I was really, really pumped for SimCity. Around this time last year, I was practically counting down the days for Maxis’ next entry in a franchise that’s dominated so much of my free time over the last 20 or so years.
I’m a big SimCity fan. That goes all the way back to the first time I rented the SNES version on a whim when I was a kid. I’ve played every entry, and I was looking forward to the GlassBox Engine in this new edition.
I was excited, suffice to say, and that excitement was quickly burned by EA and Maxis’ decision to make the game require an online connection to work. An opening few weeks of server failure meant players couldn’t play, the game’s computations were broken and the result was a product that was far lesser than what it should have been.
SimCity was a complete mess.
We told you so, EA and Maxis.
The thing that was probably most upsetting about online play in SimCity was that the entire fan-base, both diehards and casual players, knew going in that it was a bad idea. Once EA and Maxis announced that SimCity would require a connection to play, gamers and editorialists took to articles, forums and comment sections to express their displeasure.
We all knew the launch would be plagued with problems. We knew EA and Maxis wouldn’t have enough server power to account for all the players trying to hop on and play their, and this is what blows my mind, single player activities. We knew it would be broken out of the box, and we voiced our opinions regarding that fact from day one.
And we were completely right. The first several weeks following SimCity’s launch were a mess of connection errors, game-breaking glitches, lost saves and replaying the same tutorial over and over and over again in order to start a new city on a new server.
We complained, we started senseless internet petitions and we generated rounds of terrible internet memes to make light of the situation. Maxis and EA? They said offline play was either impossible or too tough to implement.
Guess what, they’ve changed their minds.
Suddenly, offline play is possible. Yep, if you’ve somehow missed the news, SimCity is getting a patch that will add an offline mode. Gamers will be able to hop into a region, start several cities, connect them together and reach for population ceilings completely offline and independently.
Apparently, Maxis has been working on this for at least six months. The hold up? All of the server-side simulations and calculations had to be moved to the user’s local machine. That means that they had to find a way for the GlassBox Engine to simulate granular city movements without crushing the CPU of the host computer, and they needed to do it in a way that meant even gamers with lesser machines would be able to play.
Offline mode is coming, and it’s supposedly very close to release. It wasn’t an impossible add, despite all of the hyperbole from EA and Maxis nearly a year ago, and it isn’t enough to solve all of this game’s problems.
It’s too late.
Oh, sure, offline play is great. It might even get me to reinstall SimCity and give it another crack. The problem? It should have been an option from the get-go.
Leading up to launch, when consumers were complaining about what online requirements would mean for one of their favorite city simulation franchises, EA and Maxis should have listened and adjusted their plans accordingly. Yes, they had bold ideas in mind about connectivity, a global game and social play; however, the fan-base demanded differently and went completely ignored.
So, when SimCity launched and was met with server woes, the entire fan-base got this smug surge of “see, you idiots…” Their concerns about online requirements were validated at launch, and there was no way EA or Maxis could recover from that fact.
That makes offline play’s year late addition way too after-the-fact. Yeah, they might get a section of the player base to reinstall and replay, but the damage is done. The reviews have been tendered, the ratings on Amazon and Metacritic are in place and, whether or not it’s true, online requirements made SimCity a bad game.
EA and Maxis should have listened.