SimCity: I Don’t Care About the Controversy


I Like Having Control.

Unfortunately, SimCity, the new game from EA and Maxis, doesn’t care about that. There I was tending to my flourishing metropolis, until I realized I had surrendered almost 6 hours, against my will, to the game. Well played SimCity. It’s a good thing I don’t have many friends.

If you’re familiar with the series, then, in a general sense, you already know what the game is about. For the uninitiated, it is a simulation where you go about creating a city from scratch and look after your citizens (Sims). As the mayor of your nascent city, you are in charge of all decision-making (e.g. from utilities and industry to tourism and education). It’s beautifully complex and it’s treat to watch your creation grow from a lowly town to a digital urban concrete jungle. The fun lies in the constant management of every little detail. Everything action has a reaction, and things can get out of hand pretty quickly if you’re not careful. Without a doubt, you will fail. But this is a game that rewards trial and error. You feel frustrated at your ineptness and lack of planning, and so you try again and again until you finally get it right. It’s truly a game that keeps on rewarding you and refuses to get stale.

Much Ado About Nothing

Sadly, the game’s launch (March 5 2013)  has not been a fairytale. It has been marred by server side issues, which have left players unable to play. This is due to the insistence of EA and Maxis for the game to always be connected to the Internet. As expected, this has left a foul taste in the mouths of many consumers who have issued an Internet fatwa on EA and called for the game to have a singleplayer option free of the iniquitous DRM.

I can appreciate the uproar, but I can’t respect it. First of all, I believe that the game should be available to play offline (e.g. your connection fails or their servers go down). On the flipside, I have no issue with the game being connected all the time. Play any game on STEAM (without turning it to offline mode) and your game is constantly connected to the Internet. Surprisingly enough nobody demands Valve’s head on a platter. One reason is because Valve is an industry darling and gives the option to the player on whether they wish to play in a connected state. The other reason is that hating on EA is “cool”. I’m quite confident that most people bitching over the net about this are from the same highly intelligent sect that voted EA as the “Worst Company in America”. Seriously? None of the banks came to mind?

At the end of the day, EA is a company. Like any public company they make errors in judgment. I don’t think anyone would have had a shit fit if the launch was flawless. Fortunately, EA and Maxis have owned up and admitted their shortsightedness and they have apologised. Hell, they’ve even offered gamers a free game from EA’s vast catalogue. At least it’s not as bad as the Aliens: Colonial Marines debacle that went unanswered.

The Core Experience

What I’m trying to say is that maybe it’s time to move on. It’s been a week and things are starting to look up. People are getting into the game and enjoying themselves, and this is why I didn’t jump on the “Hate EA” bandwagon.

I was fortunate enough to get into the game on the first and start playing with no issues. I was absolutely blown away with the depth and detail in the game. The beauty of the layer maps is awe inspiring, especially as your city gets bigger. How deep you want to go is entirely up to you. There is an insane amount of statistics and calculations playing out on and off-screen. The cities you create don’t exist in a vacuum anymore and it feels like they are an important cog part in a bigger machine. Initially, I was a little disappointed with the division of regions into cities with limited areas. Playing the game I became more aware that “density” is the name of the game, and that  to succeed means being able to play the long game across multiple cities. It’s a more realistic and challenging approach which works really well and makes you think about the various placements and choices that the player makes.

The graphics are rich, the music is appropriately cute and the memories are everlasting. Possibly my favorite is just sitting back and watching my Sims go about their lives makes me feel like some kind of God (yes, I have a  complex). I imagine my Sims asking the same questions in their virtual world as we would about our existence in the real one…unless this world is also a simulation.

Of course, it isn’t flawless. There are a few glitches which I am sure will get ironed out as patches start to roll out. For instance, I had some issues with workers travelling between my two cities with no jobs being filled up. Also, striking the right balance between industry and residence zoning seems like an improbable task. There were also some issues with my cities not being able to purchase excess power from other cities. Finally, as I said before, the lack of an offline singleplayer option is a negative, but I can understand what Maxis was trying to achieve. I imagine that once the issues are rectified, the game will truly come into its own.

Let Go of The Hate

In closing, I would recommend not to give up on this game. You would only be doing yourself a disservice by denying yourself endless hours of fun. Furthermore, don’t rely on a vocal minority as your source of information for the game. Judge it for yourself. I guarantee you will not be disappointed. The connectivity issues will be ironed out by this week, and  the core gameplay will only continue to improve.  It’s a lot more fun and enriching than all the unfounded and immature prattle about hating on a company that has, in essence, not really done anything to violate your gaming freedom. How they want to sell/protect/create/run their product is their choice. Whether you want to be a part of is still your choice.

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8 thoughts on “SimCity: I Don’t Care About the Controversy

    • For me, the apology is the fact that they came out and admitted that they messed up with the whole server issue. A “dumb” move on their part. This was admitted by Lucy Bradshaw in her update in reference to the situation. (http://www.simcity.com/en_US/blog/article/a-simcity-update-and-something-for-your-trouble). I was not bothered as much as others with the server issues and really enjoy the game. I can appreciate that other people might want something more serious in the way of an apology, so each to their own I suppose.

      Personally, I feel that they are doing a good job trying to get a product they believe in up to scratch and getting people in the game. More importantly, they are communicating with their fans and those affected, which is more than most companies do. As for the DRM and always online, that’s their decision and it’s not something I feel violated about.

      • It’s not the DRM always on-line that bothers me. What bothers me is their attitude in the aftermath of this. A simple “We’re sorry” would have gone a long way with many people, but instead people faced hours of silence after purchasing a game they couldn’t play; and as the anger continued to grow and requests for refunds were made, stonewalling and threats of banning people’s accounts.

        #EAcustomerservicefail

      • I completely understand what you;re getting at. However, you make it sound like people were completely in the dark for weeks on end. The game came out on the 5th and today is the 10th. If you were following the forums on the day of release, then you should have seen Maxis/EA reps attending to the issues and trying to figure stuff out. I’m confident that they were trying to figure out exactly what went wrong before addressing the public. They weren’t sitting on their asses hoping this will all blow over. They were knee deep in trying to fix their error-one which they admitted to.

        Moreover, Lucy Bradshaw (Maxis head) came out with two blog posts addressing the issues and even took part in an hour long Twitter discussion. The latter takes a lot of courage to do, especially when everyone is out for blood. From what I have heard, she was very forthcoming and it went a long way towards appeasing people. So, win less than a week the company has almost sorted out the disastrous launch.

        On the topic of banning people, a lot of that is conjecture and more EA bloodletting. I would imagine only the most vehement critics (e.g. those spilling bile in the forums and not being constructive with their critique) were threatened with bans. It could also be a case of an overworked moderator with something to prove. As far as refunds go, well I believe that the digital business model should allow for such things in an effortless way. However, asking for a refund because you couldn’t connect to the game on the first day, or if someone was too stupid to realize that this was an online game (advertised as such), then I feel no sympathy for those who can’t take the time to make an informed purchase.

        All I’m saying is that yes hearts were burned and minds were lost. But now this is going into extra innings mostly due to the media that wants to get more hits on their websites. They might not have come out right away and said “I’m sorry”, but they have apologized in their own way (better late than never?). In fact, they’ve come a long way from the launch day disaster. Get over it and enjoy the game. Did I tell you it’s fantastic? 😉

  1. “they’ve even offered gamers a free game from EA’s vast catalogue.”

    Is there a link to that? I would love a free game from EA.

  2. Very well said Dan 🙂 and perfectly written. Oh and by the way good reference in ACM and I’m still waiting for an answer to that.

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