Wednesday, 13 March 2013

SimCity: Top or Flop?


The dust has (almost) settled after a somewhat troubled SimCity launch. Those who have purchased are just about able to play without interruption now, 8 days after the official release.

The launch was plagued with server connection problems, effectively meaning that due to the 'always online' nature of the game, nobody was able to play it! In the rare case that someone was able to get onto a server and create a city, it appeared that once the connection to the server was dropped for longer than 10 minutes, their progress was lost.

EA continued to add servers to their armoury until they finally reached almost double the amount that SimCity originally launched with. A seemingly grave miscalculation was made regarding the sheer number of users that would attempt to login. Either that or they'd written inefficient server side code which was bottlenecking their systems.

The sales of the game was pulled briefly from Amazon's stores stating that EA was struggling to cope with the number of users attempting to play. EA have attempted an apology by stating everyone would registered before March 18th would receive a 'free game' from their portfolio. What this means we don't quite know just yet (personally I'd love Crysis 3).


I'll try not to be too harsh on EA/Maxis here. In essence, the game isn't bad. It does very much feel like you are playing your standard city sim. A few things they seemed to either miss out or execute badly were the following:

Individual Zoning - You no longer control your zoning by creating three separate sub-zones, instead your sims decide, based on surroundings, which areas are suitable for higher development and/or wealth. You can have high density but low wealth areas with large apartments, for instance.

Water Pipes/Power Lines - There are none! So long as you are connected up to a road, your city with be provided with your utilities. I would have liked to see perhaps an option to turn this on/off for a new city, to at least enable you to decide whether you wanted to be an all out anal city planner.

City Size - They should have named this SimVillage, as that's honestly what it feels like at times. It's nowhere near to the scale of SimCity4, for instance. Allegedly they wanted 'every PC' to be able to play it. I call them out on that though. Word on the street is that EA will charge you more for a DLC so you can build 'larger cities'. I can hardly say I didn't expect it from them.

Unit pathing - Cars with always take the shortest route, period. They really will. You can create a long winding highway, yet they will still be adamant on taking the dirt road to work. An incredibly irritating situation as you have to make sure your city can cope with it! My advice would be to work towards public transport as soon as you can!!

Offline play! - You flat out can't play this game offline, forget creating cities on those long flights over the Atlantic, it's not going to happen. The game must be connected to EA's servers at all times, if it detects a drop in connection for over 10 minutes, it will close down and you will lose your progress. The fact that you can carry on playing for 10 minutes without interruption almost proves that the game can quite suitably function in offline mode. Rumours are that it can actually be played as an offline game, EA just won't allow it.

So, what have they added, you might ask?

Online play! - You are able to create your cities within regions (which can hold up to 16 or so 'city' grids within them). What this means is that friends can create cities next to yours, allowing for sharing of resources, public services, utilities. This can be handy if you are just creating a new city and need power or fire truck support on the cheap.

Depth of play - I won't go into the details too much, but there seems to be a large amount more depth to the game with regards to building types and progress paths. You can advance various cities within a region to work towards 'Great Works' goals, for instance a large solar array to provide power to the cities in the region.


I'm not 100% happy with the game as it stands, perhaps that will change in futures patches. That is of course assuming EA bother to actually patch it! (Can you sense the sour taste that's been left in my mouth?) I would really like to forgive them for it, but I'm not sure what it would take for me to do that. It's not just me they would have to appease either, the majority of the gaming community was in outrage.

Taking that aside, the game itself isn't so bad, make the cities larger, give me offline play (perhaps allow syncing to servers and claiming city grids when connected, for instance, to allow for them to retain their 'multiplayer' aspect they keep harping on about) and I'd be happy with it.

Pushing the anger from the server issues slightly aside and thinking with a clear head, I'll give it a 7.5/10, not quite a Top, not quite a Flop. I'm not sure whether they will keep it updated or pull through with their promises but only time will tell. I will say one thing though, I'm glad I only paid £25 for my version.


Edit: Since writing the article another news report has come to light, showing the use of SimCity offline. To say I'm disappointed in EA/Maxis is an understatement.

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