As most of you probably know by now, Sim City’s launch hasn’t exactly gone smoothly. To be honest, it’s been a downright disaster, even worse than Diablo III’s infamous “Error 37” fiasco. Though I’m certain the game might eventually find redemption somewhere down the road, for the time being it’s a complete botch job. A lot of people are trying to figure out what went wrong – and most of them are pointing to a single factor (the shoddy DRM EA saddled the title with). In truth, it’s actually a touch more complicated than that.
It’s not one factor which led to the game’s downfall. It was a perfect cocktail of factors, the ultimate result of which we got a nearly unplayable, unfinished mess instead of the crowning achievement of a masterwork franchise.
Always-Online Doesn’t Work
Although I said that the always-online requirement wasn’t the only reason the game failed, it was still the primary reason. You’d think developers would have learned this after Ubisoft’s uPlay went south. You’d think developers would have learned that after Diablo III. You’d think so…but apparently they still haven’t. Requiring a constant network connection for a single-player game is one of the worst forms of DRM you can possibly saddle a title with, and represents the epitome of punishing legitimate customers for the fact that software pirates exist.
EA did pretty much everything wrong in this department. They failed to adequately prepare their servers, they failed to keep on top of things with their own DRM, and they failed at realizing that if they penalize their customers for the actions of others, people aren’t going to be impressed.
The AI isn’t Up to Snuff
As it turns out, the civilian AI in Simcity isn’t all it’s cracked up to be: it doesn’t accurately represent population growth, workers are deleted when their workplace is destroyed, no Sim actually has a permanent residence or workplace, the game doesn’t properly handle death in the citizen population, Sims are randomly generated and don’t persist. The simulation of citizens in other words, is something of a farce – it’s more like a random number generator than a true system of artificial intelligence.
There are too many Glitches
Let’s talk about roads for a moment – specifically, the way they function with Sims and pathfinding. That is to say…traffic jams are incredibly frequent, and sometimes the entire infrastructure of a city can be broken down and jammed up by a single car. Buildings clip onto roads, which are misshapen and distorted, and firefighters/city officials will often simply stand on top of buildings, milling about listlessly and doing absolutely nothing productive.
City Size is Restrictive
Although Maxis evidently plans to increase city size – eventually – at the moment, cities are so small that they feel restrictive. The Glassbox Engine feels as though it’s compressed players into a literal glass box, trapping them in a tiny faux of a city where their infrastructure is severely limited. Whether it was a conscious decision on the part of the developer or a result of the engine’s own limitations is currently up in the air – the only thing that’s clear is that the cities at the moment are just too bloody small.
The Developers Lied
SimCity is embroiled in a web of lies – this somehow makes everything else on this list sting even more. There were all these promises made about Simcity by EA and Maxis, all these grand, sweeping details they swore would be incorporated into the title, and few – if any – of these promises were delivered on. Worse, the CEO of Maxis actually had the gall to come out and insist that the title needed to stay online because of the Glassbox Engine – all while apologizing for the server issues. This was only a few days after a Maxis employee revealed that the Glassbox Engine could very easily run itself off of a user’s own processing power – the fact that the game can run for twenty minutes offline is telling enough.
If the folks at Maxis and EA could simply own up to their mistakes, and admit to the deception, it might calm the ire of fans a bit. As it is…it’s like they’re simply rubbing salt in the wounds SimCity has caused.
EA is the Publisher
Let’s be honest – if anyone else was the publisher, would we have raised as big a stink about it as we did? Would everyone still be griping about it? Yes, it would be a catastrophe. Yes, it would be a public relations disaster, and yes, everyone would be extremely pissed off…but one can’t help but wonder if the fact that EA was behind the title exerted at least some subtle influence over the backlash.