SimCity Launches.. And There Are Queues.

SimCity has launched in the US, and there are 30 minute queues to get in and play.  The game doesn’t even unlock in Europe for another three days, so unless EA hurry up and add more servers, this is only going to get worse.

Sim City

Not only that, but there are reports of people struggling to get their game to unlock in the first place, due to server problems within distribution service Origin.

EA have clearly learned nothing from Diablo III’s launch.  They’ve been gathering pre-orders, and should have been able to estimate how many people would playing in the first few days especially – who pre-orders a game and then DOESN’T play at launch?

The gaming press have all held back from properly reviewing the game this far.  Press access via quiet test servers wouldn’t be at all representative of the experience on busy servers at launch, with cities interacting with others.  From those articles, though: solo play in a private Region lacks the interaction with others and isn’t much fun.. but when you do have neighbours, their actions could ruin your city, as everything is so interactive.  Personally, that’d mean I play in a region with friends only, so I didn’t face somebody deliberately spoiling the game for me.

There’s also the issue of the restrictively small cities, which was one of the biggest complaints by players in the open beta, too.  Sure, there’s more detail to be found in this game than the previous versions, but if it feels cramped when you’re playing, then it is too small.

Sim City Small Cities

Inc Gamers had an interview with Maxis’ Creative Director Ocean Quigley, who said that the small city size was a decision made to improve performance.. as they wanted the game to be able to run on high-end PCs but also “in your Dad’s PC as well”.

Hoping “Dad’s PC” has a decent internet connection then!  Also.. I thought they’d claimed the always-on DRM was required because the EA servers were going to do some of the work? 😉

Quigley did say that they’d “eventually get around to expanding the city size but I can’t make any promises as to when.”, which I guess most people will take to mean some kind of Larger Cities DLC in the future.  EA’s plan for microtransactions in every game comes to mind again, too.. maybe players will be asked for real money to “Expand City Limits”.

I was really excited when I heard that Sim City was on the way.  It looked great and sounded even better.. specialised cities, intelligent Sims, the Glassbox Simulation Engine meaning there’d be consequences for your actions.  Interaction with other cities sounded interesting, too.. team up with friends, deal with challenges by rival cities, and so on.
But then came the news of the always-on DRM.  I have a mostly-stable internet connection at the moment, but it hasn’t always been the case.. we had four weeks without internet when we moved house.  Diablo III suffers from always-on DRM.. I couldn’t play during launch week thanks to Error 37 and then unplayable lag.  Even now, my first fight after loading is a lagfest every single time, and I’m thrown out of the game when my connection so much as hiccups.  Always-on DRM put me off buying Ubisoft products.. it put off quite a few other people too, and Ubisoft eventually removed the always-on requirement for their PC games.I don’t like always-on DRM, or the fudging of single-player games with publishers claiming the game is “not single-player” because you can invite others into the game.  Why not just let me choose to go online if I want to play with others, and stay offline when I want to play alone?  Oh, that’s right.. it’s “fighting piracy” or “attributing portions of the computing to EA servers”.
Despite all that, I still wanted a great Sim City game.  I was going to delay my purchase till the price had come down, and maybe wait for a Game of the Year edition.  However,  after seeing Sim City suffering from the same launch problems as Diablo III, I’m having second thoughts about picking it up at all.  The servers will probably be quieter in six months, but I really wouldn’t put it past EA to start retiring servers after that as the demand goes down, and later shutting them down entirely when they decide there isn’t enough profit or when they want to push everybody to the next game.
Once the EA servers are turned off, you won’t be able to play this game at all.

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