is broken. You rightly point out that buyers should beware at this point because while you're being gracious enough to wait to review the game (which probably would not get the average Escapist review of 4 stars* at this point) EA and Maxis are not being so generous and still selling at best a mis-handled product to consumers for full price.

Obviously The Escapist is a resource for gamers paid for at least in part with the generous support of game developers through ads for new games... I wonder if this may be part of the reason for not wanting to leave a goose egg for SimCity? I don't think that's completely the picture because most of my news on the developing EA debacle comes from this site, but it raises the idea in my mind.

-----My Rant, you can stop reading now.

It sounds like to me the downfall of SimCity is going to be promising too much. I think they could have had a much more successful release and overall gaming experience for users simply by re-framing some basic game design decisions.

If they had pushed for a SimCity like the old days where you by your lonesome are just building a huge city, and hating traffic and disasters... but mentioned all these great things you can do online with friends then maybe the server trouble would not have been so horrible. Maybe if these online features were attractive enough, people would want to be online all the time anyway.

This seems pretty logical, and other studios like valve do this very well. It makes me wonder the rationale that decided not to go this route.

What else is terrifying is how the number of sims are vastly over-stated in game. Is it a bug (and by bug, did a programmer get lazy and just write this up, or was it a design decision?), the traffic problems you show and even their traffic hot fix seems broke.

So many eyebrows raise in this game. It seems like we all in the game community have been too transfixed with the always on DRM argument, and I think what we're seeing is maybe EA/Maxis were too at the expense of some huge mechanics.
 

DTWolfwood

Better than Vash!
Oct 20, 2009
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Currently managed to have a 326K Population city that was running at a 10K/hr+ Self sufficient.

HOWEVER, the second i decided to plop a recycling plant down, it all went to shit.

And that water table is also horse shit. I'm in a city plot that had ONLY WATER as its resource, and I am running out of water. WHAT THE FUCK! >.<
 

Matthi205

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Mar 8, 2012
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Reading this article actually makes me happy that I stuck with my copy of SimCity 3000 instead of buying the new game.

How could this even get through the beta? THIS IS STUFF YOU FIX IN ALPHA, DEVELOPERS. 20 buses doesn't seem like the worst pathfinding issue I've seen, but most of the bad pathfinding I have seen was in Simutrans (and that game is freeware, so it's more or less excusable; most of them also aren't present past v100).
 

nezroy

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I don't get it; Cities XL already tried this whole city specialization/global trading schtick -- people hated it and the game died. They finally wised up and re-released it as a single player game, which is actually pretty good. Quite arrogant of EA to think they could ram the same stupid mechanic down our throats again in spite of how badly it went over the first time. Even more-so to think they could do it with a game that isn't even half as finished as Cities XL was at launch.
 

Triaed

Not Gone Gonzo
Jan 16, 2009
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-Pretty thorough for a not-a-review.
-What makes an "official" review anyway?
-Who says the testers didn't find the bugs? (Scary thought)
-Reviewing a game when "[a game] plays exactly how [the developer] envisioned" is unrealistic. I think reviewers should review the games that they got, developers should be reviewed by the game they released to the market (not on some utopic perfectionist dream), and gamers should get an honest opinion of the game they bought or are considering to buy as it is on the shelf, not as it may become in some unnamed future.

All in all, thank you for your opinion, Greg!
 

Rattja

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Dec 4, 2012
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They lost me at "no terraforiming", everything else just added to it. If I want to simulate a town in a vally, I should be able to do that like...you know, the prevoius games?

They first made sim city, and people liked it.
They took that game, added to it and made another, and people loved it.
They then added more and more to the original idea and it became legendary.
They then scrapped the whole thing and made something different with the same name... whyyyyyy?

I... just don't get it.

Also, I am getting quite fed up with all this new and fancy stuff everywhere. Yes it may sound nice and all, and it kinda looks cool, but you know what I have learned by working with electronics?
The more complex something gets, the more likely it is to not work or break down, and then Murphy's law comes into play.

I just want things to work, every time all the time, and do only what they are supposed to do.
Like a console, should be for playing games, that's it.
This game should be a about building, that's it.

But then again, that's just my opinion, and as far as I am aware it's not worth much.
 

rayen020

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No that isn't how it works. YOU ARE A JOURNALIST, act like one. You don't report what the company wants when the company tells you it fixed everything. You don't wait for DLC to fix everything. THIS IS THE GAME THEY RELEASED, that is what you review. They beta test for a reason, if they didn't it's not your fault. If the game sucks, then it sucks, and YOU as a JOURNALIST are duty bound to tell the public who you are supposed to INFORM that it sucks. THIS IS NOT AN EDITORIAL and it should not be treated as such. IT IS A REVIEW and you should be unafraid to say it. IF THE GAME IS BROKEN YOU HAVE TO TELL US. THAT IS YOUR JOB!

If you want to go work for the PR department at EA go do that. Then you can tell everyone when the game is perfect and they can play it. You can tell us when the path finding is fixed. You can announce that subways are being added for $15 DLC. But as far as i know you work for the Escapist, a game news and review site. An internet magazine, informing your viewers of news of issues within our community that need to be addressed. You Review a games and inform us what to expect and whether it is IN YOUR OPINION, worth the money we will spend on it, that is what a review is. And you review games when they are released. Games are supposed to be released when the developer have put their time and labor and vision on the screen. If this is what was released it is their vision. this is what they envisioned and that is what you review.

You wrote a good review except for the parts where you said it isn't a review. that what it was. They released a broken game, and you have told us in news stories. now tell us in review form, like you just did.
 

Shamanic Rhythm

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Dec 6, 2009
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You hit the nail on the head. The pathing issues may well be fixed in time, although the way buses and cars can just randomly hold up traffic suggests that they gave each individual vehicle a collision detection system, an absurdly over-the-top way of implementing a traffic model. Wouldn't it be simpler to just measure the traffic volumes on each road and use that to simulate congestion, as per the old Sim Cities? When you think about stuff like this, it's no wonder the city size had to be so small. The game would just grind to a halt trying to cope with everything otherwise.

Moreover, adding commodity trading to Sim City is not a bad idea in of itself, but modelling it so that you are actively paying for the entire thing is just stupid. A good city simulation is founded upon a proper model of revenue via taxation. That means that in order to make your city turn a profit, you have to spend money to stimulate growth via which you will recoup money in taxation. The idea then is to encourage players to find a 'sweet spot' in between development and taxation where you don't tax so much that you stifle or even retard growth, but you return a surplus that can fund further development: which ultimately has the effect of helping you develop a well-oiled city.

Having to actively pay for commodity development stuffs this whole model up. It shifts you from playing the 'recoup income via taxation' game to a 'make income exceed expenditure' game. These are not the same thing. Commodity trading is a fairly simple thing to simulate from the perspective of what you can influence: you only have to contend with aspects like set up costs and diminishing returns. The other main thing that affects this simulation are market prices: and this is generally entirely out of your control. Which means that it becomes far less engaging and downright annoying to play when you invest everything into production of a commodity and its price plummets, throwing your bottom line completely out of whack.

By contrast, the taxation based revenue model of a simulation is brilliant fun to play because, when done properly, you are always crossing new thresholds where you might unbalance everything. You can build a great city returning a surplus and then find that you have a traffic problem which requires you to build a subway or new highway to solve it. Because the cost of these investments is always huge, it means you have to plan carefully how you roll it out, so that it effectively pays for itself as you go. Putting in such a system in a poorly implemented way means that you can suddenly find your city in the red again. But you know what? At the end of the day, these are all down to YOUR decisions. This is what makes a good city simulation fun. If you mess part of it up, you learn from it, and as you spend more time tinkering with the simulation you come to really understand how to make it work.

Simcity 2000 and Simcity 4 were just so good that I want to force my local government members to play them, so that they might actually understand how town planning works (instead of just: 'Hey! Let's greenlight development across every part a huge area and not connect it up properly, and when we aren't making enough money we can just raise the cost of rates and parking!'). Sim City 5 simply does not live up to that same pedigree.
 

shrekfan246

Not actually a Japanese pop star
May 26, 2011
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Maze1125 said:
All these "review the game as shipped" comments are absurd.
What if Half-Life 3 was released on Steam and it was so popular that it literally crashed the Steam servers so no-one could download it? Would it be appropriate to review it as "Couldn't even play the game; Rubbish. 0%"? Of course it wouldn't.
Not to mention the fact that you get situations like Alpha Protocol (I'm not sure if the majority of the bugs have been patched by now or not, though) and Gothic 3, where they clearly get blasted down in reviews for bugs that won't even be issues a year or two down the road. Yeah, personal opinions, blah blah blah, but those were games that had "bugs" mentioned in an overwhelming number of reviews as some of the few negatives, and with proper support from the developers (or fans, as the case may be) that wouldn't even be a problem later. But anybody looking to check out the game a few years later is going to just see all of the old reviews saying it's a bug-ridden mess.
 

mfeff

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lord pickle said:
"I also don't want to pass judgment with an official review until SimCity plays exactly how Maxis envisioned"

-Greg Tito

That's pretty generous of you given that that EA and Maxis decided to release the game in a broken state. How is it that with a company as powerful and wealthy as EA in an industry where games are regularly pushed back in their release date to ensure this kind of bullshit doesn't happen they manage to release SimCity in this state?
Lucy Bradshaw said 4 days ago:

Bradshaw: Of course I'm going to say yes, they should raise their scores . The reviews are up the reviewers. The most we can do is build something we think is truly special, that will excite and exhilarate players. We know we did that here, I think many of the reviewers see that too. Look, it would have been easy for more reviewers to just tank us with the connectivity issues we had. But they didn't. They want a chance to see the game in action, and I thank them for that, thank them for giving us a chance. I hope they'll be so happy with what they see that they'll want to give it the high score it deserves.
I believe I recall her saying that Maxis was proud of what they had made... so on and so forth... that being said... for my money, what is in the box, playing on your rig, today, now, is "the vision". Personally the issue I am seeing is that folk seem to think that Simcity is a city simulator.

It is not. Not even close.

Best to think of it as a "ball bearing" and "magnet" distribution game where polarity is changed at timing intervals. The whole "game" runs on this system of acquiring bb via charge and shunting them from point to point. It is a very mechanical system, not intelligent.

I have doubts if the development team even knows how to go about overhauling it. Either the code was an early build of some other project, perhaps used to test other aspects like animations, or shoplifted wholesale from a completely unrelated project or product.

Considering the high java leverage, I suspect Sim City Social/Societies or maybe even SpaceChem or related work.

Going forward I expect more reductions in vehicles and piddling with streetcar systems... consequently the first reduction should dramatically impact university utility as a consequence of tinkering with systems not clearly understood. Expect some feed-backs in the game play itself which will in turn have to patched again... and again... every patch making the game smaller and smaller.

Though considering the OP of this article didn't know Cheetah was a staple of the series, much like a Chocobo of final fantasy, I seriously doubt he knows enough to write an in depth review of this product.

As an aside, perhaps Maxis and EA themselves are a bit delusional about what it is they have actually produced... because it is no where near what they claimed it to be, such as with regional and national management and product levels. A sort of multiplayer Tropico 3/4.

All these systems seem vestigial in the code base, telling me the thing was rushed out the door. The fab plants as an example as well as one or two other buildings are critical to any strategy. However, they seem intentionally broken to adjust for a late game missing national management or import and export. It all seems very "half way" done.

If they keep at it... maybe they are a "year" away from anything resembling mmo status on this product. It's "in it", but never implemented in the release build.

Interesting post by the by, just thought I would chime in... take it easy.
 

Lieju

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Jan 4, 2009
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rayen020 said:
No that isn't how it works. YOU ARE A JOURNALIST, act like one. You don't report what the company wants when the company tells you it fixed everything. You don't wait for DLC to fix everything. THIS IS THE GAME THEY RELEASED, that is what you review. They beta test for a reason, if they didn't it's not your fault. If the game sucks, then it sucks, and YOU as a JOURNALIST are duty bound to tell the public who you are supposed to INFORM that it sucks. THIS IS NOT AN EDITORIAL and it should not be treated as such. IT IS A REVIEW and you should be unafraid to say it. IF THE GAME IS BROKEN YOU HAVE TO TELL US. THAT IS YOUR JOB!
Which is what he did.

Isn't this kind of situation the same as playing a game only for the first few hours?

True, if the beginning sucks, and doesn't make you want to play the game, it's the fault of the people making the game, but the reviewer wouldn't be reviewing the whole experience.

If the game has a really bad launch, or a bad first act, they really do deserve to get flak about it, but those issues shouldn't be the only thing you mention in your review.

For the record, I find releasing a game in this kind of a state completely unacceptable, but if I wrote a review about it, I'd like to be able to get an idea of what they were trying to do, and how the game plays without the connection issues.