in Review


The new version of SimCity makes a lot of really interesting design decisions, including one that has basically ruined the game. That is the developer Maxis’ choice to make the game require an Internet connection at all times. According to them, this choice was made so that they could offload a lot of the heavy calculations to their servers, and because this SimCity has a multiplayer focus, the first game in the series to do so. This choice has turned out to be devastating, as we go into the second weekend of the game’s lifecycle the servers still have not completely recovered from what has been the most disastrous launch probably in the history of the industry.

When SimCity launched at midnight, there had been no preload offered to those who preordered the game. So immediately people experienced server issues connecting to Origin and downloading the game, with some people being told straight up they couldn’t download yet. It turned out that didn’t even matter, really, because the SimCity servers were also getting hit so hard you couldn’t really play anyway. Unlike many online games, SimCity didn’t have queues for servers, instead you got a 20 minute timer, followed by a brief shot at connecting, before you were returned to the timer. It was terrible. And it went on for days.

Eventually more servers were opened and the waits disappeared… With a price. Several key features of the game, including the ability to speed up time, which is critical for making later stages of the game less tedious, were disabled. An unprecedented move, I believe. Since this has all happened, we’ve gotten apologies from EA and Maxis, and the promise of a free game next week to show just how sorry they are. Sure, the issues will be ironed out soon enough and SimCity will probably go on to live a happy life, but is the game under all this mess worth it?

I think so. You have to understand the design ideology here, because it’s a bit different from other SimCity games. Don’t go into this expecting to just make one all-encompassing city. That’s not what this game is about. Instead, it’s about regions, in which multiple cities, either all run by you or by you and your friends, work together. Groups of cities can pile all their resources into the local great work, a massive undertaking like an international airport, that benefits the entire region. City plots are overall pretty small, and many of them do not have the resources to support everything even if you did have the space. Some people really hate this, but I’m kind of about it. I think building a new city is a lot more fun than maintaining on, and I like that when I move onto my next project, my old city doesn’t go to waste, as I can rely on it to import supplies, services, or people.

It’s fun to lay roads, edit buildings, and just watch sims live and work in your city. SimCity has a lot going on in it, but it does a pretty great job letting you access all the information you need with various data overlays. Really, the biggest problem I’ve noticed right now is that traffic flow is a bit annoying. Sims always choose the most direct route to their destination, even if that means taking a dirt road instead of a high density street. Buses, cop cars, and firetrucks all seem to convoy up and go to the same place, instead of spreading out and covering the entire city – which I admit is pretty funny to watch. Hopefully this is just a bug and will be fixed soon enough.

It’s really easy to lose a lot of time to SimCity, you know, assuming you can actually play it. I believe it to be a really fun game, and certainly extremely accessible for people like myself, who haven’t spent any time with the franchise since the Super NES days. But that’s not the story of this game, not anymore. No, the story of SimCity is the clusterfuck that was its launch. And it was bad.