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.