Reticulating Splines
March 5, 2013 10:46 AM   Subscribe

SimCity, arguably the best known simulation game ever, is back after a decade with a new iteration of the franchise. Is it any good? We may have to wait for an answer until someone can actually log on to the game.

EA decided to include always-on DRM for the game, "for the benefit of the gamer", claiming that much of the simulation work had to be done server-side due to the social nature of the game. Ars Technica posts their first impressions - We waited ten years for this?
posted by backseatpilot (466 comments total) 26 users marked this as a favorite

 
I said this would happen. This happens with EVERY semi-large IP game with always on DRM at launch. EA has done this song and dance before.

Getting real tired of your shit, EA.
posted by strixus at 10:49 AM on March 5, 2013 [19 favorites]


The bigger deal for me is that the maximum size of a city is now apparently equal to a middling NYC neighborhood.
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 10:51 AM on March 5, 2013 [17 favorites]


If the simulation really needed to be done server-side, they should have made the cities much larger than they are.
posted by dobi at 10:52 AM on March 5, 2013 [2 favorites]


EA decided to include always-on DRM for the game, "for the benefit of the gamer"

Stuff that for a simulated game of tin soldiers.

Good Old Games offers the classic SimCity 2000 (for both Windows XP and Mac OS X) for a tenth of the price.
posted by Doktor Zed at 10:52 AM on March 5, 2013 [26 favorites]


OH MY GOD THIS EA GAME WON'T EVEN LET ME EJECT THE FLOPPY!

Though, admittedly, constant demand for a network connection is a different level of annoyance. In a few years, this will be routine though.

As anyone who has tried to use the 'Simpsons: Tapped Out' over a 3g connection will agree.
posted by davemee at 10:53 AM on March 5, 2013 [2 favorites]


Getting real tired of your shit, EA.

I was tired of their shit in 2000, when they bought Kesmai/Gamestorm for the Mechwarrior IP rights and then proceeded to do fuck all with it.

I haven't bought an EA game in over 10 years. I am evidently not missing much.
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 10:54 AM on March 5, 2013 [3 favorites]


This bums me out. Other than Scrabble, SimCity is the only computer game I've ever been obsessed with. I excitedly read Slate's glowing review of the game and was prepared to order it tonight and rekindle the obsession. Now I'm not so excited and will wait it out for a while and get a feel from other users before deciding to pull the trigger. On the plus side, the likelihood of me getting out of the house and getting shit done just increased greatly.
posted by Slack-a-gogo at 10:55 AM on March 5, 2013 [2 favorites]


Ah, I meant to point out the Metacritic ratings as well. Currently 91/100 for professional reviewers and 3.9/10 for user reviews. Also, why does Metacritic use different scales for professional versus user reviews?
posted by backseatpilot at 10:57 AM on March 5, 2013 [2 favorites]


I thought the Ars Technica review was devastating and convincing.

I thought the highly positive, rave Slate review by Farhad Manjoo (a tech journalist who I thought I could trust) was weird....
"in its exquisite detail, the new game can sometimes evoke much more serious portrayals of urban life. As I was playing, I couldn’t help thinking of The Wire—SimCity mimics that show’s God’s-eye view of urban disrepair, and in some moments even its crushing bureaucratic lethargy.
“The most interesting stuff that stands out to me is around the drama of criminality,” Quigley says. “Say you have a criminal who goes into a building to rob someone. You frantically put down police departments while that’s going on to stop him.” In the old SimCity, that was all you had to do—as soon as you put down your police station, nearby crime would magically abate. “But in the new SimCity, now you actually need to hire police officers, and they need to go out and stop crime. So you put down your police department, and now it sends out a call to say, Who wants to be a police officer? So you’re watching this robbery unfold and meanwhile you’re saying to yourself, Come on guys, sign up as police officers! You’re watching people amble over to be police officers, and you really feel anxious about it. You’re just waiting for these people to get from their houses to the police station to be police officers so they can get into their police cars so they can race across town and stop this robbery.”"


questions:
1) has Manjoo actually played a lot of relevant video games before?
2) Has Manjoo actually watched The Wire?
posted by Bwithh at 10:57 AM on March 5, 2013 [16 favorites]


If part of the simulation really does run server-side, does that mean the game will stop working entirely in a couple of years when EA can't be bothered to pay for the expensive compute servers any more?

It seems like it would be a strange things to lie about, though, since it would be almost impossible to not get caught just about instantly.
posted by Western Infidels at 11:05 AM on March 5, 2013 [5 favorites]


If Maxis actually did a SimWire I'd totally buy it. It could have different stages, like Spore, but they'd be things like drug dealers and journalists. Like most sandboxes, it is not actually possible to win, but you're probably doing it right if playing fills you with a sense of helpless despair and/or righteous fury.
posted by kagredon at 11:06 AM on March 5, 2013 [7 favorites]


...does that mean the game will stop working entirely in a couple of years when EA can't be bothered to pay for the expensive compute servers any more?

Technically, yes. But if someone manages to reverse-engineer the server (chances: slim), or if EA does the smart thing (chances: slimmer) and lets users run their own servers by the time EA wants to stop supporting the game, that fate can be avoided.
posted by griphus at 11:07 AM on March 5, 2013 [2 favorites]


You can't blame EA when consumers keep encouraging them by purchasing their wärsch. Personally DRM doesn't bother me that much so I'm not complaining but I'll be waiting a year or two for a steam release or at least a sale because (1) Origin? Surely Sir you are jesting (2) paying $75 for a game is for fools and I'm a sandwich. Special bonus? In two years I might actually have a lap top that can run Sim City on high enough settings so that it doesn't look like I'm suffering from brain damage.
posted by Foci for Analysis at 11:15 AM on March 5, 2013 [1 favorite]


EA decided to include always-on DRM for the game, "for the benefit of the gamer", claiming that much of the simulation work had to be done server-side due to the social nature of the game.

They're doing the simulation server-side and they still limit you to those incredibly small, postage-stamp sized cities?
posted by RonButNotStupid at 11:15 AM on March 5, 2013 [1 favorite]


The server problems will eventually sort out, although its offensive that they don't work on launch day. The larger problem to me is the tiny city size.
posted by Nelson at 11:16 AM on March 5, 2013


But if someone manages to reverse-engineer the server (chances: slim)

Or just manages to tackle the probably lesser task of putting together a stub dummy server that manages to just accept and reply to the game's messages with bland "everything's still the same" pacifications, etc. It really does depend mostly on how much of the moment-to-moment gameplay depends on news from the outside world; I'd mostly expect the server-side stuff to be systemic and regional things and other social features—what's happening in neighboring cities to which yours is connected, etc. If it's possible to build a black box that creates a de facto isolated town, I'd expect that to be accomplished sooner rather than later, really.

But it's hard to do more than speculate. I'm curious how it plays out in the long run.
posted by cortex at 11:17 AM on March 5, 2013 [1 favorite]


...although its offensive that they don't work on launch day.

Well, even Blizzard fucked this up, and that's a company that doesn't actively hate its customer base!
posted by griphus at 11:17 AM on March 5, 2013


If the simulation really needed to be done server-side, they should have made the cities much larger than they are.
I think this works the other way: for server work, you must minimize the per-client work done on the server. It is the opposite of distributed computing.

For a PC game, every client has a potent computing rig. Moving simulation work to the server would only reduce the size of the world I'd think. The only compelling reasons to do it I can think of are:
- Elements required for multiplayer interaction
- Elements required for your DRM/intellectual property protection
- Fairness to other players

The last is because the more you trust the client, the more potential one client has to hack the code and make themselves Ubar. (Anyone else remember other players flying around as an asteroid when playing GalTrader way back in the day?)
posted by Walleye at 11:18 AM on March 5, 2013 [3 favorites]


griphus: "...although its offensive that they don't work on launch day.

Well, even Blizzard fucked this up, and that's a company that doesn't actively hate its customer base!
"

Objection: Activision.
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 11:20 AM on March 5, 2013 [10 favorites]


Years ago, I think read an article about how the right-wing leanings of Will Wright had influenced population growth formula used by SimCity. For the life of me, I could never find that article again to confirm this, but I can definitely say that that the taxes=death-of-the-great-american-city idea helped sway some of my friends toward conservative politics.

tl/dr SimCity is a conservative stalking horse, maybe?
posted by Hypnotic Chick at 11:20 AM on March 5, 2013 [4 favorites]


This game is crippled so that EA can monetize it. Full stop. They've already said that it's going to be able to support bigger cities in the future.

The whole point of this new model is to sell you the same goddamn game over and over and over. Not only is it heavily DRMed, they haven't included most of the stuff from SC4, with the explicit purpose of selling it to you later. And they've absolutely shut out third-party mods; you will only be able to mod your game with Officially Licensed Content, instead of being able to make and share cool, free stuff, like with earlier iterations.

You are, in my opinion, a goddamn idiot if you take this deal. You deserve to lose that money.
posted by Malor at 11:21 AM on March 5, 2013 [46 favorites]


But it's hard to do more than speculate.

Yeah, my suspicion is that there's going to be something explicitly non-trivial about talking to the server that exists to prevent exactly what you describe. Perhaps some sort of gameplay-necessary calculations that have exactly zero reason to be done on the server.
posted by griphus at 11:21 AM on March 5, 2013


I've been looking forward to this game for months. Years, even. It's not out in the UK until Friday, but they are really making it difficult to justify purchasing it. In the end I'll probably hold my nose and buy it anyway. Damnit.
posted by Acey at 11:21 AM on March 5, 2013


I'll be waiting a year or two for a steam release or at least a sale because (1) Origin? Surely Sir you are jesting

You'll be waiting longer than that. Guess what, EA doesn't release their games on Steam anymore!

But thanks to EA's relentlessly mercenary attitude lately, avoiding their new games hasn't been very difficult. It's telling that all their major titles these days are sequels.
posted by neckro23 at 11:22 AM on March 5, 2013 [1 favorite]


As one of the last people in the US with a dial up internet connection (shut up, I moved to the edge of nowhere for the beauty, not internet connectivity) I say that THIS SUCKS.

:-( I don't even care if the cities are small.
posted by Elly Vortex at 11:22 AM on March 5, 2013 [7 favorites]


Man, I was really excited about SimCity when it was announced, and it still looks like a pretty neat toy, but I really don't get the semi-enforced multiplayer aspect. I have zero interest in playing a game online with anybody, less than zero for a game like SimCity. It just makes no sense to me.

Add to that the very-obvious plans to sell packages of additional features, and this is a disaster.
posted by uncleozzy at 11:23 AM on March 5, 2013 [2 favorites]


I'm skipping it because the city size is so small. Which is a pity.

I guess back to SC4RH.
posted by Talez at 11:24 AM on March 5, 2013


due to the social nature of the game

Time spent to date playing various iterations of SimCity: ~eleventeen thousand hours.

Time spent to date considering various iterations of SimCity to be social in nature: nineteen seconds, since I read this sentence.

If I want to be social, there are hundreds of better games at my disposal. SimCity is indispensable for trans-oceanic flights.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 11:24 AM on March 5, 2013 [18 favorites]


GiantBomb panned it pretty hard, sounds like its really fun for about half an hour then you run out of space to build on.
posted by Greald at 11:24 AM on March 5, 2013


Apparently they plan on making city size bigger, but they don't know when
“That is just a performance decision. Given that was the performance constraint we decided to work under, we built a larger region environment and a bunch of the multiplay to work with 2km cities. At some point in the future, especially with mainstream computers become more capable, we could certainly make the city sizes larger.

We need to keep in mind that Sim City is a mainstream game, it’s not a game that is only going to run on high-end gaming PCs, it has to run in your Dad’s PC as well.”

...

“We’ll eventually get around to expanding the city size but I can’t make any promises as to when.”
A more worrying problem is that there is apparently no way to handle abandoned cities in non-sandbox or multiplayer modes unless you want to destroy the entire region. So if you invite someone into your region who just takes over the oil and just leaves, well.. WOMP WOMP.
posted by tittergrrl at 11:24 AM on March 5, 2013 [2 favorites]


I really hate that every game has to include multiplayer elements these days. Look, multiplayer games mean you have to play Very Seriously unless you want to get absolutely slaughtered all of the time. I don't usually want to play Very Seriously. This is why I play single player most of the time, usually only diverting to multiplayer for one or two games (you have to develop a lot of skill in them to have fun, so you can't play very many).

So when you make a single player game multiplayer, that means I have to make a choice; I can either include it in the very short list of multiplayer games I play at any given time, or I don't play it. And guess which I choose 90% of the time? This is not a winning strategy for game developers.
posted by Mitrovarr at 11:25 AM on March 5, 2013 [44 favorites]


This game is crippled so that EA can monetize it. Full stop. They've already said that it's going to be able to support bigger cities in the future.

So the $80 is just a down payment? That's obscene.
posted by Sys Rq at 11:26 AM on March 5, 2013 [4 favorites]


EA, yet again, destroys something great. They will continue to receive none of my money.
posted by PROD_TPSL at 11:26 AM on March 5, 2013 [7 favorites]


Is there a newspaper popup where a guy yells "You can't take away our thing, you will regret this!" ? because I want that again.
posted by hellojed at 11:27 AM on March 5, 2013 [3 favorites]


For the life of me, I could never find that article again to confirm this, but I can definitely say that that the taxes=death-of-the-great-american-city idea helped sway some of my friends toward conservative politics.

Could be. I recall one of the easiest ways to have a rich city in the previous iteration was to raise taxes on the poor to ~22+% until they all left, and lower taxes on the rich to ~4% or so. But boy did I feel like a dick doing it that way.
posted by mrgoat at 11:27 AM on March 5, 2013 [1 favorite]


Also, unless they don't like money, 2K Games/Firaxis could do a lot worse than developing Sid Meier's City.
posted by griphus at 11:27 AM on March 5, 2013 [27 favorites]


Years ago, I think read an article about how the right-wing leanings of Will Wright had influenced population growth formula used by SimCity. For the life of me, I could never find that article again to confirm this, but I can definitely say that that the taxes=death-of-the-great-american-city idea helped sway some of my friends toward conservative politics.

On the flipside, any nuclear power plant would inevitably meltdown and create a blasted radiation zone, making the only proper thing to do a leapfrogging from filthy coal to clean green. Maybe that was intended to be the fair and balanced part.
posted by Drastic at 11:28 AM on March 5, 2013


I'm over here cackling at the big guys shooting themselves in the foot whilst enjoying a plethora of independent games that have only gotten better over the last ten years. THQ just folded, Ubisoft tried this always-on DRM shtick already and look how that worked out for them. The lunacy of these guys is incomprehensible to me. But it sure is fun to watch them flail. My prime concern is for the workers that aren't essential to these huge publishers. When the rapid downsizing comes (it will), it's the expendible folks that will get canned first. Treating your customers like criminals right out of the gate is not how you do business.
posted by Ephelump Jockey at 11:29 AM on March 5, 2013 [5 favorites]


Oh, Stephen Totilo of Kotaku has written about the inability for people to reclaim abandoned cities after playing a while with Mike Fahey:
I'm still fuming at Mike for destroying his city and therefore ruining mine. It killed the fun I was having with my city and got me worrying that this game, which more or less requires that you cooperate with neighbor cities could be ruined by griefers who pull the plug on your cities to screw you over.

You can't have a great time just running your own city independently. You'll have to set up some connections with other cities. I was depending on Mike for power, as he noted; I was supplying our region with a university, though once he destroyed his city, I lost a ton of revenue from out-of-town students.
posted by tittergrrl at 11:29 AM on March 5, 2013 [3 favorites]


Sys Rq: So the $80 is just a down payment? That's obscene.

Absolutely. To see where this game is going, check out this screenshot of Steam I took a few weeks ago.
posted by Malor at 11:30 AM on March 5, 2013 [49 favorites]


EA decided to include always-on DRM for the game, "for the benefit of the gamer"

This must be like how politicians say they are "protecting the American people" when they make corporations people.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 11:30 AM on March 5, 2013 [8 favorites]


Friends, this game is DOA.

Whether or not it's a good game to play is completely meaningless. It doesn't matter at all if it's multiplayer or whatever.

This always-on DRM is complete FAIL. If you buy into this nonsense, you're part of the problem. I say: avoid at all costs.
posted by dno at 11:30 AM on March 5, 2013 [18 favorites]


I, too, am disappointed in the release. I love SC4 but the biggest issue I have with it was the region play, which always became too cumbersome for me alone to handle. The idea of planting other people's cities nearby actually sounded kind of neat (I can focus on my One Big City instead of a region), but it doesn't seem to have been handled very well.
posted by backseatpilot at 11:30 AM on March 5, 2013


Good point by Walleye: no server farm is going to be able to do simulation work for your own city better than a desktop machine. Dad's computer likely has two 3Ghz cores and enough RAM. Servers make sense to me for multiplayer, but no one I know is at all interested in the multiplayer aspect.

Tittergrrl's quote about how they don't know how to make bigger cities is infuriating. Engineers and designers who thnk that way are not senior enough to lead projects. This isn't SimVillage, it's SimCity, figure out how to scale down your precious sim algorithms to make the game work. Or make another game; SimVillage could be fun.

It's worth noting this is the first SimCity title since all vestiges of Wright's Maxis were gutted.
posted by Nelson at 11:31 AM on March 5, 2013 [1 favorite]


One of my most favourite moments in SimCity 4 was at one point I had an avenue that just couldn't take the traffic anymore. I was up to around 5000 cars on one piece of avenue. So it was at that point that I needed to realign a freeway. I had to demolish a bit of industrial, put in the T-junction and realigned a freeway through the industrial area and down the side of the downtown commercial district.

Completing that freeway realignment and watching traffic levels plummet was single handedly the most satisfying thing I ever did in that game. I know I'll never be able to do that in the new SimCity.
posted by Talez at 11:32 AM on March 5, 2013 [1 favorite]


You are, in my opinion, a goddamn idiot if you take this deal. You deserve to lose that money.

One of the first games that I've played with any regularity is Sims 3, which I got shortly after it was released ...

When I first got it there was a free town included for registering and a small selection of content you could buy. Now they charge almost the cost of the original game for additional towns, and they add more and more content -- and they've modified the game itself so that you have no choice but to see their advertisements for pay content when you're building lots or sims.

They disguise the cost from impulse buyers by making you purchase "simpoints" first so you don't see that a pixel couch actually costs $1.00; it costs 100 simpoints.

The only thing that makes the game worth playing to me is the wide variety of custom content out there. I can design stuff that I never would be able to otherwise (not even if I had the hundreds of dollars it would take o buy all the content EA offers). But if I have this custom content, I don't have to buy EA content.

I'm really afraid that SimCity is what's next for the regular Sims.

Which would be really, really, really stupid, because they managed to hook me -- not a gamer -- on a franchise on which I'm willing to spend quite a bit of money. I paid for a legit copy of the base game and for several of the expansion packs I thought added enough extra stuff to justify the cost. But if they keep going down this road (especially if they lock out third-party mods), they won't get a single cent more of my money.

Anyway.

Rant over.
posted by Kutsuwamushi at 11:33 AM on March 5, 2013 [3 favorites]


and they've modified the game itself so that you have no choice but to see their advertisements for pay content when you're building lots or sims.

The last time I played Sims3, you could hide DLC content from your build menus. It's somewhere in options. I agree with everything else you're saying, but that one detail is inaccurate, or at least it was five or six months ago, when I was last messing with that game.
posted by Malor at 11:36 AM on March 5, 2013


I watched a fair amount of the open beta gameplay on YouTube and it looks at once pretty cool and also exactly like sim city. I'm personally more interested in Prison Architect.
posted by Ad hominem at 11:37 AM on March 5, 2013 [3 favorites]


Here is where I win so many friends: if you didn't want AAA games to become MMOs (that is to say "require an always-on connection to a central server") then the pirates should have been stopped earlier. This is as close to cause-and-effect as it gets.

(I say this as someone who has worked at Electronic Arts and other studios before, but not as someone who is quoting directly from my experience at EA. Because I'm sure that is a violation of something at some point.)
posted by andreaazure at 11:38 AM on March 5, 2013 [1 favorite]


Oh, Stephen Totilo of Kotaku has written about the inability for people to reclaim abandoned cities after playing a while with Mike Fahey

Jesus, what a clusterfuck.

Also, unless they don't like money, 2K Games/Firaxis could do a lot worse than developing Sid Meier's City.

I get the feeling that Meier's been kidnapped by Ubisoft, seeing as how the new Assassin's Creed will basically be Sid Meier's Pirates!: 2013 Facestabbing Edition. Which, BTW, I'm totally stoked about, seeing as how the naval battles were far and away the best thing about AssCreed III and I loved the Pirates! franchise.
posted by zombieflanders at 11:39 AM on March 5, 2013


Years ago, I think read an article about how the right-wing leanings of Will Wright had influenced population growth formula used by SimCity.

One of my favorite MeFi comments ever:
I used to love playing SimCity 2000. It was the last good SimCity game before Maxis decided that I also wanted to control the timing of stoplights, slope of sidewalk ramps, what species of grass a park had, etc.

One of the things I used to enjoy doing was using a cheat to get an absurd amount of money, lowering taxes to zero, and then pausing the game. I would then build a paradise on Earth, a wonderful utopia for my citizens. The second I unpaused the game, BAM! the place would fill up immediately and everyone would be deliriously happy.

But then their god turned on them. I would let disasters pummel them and fail to fix the consequences. Eventually there would be huge swaths of the city with no electricity or water. Paved roads were a fond memory to the inhabitants. Fires and monsters would rage through the place unchecked for decades. Naturally, this would result in most everyone beating feet out of my city, but there was always a small percentage who stayed. Nothing seemed to make them budge.

Until I raised taxes from 0% to 1%. At that point, they’d had enough and would scram. The fires, potholes, darkness, crime, and monsters weren’t a problem but 1% taxes were an abomination up with which they would simply not put.

What SimCity 2000 was simulating there was Republicans.
posted by lalex at 11:40 AM on March 5, 2013 [100 favorites]


I was just reading the Ars Technica article and thinking, "I hope someone does a SimCity thread on MeFi today!" I've been a fan since the first SimCity (I even loved the related games like SimAnt and SimTower), but I don't think I'll be playing this one. The DRM thing sucks, but I can SORT OF understand it since they clearly designed the game to be played online - but by taking away all offline capability, EA is just setting itself up to fail in a less-than-graceful manner.

But I think EA learned something from The Sims - "give away" the base game (for $60 now but I expect that price to drop once DLC is more widespread and can be bundled), then charge for each little thing that certain people want. With the Sims, it was maybe a cool set of careers to choose from, or outfits, or cars, or a certain style that a certain type of person just HAD TO HAVE. SimCity is a little different but each player will probably want something slightly different than other players - larger cities and better transportation options are the two big issues that I'm hearing today, but when that's "fixed" (for a price), it will be building architectures, or a no-disaster mode, or even a "revert to previous city" mode that players will absolutely want, and that EA will be happy to charge for.

It's kinda nice because I was all hellbent on taking a principled stand towards the Origin DRM system, and here they go out and make a game that gets panned by everyone who isn't on the payroll of a gaming magazine, so I don't feel like I'm missing out on as much as I thought I would be.
posted by antonymous at 11:41 AM on March 5, 2013 [5 favorites]


Here is where I win so many friends: if you didn't want AAA games to become MMOs (that is to say "require an always-on connection to a central server") then the pirates should have been stopped earlier. This is as close to cause-and-effect as it gets.

If I'm understanding you correctly, how in the name of fuck were people in this thread supposed to do that?
posted by kagredon at 11:41 AM on March 5, 2013 [14 favorites]


This quote from the Ars Technica review sums up why I feel a little confused whenever the devs talk about the simulator tools they've built:

I mean the idea is cute, but I don't see what it's really enabling that the probabilistic versions couldn't do. Like modelling the police/fire/ambulance/etc., that's sensible. But the Sims? I don't see the point. I don't see how it makes it a better game.
Fundamentally, I don't care about sims. I care about my city. Focusing on modelling the Sims at the expense of the city is ass-backwards.


I don't know who thought that being able to see sims walking down the street (not the most fascinating thing in the world, to say the least) trumped, you know, city building, but it seems like that just misses the point entirely.
posted by sonmi at 11:41 AM on March 5, 2013 [7 favorites]


I don't know who thought that being able to see sims walking down the street (not the most fascinating thing in the world, to say the least) trumped, you know, city building, but it seems like that just misses the point entirely.

Maybe Maxis hired Toady One.
posted by theodolite at 11:44 AM on March 5, 2013 [7 favorites]


Here is where I win so many friends: if you didn't want AAA games to become MMOs (that is to say "require an always-on connection to a central server") then the pirates should have been stopped earlier. This is as close to cause-and-effect as it gets.

Even if we accept the premise that the only way to stop piracy is with always-on DRM, that still doesn't mean you have to make an MMO. UbiSoft's constant phoning home may have been shitty, but it didn't force you to play a single-player game as a "social experience." It just phoned home.
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 11:45 AM on March 5, 2013 [11 favorites]


I've been a fan since the first SimCity (I even loved the related games like SimAnt and SimTower),

I loved SimCity, I loved SimAnt, I loved SimEarth,* but SimTower disappointed me. It turns out that it's pretty easy to build a self-sustaining small tower that can run overnight and generate enough money for the tower of your dreams, and then the game is pretty pointless. I tried that once in SimCity 2000 and was impeached.

*RIP Sentient Dinosaur civilization, I loved you not wisely, but with too many volcanoes
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 11:48 AM on March 5, 2013 [8 favorites]


One of the things I used to enjoy doing was using a cheat to get an absurd amount of money,

Link, please, lalex? I just impulsively bought it from Doktor Zed's link above (used to have it on CD, a million years ago on a Win95 machine...).
posted by Melismata at 11:52 AM on March 5, 2013


I really wish Cities XL's developer would fix that damn memory leak and add multicore support already.
posted by snuffleupagus at 11:53 AM on March 5, 2013 [3 favorites]


I'm really afraid that SimCity is what's next for the regular Sims.

Getting Sims for my tablet sort of "prepared" me for this...I played hours and hours and hours of Sims (1!) like 10 years ago, saw a free Sims for Android & thought it could be fun to kill time on the bus. But not only did time keep passing when my tablet was off*, turns out I couldn't actually play it on the bus because my tablet is wifi only. I would have actually upgraded to a pay version if only I could have played it the way I wanted.

I'm pretty sure I still have my copy of either Sim City 2000 or Sim City 4. May have to go look, because I played the hell out of that one, too.

* I want to play for a few days, then switch back to reading or knitting, maybe bike to work, come back to it later...and have it be exactly the way I left it.
posted by epersonae at 11:54 AM on March 5, 2013 [1 favorite]


Melismata - it's "porntipsguzzardo" in SC2K (then you can just type "ardo" after if you want more money again). Yes, that's from memory, so I hope it's the right code!
posted by antonymous at 11:54 AM on March 5, 2013 [3 favorites]


SimLife never gets enough love.
posted by kagredon at 12:04 PM on March 5, 2013 [7 favorites]


Although, at least when I played, there was plenty of bathing in the warm, welcoming glow of mutagens. Which is kind of similar.
posted by kagredon at 12:05 PM on March 5, 2013


This always-on DRM is complete FAIL. If you buy into this nonsense, you're part of the problem. I say: avoid at all costs.

You mean, like Steam?
posted by Apocryphon at 12:07 PM on March 5, 2013


Am I the only one who has played the game in this thread?

Because I did (for 45 minutes). And I played the original, and SC2000, and all of the other games in the series (yes, even Simcity Societies, which was designed in part by some friends)

And, Metafilter, the new SimCity feels pretty darn good so far. The systems that I love are there, annoying stuff is less annoying, and it looks beautiful.

Time will tell if it is good in the long run, but all of you skipping this might be missing out. Excuse me while I go back to the game.
posted by blahblahblah at 12:07 PM on March 5, 2013 [4 favorites]


If you want a happier 'old classic rebooted' feeling, pick up the new Tomb Raider. It's really, really good. Gruesome as hell, but very worth playing.
posted by Sebmojo at 12:08 PM on March 5, 2013 [1 favorite]


You mean, like Steam?

Steam is not always-on DRM.
posted by zombieflanders at 12:09 PM on March 5, 2013 [2 favorites]


blahblahblah, are you experiencing a lot of the issues the reviewers have mentioned? How about the city sizes, how do those end up working in practice?
posted by backseatpilot at 12:09 PM on March 5, 2013


I actually liked the idea behind SimCity Societies, in that SimCity games tend to force you to build the same type of city each time, and the idea of building a rural town appealed to me. I found that the game itself ran horribly on my computer so I abandoned the project.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 12:10 PM on March 5, 2013


tittergrrl: "Oh, Stephen Totilo of Kotaku has written about the inability for people to reclaim abandoned cities after playing a while with Mike Fahey:"

I just can't wait to be trolled by people who partner up with me, build nothing but landfills and then leave the game forever.

tittergrrl: " So if you invite someone into your region who just takes over the oil and just leaves, well.. WOMP WOMP."

C'mon, buddy.
posted by boo_radley at 12:12 PM on March 5, 2013 [1 favorite]




zombieflanders: "You mean, like Steam?

Steam is not always-on DRM.
"

see, for instance, wikipedia:

Authentication
It is necessary to authenticate every Steamworks game online, whether purchased via Steam itself or installed via a retail disc, the first time it is played. After the initial authentication, an offline mode allows games to be run without being connected to the internet.
posted by boo_radley at 12:20 PM on March 5, 2013 [3 favorites]


blahblahblah, are you experiencing a lot of the issues the reviewers have mentioned? How about the city sizes, how do those end up working in practice?

The 4-5 times I have started it up on a mid/high range laptop, I had no server issues. Even when the game reported a server as "busy," I was able to join in 2 seconds. Only bug I had was the tutorial, which didn't work properly.

On the city size, I have a long time before I run into the issue. It strikes me as Something I Will Get Used To, like other changes in my favorite series (Civ 5, I am looking at you). You can easily run a single player game with multiple cities, and the cities are all visibly connected, so I am not sure this is going to break the game experience for me. And there are lots of nice additions, including really beautiful ways of getting data about your city, no need to run pipes or powerlines (seriously, did anyone like that?), and a more organic feel to city layouts.

Actually, for me the biggest deal appears to be that this is SimCityRoguelike, in that the game continuously saves. I am not sure yet if I can rollback to premade save points, but it is a little weird to not be able to go back, as a minmaxer...
posted by blahblahblah at 12:21 PM on March 5, 2013 [1 favorite]


Also, why does Metacritic use different scales for professional versus user reviews?

Because hordes of easily agitated internet forum warriors, err, 'users' will go and give it 1 for having Always on DRM, and not actually evaluate the game. We get it, it's an affront to everything you believe in. Capitalists are evil. It's unconscionable that they FORCE you to buy their stuff.

It's only slightly less annoying than the payola professional reviews.
posted by DigDoug at 12:22 PM on March 5, 2013 [2 favorites]


oh but hey speaking of valve, they're apparently doling out dev steamboxes.
posted by boo_radley at 12:23 PM on March 5, 2013 [4 favorites]


Here is where I win so many friends: if you didn't want AAA games to become MMOs (that is to say "require an always-on connection to a central server") then the pirates should have been stopped earlier. This is as close to cause-and-effect as it gets.

This is as close to cause-and-effect as it gets as long as you disregard anything that actually looks at all like cause-and-effect, that is. But please, explain in detail how piracy mandated that gaming companies get greedier and greedier by the day and forced them to release fundamentally broken software.

Also, obviously, if you pay money for a game with this kind of invasive we-still-own-the-game-you-bought bullshit, you're damaging the industry in a very real and measurable way. Our best hope unfortunately was that people would be smart enough not to buy the functionally crippled (and, to everyone's surprise, thoroughly mediocre) Diablo 3 so that the big companies would quickly get the message that we don't think this stuff is okay. Instead, given what actually happened, I suspect they won't get it at all and when they slowly go bankrupt they'll do so crying "THE PIRATES! THE PIRATES RUINED EVERYTHING!" instead of wondering which of their own decisions were at fault for driving all their customers away.
posted by IAmUnaware at 12:24 PM on March 5, 2013 [13 favorites]


This isn't going to be another DRM/Piracy/GRAR thread is it?
posted by seanmpuckett at 12:26 PM on March 5, 2013 [3 favorites]


A bunch of thoughts:

I played the beta and really enjoyed the game for the hour I was allowed to play. It's looking like the hour cap in beta was there because you max out your city's growth not too long afterwards.


All of those 9/10 reviews on Metacritic are based on either playing the game at EA's offices in a controlled environment or playing only a reviewer-only test server before launch. They didn't get to experience the full multi-player aspect or any of the performance hits coming from an overburdened server. Most of the decent gaming sites, even ones who have published early impressions, are holding off on actually reviewing the game until they get to play it in the wild. See Ben Kuchera's Why You Shouldn't Trust Our SimCity "Review" and expect that Metacritic score to drop over the next few weeks.


I'm really looking forward to this game. I really really enjoyed the beta and have been watching most of the developer videos. I'm fine with the smaller cities as long I as can control a whole region on my own if I want to. But this launch reminds me way too much of Diablo 3. That launch scared me off the game until the kinks got worked out and I never ended up buying it, getting Torchlight 2 instead.
posted by thecjm at 12:27 PM on March 5, 2013


If Maxis actually did a SimWire I'd totally buy it. It could have different stages, like Spore, but they'd be things like drug dealers and journalists.

Better yet: Hamsterdam, with actual (well, virtual) hamsters.
posted by dhartung at 12:28 PM on March 5, 2013 [7 favorites]


Better yet: Hamsterdam, with actual (well, virtual) hamsters.

OREGON HABITRAIL
posted by Sebmojo at 12:31 PM on March 5, 2013 [13 favorites]


Melismata - it's "porntipsguzzardo" in SC2K (then you can just type "ardo" after if you want more money again). Yes, that's from memory, so I hope it's the right code!

You're damn right it is. We had SC2K on all the lab machines in elementary school, and I went and bought the Official Strategy Guide the week it came out just to learn how to properly cheat once they broke the FUND cheat from the original game (which, BTW, was how I first learned how badly compound interest could fuck over your average urban planner--edutainment!), and then promptly refused to tell anyone else my secret. I was a god among fourth-graders, lo those many months of sanctioned Sim-City-playing-during-math class, and I can tell you total certainty that you have transcribed it properly.

20 years later, I still average 2.5 PORNTIPSGUZZARDO references a year, all of which I'm going to burn through in this thread alone in making veiled references to alternate fund-raising strategies for the makers of this abomination of a game. Damn you, EA, for what you have become.
posted by Mayor West at 12:34 PM on March 5, 2013 [4 favorites]


Mitrovarr: "So when you make a single player game multiplayer, that means I have to make a choice; I can either include it in the very short list of multiplayer games I play at any given time, or I don't play it. And guess which I choose 90% of the time? This is not a winning strategy for game developers."

No exception for cooperative games? I've never heard anyone complain that Portal 2's coop mode made them want to delete the game. Then again, I've never heard anyone market that as "social", either.
posted by vasi at 12:37 PM on March 5, 2013


No exception for cooperative games? I've never heard anyone complain that Portal 2's coop mode made them want to delete the game. Then again, I've never heard anyone market that as "social", either.

Portal 2 also has a single-player mode, though. You can happily get many hours out of it even if you don't want to put in the time and people-wrangling that comes with multiplayer.
posted by kagredon at 12:40 PM on March 5, 2013


You can play SimCity single player. I am. You control all the regions yourself. You still need to be online, though, which is annoying but I am still playing it.
posted by blahblahblah at 12:42 PM on March 5, 2013 [4 favorites]


Because hordes of easily agitated internet forum warriors, err, 'users' will go and give it 1 for having Always on DRM, and not actually evaluate the game. We get it, it's an affront to everything you believe in. Capitalists are evil.

First of all, if a game is saddled with DRM that renders it literally unplayable, it should not receive any grade higher than a 1 from anyone, just as if it was unplayable for any other reason (bugs, horrendous control issues, etc.). The fact that you argue against that says a lot about your motivations.

Secondly, I'd love to hear how your "capitalists are evil" jab makes sense. These users have a negative opinion of a game that was produced with the aim of making customers pay several times more than they ordinarily would for a game, and you're mocking them and saying that they clearly must believe capitalism is evil to hold that opinion. That means that you think it's not okay--ridiculous, even, since you responded with ridicule--to say anything negative about a company's actions as long as those actions were undertaken with the lofty and noble goal of making money. Since this obviously can't be right, can you explain what you meant?
posted by IAmUnaware at 12:46 PM on March 5, 2013 [8 favorites]


andreaazure: " if you didn't want AAA games to become MMOs (that is to say "require an always-on connection to a central server") then the pirates should have been stopped earlier. This is as close to cause-and-effect as it gets."

This is the fundamental problem with our only feedback mechanism being buy/don't buy - the companies are free to interpret the non-sales in any way they want. Game not selling? It must surely be the fault of someone who is not us!

Does piracy hurt sales? Quite possibly. Enough to warrant treating paying customers like garbage? This is the experiment being carried out right now.

Meanwhile, this groundbreaking new SimCity game will be dead and servers shut down long before people stop playing OpenTTD.
posted by vanar sena at 12:47 PM on March 5, 2013 [5 favorites]


You still need to be online

Just curious. Why? I love SimCity and have played them all from the first to the last. What online features would I need if I am in single player mode?
posted by KevinSkomsvold at 12:48 PM on March 5, 2013


vasi: No exception for cooperative games? I've never heard anyone complain that Portal 2's coop mode made them want to delete the game. Then again, I've never heard anyone market that as "social", either.

You know, I've never even played Portal 2's coop mode! I got the game a couple of days after everyone else, so everyone I knew had already played it and had no desire to do it again, so it was either venture into the idiot circus of random game joiners online or find something else to do.

So yeah, I have a very low opinion of turning single-player games into coop. There are other problems too, the largest being that you instantly lose all story focus, since people can't sit around to listen to exposition or read text boxes when their friend (who doesn't care or has seen it all before) is over there waiting for them and you only have two hours to play it tonight. Or what happens when your schedules get screwed up and your partner has to stop playing halfway through. Coop can work, but it has to be a game with no story and with short, episodic content, like Left 4 Dead.
posted by Mitrovarr at 12:49 PM on March 5, 2013


I have been playing the game all day with no server issues. I made a single-player region and had fun building a city. Then I joined a multi-player region and had fun building a different city.

The scale of the cities is small, but in exchange for that, the granularity of the simulation is very, very satisfying. Nothing is being simulated that isn't being presented. I am watching individual turds flow through sewer pipes.

I can sort of understand (though I don't agree with) the objections to the connection requirement, but not the "the game is bad" ones.
posted by Jick at 12:49 PM on March 5, 2013 [1 favorite]


You can play SimCity single player.

But you are still dependent on EA's server infrastructure, so it's not really single player. If your network goes down, too bad, so sad... and for me, at least, that's one of the biggest reasons to whip out a single player game, is when the Net is down.

There's absolutely no reason to make you dependent on that server infrastructure, except for the fact that EA thinks they'll prevent piracy this way. They may be right, but it doesn't change the fact that it's not really a single player game anymore, and it's certainly not something you can run on an airplane.

They think you're a thief, and they've fucked their game up in a massive way because they don't like you, they don't trust you, and they want dollars from you for every minute of enjoyment you manage to extract from their product.
posted by Malor at 12:51 PM on March 5, 2013 [4 favorites]


I am watching individual turds flow through sewer pipes.

Well hell, that settles it. Where do I punch in my CC digits?
posted by KevinSkomsvold at 12:51 PM on March 5, 2013 [3 favorites]


You can play SimCity single player. I am. You control all the regions yourself. You still need to be online, though, which is annoying but I am still playing it.

But you can't save and restore? Is that right? It's a sim city roguelike?
posted by Sebmojo at 12:54 PM on March 5, 2013


Does anyone know what the install experience is like with an actual physical retail copy? Does it also entail a long wait with Origin and download, or can you just install, activate and play?
posted by thecjm at 12:54 PM on March 5, 2013


You know, I've never even played Portal 2's coop mode! I got the game a couple of days after everyone else, so everyone I knew had already played it and had no desire to do it again, so it was either venture into the idiot circus of random game joiners online or find something else to do.

That's too bad, because the co-op is brilliant, easily the best part of the game.
posted by jcreigh at 12:54 PM on March 5, 2013


Remember, at its most fundamental level, Simcity is supposed to be a toy. And EA has imposed a huge number of restrictions on Things You May Do With Your Toy.

You cannot, for instance, save a city, blow it up, and then restore from save. Can't do it. Someday, maybe you'll be able to, but you'll very likely have to pay extra for that.

That's a dismal software toy. It's a toy you're not allowed to really play with, because you might be a thief.

Hell, it's not even your toy, it's EA's toy, and they'll rent you some time to play with it, strictly on their terms. No unauthorized anything, and if you figure out how to do something they don't like, they'll ban you forever.
posted by Malor at 12:55 PM on March 5, 2013 [21 favorites]


You still need to be online

Just curious. Why? I love SimCity and have played them all from the first to the last. What online features would I need if I am in single player mode?


It's the feature of "we require you to be online".
posted by mrnutty at 12:56 PM on March 5, 2013 [10 favorites]


SimFarm was actually pretty cool, too. Who new horse breeding could be so lucrative (and fun)?

Also, I would play the everloving shit out of SidMeierCity
posted by Doleful Creature at 12:57 PM on March 5, 2013


We get it, it's an affront to everything you believe in.

So, like... what happens now, do you "win" if I say yes?
posted by Greg Nog at 12:57 PM on March 5, 2013 [5 favorites]


Because hordes of easily agitated internet forum warriors, err, 'users' will go and give it 1 for having Always on DRM, and not actually evaluate the game. We get it, it's an affront to everything you believe in. Capitalists are evil. It's unconscionable that they FORCE you to buy their stuff.
I dislike useless forum trolls as much as anybody, and I'm not much of a gamer – my gaming experience over the last ten years is limited to replaying classic Nintendo games and burning hours of my life with the Civilization franchise – but it is hardly out of step for a review to take note of the experience of playing a game outside of the game mechanics.
posted by deathpanels at 12:58 PM on March 5, 2013 [1 favorite]


Mayor West: "Melismata - it's "porntipsguzzardo" in SC2K (then you can just type "ardo" after if you want more money again). Yes, that's from memory, so I hope it's the right code!

You're damn right it is.
"

there's a better one if you are playing the DOS version (only i guess?)
It is possible for MS-DOS users to get a very big paycheck each year. You can import your cities into Windows after you do this, and the trick will still work. However, you can't activate this trick in any other version of SimCity 2000.

At the beginning of a new city, type in FUND and click on YES.
Type FUND again and click on YES.
Open the Window menu and select BUDGET.
To the right of Bond Payments, you will see an open book icon. Click on it.
Select the button ISSUE BOND and click on YES.
Select the REPAY BOND button to repay the first bond.
Select the button ISSUE BOND and click on YES.
Select the REPAY BOND button to repay the second bond.
Select the button ISSUE BOND and click on YES.
Don't ever repay this bond. This will give you $1.4 million every year.
posted by ArgentCorvid at 12:59 PM on March 5, 2013 [2 favorites]


They really need to remake SimEarth. Give the license to the Fate of the World guys if you have to.
posted by Apocryphon at 1:02 PM on March 5, 2013


I'm so sick of this. Like, for awhile, I would just be kind of abstractedly sick about it but then buy the stupid game anyway and put up with all the irritation and be like, "WELL, I GUESS THAT'S JUST THE WAY THINGS ARE! *click* *click* *click*" But.. I mean, this obscene monetisation of DLC, the always on DRM.. .. I just can't hack it anymore. It's so bad. And it will only get worse, and I don't want to be all hand-wavey and reactionary but I really feel like I can't participate in that anymore. So, in conclusion, fuck you, EA, I will not buy your game.

Even if I go over to MeFightClub tonight and someone has an awesome write-up with 1000 screen shots and it's amazing and super cool, I will throw my wallet out the window so as to not give in.

Maybe.

NO.

DEFINITELY.

Maybe.

STOP IT SHUT UP.
posted by kbanas at 1:05 PM on March 5, 2013 [3 favorites]


jcreigh: That's too bad, because the co-op is brilliant, easily the best part of the game.

So I hear. This is frustrating, because my options for people to play it with remain random internet people, who have now played it over and over for years.
posted by Mitrovarr at 1:06 PM on March 5, 2013


I am not sure yet if I can rollback to premade save points, but it is a little weird to not be able to go back,

Nope. There is no restore from a saved game. Thus, there is none of the wild experimentation of previous versions, which was at the heart of why players loved the game so much. No saving multiple versions of a city. It's just this one, tiny town (it's not big enough to be called a city, really) come hell or high water, for all eternity...or until you bulldoze it and start over, or EA shuts down the servers.

It's just such a big fail for anyone who was looking forward to an actual, updated SimCity. This thing is something different. I'll pass.
posted by Thorzdad at 1:07 PM on March 5, 2013 [4 favorites]


Capitalists are evil.

Because capitalism, of course, exactly means that which benefits owners and sellers. If you don't like something and don't buy it because you fancy yourself a rational actor in the marketplace or something, you're really just a commie.
posted by Zed at 1:12 PM on March 5, 2013 [8 favorites]


Out of curiosity, does anyone know what the state of the art is for implementing DRM like this? What are the tricks that make it hard to circumvent?
posted by qxntpqbbbqxl at 1:13 PM on March 5, 2013


Well, making the game dependent on talking to a server infrastructure is the biggie.
posted by Malor at 1:17 PM on March 5, 2013


If you didn't want AAA games to become MMOs (that is to say "require an always-on connection to a central server") then the pirates should have been stopped earlier.

IDK, Valve seems to do ok, and they're apparently something like 70% of the PC marketshare. As others have said above, Steam is a one-time only activation system.
posted by bonehead at 1:17 PM on March 5, 2013


(70% of the on-line marketshare, sorry)
posted by bonehead at 1:18 PM on March 5, 2013


Out of curiosity, does anyone know what the state of the art is for implementing DRM like this? What are the tricks that make it hard to circumvent?

Unfortunately, this is state of the art for DRM. Serial numbers can be faked. Servers that the software checks in with periodically can be circumvented. All that they're left with is a constant connection and keeping as much of the software in the cloud as they can. See Adobe Creative Cloud or Microsoft Office 365.
posted by thecjm at 1:21 PM on March 5, 2013


If you click on a publication's name on Metacritic, it helpfully tells you how generous or harsh their scores are when compared to other reviewers, on average. Given SimCity's huge discrepancy between the "professional" score and the user ratings, I think it'd make sense to expand that... "This reviewer grades 20% higher than the average user."

In the meantime, shame on those publications for partaking in the ethical race-to-the-bottom within games journalism.
posted by Riki tiki at 1:23 PM on March 5, 2013 [1 favorite]


Well, making the game dependent on talking to a server infrastructure is the biggie.

Is the server actually executing game logic, or is it just supplying some kind of authentication token? The former seems nuts to me from a performance perspective, but then, this kind of DRM seems nuts as well...

edit: If I had read the post, I would know that it is indeed executing game logic server-side. Nuts.
posted by qxntpqbbbqxl at 1:29 PM on March 5, 2013


Just buy Kerbal Space Program instead. Convert now or fall forever.
posted by adamdschneider at 1:30 PM on March 5, 2013 [4 favorites]


It's executing game logic and supplying part of the game world by amalgamating many users' cities into a single "region."
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 1:31 PM on March 5, 2013


Is the server actually executing game logic, or is it just supplying some kind of authentication token? The former seems nuts to me from a performance perspective, but then, this kind of DRM seems nuts as well...

Why does the former seem nuts? That's essentially how ever modern MMO is architected, where-by the client sends requests and the server does the actual 'game logic' processing and validates the request. It's a well known, and well explored model.
posted by Fidel Cashflow at 1:38 PM on March 5, 2013


[ducking out of flamewar]

For those who are playing the game, howabout a MeFi coop game? I don't usually play with others, but, hell, this is supposed to be social, right?

I set up a region, New MeFi. Send me your Origin Screen Name, and I'll invite you to join. 14 slots left...
posted by blahblahblah at 1:39 PM on March 5, 2013


I recall one of the easiest ways to have a rich city in the previous iteration was to raise taxes on the poor to ~22+% until they all left, and lower taxes on the rich to ~4% or so. But boy did I feel like a dick doing it that way.

Basically, Mitt Romney's playbook -- but, with a conscience and truly felt regret.
posted by ericb at 1:39 PM on March 5, 2013 [2 favorites]


I really hate that every game has to include multiplayer elements these days. Look, multiplayer games mean you have to play Very Seriously unless you want to get absolutely slaughtered all of the time.

That's my gripe with Left 4 Dead. Playing Infected on Versus, I get kicked for not doing exactly what the Bossy Guys with Headsets tell me, every fucking time.

Although it's the constant refrain of "fag fag fag" that makes me give up and go back to real life.
posted by dunkadunc at 1:44 PM on March 5, 2013 [5 favorites]


Yeah, not to derail but I have no idea how people begin playing stuff like League of Legends or DOTA2.
posted by griphus at 1:49 PM on March 5, 2013


I was at a talk that EA's COO gave a few months ago and he was talking about the future of the cloud not being streamed gaming, but rather other types of computation. So, your iPhone doesn't have the horsepower (nor battery life) to simulate Battlefield 3. But maybe EA does the physics calculations on their servers in the cloud and shoots the data back to you, freeing up the CPU to only worry about graphics processing.

This what they're playing with here- The point on being "always on" is not only DRM, but region-based calculation, saved games etc. You truly don't own your data. And I almost dont mind, except that when their cloud doesn't work, your game doesn't work. And that's the future.

There was also chatter about esentially seriously playing to win, like paying for better, smarter play calling AI in Madden, because data shows that Madden gamers don't really care about the game, per se, but rather about winning and they'll happily pay to do it.
posted by GilloD at 1:53 PM on March 5, 2013


I don't know who thought that being able to see sims walking down the street (not the most fascinating thing in the world, to say the least) trumped, you know, city building, but it seems like that just misses the point entirely.

Maybe Maxis hired Toady One.


My thoughts exactly. If only SimCity had that level of insanity, I might be into this new game.
posted by gkhan at 2:01 PM on March 5, 2013


I get kicked for not doing exactly what the Bossy Guys with Headsets tell me, every fucking time.

Although it's the constant refrain of "fag fag fag" that makes me give up and go back to real life.


I unplugged my headest, put it in a closet, and play as if I were a reasonably intelligent human being capable of making tactical decisions based on my current level of experience with the game and similar titles.

(Well... actually I just always play L4D solo. But I played TF2 for quite a while with voice chat disabled for reasons of sanity and not being called a fag every time I personally failed to spycheck some engi's crap while I was waiting to respawn, or whenever I tried to capture a point in a ToyFort server.)
posted by Foosnark at 2:02 PM on March 5, 2013


This is frustrating, because my options for people to play it with remain random internet people, who have now played it over and over for years.

I would heartily recommend you head over to MeFightClub and search for whatever the most recent Portal 2 thread is; I'm positive you'd find a few people who haven't been through the co-op campaign or haven't in long enough for it to feel on the new side again who would be willing to give it a go. I'd offer myself if I had the specific time to set aside for it. You're not stuck only with random internet dongs.

Ditto as a possible staging ground for a mefi SimCity region, for that matter.
posted by cortex at 2:03 PM on March 5, 2013 [1 favorite]


sonmi: "This quote from the Ars Technica review sums up why I feel a little confused whenever the devs talk about the simulator tools they've built:

I mean the idea is cute, but I don't see what it's really enabling that the probabilistic versions couldn't do. Like modelling the police/fire/ambulance/etc., that's sensible. But the Sims? I don't see the point. I don't see how it makes it a better game.
Fundamentally, I don't care about sims. I care about my city. Focusing on modelling the Sims at the expense of the city is ass-backwards.


I don't know who thought that being able to see sims walking down the street (not the most fascinating thing in the world, to say the least) trumped, you know, city building, but it seems like that just misses the point entirely.
"

Yeah, it seems interesting as an exercise, and as a project to build an engine that they can build future games on... but they hit a major issue with agent based modelled systems where getting MULTIPLE stable equilibria out of really dynamic systems that don't crash the entire thing is really really hard.

I suspect the issue with the limited city size is a result of this* that making cities much bigger both make the game unplayable, and turn results into non-sense...

* maybe its to sell future add-ons, and maybe its both, they took a limiting factor and think they can get extra money out of people once the modelling gets cleaned up
posted by stratastar at 2:04 PM on March 5, 2013 [1 favorite]


Nothing resembling a flame war anywhere in this thread.
posted by absalom at 2:05 PM on March 5, 2013


I tried playing L4D solo, but the bots essentially played the game for me. So I tried turning off bots, but then getting caught by any disabling Infected is death. So I uninstalled the game and wished Steam had a return policy.
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 2:05 PM on March 5, 2013


I tried playing L4D solo, but the bots essentially played the game for me. So I tried turning off bots, but then getting caught by any disabling Infected is death. So I uninstalled the game and wished Steam had a return policy.

It's an explicitly multiplayer co-op game - the 4 in the title stands for '4 players'.
posted by Sebmojo at 2:09 PM on March 5, 2013 [1 favorite]


See above re: "fag".
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 2:10 PM on March 5, 2013 [2 favorites]


Get on Mefight club and play it with some irl cool dude(tte)s, it's fantastic.
posted by Sebmojo at 2:12 PM on March 5, 2013 [1 favorite]


And shame on people at EA, not that they seem to care. RPS participated in the hands-on of the game, and asked about the implications of server troubles or abandonment given the always-on requirement. EA's response:
“I can’t speak to what the future may hold. What I do know is that EA has shown that where there are active communities playing a game, they will maintain the servers. Spore servers are still up to this day. We are looking at this SimCity as a live service and something we plan to support after launch with new content, polish and everything that goes with a live service. Maxis and EA have been in online gaming for a long time and have some of the best people and infrastructure in the business to ensure our servers are stable at launch.”
I'll let that sink in. At a prepackaged event intended to buy critical favor, the best answer they could give was "No promises, but we kept one game going for four years and have some decent sysadmins so *shrug*." (also, at this point "the best X in the business" should obviously be relegated to the buzzword bin to fester with "paradigm" and "proactive")

This is not an issue of piracy versus capitalism. Piracy is a real problem, as is the poisonous rent-seeking of our current copyright policymaking (draw your own conclusions about which is more significant). Neither one excuses the other, despite the insistence of each side's most vocal advocates.

But SimCity 2000, SimCity 3000, and SimCity 4 are all on the Wikipedia page of all-time bestselling PC games despite their lack of always-on DRM. EA has no defensible claim that the franchise had been financially hobbled by rampant piracy (and let's face it, it was rampant).

Whether they admit it or not, their hand-wringing about piracy (as well as the tacked-on "social" nature of the game) is a decoy. Their desire to make money vastly exceeds their desire to make a good product or serve their customers. The original games' residual goodwill means that EA can release a half-finished game at full price, then sell the other half in full-priced increments. They can further profit by datamining (and probably outright reselling) customers' usage stats, and when usage dwindles they can compel people to upgrade by shutting down the old servers.

I see EA the same way I see Fox News or Michael Bay movies. For the most part, people there are just trying to do what they love, but the only opportunity they've found is at a massive company that has hollowed out the creative process. Though I don't hold those people totally blameless, I'm very sympathetic and wish them better options in the future. Until then, I just hope they'll try to apply some internal pressure against these terrible policies.
posted by Riki tiki at 2:15 PM on March 5, 2013 [11 favorites]


Get on Mefight club and play it with some irl cool dude(tte)s, it's fantastic.

I'm a member of the Steam group, but the group server seems to be gone. Is there some other Mefightclub mechanism of finding people to play with who aren't utter shits?
posted by dunkadunc at 2:18 PM on March 5, 2013 [1 favorite]


I'm a member of the Steam group, but the group server seems to be gone. Is there some other Mefightclub mechanism of finding people to play with who aren't utter shits?

Go to mefightclub.com and start a thread (or join one if one exists).
posted by mrnutty at 2:19 PM on March 5, 2013


Ah, I meant to point out the Metacritic ratings as well. Currently 91/100 for professional reviewers and 3.9/10 for user reviews. Also, why does Metacritic use different scales for professional versus user reviews?

Professional video game reviewers have a needy relationship with publishers and are famously reluctant to give accurate bad scores. I think that separating them is doing us a service, even if the motive might (or might not) be something less noble such as prejudice against amateurs.
posted by anonymisc at 2:20 PM on March 5, 2013


For the record, I don't think hating on the Always On DRM is wrong. I think Always On DRM is stupid and limiting and a bad idea. But that point is belabored each and every time there's a modern new game. The games you grew up with are a thing of the past. There are a thousand thousand great games out there for far cheaper than this. Some that are better than the games of our childhood. And Steam and GOG and Kongregate and Google Play and The App Store and all of them are available without ever having to step foot in a Babbages again. I'm willing to make that trade.

EVERY SINGLE TIME there's a game with this stupid DRM scheme. 90% of the public reviewers won't own it, and they'll drown out legitimate discussion about each and every other enhancement, feature added, feature removed, art style, playing strategy or any other facet of the game.

That was my point. Not that EA's really the good guys.
posted by DigDoug at 2:31 PM on March 5, 2013 [1 favorite]


I think the "why does Metacritic use different scales for professional versus user reviews?" question is re: professional reviews being scored out of 100 points and amateur reviews out of 10.
posted by griphus at 2:32 PM on March 5, 2013


I watched some of the demo videos they had posted when they were still developing the game, and I was somewhat impressed, but I couldn't help but wonder how they got that to scale. From what people are saying about the city size, I guess the answer is that they didn't.
posted by ckape at 2:37 PM on March 5, 2013 [1 favorite]


I was planning on not just buying this game, but buying a computer for this game. Now I'm hoping on principle it gets the DRM bullshit hacked out pronto. A game can't become a classic if it needs servers. It becomes a memory instead.

I'm also having second thoughts because it sounds like they dropped the ball on the game itself. But if I'm going to use it as an excuse for a new computer, that'll take me some time. so I'll have plenty of time to see where the reviews converge.
posted by anonymisc at 2:39 PM on March 5, 2013


EVERY SINGLE TIME there's a game with this stupid DRM scheme. 90% of the public reviewers won't own it, and they'll drown out legitimate discussion about each and every other enhancement, feature added, feature removed, art style, playing strategy or any other facet of the game.

Modern marketing indicates that word-of-mouth matters. If so, then DRM complaint noise drowning the discussion of content merit is another way that the DRM retards sales. (And if potential-consumers want to voice their disgust, good for them.)
posted by anonymisc at 2:42 PM on March 5, 2013 [1 favorite]


EA decided to include always-on DRM

I hate always-on DRM as much as the next guy, but let's call a spade a spade. This just happens to function like DRM, but isn't really. The article should say something like
EA decided to make the new SimCity a one-time purchase MMO. New content is expected to be available for purchase in the future.
posted by Nonsteroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drug at 2:47 PM on March 5, 2013 [5 favorites]


Polygon, whose rave review convinced me to buy the game yesterday, just dropped their score down 8.0 from 9.5 because of server issues.

And they've now also convinced me to never read Polygon again.
posted by eyeballkid at 2:50 PM on March 5, 2013


This just happens to function like DRM, but isn't really.

That's a pile of bullshit. DRM with a few features tacked on is still DRM.
posted by Malor at 2:50 PM on March 5, 2013 [2 favorites]


Ah, I meant to point out the Metacritic ratings as well. Currently 91/100 for professional reviewers and 3.9/10 for user reviews. Also, why does Metacritic use different scales for professional versus user reviews?

Mainly because amateur reviewers tend to give marks out of ten (or 5), whereas professional critics use letter grades, percentages, marks out of ten and five or no score at all, and Metacritic seeks to provide a consistent value to each review.

In terms of why the fan and critic scores are separated - with video games, at least, to a degree, it helps to protect the developers...

Developer bonus schemes are often based on MetaCritic scores. This is often thought of as an imposition by publishers, but actually is driven often by the devs. They know that they can't control how well a game is marketed, so they ask for a bonus scheme based on what they can control - the quality of the game.

From that perspective, possible review inflation doesn't make a lot of difference - if a mediocre game is generally given a 7, that just means you set the bonus-releasing score at 8. So, if you make a game like Enslaved - Odyssey to the West, which will never be a top seller, you can still point to its pro critics rating of 80-82 and say "we made a good game" to a potential employer, or indeed "we did our part" in a performance review.

Now, the fan's opinion of Enslaved is basically the same - high 7s - but the fan rating is vulnerable to e.g low marking because of things like multiplayer in Mass Effect 3 (or the ending), where the score is being given as a protest. That doesn't reference how well the multiplayer was implemented, so it isn't a useful metric for telling how good a developer or a team were at implementing their brief for the game.

It's an imperfect system.
posted by running order squabble fest at 2:52 PM on March 5, 2013 [1 favorite]


Malor, again, I'm no fan of always-on internet requirements, but how is this different than any other MMO? Pretend this wasn't a new version of SimCity, but was just something new called...World of SimCraft. I get the problem here, but I don't see the difference.
posted by Nonsteroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drug at 2:52 PM on March 5, 2013


There's a "sandbox" mode where the entire region is just you, with nobody else building cities. Still requires the server.
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 2:54 PM on March 5, 2013


Also, the "social" features could have easily been done asynchronously. It seems like a case where they decided it was going to be online-only first, and decided how that would impact gameplay second.
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 2:55 PM on March 5, 2013 [1 favorite]


Right. Like an MMO. I think it's a bad thing, but I feel like EA is making a different game than the one we want, and happens to be selling the "experience" as SimCity.

(and frankly, I'd love to see EA's response to people complaining about SimCity being turned into an MMO instead of them trying to spin DRM complaints.. They sort of get into it here, but it'd be interesting to see a more in-depth response.)
posted by Nonsteroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drug at 2:57 PM on March 5, 2013


I was worried from the minute I saw them moving alerts and services along the roads in their tech demos; that same system was used in Caesar, Pharoah et al. and was the most infuriating thing ever. If you build a fire station, and a fire starts but the random-wandering alarms don't reach it in time, then you get massive flameouts, through no fault of your own. I hoped that they had added more intelligence, but the Ars Technica reviewers talk about those sorts of problems; ambulances stuck in traffic while a parallel road ten feet away sits empty and the like.

As far as the lack of subways goes, the "cities" here are tiny, like a few blocks to a side. The only subways I can think of that short is the S line (42nd St Shuttle) in Manhattan. And barely the Seattle Monorail, like one station at one edge of the city, and the other at the other end. The Waterloo and City line in London is far too long for this city size.

And it sounds like they're missing the boat as far as hardcore urban nerdery; no mixed-use zoning for instance, which may have made sense 20 years ago but is now antiquated. The density is controlled entirely by how big a road you build; the bigger the road, the more density. That's some 1950-style Robert Moses bullshit. It's remarkable that (from what I can tell) they've missed everything new in urban planning since the original SimCity came out; imagine a car-building simulation that didn't have airbags available for safety, or a modern military simulation that not only didn't have drones, but the bad guys are Soviets.
posted by Homeboy Trouble at 3:02 PM on March 5, 2013 [16 favorites]


eyeballkid: "Polygon, whose rave review convinced me to buy the game yesterday, just dropped their score down 8.0 from 9.5 because of server issues."

And Metacritic will stick with the 9.5 so EA will be happy.
posted by the_artificer at 3:10 PM on March 5, 2013


Dear Game Devs: Please Stop Telling Us $60 Isn’t A Lot Of Money
posted by homunculus at 3:15 PM on March 5, 2013


And they've now also convinced me to never read Polygon again.

Yeah, I was really disappointed (and instantly curious about ethics issues) after reading that 9.5 review from Polygon as well.

EA, CliffyB's recent, lame apologia notwithstanding, continues to be a cancer in the heart of PC gaming. Lordy, I do dislike them.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 3:15 PM on March 5, 2013 [1 favorite]


Also, please do come over and join us at MefightClub, as other folks have suggested, if you want to play this (not sure how many people will get on board) or anything else new or old with Good People. The Steam groups (we have dozens of them) are kind of crowd-maintained, and aren't always maintained, but the forum is where we actively talk about and arrange games sessions small and large, and will have the most current information about our servers and who's up for playing what...
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 3:18 PM on March 5, 2013 [2 favorites]


"Those talented artists, programmers, designers, and producers that spent their time building the game you love? They need to eat and feed their families. (Something that the hipster/boomerang kid generation seems to forget all too often.)"

What the fuck is this, Cliff?
posted by griphus at 3:19 PM on March 5, 2013 [2 favorites]


Yes, but will it fire acrologies into space?
posted by ckape at 3:33 PM on March 5, 2013 [1 favorite]


What the fuck is this, Cliff?

Correct premise, incorrect conclusions, pretty much.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 3:37 PM on March 5, 2013


I still have my tiny ancient Dell laptop that I bought in law school just so that I can still play my copy of SimCity 2000. Every version after that I tried I just did not like.
posted by crush-onastick at 3:41 PM on March 5, 2013 [1 favorite]


...'users' will go and give it 1 for having Always on DRM, and not actually evaluate the game...

I don't want to be part of a pile-on because god knows we've all got enough troubles but would you still give the thumbs-up to a rare and exquisite and long-lost volume of your favourite book by your favourite author if you opened it up and it fired wasps up your nose and the wasps stung your brain and your brain swelled up and pushed your eyeballs out of their sockets and your eyeballs became literally stuck to the page of the rare and exquisite book? And you tried to pull your eyeballs off the paper and paper got stuck to them and after the brain swelling goes down you push your eyeballs back into your head but the torn paper fragments are still there and you have to go through the rest of your life with itchy eyes? BECAUSE THAT IS EXACTLY WHAT THIS IS LIKE.
posted by turgid dahlia 2 at 3:48 PM on March 5, 2013 [17 favorites]


I'm vaguely offended that EA expects Australians to pay $A99 for the deluxe edition. (that's 101 USD as of this morning, thanks). And A$79 for the limited edition. And we get a delayed launch sometime in the next 3 days.

I drive 26km to work, while this Simcity only allows you to build a 2km by 2km square? How many people's commutes are less than 2km?

If I had the talent (and resources) I would have liked to design an even "higher level" simulation than what Simcity 4 was doing: less micromanagement of services (police, fire, hospital, school) - they should auto-populate in the world on appropriate zones depending on funding levels - and I'd like to see more focus on transport (we can never have enough transport modes, it should be like TTD) and also more focus on politics and policies. Basically a "macro" version of simcity 4 that extends the simulation zone to something larger like 50km by 50km using optimized simulation algorithms. The graphics would be in the beautiful "oil painting" style that was used by World in Conflict.
posted by xdvesper at 4:10 PM on March 5, 2013 [3 favorites]


castles 2
posted by robocop is bleeding at 4:13 PM on March 5, 2013


I loved SimCity 3000. I like city building games in general. Hell, I even like Pixel People pretty well. I also liked the Sims, but am also getting pretty sick of all the bullshit EA's been pulling and the amount of add-on stuff that they want you to buy. I'm fine with packs of content, but paying for furniture and costumes and shit just feels... I mean, it's one thing when it's a freemium game, but there's a certain amount of stress in having it in your regular game.

Anyway, I'll play the whole gamut from little iOS strategies to Civ. What game should I play that would fill the gap that is left by not buying SimCity because it's totally broken?
posted by NoraReed at 4:25 PM on March 5, 2013 [1 favorite]


castles 2

The Duke of Valois keeps asking me for 2 gold to mend our friendship. Friendship! The nerve! If it weren't for me, he'd be fighting Anjou instead of currying favor by ceding territory after territory to the Pope. And whatever happened to that expedition to Africa I funded? Haven't they found that Prester John guy yet? What? A Saboteur destroyed three units of timber? Blast it!
posted by RonButNotStupid at 4:32 PM on March 5, 2013 [2 favorites]


Since it hasn't been mentioned here, I would like to recommend Tropico as a fun city-building game that already does the modeling and such that SC is so proud of. Admittedly, it's because getting a city up to 1000 people is a Big Deal, but whatever. It's a fun game where you're a tinpot dictator in the Caribbean during the cold war. Didn't buy the DLC, I hear good things. It does have some of the Pharaoh-based problems, which I think are just inherent to agent-simulating games.

Plus there is something so very satisfying about firing your Minister of Defence on a whim and watching him become a ranch hand. And then reducing that ranch's wages to 10% of the norm. And then raising the rent on his condo and watching him move into a shanty.
....and then sending the Secret Police after him.
Sorry, Javier.

posted by Lemurrhea at 4:47 PM on March 5, 2013 [15 favorites]


Correct premise, incorrect conclusions, pretty much.

For the life of me I cannot figure out what hipster stereotype he's working with.
posted by griphus at 4:56 PM on March 5, 2013


I guess I'll wait a while and see how things shake out.
posted by bq at 5:06 PM on March 5, 2013


hmmm. Why is the official name of the game SimCity rather than Sim City or Sim City 5?

Has Will Wright signed off on this?
posted by Bwithh at 5:07 PM on March 5, 2013


Polygon review wrap-up: "SIMCITY SEEMS ENGINEERED TO DELIVER MAXIMUM FUN AS EFFICIENTLY AS POSSIBLE
SimCity is a near-perfect fusion of the classic simulation game with modern social and online play elements. It is in every way the fully realized evolution of the franchise and a much welcome iteration, perfectly engineered to dispense the maximum amount of fun in the most efficient way possible. It is highly addicting, but there are worse things to be addicted to. Just be sure to set an alarm.
"


So... are Polygraph reviews always like this when they highly rate a game, or is this damning faintly with ludicrously excessive praise/the reviewer doth praise to much territory ("near-perfect", "in every way the fully realized evolution..., "perfectly engineered", "maximum amount of fun" etc.)

So is SimCity a game which SEEMS to be engineered to deliver maximum fun or is it a game which is PERFECTLY engineered to dispense maximum fun --- you're mumbling, Polygon, and look at me when you reply...
posted by Bwithh at 5:13 PM on March 5, 2013


For the life of me I cannot figure out what hipster stereotype he's working with.

I'm going to go with "kids these days".
Which is also what "boomerang kid generation" means.

So CliffyB sez: "Something that kids these days these days seems to forget all too often."

Right. Glad we sorted that out.
posted by anonymisc at 5:17 PM on March 5, 2013


FWIW, I don't recognize most of the sites that are providing the reviews on Metacritic for SimCity. A lot of the big names aren't up there, and none of the smaller sites I tend to trust more. I'd probably take the metacritic score with a heavy grain of salt until more reviews come in.

My guess is the current reviews are either rushed, or the big sites didn't give favorable reviews (I hear publishers can request that review sites not publish disfavorable reviews immediately, in some cases).
posted by Mitrovarr at 5:23 PM on March 5, 2013


So, here is the question: What are the decent FOSS remakes of the classic games? There must be a few out there.
posted by Canageek at 5:29 PM on March 5, 2013


Micropolis.
posted by kagredon at 5:38 PM on March 5, 2013 [1 favorite]


Yeah, not to derail but I have no idea how people begin playing stuff like League of Legends or DOTA2.

Just play Anti-Mage.
posted by kithrater at 6:00 PM on March 5, 2013 [1 favorite]


castles 2

The Duke of Valois keeps asking me for 2 gold to mend our friendship. Friendship! The nerve! If it weren't for me, he'd be fighting Anjou instead of currying favor by ceding territory after territory to the Pope.


crusader kings 2
posted by pravit at 6:03 PM on March 5, 2013 [2 favorites]


Years ago, I think read an article about how the right-wing leanings of Will Wright had influenced population growth formula used by SimCity.

Not according to him. I remember reading an interview with Wright saying that one of the morals he intended to impart with SimCity is getting the player to notice that as your city grows, more and more problems need to be dealt with. The most natural way to play SimCity is trying to get the biggest city possible, but once you reach that point you'll notice that there's so much traffic, pollution, and crime that it would be a pretty shitty place to live.

That's the point where you were supposed to come to the conclusion that perhaps the goal in city building shouldn't be growth, growth, & more growth, but in creating a balanced, beautiful place where your citizens would be happiest.
posted by zixyer at 6:18 PM on March 5, 2013 [4 favorites]


Why DRM?

Because it's the only game in town. You say, "Well, it'll get cracked eventually." You don't think they know that? Of course they know that.

The DRM is on now, at the beginning, because the only way they can make money is to extract it from the people who feel they must play right now, at the beginning. Two, three months from now, when the game is cracked, they'll have made a good chunk of their money. The rest comes from people who aren't savvy, for the most part, or people buying games as gift.

Putting out a PayPal tip jar won't get them diddly squat.

Now, we can talk about game design or the fact they've screwed up the launch. All of that is valid. But the DRM ... what, you thought people would just give EA money for a game when they could just torrent it?
posted by adipocere at 7:14 PM on March 5, 2013


Now, we can talk about game design or the fact they've screwed up the launch. All of that is valid. But the DRM ... what, you thought people would just give EA money for a game when they could just torrent it?

Yes.
posted by kagredon at 7:16 PM on March 5, 2013 [3 favorites]


But the DRM ... what, you thought people would just give EA money for a game when they could just torrent it?

DRM gets cracked and torrents are up the same day that games are released. It accomplishes precisely nothing.
posted by empath at 7:18 PM on March 5, 2013 [2 favorites]


This thread encouraged me to see if I could get SimCity 4 (福爾摩沙豪華版) running under Ubuntu. The installation is in progress.

And I've already got SC3KU running. That is still just about my favorite version of SimCity. Not too high pressure, nice graphics, not too CPU intensive, and I've figured out how to get a pretty much self-sustaining city. I should play that more, but KSP has been my main obsession lately.
posted by jiawen at 7:21 PM on March 5, 2013


My own stance on games is that things are really changing and the big players are fucking shit up and don't know what to do.

You've got this brouhaha with SC5. Before that you had that issue with the DRM from Ubi (and still do with their UPlay system).

Asassin's Creed 4, apparently will have "Connected Single Player". The fuck!

Look at what Sony is doing with the PS4 where they're boasting about "social". You've got Nintendo trying to do some sort of innvation, but they seem hapless.

Ouya, Gamestick and Nvidia's handheld are coming out. You've got the Steambox that hopes to step into the console market.

Ouya and Steam, both being friendly to indie devs (while the 360 has the indie market place, I've read a lot of complaints from Indie devs that they really get fucked over). Phones and Tablets seem to be a big place for revenue. Unfortunately a lot of the revenue they make is on shitty IAP. Ouya will force everyone to have some form of free version. I personally prefer a solid free demo and then a nice cheap easy way to pay for an upgrade, with some expansions to help boost the gameplay in general.

The big guys are all trying to think of how they can rip you off, offering more cinema and less play, more "social" and less play, more enforcement of "antipiracy" and less play.

I'm rooting for the little guys. There's a lot of exciting things happening in the game world on the edges. Sadly, even they aren't immune - I have a friend who was just let go from his indie studio after they just released a game last month (seems kinda like Team Bondi where they busted their ass to get a product out and then all got canned - though I don't know if it was just him or a whole group of employees). Anyways, who knows what's coming, but I hope the gaming public sends the suits a message...
posted by symbioid at 8:14 PM on March 5, 2013 [4 favorites]


I wish some enterprising indie game studio would jump on Kickstarter and promise the development of a Metropolitan Area Simulator that does it right, no always-on DRM, and does it right because I would throw SO much money at them.

I cannot even begin to count the number of hours I have sunk into SimCity in my life, and yet I can honestly say that -- between the assinine limitations, the lack of experimenting, the always-on internet, and the bullshit that will be the DLC situation -- I have absolutely no interest whatsoever in this SimCity.

It's been a good run, SimCity, but I think it's time we took a break.
posted by barnacles at 8:55 PM on March 5, 2013


You've got this brouhaha with SC5

Wait what? I know that Star Control 3 was asposed to suck, but there was an SC4 and now SC5?!?!?!?!
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 9:02 PM on March 5, 2013


Man, I remember when Electronic Arts used to be cool.

COME BACK, STUART SMITH, ALL IS FORGIVEN
posted by Spatch at 9:05 PM on March 5, 2013 [1 favorite]


Why does everything have to be social now?

I recently used the Kobo Android app because I wanted to buy Scalzi's The Human Division and it was easy enough to use. They just sent me an email survey about the app and I thought, "Great! The app's okay, but it could really benefit from a few basic features that seem to be missing."* Do you think they asked about that? Nope. The entire survey was about Facebook integration and turning the app into something "like Pinterest". Really?

* More typeface and colour options please. Also, let me hide the title and page count; they're taking up valuable screen space.
posted by ODiV at 10:01 PM on March 5, 2013 [2 favorites]


Played the hell out of original, 2000, 3000 Unlimited (skipped 4 for the most part) but as barnacles said above, no desire to play this one, for all of the same reasons.

(Oh, and FYI there is NO better SimCity than the original, played on a Macintosh Plus, 1MB of RAM and 9" black and white display. Just sayin'.)

(/getoffmylawn)
posted by zbaco at 10:05 PM on March 5, 2013


I remember reading an interview with Wright saying that one of the morals he intended to impart with SimCity is getting the player to notice that as your city grows, more and more problems need to be dealt with. The most natural way to play SimCity is trying to get the biggest city possible, but once you reach that point you'll notice that there's so much traffic, pollution, and crime that it would be a pretty shitty place to live.

That's the point where you were supposed to come to the conclusion that perhaps the goal in city building shouldn't be growth, growth, & more growth, but in creating a balanced, beautiful place where your citizens would be happiest.
posted by zixyer at 6:18 PM on March 5 [3 favorites +] [!]


Wait, the ultimate goal wasn't to cover every single possible tile with arcologies?!?
posted by Bwithh at 10:08 PM on March 5, 2013 [4 favorites]


I thought replicating the city from Blade Runner was the ultimate goal.
posted by dunkadunc at 10:10 PM on March 5, 2013 [1 favorite]


But the DRM ... what, you thought people would just give EA money for a game when they could just torrent it?

Has anyone done the experiment in the big-studio big-budget videogame world? Or is it just an everyone-knows-thing that the DRM preserves more business than it loses?
posted by Zed at 10:47 PM on March 5, 2013


Soon computers will be so cheap and powerful that we could host and run our own software, right there in our own homes. Imagine, you could play a game and have the program running, and all the data stored, on your self contained PC. 5 to 10 years away.
posted by bongo_x at 10:53 PM on March 5, 2013 [16 favorites]


By the way, if you've not touched Sim City 4 in a few years, and especially if you're a transportation nerd like I am, there is still a very active modding community at Simtropolis; version 31 of the Network Addon Mod was released last week, and includes everything from pedestrian malls to high speed rail, as well as freeways, interchanges, realistic rural rail, ground level light rail, European and North American street markings... it's crazy. There are literally thousands of buildings available on the exchange as well; if you live in a major city, there's likely something local.
posted by Homeboy Trouble at 11:15 PM on March 5, 2013 [8 favorites]


barnacles: "I wish some enterprising indie game studio would jump on Kickstarter and promise the development of a Metropolitan Area Simulator that does it right, no always-on DRM, and does it right because I would throw SO much money at them."

I might just have to put my money where my mouth is: Civitas, a Kickstarter SimCity by some laid-off game devs in Austin.
posted by barnacles at 12:49 AM on March 6, 2013 [4 favorites]


Yeah, I backed Civitas, too. Dunno if it's gonna fly, but I did my part.
posted by Malor at 2:05 AM on March 6, 2013


Imagine, you could play a game and have the program running, and all the data stored, on your self contained PC. 5 to 10 years away.

Oh god you're one of those "futurists" I keep reading about in OMNI magazine, aren't you?
posted by turgid dahlia 2 at 2:56 AM on March 6, 2013 [7 favorites]


I might just have to put my money where my mouth is: Civitas, a Kickstarter SimCity by some laid-off game devs in Austin.

Oh, I hope RockPaperShotgun gives that thing a mention in their upcoming (my prediction: terrible) review of SimCity, so it can get the backing it needs.
posted by turgid dahlia 2 at 3:00 AM on March 6, 2013


As someone who studies videogames, and the videogame industry for a living, I'll just say that there are several reasons that independent developers are having ever increasing success and prominence. It's partly to do with having the opportunity to make the game they want, rather than what the suits think sell a squillion copies. A lot of it has to do with that they are committed, insightful, hard working, and creative people. But, some part of it is that the customer base that actually has money and is willing to spend it on a quality product is a little bit over being presumptively treated as a possible thief.

The games industry, as we've known it for the last 15 years is slowly shrinking. In part due to the decisions highly paid executives with MBAs that think it is a good idea to treat your customer base as the enemy.

Good riddance, frankly. Eventually WW2 Man Shooter(tm) won't continue to sell so many copies, and then they'll be fucked. Well they won't exactly, the people that actually make the games will. Those bastards will find some other industry to destroy with their 'expertise', but at least we might get our culture, and if we're lucky, our industry back.
posted by Hello, I'm David McGahan at 3:30 AM on March 6, 2013 [2 favorites]


I saw someone say that we might be headed for the Second Great Video Game Crash in this next generation, based largely on the observation that the mainstream gaming consoles and companies no longer seem capable of true innovation; rather, they're just trying to squeeze every nickel they can out of a declining customer base, tirelessly retreading the same old shit, again and again.

Except for Dishonored, which I thought was awesome (probably much because it took me totally by surprise; I had no idea it even existed until like a day before it came out), last year I really had a lot more fun with indie games than I did with anything mainstream. Mark of the Ninja (short, but fantastic), Space Pirates and Zombies, Minecraft (still), Dwarf Fortress (still), and a bunch of other titles, the names of which my aging brain refuses to produce on demand.

It seems like all the creativity and joy is in the indie scene now, and they tend not to be very abusive, because they don't have very many customers, and they can't afford to piss any off. Even as companies like EA get meaner and meaner to the people that pay them, trying to punish the people that don't pay them, the indies are truly innovating and doing interesting stuff.

I'll definitely be buying Bioshock Infinite, but if things keep going the way they're going, that might be the last mainstream title I buy. I'm already bored with most of their formulae, and then when they add abuse too, well, that's a shit sandwich I ain't gonna eat anymore.
posted by Malor at 4:40 AM on March 6, 2013 [3 favorites]


Basically: the only real creativity I'm seeing from the major developers right now is in how they're trying to come up with sneaky ways to make you pay more, for less game. Their innovation is limited to payment models, instead of actual gaming.

They seemed to all go that way because of Zynga, but Zynga is cratering. Can't help but wonder if those assholes aren't going to take a bunch of the other assholes down with them.
posted by Malor at 4:45 AM on March 6, 2013 [2 favorites]


I really enjoy the personalities involved with Polygon through their podcasts, both MBMBAM and Besties. Too bad their actual site is so awful.
posted by graventy at 5:57 AM on March 6, 2013


Update on the Playing of SimCity:

Still no major errors in the game. DRM didn't actually cause me any issues.

Spent a couple hours absorbed in city building, until I reached the frustrating city size limit before I had my first skyscraper, though the density of my city continues to increase. I realized that, as a result, I had to play the game in a new way, concentrating on building up a region, rather than a lone city. One city couldn't be both the regional job headquarters, the regional education center, etc. I needed to set up a bedroom community to support my heavy industry with enough blue color workers. While this changes the way I play the game, I am reserving judgement on whether it sucks or is just different.

The actual gameplay is quite absorbing, with less frustration than other SimCities since things are less opaque. Right off the bat, there are a lot more interesting ways to specialize your city than previous vanilla Sim games, lots of building types, and some neat new systems for trade and government improvement. You can actually upgrade your own buildings, adding bus routes for schools and extra patient wings in hospitals. Traffic patterns, neighborhoods, pollution, and the other subsystems are all working nicely. You still have hundreds of variables to balance, and the game still makes it interesting to do so.

Basically, this feels like a modern SimCity game. The only major complaints I have are DRM (can't play on an airplane) and city size (which really does change the nature of the game). I think there is a lot of interesting innovation here, and am really enjoying it.
posted by blahblahblah at 7:05 AM on March 6, 2013 [3 favorites]


As stavros alluded to, EA is fresh off the debacle of Dead Space 3 where they demanded that the new entry is more action than horror and then they introduced In Application Purchases, removing the different types of ammo that the dev wanted so that the purchases could be accommodated. The decision and worries about the game being compromised to nudge the players towards. A spokesman said that all new EA games will have IAP and when sales of DS3 were lower than expected after the furore, EA shut down the franchise. Amazingly customers didn't appreciate being asked to pay full price upfront and be offered IAPs: once upon a time if you wanted more ammo, you typed a cheat code instead of paying someone for the privilege.

I dislike always on because once I buy a game, I'd rather not be dependent on the publisher to be able to play it. I own many games that have outlasted the companies that made them including some by studios that EA shut down.

Has anyone done the experiment in the big-studio big-budget videogame world? Or is it just an everyone-knows-thing that the DRM preserves more business than it loses?

CD Projekt RED released The Witcher and The Witcher 2* without DRM (Patch 1.1 removed DRM from versions that had it) and they did pretty well.
posted by ersatz at 9:26 AM on March 6, 2013 [3 favorites]


Is Witcher 3 going to be considered a AAA game? If CD Projekt RED stick to their guns, it'll be a pretty good field test for DRM-free big-budget games.
posted by griphus at 9:31 AM on March 6, 2013


Interestingly, CD Projekt estimated that 4.5 million illegal copies of The Witcher 2 were distributed, but they do not argue that that reflects 4.5 million lost sales - many of those who pirated the game would never have bought it, and some of those who pirated it may in fact have bought it later, once they had established that they enjoyed it.

Also interestingly, the version of The Witcher 2 sold through GOG.com was DRM-free, and as such could have been very easily shared through file-sharing networks, but it wasn't. Instead, one of the DRM-protected versions from the retail release had its DRM cracked to create the seed for file sharing.
posted by running order squabble fest at 9:35 AM on March 6, 2013


Yeah, the GOG community has that weird overlap of people who are totally hep to torrenting and at the same time totally willing to drop cash on a game. They're basically the gaming community equivalent of people who download albums off Rapidshare and then buy the vinyl.
posted by griphus at 9:42 AM on March 6, 2013 [2 favorites]


I will gladly buy Witcher3 if it's DRM free, Witcher2 was awesome. If they lock it down, fuck that, they're not getting my money - just like I'm going to no longer pay EA any money for their bullshit.
posted by symbioid at 10:09 AM on March 6, 2013


Yeah, the GOG community has that weird overlap of people who are totally hep to torrenting and at the same time totally willing to drop cash on a game. They're basically the gaming community equivalent of people who download albums off Rapidshare and then buy the vinyl.

Which, griphus, is a large community. Lots and lots and lots of people will pay for something that they can get for free. Humble Bundle has made many millions letting people name their own prices for things.

GOG's entire existence is based on people who appreciate having a cheap, reliable source for DRM-free games, and who willingly pay when they don't have to.

I suspect this market is actually gigantic, it's just not being properly served yet.
posted by Malor at 10:30 AM on March 6, 2013 [2 favorites]


And, you know, I'm not really a game pirate, but there's just no way in hell that I would copy a game that was priced reasonably, and was DRM-free. I would buy the Witcher 2, but I was so repulsed by the misogyny in the first one that I never have -- but I haven't pirated it, either. If I wanted to play that game, I would pay for it. And I wouldn't give copies out.

Treat me like a thief, and I don't feel bound by ethics in the same way. It's not a one-way thing, where I have to be responsible, but you don't. If you abuse me, I have no qualms about abusing you right back. If a game company treats me well, I'm happy to return the favor.
posted by Malor at 10:33 AM on March 6, 2013


blahblahblah: "and city size"

Don't worry, I imagine before too long they'll bee selling a Region Pack DLC that includes more region maps with larger city footprints, only $9.99.
posted by the_artificer at 11:08 AM on March 6, 2013


One of the problems with a lot of DLC is that it creates an incentive to release games with shitty design. I've definitely seen this pattern, especially with free or nearly-free mobile games: the first few levels are easy and addictive, then the game becomes nearly unplayable unless you purchase DLC upgrades. As ersatz points out, this is basically just a cheat code you have to pay for, which of course leads to game design that requires them.

Historically, cheat codes were just harmless fun, a way to let everyone enjoy the game the way they wanted to. That's a big part of the lasting nostalgia for many old-school games... it's not random happenstance that the Konami Code and "porntipsguzzardo" are still things that people talk about. They didn't directly affect sales (I'm guessing "porntipsguzzardo" wasn't listed on the box), but it inspired devotion to those games, which led to advocacy, which increased sales.

As a modern example, I'll note that Angry Birds was pretty consistently generous with free DLC. They clearly knew they'd made a great game (no matter your personal opinion of it). And they released it under the hope that 500,000 $0.99 purchases would be better than a million free downloads plus 250,000 purchases of $0.99 DLC, plus 125,000 purchases of the subsequent $0.99 DLC, and so on. The advocacy they earned (honestly earned) turned their gamble into a gold mine, wildly exceeding anything they could've hoped for.

Not every game is Angry Birds, obviously. But there's a fuckton of profit to be made from games that are designed for greatness and earn that respect from their customers. Plus the side-benefit of actually being something you can be proud of, rather than something that just kills people's time until the next thing.

And it doesn't mean you can't do DLC, or release sequels. It just means you shouldn't design for obsolescence. I wish that wasn't such a revolutionary idea.
posted by Riki tiki at 1:04 PM on March 6, 2013 [3 favorites]


A look at The Sims 3 will give you an idea of what EA probably has in mind for the future of SimCity.
posted by the_artificer at 1:30 PM on March 6, 2013


> the first few levels are easy and addictive, then the game becomes nearly unplayable unless you purchase DLC upgrades

I just realized. We've come full circle to "insert coin to continue", haven't we?
posted by gilrain at 3:15 PM on March 6, 2013 [15 favorites]


On a related topic, I just bought a DVD box set of an ABC series, which conveniently doesn't play on any DVD player in the house due to Disney's greater commitment to preventing copying than to actually provide paying customers with a working product. Yay.
posted by Zed at 7:31 PM on March 6, 2013 [3 favorites]


So, we're up to Day 3 of the EA DRM debacle.

As of two days ago, EA was saying that they would refund your money if you were unhappy. Per PC Gamer, which is what I'm linking there, this is what they said at the time:
“If you regrettably feel that we let you down, you can of course request a refund for your order at http://help.origin.com/contact-us, though we’re currently still in the process of resolving this issue,” he writes.
So a user tried to get a refund, and got this response (that's a mirror in my webspace of a jpg screenshot, original link on imgur, here.) Paraphrased: the customer service rep said that you're free to request a refund, they just don't have to give you one. Request all you like, they'll just say no.

So now the original forum article has been edited, no longer stating that they will give refunds. Instead, they now tell you to check their policy statement -- and their policy statement is that you can't get your money back, period.

So, you spend $60 to $80 for a game that simply doesn't work for most people, they pull a bait and switch on promised refunds, and now stonewall on all such requests.

Some people would call that fraud. It certainly cements my determination to never, ever buy an EA game again. These people are greedy, evil assholes, and you'd have to be kind of brain-damaged to ever give them another dime.
posted by Malor at 6:02 AM on March 7, 2013 [7 favorites]


Is Witcher 3 going to be considered a AAA game? If CD Projekt RED stick to their guns, it'll be a pretty good field test for DRM-free big-budget games.

They are aiming for a game world bigger than Skyrim's and after Bioware botched Dragon Age 2, they probably have the most-coveted new rpg franchise in their hands.
posted by ersatz at 6:55 AM on March 7, 2013


Is TW2 better in the misogyny department? The first game had collectible cards for all the women you'd fucked.
posted by Malor at 7:05 AM on March 7, 2013


I'd guess that The Witcher 3 will work the same way as The Witcher 2 - the GOG download version will be DRM-free, and the physical/other download editions will have the DRM mandated by the publisher/distributor.

CD Projekt are pretty explicit in their belief that DRM doesn't work. They tried doing the threatening letters thing that the music industry does, as an alternative, but the backlash from their fanbase was sufficiently immediate and fierce that they abandoned it pretty quickly. So at this point their attitude seems to be that if a publisher wants to put DRM on their game they won't stop them, but they won't bother with it themselves, and they will assume that the publisher's DRM will be cracked almost immediately.

(It's worth remembering that even publishers who argue for every-time-and-periodically-during-sessions validation generally expect it to be beaten within weeks of release - but those weeks are also the period of peak sales. Which, of course, building always-on connectivity into the game mechanics as well as the DRM mechanics is aiming to address, or extend the life of.)
posted by running order squabble fest at 7:23 AM on March 7, 2013


I'm told by friends in the industry that even a 1-2 delay before a crack is released is enough to make or break the profitability of AAA games.

Meanwhile, if corporate PR bullshit is your favorite thing, enjoy @OriginInsider. EA has the gall to say "We are experiencing overwhelming demand which is keeping some users from accessing their games. We’re working as fast as we can to resolve." and "Due to the high demand for SimCity, Origin has experienced delays impacting a small percentage of users. We’re working non-stop to resolve."

See, it's not a failed launch at all: there's such "high" and "overwhelming" demand that it's a huge success! And since no one else has stats on how many times the servers fail, they can claim "a small percentage of users" are affected and no one can exactly argue. Meanwhile, anecdotally, every single person I know who's been playing has had game-crippling problems where they play for half an hour and can't save, or try to do something in their standalone regions and time out waiting for the broken servers.

I'm still sure they'll eventually sort out the server issues, but this kind of amateur-hour launch is no way to justify the online DRM.
posted by Nelson at 7:51 AM on March 7, 2013


Over on Gamers With Jobs, there are a couple of people who have been able to play, but nearly everyone else hasn't. It's looking like maybe a 5% success rate, at least to a quick overview.

The usual argument is 'happy people don't post', but GWJers talk about games a LOT, and if they like something, they'll be in there talking about it. We've had a few comments about it working, but very few.
posted by Malor at 7:57 AM on March 7, 2013


Nelson: I'm told by friends in the industry that even a 1-2 delay before a crack is released is enough to make or break the profitability of AAA games.

You know, I really wonder if that's still true. Valve games are easily pirated, but Valve makes HUGE amounts of money on their own stuff. And Steam DRM is trivial to crack, but Steamworks games sell like crazy.

Dishonored, for instance, had only Steamworks protection, nothing else. I'm not connected into that scene, but I've gathered that it's so trivial to remove that the pirates would have had their version out within hours of Steam's release time. Yet, the publisher was very happy with sales, very pleased and surprised with how many they moved. Forum posters said that sales were strong enough to commission a sequel, when they hadn't originally planned on one, though how accurate that is, I have no way to know.

I've heard that two week argument before, but if it was ever actually true, I suspect it only applied when people had to wait for physical boxes and region locking and stuff. With Steam and near-immediate gratification, DRM made out of cobwebs appears to be adequate.
posted by Malor at 8:06 AM on March 7, 2013 [1 favorite]


Is TW2 better in the misogyny department? The first game had collectible cards for all the women you'd fucked.

I'm on chapter 3 (of I think 3) of the game right now, and it's definitely better, although don't get me wrong it's not great. No collectible cards, two (?) "love interests" that you can have sex with, which are definitely explicit but it's still quite a bit better than #1.

Storyline/dialogue is still reasonably misogynistic, of course.
posted by Lemurrhea at 8:37 AM on March 7, 2013


Is TW2 better in the misogyny department? The first game had collectible cards for all the women you'd fucked.

My theory about this is that one guy on the development crew of the Witcher thought he was making a hentai game, and the rest of the team thought that was hilarious and refused to disabuse him of this notion. I mean, it's the only reasonable explanation I can imagine for it.
posted by Mitrovarr at 8:44 AM on March 7, 2013 [1 favorite]


With Steam and near-immediate gratification, DRM made out of cobwebs appears to be adequate.

That's where the CD Projekt thing comes in, right? People download or purchase games for different reasons. If you're dedicated to getting hold of a game without paying for it, you almost certainly can (certainly, files purporting to be cracked versions of Dishonored appeared on or just before the North American release). So, if you're a publisher, what do you do with that information?

Two options seem to be to make DRM as inoffensive as possible. Or you can try to build your "DRM" into the game's systems itself - so the gameplay is intimately connected with connection to the merchant's servers, and thus de facto authentication...

That ties in, I think, to what CD Projekt say about seeing pirated copies as to some extent demos. There is a defined benefit to having a legitimate copy of a game on Steam - most obviously, it's easy to find in my library, I can delete and redownload it whenever I want, I can sync my progress across devices and so on. If I have the means and the inclination to buy a game, maybe those benefits convert me from a downloader to a buyer. If I was never going to buy the game regardless of circumstances, does it actually matter, from a merchant's perspective, that I download a cracked copy?
posted by running order squabble fest at 8:47 AM on March 7, 2013


Yeah, it really doesn't, in most cases, because normally, you're not consuming their resources.

In at least one case, however, it did help to kill a game. Demigod shipped with very little (no?) DRM, and was widely pirated. Problem was, the server architecture was only designed for the number of copies they'd actually sold, and the 10x greater load than expected pretty much killed off the cluster, sort of like what we're seeing here. (except, or course, in EA's case, this isn't piracy, it's real customers.)

As I recall, it took them a couple of months to get everything really and truly sorted, because their matchmaking code was badly flawed. Between the two issues, the game tanked badly. There's no doubt in my mind that the pirates really hurt them, because in that case, they really were stealing a resource from the publisher.

Game copying normally deprives a publisher of theoretical revenue at most, but not that time.
posted by Malor at 9:31 AM on March 7, 2013 [1 favorite]


Meanwhile, 'Non-critical' SimCity features disabled to improve server issues. Via Joystiq.
posted by Elementary Penguin at 9:36 AM on March 7, 2013


Are you talking about Battle Dungeon, Malor, or did it happen again?
posted by griphus at 9:37 AM on March 7, 2013


Meanwhile, 'Non-critical' SimCity features disabled to improve server issues. Via Joystiq.


Can someone clue me in to what a "region filter" is and what disabling it did?
posted by griphus at 9:38 AM on March 7, 2013


Not until we get a straight answer on what a "meta filter" is.
posted by zombieflanders at 10:21 AM on March 7, 2013 [3 favorites]


I was talking about Demigod, a few years back, griphus. It was a DOTA clone, before DOTA clones got so popular. It was done by Gas Powered Games, in 2009.

As I recall it, they had two problems. First, their servers couldn't handle the load of players looking for games; they blamed piracy for that. (I believed them at the time, and have no new reason to disbelieve them now.) Plus, their multiplayer netcode was really borked, so even once the pirate crush wore off, it was hard to successfully host more than 1v1 matches for a couple of months, and even those were kind of chancy.

It's that second problem that really killed it, but I know they were scrambling and throwing money at the traffic problem there for awhile, so the pirates did inflict a cost on them. That's unusual enough that I thought it was worth mentioning, if only to illustrate how normal copying of a good inflicts only theoretical harm.
posted by Malor at 12:07 PM on March 7, 2013


(Heh, plus, because it had only 8 heroes to start, Demigod was a DOTA clone you could actually learn to play before dying of old age. )
posted by Malor at 12:10 PM on March 7, 2013


Amazon suspends 'SimCity' digital orders as customer complaints surge
posted by octothorpe at 1:03 PM on March 7, 2013 [2 favorites]


Ha ha please note the 1-star rating with 832 reviews.
posted by griphus at 1:06 PM on March 7, 2013


(Compare to AssCreed 3, which has 827 reviews and has been out since November.)
posted by griphus at 1:07 PM on March 7, 2013


Just checked the Amazon page and Mefi's Own (I assume) Malor is at the top with his "most helpful" 1-star review.
posted by lalex at 1:14 PM on March 7, 2013


Amazon suspends 'SimCity' digital orders as customer complaints surge

The boxed Limited Edition seems to still be available. (1.5 stars, 1052 customer reviews.)

I guess since it has "Limited" right there in the title...
posted by Sys Rq at 1:22 PM on March 7, 2013


Yep, that's me, with sort of a refined version of what I said upthread. I assumed it would languish in obscurity, but that wasn't how it played out.
posted by Malor at 1:44 PM on March 7, 2013 [1 favorite]


...the platonic SimCity review.
posted by lalex at 1:50 PM on March 7, 2013 [7 favorites]


lalex: "...the platonic SimCity review."

That's a good review.
posted by boo_radley at 1:58 PM on March 7, 2013


It looks like they're still selling the boxed editions, just not the digital downloads.
posted by NoraReed at 2:21 PM on March 7, 2013


Amazon is kinda cracking the whip when it comes to game quality, I think. They've done similar warnings for other games.
posted by boo_radley at 2:34 PM on March 7, 2013


Kotaku's review lambasts EA for the server issues but steadfastly manages not to connect them to DRM. If only there was some way to play the game without needing the server!
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 3:38 PM on March 7, 2013 [1 favorite]


Amazon's not selling the boxed copies themselves anymore, either. They're still selling some third-party copies, but they seem to be moving very slowly, as there was an 'only 1 left from this vendor, order soon' message for most of an hour. Now there's a new vendor, so apparently that one copy finally moved out.
posted by Malor at 3:41 PM on March 7, 2013


Amazon pulling this from sale is a fairly big deal. I hope this makes other companies look hard at their online game integration plan. I'm still OK with games that require Internet to play if the server is doing some good for the game. But the servers damn well better work.
posted by Nelson at 3:52 PM on March 7, 2013


There's no reason to demand a server except for DRM reasons, in this case. If the design really did need a server, then they could release the server code, along with providing servers to play on.

As I said on GWJ, think how incredible this game would be if: Think how happy and excited everyone would be about a game that worked like that. Combine that kind of cool with the SimCity name, and it would probably be the bestselling PC game of all time, with an immensely long tail.

They'd be making so much money, even Valve would be jealous.
posted by Malor at 4:13 PM on March 7, 2013 [2 favorites]


And, critically, note that they would also have avoided this debacle completely, because even if their servers were melting down, there would be tens of thousands springing up, all over the country.
posted by Malor at 4:14 PM on March 7, 2013


The sad thing is, I still want to play the game. Someone on MeFightClub put up a video of them playing, and it looked fun! But I don't want to pay $60 for something I can't play, and from what I can see, it looks like they will soon start selling additional Great Works and Regions, so I feel like I should wait until the "Game of the Year" edition comes out in 6 months.

I also worry what happens when they decide they don't want to run the servers anymore, which might be sooner rather than later, if this debacle turns more people off of the game.

Oh well, all the more reason to get the new Tomb Raider, instead.
posted by Elementary Penguin at 4:36 PM on March 7, 2013


Polygon has now knocked their score down to a 4/10.
posted by the_artificer at 6:02 PM on March 7, 2013


I've got to say, shouldn't you wait a couple days to drop the score that much? I mean, we all know, in a week they'll have more servers online and the login issues will go away (Until they kill the severs and the game goes dead, probably just in time for the new SimCity).
posted by Canageek at 7:17 PM on March 7, 2013


Why should they wait? They can always change the score again if and when the game gets playable.

It's kind of sad that it feels like a large portion of people who bought the game will basically have to give up on playing it for the servers to get stable. And EA's plan seems to be to keep selling copies and ride it out until then while applying cheap band-aid fixes.

This is just me guessing though. I could be the asshole who doesn't know anything, but this is what it looks like to me.
posted by ODiV at 7:24 PM on March 7, 2013


Amazon pulling this from sale is a fairly big deal.

Amazon also pulled all Nintendo hardware from their store for more than a year (continuing to this day). No one knows for sure why, but the most common speculation was they were unhappy with the return rate on the 3DS. No one can hold a grudge like Amazon. I think this is one thing that is really going to force EA to reexamine their DRM practices.
posted by zixyer at 7:43 PM on March 7, 2013 [1 favorite]


So a user tried to get a refund, and got this response (that's a mirror in my webspace of a jpg screenshot, original link on imgur, here.) Paraphrased: the customer service rep said that you're free to request a refund, they just don't have to give you one. Request all you like, they'll just say no.

So now the original forum article has been edited, no longer stating that they will give refunds. Instead, they now tell you to check their policy statement -- and their policy statement is that you can't get your money back, period.


That's some War Z-level sleazy right there.
posted by dunkadunc at 1:43 AM on March 8, 2013 [3 favorites]


I wonder if EA will get things fixed before pirates release an offline crack for the game.
posted by Elementary Penguin at 3:52 AM on March 8, 2013


Well, EA claims that new hardware will be coming up today, so presumably, things should be much better by tonight.
posted by Malor at 5:55 AM on March 8, 2013


Digital version is available for purchase from Amazon again, but there's this note on the product page:

Many customers are having issues connecting to the "SimCity" servers. EA is actively working to resolve these issues, but at this time we do not know when the issue will be fixed. Please visit https://help.ea.com/en/simcity/simcity for more information.
posted by Lentrohamsanin at 6:11 AM on March 8, 2013


As further proof of EA's hubris and idiocy, they've just gone ahead and pissed off every player in South Korea. Also, the always-awesome Chris Kluwe (of NFL and "fuck you, homophobic politicians" fame) piles on, along with the inevitable comic at Penny Arcade.
posted by zombieflanders at 7:09 AM on March 8, 2013 [3 favorites]


SimCity best city sim! Always online for harmonious gaming, why be lonely? Don't ask for refund, give EA time, this game so excellent!
posted by Meatbomb at 8:30 AM on March 8, 2013 [2 favorites]


As an aside to that, when Ars Technical posted their first impressions of the game based on extended time with the beta build (so, no server issues but still dealing with the mandatory "social" baggage), there were about a half-dozen brand-new accounts dedicated to telling everybody that the staffers were getting worked up about nothing and the game was going to be really great.
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 8:33 AM on March 8, 2013 [1 favorite]


Well, you have to hand it to EA...

...they're a horrible company
posted by griphus at 8:36 AM on March 8, 2013


Meatbomb: "SimCity best city sim! Always online for harmonious gaming, why be lonely? Don't ask for refund, give EA time, this game so excellent!"

"Only losers like to play alone. We should make friends with all SimCity players for a better gameplay!"

... Wow.
posted by boo_radley at 8:38 AM on March 8, 2013


That's a satire site.
posted by ODiV at 8:41 AM on March 8, 2013 [1 favorite]


Don't loser alone, ODiv :(
posted by boo_radley at 9:47 AM on March 8, 2013 [1 favorite]


SimCity Burning: A Warning to Microsoft, Sony, and All Publishers on The Dangers of Always-Online DRM
posted by octothorpe at 11:09 AM on March 8, 2013 [2 favorites]


As has been pointed out, what's shit about this is that not only has EA made this online-only, but they've done that to enable players to use features that most players don't want to use. If Sim City had truly engaging, fantastic online gameplay, then EA could probably convince a hell of a lot of pirates to play single-player, fall in love, then pay to give multiplayer a go. As a frequent downloader-of-things, that's been a major incentive for me to pay for games that I enjoy.
posted by Rory Marinich at 11:10 AM on March 8, 2013 [1 favorite]


And Chris Kluwe is amazing. Here's his full (non-Twitter) review of Sim City.
posted by Rory Marinich at 11:16 AM on March 8, 2013 [4 favorites]


This is part of a much bigger trend across computing.

Microsoft has decreed that all computer firmware have "Secure Boot". In its current incarnation, Linux can be loaded on PCs via a signed bootloader. But on Windows RT devices, Secure Boot locks out anything other than WinRT. It is a possibility that all future PCs will be locked down to one operating system, much like phones today.

With Windows 8, Microsoft forced Metro on users to steer them into buying "apps" through the Windows Store, which is the only venue for Metro apps. On Windows RT, software can only be bought via the store, and it's a possibility that Windows 9 will be store-only, once enough legacy software is out of the way. Microsoft gets a cut on all Windows Store sales.

Apple has a similar "App Store", although disabling the store-only requirement currently requires just unchecking a box.

Since Vista, Windows has had Protected Media Path, which tries to stop DRM'd content from playing while unauthorized software is running. This is enforced down to the hardware level- Your video card can apply High-bandwidth Digital Content Protection (HDCP) to all HDMI and DVI signals, to keep you from recording what your own computer is outputting.

Microsoft is also veering toward the concept of "software as a service", where you cannot buy software outright, merely rent it. Much in the same way, many games are no longer something you can buy outright. They require an always-on Internet connection (IE Diablo III, SimCity) and there is a mechanism whereby you aren't just playing the game- you are being monetized. Games do this in different ways (Deus Ex:HR had in-game ads after you bought the thing) but the way it seems to be going is pay-to-win via microtransactions- basically, one is paying money for what in the old days just required typing "GIVEUSATANK".

From the platform level up, personal computing is being changed in order to enforce continued monetization, long after we have supposedly bought our devices and software. We can't do what we want with our software or our computing devices: We can only do what the hardware, software and "content provider" companies say we can do. They don't want personal computers to be used as general-purpose computing devices: They want them to be used as portals for consumption of approved content, with continued monetization even after you have bought your operating system, software, game or movie.
posted by dunkadunc at 11:38 AM on March 8, 2013 [8 favorites]


Some guy named "Malor" gave the game a terrible review on Amazon.
posted by Ironmouth at 11:38 AM on March 8, 2013 [1 favorite]


Polygon, which had one of the first and most mawkishly fawning and "payola-hackery-suspicious" big reviews, scoring SimCity at 9.5/10 and then later dropped it to 8 after the wave of technical problems experienced by players became widely reported, has now shamelessly dropped the score a *second* time, to a 4/10
posted by Bwithh at 12:39 PM on March 8, 2013


Is Kluwe correct about the number of potential pirates?
posted by bq at 1:26 PM on March 8, 2013


Furthermore, games are being engineered to tap into our addiction centers and keep us clicking- it's not about a game being a satisfying experience, or exciting, or even interesting. They're designed to string you along. Part of the reason these games are online is so they can do deep analytics, tweaking gameplay so you keep on playing and buying in-game items.

I hate microtransactions just slightly less than I hate on-disc "DLC".
posted by dunkadunc at 1:33 PM on March 8, 2013 [2 favorites]


Polygon, which had one of the first and most mawkishly fawning and "payola-hackery-suspicious" big reviews, scoring SimCity at 9.5/10 and then later dropped it to 8 after the wave of technical problems experienced by players became widely reported, has now shamelessly dropped the score a *second* time, to a 4/10

Don't worry, if you look at the far more widely read Metacritic, it's still a 9.5. Even though they've added more than a dozen new reviews since the first drop, and a couple since the second.
posted by Homeboy Trouble at 2:27 PM on March 8, 2013


Also, I just noticed that if you average the reviewer scores on Metacritic, you get 77.8, which is still fairly respectable.

However, if you average the prerelease scores, you get 89.6 (instant classic, would have been 6th of the 200+ games reviewed last year). If you average the postrelease scores, you get 67.2 (mediocre at best, would have been in the bottom half last year, behind Pro Cycling Tour Manager).
posted by Homeboy Trouble at 2:36 PM on March 8, 2013


EA suspends SimCity marketing campaigns, asks affiliates to 'stop actively promoting' game.
posted by Elementary Penguin at 3:31 PM on March 8, 2013


Polygon, which had one of the first and most mawkishly fawning and "payola-hackery-suspicious" big reviews, scoring SimCity at 9.5/10 and then later dropped it to 8 after the wave of technical problems experienced by players became widely reported, has now shamelessly dropped the score a *second* time, to a 4/10

Yes, Polygon has no shame about changing its scores. Changing review scores to reflect the current state of the game has been part of Polygon's review policy from the beginning.
posted by Jpfed at 3:35 PM on March 8, 2013 [1 favorite]


On March 18, EA will give registered owners of SimCity a free game.
posted by achrise at 5:45 AM on March 9, 2013


Yes, as an apology, they'll give customers something they don't want, and which costs them just about zero dollars.

I saw someone point out that they should have given out some DLC, but that would only have highlighted just how abusive they're going to be with the DLC in this game, which would have set off a new wave of hate.

Plus, it would actually have cost them money, so that was right out.
posted by Malor at 6:16 AM on March 9, 2013 [1 favorite]


Devastating 1-star review from Tom Chick's respected Quarter to Three site (scroll down to the 1st comment & click "see more" for the full review) :

" the bigger problem to me -- these launch issues will presumably go away soon enough, right? -- is how the basic design of the game is broken."



♫ ♪ Where have you gone, Will Wright? ♫
♪ A nation turns its lonely eyes to you.... oh oh oh ♫ ♪
posted by Bwithh at 8:34 AM on March 9, 2013 [1 favorite]


Kotaku on the many varied ways SimCity's online server approach failed
posted by Bwithh at 8:42 AM on March 9, 2013 [1 favorite]


Kotaku is on fire (just like the Simcity servers, amirite? Hiyo!) today: It Would Take ‘Significant Engineering’ to Make SimCity an Offline Game
posted by zombieflanders at 11:42 AM on March 9, 2013 [1 favorite]


Talk on the Gamers With Jobs forum is that the game's working much better today. The DRM part of the debacle might be over, though the bugginess and the DLC parts have yet to start.
posted by Malor at 2:10 PM on March 9, 2013


"With the way that the game works, we offload a significant amount of the calculations to our servers so that the computations are off the local PCs and are moved into the cloud," she said. "It wouldn't be possible to make the game offline without a significant amount of engineering work by our team."

Haha, this is hilarious spin - they wormed their DRM so deep into their game in order to thwart crackers, that now they can't undo it "without a significant amount of engineering work by our team".

Somehow I really don't think EA was offloading those calculations to their servers out of the goodness of their hearts, regardless of that being the spin they want to put on it. What's really going on is that they came up with an excellent way to prevent cracking - the customer's computer will never be given enough code to run the game on its own - but they got caught in their own cage and can't open the door.
posted by anonymisc at 2:26 PM on March 9, 2013 [2 favorites]


And if EA decides to stop running the servers, people in the future won't be able to play Sim City, even with an emulator.
posted by dunkadunc at 2:31 PM on March 9, 2013 [1 favorite]


You mean when. What a shame that Maxis is involved in this debacle.
posted by ersatz at 2:42 PM on March 9, 2013 [2 favorites]


That last part seems significant. The idea of the co-processing of Glassbox is that it takes computational strain away from the user's PC (whether you see that as necessary is another matter - but it's the carrot being offered alongside the stick of constant validation).

However, in five years' time, say, the average player's PC will be able to deal with that level of computational strain without any problems at all. So... is there any will to perform the patch necessary to create a "virtual Glassbox" on the player's PC, for when the servers shut down?
posted by running order squabble fest at 2:52 PM on March 9, 2013


Wow, EA totally ready to throw Maxis under a bus to try and save the main EA brand from too much backlash damage:

""This is on Maxis," said Lucy Bradshaw, the studio's boss, in response to a customer's allegation that publisher Electronic Arts required SimCity to always connect to the game's servers, even for the fundamentally singleplayer modes of the city-building simulation. "EA does not force design upon us," she said. "We own it, we are working 24/7 to fix it, and we are making progress.""


I have a fantasy about Will Wright bursting into EA press conference - like some wild, beautiful animal who's finally reached out to grasp his own freedom - and stepping up to making an epic "Let My People Go!" speech to the gathered cameras of the world's press, with every TV network in the world switching to covering it live because the speech is just that good and universally poignant and relevant, even for non-gamers and Jason Rohrer.

Won't happen.
posted by Bwithh at 4:09 PM on March 9, 2013


Will Wright left Maxis four years ago.
posted by Nelson at 6:59 PM on March 9, 2013 [1 favorite]


By the way, if anyone's bored and looking for a new game that's actually a good deal and not exploitative, I just picked up the latest Tomb Raider, because the buzz was pretty good about it. After two hours with it, I'm very impressed.

I've thought, at least four times, something along the lines of, "That's so cool. Wow, this is fun!" And I said it out loud twice. I'm only two hours in, but those two hours have been exceptional. I really like the new flavor of Lara Croft (she looks much different), and her voice actress is very talented. The control is crisp, framerates are excellent, and the graphics are lovely on a powerful PC. Others say that it scales down very well, and looks great with weaker cards as well, but I only have a fast PC. You may want to avoid the "TressFX" (flowing hair effects) if you're on an NVidia card, though -- apparently it's giving the current drivers fits. It also messes up framerates pretty good on both brands.

On Normal, I'm finding the challenge level just about right, which means you young pups probably want to play on Hard.

If you buy the Steam version, the only DRM is Steamworks, which was part of the reason I grabbed it. Glad I did.
posted by Malor at 7:40 PM on March 9, 2013


Oh, and for anyone who didn't know, this version of Tomb Raider is a reboot-from-scratch version, where you're starting out as an early-20s archaeology student who gets in way, way over her head. It's being positioned as the backstory, how Lara Croft turned from Ordinary Girl into the dual-pistol-packing archaeologist of doom.

It's feeling rather Metroid-ish so far, which is a mechanic I still enjoy a lot. I'm fond of games that reward exploration, and it seems like this one does so in a big way.
posted by Malor at 7:47 PM on March 9, 2013


"EA does not force design upon us," she said. "We own it, we are working 24/7 to fix it, and we are making progress.""

Yeah, they've only done it to Origin Systems, Westwood, Bioware and Visceral Games (evidence: game series that all became more action-focused and simpler), but they gave Maxis a pass because they submitted their design during the holidays and Father Christmas warmed EA's heart. This is squarely on EA as far as I'm concerned.
posted by ersatz at 6:31 AM on March 10, 2013 [6 favorites]


I find Bethesda is the only decent publisher these days.
posted by dunkadunc at 12:09 PM on March 10, 2013 [1 favorite]


Don't you people realize that introverted computer programmers forcing you to be social means you are the SIMS and they are messing with you?
posted by srboisvert at 3:08 PM on March 10, 2013 [6 favorites]


Yeah, that line about EA is pure horseshit. I knew someone who worked on the Sims post-takeover, for a few years. (He might still be there, but he is no longer one of my oldest friend's SO.) EA has been calling all the shots at Maxis for years, focusing on selling digital baubles. Wright's presence is numinous at best.
posted by snuffleupagus at 7:13 AM on March 11, 2013


That's probably why Will Wright left in 2009. A real shame, though. Wikipedia says he is on the Linden Labs board now, so I hope that is working out for him.
posted by Elementary Penguin at 7:20 AM on March 11, 2013


As a followup, it sounds like the game is now running, but it's terribly buggy. It sounds like a great number of cities are running into bugs that kill them dead -- like not being able to export or import, or faulty traffic patterns, or whatever. There are a ton of them in this Reddit thread.
posted by Malor at 12:54 PM on March 11, 2013 [1 favorite]


What I wish Tim Berners-Lee understood about DRM: Adding DRM to the HTML standard will have far-reaching effects, incompatible with the W3C's most important policies
posted by homunculus at 12:49 PM on March 12, 2013 [2 favorites]


Berners-Lee is backing DRM in the HTML standard?!?!?!

[falls down unconscious]
posted by Zed at 12:56 PM on March 12, 2013


Colour me flabbergasted. homunculus, that's a subject that would make a good FPP.
posted by ersatz at 1:14 PM on March 12, 2013


The plot thickens: Maxis Insider Tells RPS: SimCity Servers Not Necessary
posted by zombieflanders at 5:46 PM on March 12, 2013 [4 favorites]


After SimCity Debacle, a Gamers' Bill of Rights: Game publishers and developers are embracing increasingly draconian policies. We need to enumerate rights all gamers should enjoy.
posted by homunculus at 7:27 PM on March 12, 2013 [2 favorites]


The plot thickens: Maxis Insider Tells RPS: SimCity Servers Not Necessary

Haha! That means that some day soon I will get to try this game after all. Bummer, though, that everything I am reading tells me that even without the DRM this will not be as good as SCIV...
posted by Meatbomb at 9:27 PM on March 12, 2013


From what I can see of it, it has a nicer interface, but the actual simulation engine is impossibly, ridiculously stupid.

Here's what I understood of the explanation of how the sims work:

Each night, every house can contain X number of sims. In the morning, it kicks all of them out on the road to look for work. None of them remember what they were doing the day before. Sims go to the closest factory. Depending on how the city is laid out, that may mean that every sim in the entire city converges on that factory. It will eventually fill up with sims for the day, and any that are subsequently turned away go to the next closest factory, and then the next closest, and so on, in a big chain. Either they find a place to work for the day, or they fail and are unemployed. (which is bad.)

Then, I guess after they've worked for 8 hours, they leave work, and want to shop. This part wasn't explained in the video I saw. All I know is that they need to successfully shop, and then successfully find a place to live for the night. This doesn't mean the same place. They have no memory other than their current attempts to solve their current needs.

If a sim is successful at getting to work, shopping, and getting home, within a certain period (I assume slightly less than 24 hours), then it was a successful day, the sim made money, rent gets paid, and (part of?) the salary goes toward upgrading his residential zone. If any of those needs failed, then the next day the sim will not yet be available for work, and will be unemployed that day, resulting in a downward pressure on the quality of his housing unit.

And that's it, pretty much. That's how sims work in SimCity. They must sleep, work, and shop, every day. If they can do that, they are happy. If they can't do that, they are not happy. They don't have jobs, they don't have fixed places to live, they don't have fixed habits, they're all an anonymous swarm of identical (within their wealth category) sims, with zero simulated intelligence whatsoever.

So, okay, EA tells you this is the greatest game ever, and a ton of code is running on their servers, which is obviously incorrect, because they're hosting so many thousands of connections per machine. And then they tell you that the depth of the code in SimCity is unprecedented, a marvel of simulation.

Everyone bought the hype, but neither thing is even remotely true. The next time EA tells you the sky is blue, you'd better go check it, because there's a reasonable chance it'll have gone plaid.

It's that old canard -- how do you know EA is lying? Their lips are moving.
posted by Malor at 12:14 AM on March 13, 2013 [8 favorites]


I haven't played it, but I've heard that what your describing isn't true for the vast majority of a city's population who simply don't exist as sims at all.
posted by ODiV at 7:13 AM on March 13, 2013


Well, this was my YouTube source, and he seems to completely disagree. His goal in this video is to build a city with no imports or exports, fully self-sufficient, and as an extra challenge, to do so without using any mass transit. During his build process, he explains what's going on with the simulation engine.

I haven't watched the whole thing yet, but this video has a higher-level overview of the city setup he iterated to in the first video.

My takeaway: a 'good' Simcity layout has absolutely nothing to do with real cities whatsoever, almost entirely because the AI logic is nonexistent.
posted by Malor at 10:24 AM on March 13, 2013 [1 favorite]


I think my attempts at clever wording got in the way of my meaning which was that reportedly SimCity only simulates a fraction of its citizens.
posted by ODiV at 10:31 AM on March 13, 2013


Well, I think that's the whole point of this version, that it doesn't do that, that it simulates every single citizen you have.

Regardless, even if it is only putting a portion of the agents on the actual roads each day, the results from the brain-dead sims would appear to be extrapolated to the rest. If there are phantom sims, they're just copies of the real ones.
posted by Malor at 10:38 AM on March 13, 2013


Yeah, I think the problem is that SimCity supposedly simulates all its Sim's daily activities, which is why it requires the always on connection, but actually it only simulates a few Sims, and it does that terribly, and the rest of the numbers are done using the fuzzy math from the old games, so the entire thing is basically a fraud, albeit a pretty one. I've read suggestions that the non-simulated Sims start appearing once your city has a population over 500 or so.
posted by Elementary Penguin at 10:39 AM on March 13, 2013


I don't think that's the case, Penguin. I don't think the rest are simulated the old way, I think they're just copies of the instantiated sims.

The always-on connection is barely doing anything, it's just transferring around goods between regions in a message-passing setup. There's just hardly anything to it. The actual amount of work being done per region could easily be handled on a 386, maybe even a 286.
posted by Malor at 10:43 AM on March 13, 2013


Basically: the connection is an excuse to force you to be online. It's not a service that's actually providing anything that couldn't be done a zillion times faster locally. Your quad-proc i5 could probably host thousands of regions, if that's all it was doing, and hosting a single region plus a city would be trivial.

It's just DRM, with a little bit of makeup.
posted by Malor at 10:46 AM on March 13, 2013 [2 favorites]


I'm not sure we disagree here, Malor. Thanks, by the way, for making it even harder for me to wait until the Steam Summer Sale to play Tomb Raider. The upside of having to wait for sales for new games is it helps save me from messes like this one. I'm still smarting from the disappointment of playing the old Sierra game Outpost, which was the first PC game I ever bought. Never again!
posted by Elementary Penguin at 11:01 AM on March 13, 2013


The plot thickens: Maxis Insider Tells RPS: SimCity Servers Not Necessary

So when I described their claims [of servers offloading calculations on behalf of player] as doing it purely for DRM reasons and not motivated by offering better service to players, apparently I wasn't being cynical enough.
posted by anonymisc at 11:28 AM on March 13, 2013 [2 favorites]


If I worked at Maxis, watching our own team leader publicly slurring us and our work like this, on orders of corporate HQ... wow, I would not be a happy little asset. No wonder one of them leaked.

EA didn't even throw Maxis under a bus; they ordered Maxis leaders to throw their own team under a bus.
posted by anonymisc at 11:31 AM on March 13, 2013 [4 favorites]


Tomb Raider was really good, expecially the first four or five hours. Her development arc is pretty compressed, likely a problem with all modern games, since they're so expensive to do. It's got a great deal of combat, but it's well-done combat.

I've seen suggestions that maybe the first part of the game might have been better if it were more drawn out, if Lara was alone, with little equipment, maybe struggling to find the basics like food and water, for probably about twice as long as she was, maybe with some early tomb raiding.

And it's easy to criticize the story in retrospect, but at the time, in play, things make sense and keep you motivated. It's flawed, but I liked the reboot very much.
posted by Malor at 11:43 AM on March 13, 2013


Oh, and as dumb as it sounds, one of the things I particularly liked about this version is that Lara Croft ends up with scars from being wounded.

Still, I'm kind of mixed on the whole wounds thing. It's this weird mishmash.

She does have the usual game-protagonist-as-superhero thing of being able to stand back up, and even fight like crazy, after taking falls that would normally require an extended hospital stay. In many cases she will be visibly wounded, and at least once, actually outright impaired, unable to function normally, and in need of medical attention. So they're going that far. That's cool. Then it gets silly again: a simple visit to a campfire will have her apparently hale, hearty, and ready to hunt bear. But, as a sop to THAT bit of ridiculousness, she accumulates scars, quite severe ones. I don't remember a game that's done that before.

The whole system is pretty strange; there's no way that girl should even be walking, and it's ludicrous that a campfire visit instantly gets her fully operational. But then she's increasingly battered-looking as a direct consequence. This version of Lara Croft will probably not be wearing any strapless ball gowns.

So, it's still silly, but at least, for things where you'd say, "Oh, that'd leave a mark!" it actually does leave a mark. She's not the eternally-flawless sculpture of a heroine anymore. She's very visibly damaged by the end of the game.
posted by Malor at 12:04 PM on March 13, 2013 [1 favorite]


I'm just impressed that she's wearing pants to explore caves. Pants that go all the way down to her ankles, even.
posted by Elementary Penguin at 12:38 PM on March 13, 2013


And boots, too! She really oughta have knee and elbow pads, though. :)
posted by Malor at 1:31 PM on March 13, 2013 [1 favorite]


The Legislative Counsel of the American Civil Liberties Union has issued a statement on SimCity.

posted by Bwithh at 2:33 PM on March 13, 2013 [1 favorite]


Incidentally, on the topic of whether SimCity actually simulates all of its population, the smart money is on no. This is an anonymous leak of GUI source code, but it's very plausible based on what's known of the engine and the front end. Here's a Hacker News post pointing it out.
posted by gilrain at 2:41 PM on March 13, 2013 [2 favorites]


I didn't know it would be possible to loathe a game publisher more than I loathe Activision.

Congratulations, EA! You get the brown trophy!
posted by seanmpuckett at 3:13 PM on March 13, 2013 [1 favorite]


Offline mode successfully modded in.

All they had to do was turn off the disconnect timer. EVERYTHING is being done on the local machine except the regional stuff and save games. You can also build anywhere.

So all they need to do is enable local save games.
posted by empath at 2:48 AM on March 14, 2013 [7 favorites]


"Significant Reengineering", huh?

EA is utterly dishonest.
posted by dunkadunc at 2:51 AM on March 14, 2013 [4 favorites]


Also, the pathfinding is atrocious.

How is it that nobody at maxis knows how to calculate the lowest cost path on a congested network? That's a solved problem.
posted by empath at 3:15 AM on March 14, 2013 [4 favorites]


I didn't know it would be possible to loathe a game publisher more than I loathe Activision.

Look at the launch of SC2:HOTS in comparison.
posted by empath at 3:20 AM on March 14, 2013


For all its flaws, at least SimCity didn't rehash the whole Queen of Blades thing.
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 4:47 AM on March 14, 2013


Holy shit re: vids empath linked above.

How is it that nobody at maxis knows how to calculate the lowest cost path on a congested network? That's a solved problem.

My jaw is on the floor. The pathfinding is a solved problem in the last Maxis Simcity for fuck sakes.

Really, is EA counting on first week sales and then fuck everyone when all of our blatant lies are revealed? This is symptomatic of big business these days, all the skill and attention to detail has been replaced by marketing spin and big paydays for upper management. I do not believe that all the programmers at Maxis are brain damaged, or don't care, and yet here is this pathetic turd of a city simulator.

Maybe eventually they will sell "bonus packages" or DLC that will make it a marginally less shitty game. Whatever. I actually doubt I will even pirate this thing, and I am a huge huge fan of the franchise.
posted by Meatbomb at 7:35 AM on March 14, 2013 [4 favorites]


I think it might make sense to think of this as a bigger budgeted version of the SimCity Facebook game, and not an actual city simulator. It seems designed to make impressive screenshots and YouTube videos.
posted by Elementary Penguin at 7:51 AM on March 14, 2013 [2 favorites]


I want to see a The Wire-style dramatization of EA/Maxis's SimCity project !
Complete with story arcs for Sim characters and citizens in the game!
posted by Bwithh at 11:10 AM on March 14, 2013 [1 favorite]


Pathfinding, as I saw it explained recently, is an NP-hard problem. It can be brute-forced, but it takes a lot of computational resources. It is not at all a trivial thing. There's a whole bunch of theory and a ton of different algorithms, but ultimately, it costs a lot to find paths, either in CPU time, memory, or both.

The fastest approach, from what I gather, is to store an individual path graph for every possible destination on the map, and then agents use whichever graph they need. But this takes a lot of memory, and every time a road is added or removed, all the path maps for every object in the city would have to be recomputed. Or agents can try to figure out paths for themselves to their destinations, on the fly, but this requires a significant amount of CPU power, repeated possibly many dozens of times per second. And there are hybrid approaches, where less information is stored than every possible path, so agents save some computation time, but not as much as doing a simple lookup in a master table of all possible paths.... with the benefit that a route change in the network won't bring the system to a halt for several seconds.

If you look at Dwarf Fortress, which in many ways is a dedicated exercise in pathfinding, even on the fastest machines, it starts to get laggy at about 100-130 agents. And it's doing a ton of shortcuts, like pre-computing paths for dwarves, and only recomputing if the dwarf finds an obstacle that wasn't there when the path was created. And when it's choosing 'what object to use for X', or 'what job should I now go to', it just uses simple physical proximity, and completely ignores pathing altogether, or just determining what to do next could require several hundred path generations. And even being semi-dumb, only generating paths when it absolutely has to, it still gets laggy as heck at about 130 dwarves maximum.

Maxis was very stupid to choose an agent-based system. That's why these agents have to be so brain-dead, because there's no time to do anything better. The overall decision to go down that path really sounds like something a marketroid or a clueless manager chose, not a techie.
posted by Malor at 11:12 AM on March 14, 2013 [1 favorite]


So, basically, in SC4, it could generate paths only once in awhile, because the citizens didn't actually have to travel on the paths. I don't know if it tracked every citizen or not, but even if it did, doing it that way meant they only had to generate paths when someone moved, or got a new job. Two paths (working and shopping) per agent every few game months, possibly even game years, is obviously going to scale a heck of a lot better.

And they'd probably be able to abstract the city into sections, and then compute paths for large blocks of people at once.... everyone in a given subdivision, for instance, might have to travel down the same road, and they might be able to shortcut that part of the pathing for many agents. (Basically, they can do one of the hybrid approaches, where they partially pre-compute path information.)

Even so, the original SC4 was still pretty bad about pathing. From what I understand, it took the NAM mod to really make it work properly.
posted by Malor at 11:19 AM on March 14, 2013 [2 favorites]


Pathfinding, as I saw it explained recently, is an NP-hard problem.

Optimal pathfinding. Not to dismiss at all the complexity of the problem, and doing very fast on-the-fly recalculations for a whole bunch of agents is definitely going to be a challenging context to do it in, but you can do sub-optimal but still pretty darned good pathfinding with a whole lot less computational complexity. There's enormous heuristic middle ground between definitively solving the traveling salesman problem and pathing at random.

What's weird to me, looking at these pathfinding failure examples, is that it feels like the problem with the pathing is on a few different levels and that there's relatively simple solutions for both.

1. Agents don't appear to reassess their destination until the get to it and discover it's nonviable. There's videos of giant streams of cars all beelining for a single house nearest a business area, and every single one that made that house their destination drove to the house, through congestion, to attempt to occupy it. Letting agents do a periodic reassessment of target viability would help there; just have 'em re-ping their target every x cycles to see if they should repath.

2. Pathing doesn't seem to be using a mixed strategy; when everything else going on with the pathfinding leads to a dumb decision, it seems like every agent makes that same dumb decision, which doesn't help with the herding behavior. If your pathfinding was already legitimately optimal, mixing in some decision-making noise might only drag your results down a little, but we're pretty clearly not looking at a system that's doing a stunning job at the moment.

3. Why no weighting? Why does the congestion of a target road not make an agent lean towards an alternate path? This isn't something that needs to be terrible expensive to calculate; just have an agent eyeball some weighting value that's dynamic to each piece of road and let that modify their (per (2) potentially semi-random) decision of where to go; let some of the congestion on road A make the choice of road B more attractive probabilistically to agents presented with those two as their likeliest choices.

Which, again, none of this is just as easy as a handwave or anything—I'm positive that folks working for Maxis no more about pathfinding and heuristics than I do—but even granting the difficulty of making large dynamic systems work and the tradeoffs presumably necessary to get good, fast performance out of a big field of agents in real time, the results we're seeing seem weirdly underpowered. I'd be really keenly interested to see an insider discussion of the iterations the agent AI systems have gone through because it seems unlikely that they started with this, decided it was perfect, and never gave it another thought.
posted by cortex at 12:07 PM on March 14, 2013 [6 favorites]


This has the feel to me, cortex, of a senior manager saying, "Fuck it, we're shipping!" after months of watching the team struggle with a bad design.
posted by Malor at 3:33 PM on March 14, 2013 [1 favorite]


The number of agents isn't relevant to the difficulty of the problem, because all of them use the same table. The only thing that's relevant is the number of edges and vertices in the graph, which is not very many. We're not talking out recomputing routing tables for the entire Internet here.
posted by empath at 3:39 PM on March 14, 2013


The number of agents isn't relevant to the difficulty of the problem, because all of them use the same table. The only thing that's relevant is the number of edges and vertices in the graph, which is not very many. We're not talking out recomputing routing tables for the entire Internet here.

If there's such a thing as traffic congestion, of course it's relevant.
posted by Jpfed at 3:42 PM on March 14, 2013


Congestion is just a number you add on to the cost. It adds no time at all to the computation. You don't need to compute it over and over again for every sim. You just re do the routing every time a link's status changes. This is something that routers on the Internet do constantly while routing billions of packets. You don't recompute routes every time a new packet goes over an interface.
posted by empath at 3:46 PM on March 14, 2013


You don't need to compute it over and over again for every sim.

Sure you do- the sims are moving, and wherever they move to becomes more congested because of their presence. Other sims trying to use the same arc need to know about that change in congestion if the change happens before they get to traverse that arc.
posted by Jpfed at 3:50 PM on March 14, 2013


I should note that what I'm talking about only matters for optimality; if you're looking to satisfice you can go ahead and do what the internet does.
posted by Jpfed at 3:52 PM on March 14, 2013


I think satisficing would be better than what's happening now.

Maybe there will be "Improved Pathfinding" DLC? Only $9.99.
posted by Elementary Penguin at 2:07 AM on March 15, 2013


Sure you do- the sims are moving, and wherever they move to becomes more congested because of their presence. Other sims trying to use the same arc need to know about that change in congestion if the change happens before they get to traverse that arc.

Don't put the intelligence at the sim level, put it at the intersection level. They're just packets that need to be routed. You can do load balancing, least-cost routing, etc. You're talking about a network of a few dozen nodes at worst. It's not going to cripple your performance to recompute that every few seconds.
posted by empath at 2:28 AM on March 15, 2013 [2 favorites]


That's only part of what they're talking about here though - it's not just "how to get a Sim from point A to B", but that the sims are choosing what point B is using very silly logic. All of them running at the same time to the nearest available home with an empty space in it, for example, no mattter how many other sims are already en route to that same spot.

I partially agree with Malor, even though I don't see anything technically wrong with agent-based modeling for this kind of game. If you're going to do it, you have to do it properly. Otherwise just fudge the bits that don't work and be done with it. The scenario above is obviously not a very accurate simulation of how people choose homes, to put it mildly. In cases like these, having a fudged global solver would have been a far better solution than individual agents that behave foolishly. After all, it's clear that there's already _some_ fudging going on elsewhere.
posted by vanar sena at 4:27 AM on March 15, 2013


For reference: Tropico 3 and 4 agents are much more complex with family histories, traits, preferences, fixed jobs and homes, more detailed schedules and moods etc. The games hard-cap the population at around 2000 currently (I guess if the limit was removed it could be higher on beefy machines).

In SC5 terms that is a population of 7000. If one assumes that a much simplified and optimized agent model can give us 10x performance, that allows a population of ~140k fudged sims. So you'd have to really dumb down the agents significantly to get anywhere near SC4 populations even with fudged numbers.
posted by vanar sena at 5:07 AM on March 15, 2013 [1 favorite]


So after a week and reading all that I have about this, it seems like the core of the game is a first-round washout of some 24 hour indie game challenge written by someone with no knowledge of prior art in routing or agent simulation. Which result was then described to some non-technical EA executive as "oh god this is really cool, we can actually do like The Sims but with a whole city!" And the executive's brain saw octarine dollar signs and their brain exploded. And then EA spent several hundred person-years of effort to dress up this code in the finest French haute couture with the most precious jewelry imaginable.

But underneath that glamour, it's still a rejected entry from a 24 hour indie game challenge.
posted by seanmpuckett at 5:36 AM on March 15, 2013 [3 favorites]


The SimCity blog says that a new patch will fix the traffic issues. It must have been a grim week at Maxis; the post sounds very defensive.
posted by Elementary Penguin at 10:12 AM on March 15, 2013


I like how apparently building a new road to alleviate traffic jams is lumped in with "the emergence of many cities that test our systems in unique ways," as if the very idea was unthinkable to their testing staff (assuming one actually existed).
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 10:26 AM on March 15, 2013 [2 favorites]


Isn't there some kind of legal remedy for when a company lies about the fundamental architecture of its product?

"It's all in the cloud because it would take too much horsepower to run on your PC" they say. But then it turns out that that it's not in the cloud, it's on your PC- the only thing the cloud is doing is saving your game.

My 8088 Tandy machine could probably have handled savegames.
posted by dunkadunc at 12:18 PM on March 15, 2013 [1 favorite]


The SimCity blog says that a new patch will fix the traffic issues. It must have been a grim week at Maxis; the post sounds very defensive.
posted by Elementary Penguin at 10:12 AM on March 15 [+] [!]



it's fun to think about the stunned silence in the room when the EA/Maxis execs heard about the ACLU piling on.
posted by Bwithh at 12:40 PM on March 15, 2013 [3 favorites]


"Look, if we don't fix this, the SPLC is going to come in on it as well and I don't think it'll maximize shareholder value to be the Worst Company in America and a hate group."
posted by griphus at 12:54 PM on March 15, 2013 [3 favorites]


Elementary Penguin: "It must have been a grim week at Maxis"

Aren't bonuses for developers usually linked to their metacritic score? That 64 can't be good.
posted by the_artificer at 5:46 PM on March 15, 2013


What's interesting to me is that Metacritic score keeps falling. The servers are (mostly) stable now, and a lot of reviewers waited for that to review the full game. And they're finding the game isn't very good. Which makes me sad, but also a bit schadenfreudick.

Rock Paper Shotgun just tore apart the EA's official statement from the general manager of "Maxis Label". Nice to read someone take apart the newspeak and point out all the logical flaws. The most interesting to me is that as recently as a year ago EA was saying the game would work offline. Between that and the unbelievable claim that "we're doing significant computation for you on our servers" it's increasingly clear that EA's cynical ploy to do online-only DRM was a recent idea and it seriously backfired.
posted by Nelson at 6:46 PM on March 15, 2013 [2 favorites]


I do wonder why the Metacritic scale keeps falling. It could be because EA embargoed the bad reviews until release, early reviews were paid off, later reviews are taking new information into account (the botched release, discovered bugs), or later reviews are just piling on in accordance with public opinion.
posted by Mitrovarr at 7:47 PM on March 15, 2013 [1 favorite]


Wow, that blog post is something else, so full of bullshit it's dripping off the page.

Oh, and they prevent you from being able to copy/paste off the page... you cannot highlight the text. I don't know that this is deliberate, but given how absolutely, utterly mendacious they have been, I suspect it is -- I think they're trying to make it hard for people to quote them. I had to go into View Source to extract this little gem. I boldfaced two little bits here that I thought were really, er, interesting:
SimCity is a simulation but it is also a game. We wanted to make managing the mundane day-to-day functionality of a city a fun experience. We wanted players to be invested in the lives of their individual Sims, which is why you can click on one and see a name and small story about what is happening to him or her at that moment.

On that note I wanted to take a moment to address a question that’s been coming up: the persistence of our Sims. The Sims in the game are persistent in many respects. They go from a home to a workplace or to a shop and back each day. Their happiness, money, sickness, education level, etc. are also persistent and are carried around the city with each Sim as the simulation unfolds. But many aspects of the Sims are not persistent. They don’t own a particular house or have permanent employment. We also don’t track their names, their clothing, gender, or skin color. We did this as in attempt to increase performance so that we could have more Sims in the city. Ultimately we didn’t feel that the cost of adding in that extra layer of micro detail made the macro game play richer. Game design is filled with tradeoffs and compromises like this and we are constantly evaluating these (and many other) decisions.
I mean, can you believe that? In one paragraph, they want you to be invested. In the very next paragraph, they tell you that they just lied to you in the prior paragraph, that it's all bullshit, just made up on the fly in an attempt to trick you into being invested.

This is Game Design Failure 101 here, folks, combined with a quick set of examples of how to mismanage customer relations almost completely.

At this point, there is no effing way I'd believe a word that EA said. Any further hype out of them about any product they sell should be treated with the utmost suspicion.
posted by Malor at 8:32 PM on March 15, 2013 [4 favorites]


Nelson's link to Rock, Paper, Shotgun has this pithy quote from Maxis:
“The game we launched is only the beginning for us – it’s not final and it never will be. In many ways, we built an MMO.”
Which is exactly what I was saying upthread... the idea here is to keep selling you DLC forever. They want the money flow of an MMO, with the pirate-proofness of an MMO, without actually having to provide the infrastructure for an MMO.

MMO server farms are huge and expensive, so I guess they figured that outright, brazen lying would somehow substitute.
posted by Malor at 8:55 PM on March 15, 2013 [4 favorites]


Yeah, you couldn't pay me to play the new SimCity. Heart of the Swarm, on the other hand, is seducing me with its smoldering eyes.
posted by Justinian at 10:49 PM on March 15, 2013


I'm surprised there hasn't been an ftc complaint. This is as clear a case of false advertising as I've ever seen
posted by empath at 12:03 AM on March 16, 2013 [1 favorite]


empath, wouldn't a civil/class action lawsuit be even better? They could demand to examine the source code in the discovery process.
posted by Meatbomb at 6:13 AM on March 16, 2013


I'm sure the EULA requires arbitration.
posted by Elementary Penguin at 6:31 AM on March 16, 2013


empath, wouldn't a civil/class action lawsuit be even better? They could demand to examine the source code in the discovery process.

Better for who? I'd rather see EA get publicly spanked by the FTC (and have the industry put on notice that these kinds of shenanigans need to end) than see some class action plaintiff firm make off with the lions share of a strike-settlement, leaving customers with checks for a dollar-fifty, or better yet (read: even worse) a $10 credit to the Origin store (that costs EA literally nothing, even probably on the back end considering "promotional copies" provisions in game development deals denying royalties on promotional credit giveaways).

And, even that would require supposing there's a way around the SimCity EULA's individual arbitration clause. I wouldn't be too confident. In fact, the EULA would attempt to prevent even FTC complaints, although I'm not sure if that works or not.


Here's the basic framework, omitting a few of the subclauses:

15. Dispute Resolution By Binding Arbitration.
The purpose of this Section is to provide a streamlined method for resolution of disputes between us if they arise. As discussed below in Section 15.f, if we cannot resolve our disputes informally and you are awarded a sum at arbitration greater than EA’s last settlement offer to you (if any), EA will pay you 150% of your arbitration award, up to $5000 over and above your arbitration award.

PLEASE READ THIS CAREFULLY. IT AFFECTS YOUR RIGHTS.

A. Most of your concerns can be resolved quickly and to your satisfaction by logging into the EA customer support interface with your Account at http://support.ea.com/. In the unlikely event that EA cannot resolve a concern to your satisfaction (or if EA cannot resolve a concern it has with you after attempting to do so informally), then you and EA agree to be bound by the following procedure to resolve any and all disputes between us. This provision applies to all consumers to the fullest extent allowable by law, but expressly excludes residents of Quebec, Russia, Switzerland and the Member States of the European Union. This agreement is intended to be interpreted broadly. It covers any and all disputes between us (“Disputes”), including without limitation:

(a) claims arising out of or relating to any aspect of the relationship between us, whether based in contract, tort, statute, fraud, misrepresentation or any other legal theory;
(b) claims that arose before this Agreement or any prior agreement (including, but not limited to, claims relating to advertising);
(c) claims that are currently the subject of purported class action litigation in which you are not a member of a certified class; and
(d) claims that may arise after the termination of this Agreement.

The only disputes that are not covered by this Section are the following:
1) a claim to enforce or protect, or concerning the validity of, any of your or EA’s (or any of EA’s licensors’) intellectual property rights;
2) a claim related to, or arising from, allegations of theft, piracy, or unauthorized use;
3) In addition, nothing in this Agreement shall prevent either party from initiating a small claims court action.

By entering into this Agreement, you and EA expressly waive the right to a trial by jury or to participate in a class action. With respect to this Section, References to "EA," "you," and "us" include our respective subsidiaries, affiliates, agents, employees, predecessors in interest, successors, and assigns, as well as all authorized or unauthorized users or beneficiaries of services or Software under this or prior agreements between us. This EULA evidences a transaction in interstate commerce, and thus the Federal Arbitration Act governs the interpretation and enforcement of this Section. This arbitration provision shall survive termination of this EULA.


The next section requires you to first engage in an informal dispute reporting and resolution process as a pre-arbitration requirement (in which they will create a log of meaningless support communications to make your problem appear idiosyncratic and to put on a good face for the arbitrator), and the one following contains typical boilerplate about how you're going to use the American Arb. Assoc. for any disputes. Then they foist more restrictions on the user to avoid any glimmer of a class-action like joinder of arbitration:

D. Restrictions. You and EA agree that any arbitration shall be limited to the Dispute between EA and you individually. To the full extent permitted by law: (a) no arbitration shall be joined with any other arbitration proceeding; (b) there is no right or authority for any Dispute to be arbitrated on a class action-basis or to utilize class action procedures; and (c) there is no right or authority for any Dispute to be brought in a purported representative capacity on behalf of the general public or any other persons. YOU AND EA AGREE THAT EACH MAY BRING CLAIMS AGAINST THE OTHER ONLY IN YOUR OR ITS INDIVIDUAL CAPACITY, AND NOT AS A PLAINTIFF OR CLASS MEMBER IN ANY PURPORTED CLASS OR REPRESENTATIVE PROCEEDING. Further, unless both you and EA agree otherwise, the arbitrator may not consolidate more than SIMCITY one person's claims, and may not otherwise preside over any form of a representative or class proceeding. If this specific provision is found to be unenforceable, then the entirety of this dispute resolution/arbitration provision shall be null and void.

Note that while arbitration is good enough for you for any issue (although the small claims carve-out is interesting, I wonder what would happen if EA was faced with defending a few hundred thousand small claims actions in a ton of different courts), up to an including a total failure of the product according to their warranty disclaimers , you agree that anything you do wrong is grounds for an injunction:

11. Injunctive Relief. You agree that a breach of this License will cause irreparable injury to EA for which monetary damages would not be an adequate remedy and EA shall be entitled to seek equitable relief in addition to any remedies it may have hereunder or at law without a bond, other security or proof of damages.

posted by snuffleupagus at 7:24 AM on March 16, 2013 [2 favorites]


Also, if you'd like to a play a free hybrid 4X/citybuilder that has somewhat better pathfinding and have never seen it before, go give 0AD a try. (It's probably more in the 4X direction, but still -- might be nice to play a good game today.)
posted by snuffleupagus at 7:48 AM on March 16, 2013 [1 favorite]


You know, and none of this crap is going to matter much to EA, in the long run. They'll ship Dragon Age 3 soon, and they'll make a bunch of big promises, and all the gamers will fall in love with the promises and jump in with both feet.

I swear, if you told gamers that they'd have to go through a public flogging to get a hot new game, a huge number of them would sign up, and they'd abuse the hell out of anyone who didn't go along with the program.
posted by Malor at 9:34 AM on March 16, 2013 [2 favorites]


SimCity Hack Lets Users Destroy Anyone's Online City Thanks To Always-On DRM
posted by zombieflanders at 10:08 AM on March 16, 2013 [1 favorite]


Amazing.
posted by snuffleupagus at 10:17 AM on March 16, 2013


I know, right? They added PvP functionality in without even having to be asked!
posted by zombieflanders at 10:28 AM on March 16, 2013 [2 favorites]


Hmm. According to this report, the hack that the Cinemablend story (which i think also gets wrong that hackers have been able to expand city size now) describes only allows non-permanent damage/changes to cities - all is restored when you log in again ( but the video uploader says it seems like this is due to a save syncing bug rather than a feature, ironically?). Obviously a worry that more permanent version of this could happen though
posted by Bwithh at 11:02 AM on March 16, 2013


Wow, QuarterToThree has a good point: look at the smoking ruin of SimCity Societies and think carefully about what that kind of attention to quality and detail will mean for the new SimCity if they ever get tired of supporting it.
The first thing you see every time you play this game is a reminder that Electronic Arts will gracelessly orphan the games they sell you.
posted by Malor at 11:19 AM on March 16, 2013 [2 favorites]


Latest word on the street is that EA's forum software is censoring their own customer support phone number.
posted by seanmpuckett at 2:52 PM on March 16, 2013 [2 favorites]


Their call center must look like Starfleet Earth Command failing under the whale probe.
posted by snuffleupagus at 3:06 PM on March 16, 2013 [2 favorites]


Good lord, they so don't care that you're upset, that they're actively trying to keep you from calling them. They're not going to give you your money back, they're not going to help you, so they take active steps to keep you from finding the number!

I didn't think it was possible, but they made the VGCats comic about them real.
posted by Malor at 3:23 PM on March 16, 2013 [2 favorites]


You know, and none of this crap is going to matter much to EA, in the long run. They'll ship Dragon Age 3 soon, and they'll make a bunch of big promises, and all the gamers will fall in love with the promises and jump in with both feet.

I've seen a lot of ire about the future of DA after DA2 and ME2 let alone the recent shenanigans. The question is, is the launch of SimCity (2013) the worst launch in recent memory?
posted by ersatz at 4:25 PM on March 17, 2013


Sure, probably, but I don't think it will matter any.
posted by Malor at 5:22 PM on March 17, 2013


Malor: Sure, probably, but I don't think it will matter any.

It should. I know several people, including myself, who bought DA1 and ME 1 and 2 but avoided DA2 and ME3. EA really is driving customers away with their actions.
posted by Mitrovarr at 8:36 PM on March 17, 2013 [1 favorite]


That describes me. (DA1, ME1&2 -- yes; DA2 and ME3 -- no.)
posted by snuffleupagus at 9:56 PM on March 17, 2013


EA made it easy for me. They stopped publishing games on Steam, I stopped buying them. I almost made an exception for SimCity but I'm glad I waited. Instead I picked up Anno 2070 in a Steam sale and spent yesterday playing that to scratch my city building itch.
posted by the_artificer at 10:18 PM on March 17, 2013 [1 favorite]


But wait, there's more:

http://www.forbes.com/sites/erikkain/2013/03/17/ea-admits-simcity-could-have-run-offline-went-against-developers-vision/
posted by bq at 10:45 PM on March 17, 2013


From the Forbes article:
Turns out one simple line of code is all it takes to turn your SimCity into an offline game. Something so simple, even the public can do it.
posted by ericb at 10:04 AM on March 18, 2013


SimCity players offered free EA game
posted by never used baby shoes at 10:29 AM on March 18, 2013


I can't work out whether it is more awesome that EA are offering SimCity 4 as one of the compensation games, or previous fan pinata Mass Effect 3.
posted by running order squabble fest at 10:36 AM on March 18, 2013


Or Plants vs. Zombies, which retails for approximately seven cents plus a length of string, and has ubiquity one step shy of being given out with cereal boxes and Happy Meals.
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 10:38 AM on March 18, 2013 [1 favorite]


Well, about $6.99 for the PC version - but that is in part, I think, a reflection on the difficulty of knowing the market for SimCity. On the one hand you have pretty mechanically-oriented PC gaming diehards, and on the other relatively casual players who have come through The Sims... those games seem to be trying for a wide range of different appeals (action-RPG, action-adventure, racing, shooter, casual). But yeah - I might have put Bejeweled 3 and Plants vs Zombies together as a combo offering...
posted by running order squabble fest at 11:05 AM on March 18, 2013


One little detail about the free game - it's a pretty limited-time offer:
Everyone worldwide will have access no later than 5:00PM PST on March 22 and will have until March 30 at 11:59PM PST to redeem.
Here's the EA page about it, and it starts off with the doozy: "As a token of our appreciation for all the support we’ve received from SimCity fans over the past week"
posted by achrise at 11:24 AM on March 18, 2013


I love how they threw Dead Space 3 as the highest-current-MSRP game knowing full well the two sorts of people who bought SimCity that running order squabble fest cited above will, on the most part, have zero interest in a scifi survival horror (or however DS3 plays now) game.
posted by griphus at 11:28 AM on March 18, 2013


SimCity players offered free EA game

Hitch: It's an EA game.
posted by dunkadunc at 11:45 AM on March 18, 2013 [2 favorites]


As SimCity Fires Burn, John Riccitiello Steps Down as EA CEO
posted by achrise at 2:00 PM on March 18, 2013 [2 favorites]


EA's CEO has stepped down. Good riddance. How about getting back to EA's original mission now?
posted by Justinian at 2:01 PM on March 18, 2013


Holy shit. I wonder what the straw that broke his back was. I'm picturing him at 4 A.M. scrolling bleary-eyed through a NeoGAF thread while polishing off a bottle of whatever it is rich people drink. XO cognac I guess.
posted by griphus at 2:07 PM on March 18, 2013 [2 favorites]


I wonder what it would take to get Trip Hawkins back.
posted by seanmpuckett at 2:08 PM on March 18, 2013 [1 favorite]


I love how they threw Dead Space 3 as the highest-current-MSRP game knowing full well the two sorts of people who bought SimCity that running order squabble fest cited above will, on the most part, have zero interest in a scifi survival horror (or however DS3 plays now) game.

That's actually a robust selection of freebies, IMO, though the date constraints are a little mingy. EA have cocked up enough stuff that there's no need to make up things to criticise.
posted by Sebmojo at 2:21 PM on March 18, 2013


Does it help that DS3 is their test run/flagship game for microtransactions in AAA games?
posted by griphus at 2:32 PM on March 18, 2013


(Albeit, from what I am aware, the prompts for microtransactions are fairly unobtrusive and workarounds have already been found.)
posted by griphus at 2:34 PM on March 18, 2013


DS3 is garbage. An ignominious end to a good franchise.
posted by Justinian at 2:54 PM on March 18, 2013


I found it quite enjoyable. It's not cut from anything like the same cloth as the others, though -- far more generic and surface-sheen and bro-shooter-y -- and, yeah, a little disappointing. But certainly not garbage.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 3:25 PM on March 18, 2013


Your rage meter needs to go up to 11.
posted by Justinian at 4:02 PM on March 18, 2013


Holy shit. I wonder what the straw that broke his back was. I'm picturing him at 4 A.M. scrolling bleary-eyed through a NeoGAF thread while polishing off a bottle of whatever it is rich people drink.

EA missing quarterly expectations, and the big, expensive purchase of BioWare having at this point unwound through its two banner franchises and SW:TOR, at a guess. Along with a share price both low and flat and growing analyst skepticism.

I can't imagine that having a bunch of people cussing you out on the Interwebs 24-7 is very much fun, but CEOs don't generally resign because of it. As the mystics say, all this has happened to Bobby Kotick before, and all this will happen to Bobby Kotick again.

A slightly different perspective, also from Forbes. Odd to think that EA tried to merge with Take-Two - BioShock, Borderlands, GTA...that would have been quite a roster.
posted by running order squabble fest at 4:07 PM on March 18, 2013


Is anyone else besides blahblahblah actually playing the game? I've been at it for the past couple of days and having a lot of fun. (I avoided the first two weeks, so the server issues haven't affected me---the game is 100% playable, although it looks like there are certain online features that are not working, like updated pictures of cities in each region. Also, it's very difficult to find an existing open region with open city slots, which is actually why I came to this thread, to see if maybe a MeFi game had gotten started.)

For what it's worth, I'm playing it on a 3-year-old laptop that is below EA's system requirements (Intel Core i5 2.4GHz [not dual core] and an outdated 512 MB ATI Mobility Radeon 4330 graphics card), and I'm able to play it without any lag by turning down some of the graphics settings.

After playing for about 8 hours, I feel that I've already gotten my $60 worth, especially considering how expensive other forms of entertainment can be (looking at you, movie theaters). I'm no fan of DRM or always-online and all this financially-driven gimmickry, but if that's the price I have to pay to see new, interesting software that pushes the limits of home computing, and if the game is enjoyable (which it is), then those drawbacks are not the end of the world.
posted by Pfardentrott at 4:11 PM on March 18, 2013 [1 favorite]


but if that's the price I have to pay to see new, interesting software that pushes the limits of home computing

But it absolutely isn't. That's a bullshit line. EA lies every time they open their mouths, and if you accept anything they tell you at face value, you're a very foolish person.

The limits could have been pushed just as far, or farther, running it locally on your machine, but they chose not to do so, because they felt they couldn't dip into your wallet as much that way.

The only real advance here is how much they expect to charge you for a strategy game. When the 'big advance' in a new generation of strategy game is an advance in the business model, not the game, customers should be wary indeed.

Over on GWJ, they're talking about EA hiring paid 'reputation management' people, trying to drop into threads like this all over the Internet, and defuse them. It's kind of interesting that such a low-post-count person has an opinion that's so strongly supportive of the company line.
posted by Malor at 5:46 PM on March 18, 2013 [1 favorite]


Maybe leave that for the mods?
posted by ODiV at 5:51 PM on March 18, 2013


It's kind of interesting that such a low-post-count person has an opinion that's so strongly supportive of the company line.

As a high-post-count person (and, seriously, I had no idea that "poor time management" was a rank I could pull) I'd like to say it's a shitty thing to backhandedly accuse people of guerrilla marketing.
posted by griphus at 5:55 PM on March 18, 2013 [1 favorite]


Yeah, Malor, you should just chill out while enjoying the refreshing, crisp taste of new low calorie Sprite Zerotm.
posted by Justinian at 5:56 PM on March 18, 2013 [4 favorites]


It's kind of interesting that such a low-post-count person has an opinion that's so strongly supportive of the company line.

Do not do this shit. This is bad shit to do. If you have a legit concern, drop us a line at the contact form, but we are not gonna run with this if-you-disagree-you-must-be-a-plant random accusation stuff on the site.
posted by cortex at 6:07 PM on March 18, 2013 [3 favorites]


It's a slight sidetrack, but speaking of accusations made against people on the Internet, when did people start thinking "bias" was an adjective? What's up with that?
posted by running order squabble fest at 6:53 PM on March 18, 2013


The CEO resigned.
posted by empath at 7:27 PM on March 18, 2013


Malor: "Over on GWJ, they're talking about EA hiring paid 'reputation management' people, trying to drop into threads like this all over the Internet, and defuse them."

Linkage/cite? I'd believe it, but does anyone have proof?
posted by dunkadunc at 7:41 PM on March 18, 2013


I take the point that DRM and always-online aren't strictly necessary for the game to function, but from the point of view of someone who isn't too invested in the politics of gaming and intellectual property, the cost to me of playing this game isn't my dignity or my honor or my street cred or my gamer's bonafides or anything else, the cost to me is $60. The question is whether it's worth that to me, and it is.

On DLC, I don't fault them for taking advantage of a new business opportunity created by the advent of high speed internet and offering new content. (They're already doing this by the way; if you don't get the deluxe version of SimCity you can pay extra to download some architecture packs.) I don't expect to buy any of these, because I don't play often enough to value them above what they charge ($10), but again I don't see the harm in them offering new content for purchase for those who will enjoy it. It's not like this stuff was ever offered for free in the past; if something wasn't on the CD you just never got it.

Sorry I have a low post count. My Facebook account is linked in my profile for anyone who's interested. I have nothing to do with the software business or PR; I'm a law student (and I happen to be on spring break which is why I decided to buy the game in the first place, otherwise I wouldn't have time for it anyway). On review my comment does sound kinda corporate-y, and for that I apologize, but it's my honest assessment. For what it's worth, I'm participating in the discussion because I happen to be interested in trying to understand the reasoning or philosophy behind the anger against a company offering a product that people voluntarily purchase.
posted by Pfardentrott at 8:14 PM on March 18, 2013


It's not like this stuff was ever offered for free in the past; if something wasn't on the CD you just never got it.

One of the glorious oddities of the brave new world of DLC is that there may, in fact, be content on the CD that is not available until you pony up some extra cash to unlock it. Content that is finished and gold and printed on day one that's firewalled off until you dish up the extra five or ten bucks.

The CD itself is a sideshow, of course; more and more these things are being delivered via a network connection. But the sticking point is the same: the difference between the months-or-years-later expansion packs of ten or fifteen years ago and the modern AAA approach to DLC is one of content developed after the fact on the strength of a game's reception and revenue, and content developed in time for release but intentionally withheld from that release while being dangled in front of gamers as a missing part of the game that you can have for just some more money on top of standard box retail.

That's one of the things that bothers people. It's a degree of mercenary profit jockeying that ends up actively (and in some cases intrusively, literally diagetically with in-game upsell pitches) affecting a player's perception of and experience with a game. I can see why the publisher would want to experiment with the possibility of bigger profits, but that doesn't make it not frustrating to deal with as a gamer.

For what it's worth, I'm participating in the discussion because I happen to be interested in trying to understand the reasoning or philosophy behind the anger against a company offering a product that people voluntarily purchase.

Games aren't fungible; you can't, generally speaking, just go down to the next storefront and see if they've got that new SimCity but without the DRM, or shop around for the version of Diablo 3 you're in the mood for. In the absence of a readily available demo (and demos have gotten pretty thin on the ground compared to a decade back, SimCity had only a short open-ish beta weekend for example), you can't even sample the product.

So the fact that there are people who are bothered by EA/Maxis' approach to SimCity's macro design, and also people who are going out and buying SimCity, and also some overlap there, isn't mysterious. People are complicated, and have complicated motives, and any two people will agree about some things but not about others. If you look at the potential audience for SimCity, and their collective willingness to pay for the game and their collective dislike for the handling of the game, as some sort of monolith that is contradicting itself, the whole situation will indeed be pretty confusing I'd guess, but that's the product of misapprehending what's actually a big complicated group of people.

I say this as someone who (a) dislikes gratuitous DRM in general on principle, (b) isn't actually directly negatively affected by it in this case and likewise had no real trouble with Diablo 3's similar approach, (c) was super excited about the new SimCity because the previews looked great and I love the franchise, (d) thinks that the justification for online-only in this case is at this point bluntly, transparently bullshit on EA/Maxis's part, and (e) will still pick up the game at some point assuming it doesn't manage to crater even more somehow because, god dammit, I've been really looking forward to this game and the pieces that aren't ridiculous bungling bullshit look like a good time. I have complicated feelings about the whole thing, basically, and I'm just one person. Bring that up several orders of magnitude and it doesn't get any less complicated.
posted by cortex at 8:44 PM on March 18, 2013 [5 favorites]


Re: EA and paid shills: Here.
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 9:05 PM on March 18, 2013 [2 favorites]


That's really helpful, thanks. I guess it remains to be seen what approach EA takes with SimCity, that is, whether they go the route of offering DLC that is optional or DLC that is perceived as essential. The morality of the product would really seem to depend on what sort of content it is and whether it's necessary to the enjoyment of the game. A lot of people seem to be speculating that they'll offer offline play as a paid option, and I agree that that would be a dick move. It would also look terrible on their part, considering that it would only add functionality and convenience to the product---and for that reason it seems more likely that if they offered it at all, they would offer it as a free patch. My intuition from experiencing the game and the online aspect of it is that the decision to release SimCity as online-only was a choice they made knowing that they could defend it by arguing that it's a completely new style of gameplay and not just a new iteration of the previous tinker-toy/simulation games. (Hopping into my hypothetical EA-public relations person shoes, this would seem to tie in with their idea of starting the franchise over rather than releasing a SimCity 5.) Of course, making the decision to have it always-online has the bonus effect of aiding their attempts at DRM.

That said, if they did pull some obnoxious stunt like asking us to pay for offline play, I wouldn't be against jumping ship and hopping back on OpenTTD, my other favorite pastime.
posted by Pfardentrott at 9:08 PM on March 18, 2013


No, what EA wanted was the ability to monetize SimCity like an MMO. They wanted the cashflow of an MMO, and the pirate-proofness of an MMO, but they didn't want to have to actually provide the hardware required for a true MMO; running a big server farm is difficult and very expensive.

So, this was the best of all worlds... provide a service that does almost nothing and requires almost no hardware, ship only a fraction of the completed game, and require an always-online connection. Voila, they kill off piracy, they get people to spend hundreds of dollars on a game that used to cost $60, and they don't have to bother with much in the way of server infrastructure.

That's the 'new style of gameplay': you keep taking twenties out of your wallet.
posted by Malor at 11:40 PM on March 18, 2013 [2 favorites]


If you give yourself an item via a cheat and the game offers pay-to-win, does that count as theft of services?
posted by dunkadunc at 11:52 PM on March 18, 2013


I've only taken $60 out of my pocket, not "hundreds of dollars." I don't intend to take out any more either, unless EA offers products that are worth my time and money. I didn't bother with any of the DLC for The Sims 2 or 3 either, and I found them both perfectly enjoyable and complete game experiences at the time.
posted by Pfardentrott at 1:07 AM on March 19, 2013


Much of what was part of core gameplay in SC4 is now split off into DLC for no good reason other than people paying more money.
posted by dunkadunc at 1:11 AM on March 19, 2013


I'm not really sure what gameplay features from SC4 are missing in the new SimCity. It's true that long-distance travel and managing different forms of overlapping transportation (highways, onramps, etc.) are deemphasized in this game. However, I don't see any conceivable way of them putting that back in, via DLC or otherwise, because the mechanics of the game are so different. As far as content I actually find myself missing from SC4, the only thing I can think of is the charts and graphs, which are oddly lacking.

Just wanted to add that admittedly, not everyone plays computer games the same way that I do, and I'm sure that lots of people spring for all $500 dollars of downloadable content for their Sims 2 game or whatnot. But presumably they make those choices willingly and they find the purchases to be worth their while. A game like The Sims is especially amenable to selling add-ons because it's essentially a dollhouse simulator, and an analogy can easily be made to people who spend hundreds or thousands of dollars on doll accessories, or on any other kinds of collectibles for that matter.

Of course, that leads to the separate question of whether it's fair to charge at all for intellectual property with zero marginal cost of production, but that's another can of worms.
posted by Pfardentrott at 1:23 AM on March 19, 2013


Oh yeah, terraform/God mode is missing too, which is sad, and that is actually a place where I could see them getting away with trying to sell you stuff (region packs).
posted by Pfardentrott at 1:50 AM on March 19, 2013


Subways? Railroads? Decent-size cities? There's a lot of stuff missing.
posted by Malor at 3:04 AM on March 19, 2013


All the more to upsell you later, my dear!
posted by Meatbomb at 3:55 AM on March 19, 2013


Also roundabouts would really be useful.
posted by the_artificer at 4:23 AM on March 19, 2013


Or support for mods? That's a pretty big one, eh?
posted by snuffleupagus at 5:48 AM on March 19, 2013


Re: EA and paid shills: Here.

That's social media and community engagement, surely - basically, having people running official Facebook pages and twitter IDs like @masseffect and @battlefield3 answering questions and complaints promptly?

If EA were to employ paid shills, it would probably be unwise for them to sanction the provider of those shills putting a case study about their awesome shilling on their website... they have enough PR issues as is.
posted by running order squabble fest at 6:04 AM on March 19, 2013


Pfardentrott, I thought I'd give it a try on a 5-year-old laptop, and ran into every installation issue pointed out in the Kotaku "experience" mentioned upthread. I think it wasn't until over an hour into the installation (from disc, then Origin update) that I got the message saying that my hardware didn't meet minimum requirements and my experience might be degraded. I kept plugging away for another two hours (through the "Processing large File" step) before I got to wait another two hours for a stable server connection (this was on the 8th). When I finally got in, I was treated to this beautiful rendition of the SimCity World. How gratifying.
posted by achrise at 7:58 AM on March 19, 2013 [1 favorite]


You should just be grateful that you were allowed to share in the Simcity Experience™, achrise. Only a select few (those with $60) were chosen to experience it.
posted by Malor at 10:16 AM on March 19, 2013


Oh, I'm not denying that the launch of the game and the experience for people trying to play in the first couple of weeks was a complete and utter failure on EA's part, and they deserve to be upbraided for their lack of planning. Also, I agree that their return policy, from what I've read, is completely reprehensible. They might even be in violation of the UCC for how they treated people trying to get their money back who weren't able to play. As of now though, the game appears to be working smoothly and relatively reliably (at least for me).

Subways are missing, but the game does have railroads (and streetcars). Railroads are used primarily for intercity transportation; the maps are too small to make them useful as local mass transit. I suspect a similar calculus applies with subways.

In the end, it looks like a lot of the changes that people are legitimately unhappy about come down to the small city sizes, which itself probably comes down to the improved graphics and transition to 3D which makes the huge maps that we're used to unfeasible on home computers. I think the trade-off EA was faced with was choosing either stunning graphics or preserving the long-distance transportation challenges of earlier games, and naturally they went with the former because it'd sell more. Maybe a new game that focuses on transportation only could be possible with the 3D graphics people expect now. (It sure would be nice if big gaming companies weren't allergic to new titles.)
posted by Pfardentrott at 10:26 AM on March 19, 2013


They might even be in violation of the UCC for how they treated people trying to get their money back who weren't able to play.

They disclaim all warranties, including that the game works at all. (i.e. merchantibility, fitness for purpose.) Good luck with getting the arbitrator to listen to your unconscionability argument; and if you do win you get your $60 back. What has it cost you in time? (More or less the same time vs. reward problem if you go the small claims route.)
posted by snuffleupagus at 10:28 AM on March 19, 2013


Maybe you could join a class-action suit!

Oh, wait.
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 10:31 AM on March 19, 2013


And, for that matter, the DRM might be construed as a service.
posted by snuffleupagus at 10:35 AM on March 19, 2013


You're right, I haven't looked at the EULA but it wouldn't surprise me if it was drafted in a maximally exploitative fashion. But huge swaths of customers being completely unable to install or use the product for an extended time seems kind of unprecedented and might be something a court would listen to in an argument that the waivers in the EULA and the arbitration clause shouldn't apply. IANAL and I don't know the case law on EULAs but I think the key questions would be factual ones; i.e., how explicit was the EULA about a situation like this and was the user experience deteriorated beyond a point of reasonable foreseeability? In a hypothetical case where they sold people an actual empty box, I could conceive of a class action gaining traction despite the arbitration clause.
posted by Pfardentrott at 10:54 AM on March 19, 2013


For reference, here's their waiver of the warranties of merchantability, quality, and fitness (in all caps in the agreement, un-capped for readability here):
6. Disclaimer of Warranties. Except for the limited warranty on recording media, if applicable, and to the fullest extent permissible under applicable law, the software is provided to you “as is,” with all faults, without warranty of any kind, without performance assurances or guarantees of any kind, and your use is at your sole risk. The entire risk of satisfactory quality and performance resides with you. EA and EA’s licensors (collectively “EA” for purposes of this section and section 6) do not make, and hereby disclaim, any and all express, implied or statutory warranties, including implied warranties of condition, uninterrupted use, merchantability, satisfactory quality, fitness for a particular purpose, noninfringement of third party rights, and warranties (if any) arising from a course of dealing, usage, or trade practice. EA does not warrant against interference with your enjoyment of the software; that the software will meet your requirements; that operation of the software will be uninterrupted or error-free, or that the software will interoperate or be compatible with any other software or that any errors in the software will be corrected. No oral or written advice provided by ea or any authorized representative shall create a warranty. Some jurisdictions do not allow the exclusion of or limitations on implied warranties or the limitations on the applicable statutory rights of a consumer, so some or all of the above exclusions and limitations may not apply to you.
Interestingly, in Section 1.G, before getting to the actual waivers, they throw in this innocuous (and layman-readable) bit that also speaks about no warranty on software operation:
No Warranty on Software Operation; Force Majeure. You acknowledge that, owing to the complexity of computer technology, as well as the nature of online games themselves and play over a global communications network outside EA’s control, EA cannot and does not guarantee that the Software and any updates, upgrades or expansions to the Software will run permanently or uninterrupted on your computer. EA is not liable for delays, system failures, system outages or difficulties, especially of a technical nature, that are due to legal restrictions or other circumstances beyond its control, including but not limited to third party criminal activity
They talk about technical failures of "communications network[s] outside EA's control," criminal activity, and legal restrictions and other circumstances "beyond its control." They never say that they are not liable for failure of their own systems, which they do control. A zealous lawyer might have some fun with the idea that a reasonable person reading the Agreement might reach the conclusion that it's this waiver (as it speaks about network quality and so on), and not the general waiver, that applies to the server situation.

It's also interesting that the EULA states several times that you agree to it "by installing or using the Software." Some potential plaintiffs might never have technically installed or used the software because doing so was factually impossible.
posted by Pfardentrott at 11:24 AM on March 19, 2013


EA's CEO taken offline due to server issues.
posted by ersatz at 11:41 AM on March 19, 2013 [2 favorites]


The Ballad of John Riccitiello.
posted by Justinian at 12:12 PM on March 19, 2013


Right, they expressly disclaim the usual warranties. As I said. Having already linked the EULA upthread. In fact, they don't warrant that the game will work at will, because they won't warrant that it's compatible with your graphics drivers or fucking Windows itself or anything else under the sun. And they have that disclaimer regarding network availability despite the mandatory requirement for realtime license verification–the reference to "permanently" meaning that, yes, eventually it will go offline and effectively expire as usable software.

IANAL and I don't know the case law on EULAs but I think the key questions would be factual ones; i.e., how explicit was the EULA about a situation like this and was the user experience deteriorated beyond a point of reasonable foreseeability? In a hypothetical case where they sold people an actual empty box, I could conceive of a class action gaining traction despite the arbitration clause.

This situation doesn't call for a tort analysis. Forseeability in contract is related to damages. As to the case law on imposition of arbitration and class action waivers through corporate-to-consumer end user agreements, AT&T v Concepcion might ring a bell.
posted by snuffleupagus at 1:11 PM on March 19, 2013


It's also interesting that the EULA states several times that you agree to it "by installing or using the Software." Some potential plaintiffs might never have technically installed or used the software because doing so was factually impossible.

This is the one contingency that is explicitly addressed by the EULA with a right to return the product , in the very first section. (For the physical boxed copy customers. In theory.)
posted by snuffleupagus at 1:18 PM on March 19, 2013


In the end, it looks like a lot of the changes that people are legitimately unhappy about come down to the small city sizes, which itself probably comes down to the improved graphics and transition to 3D which makes the huge maps that we're used to unfeasible on home computers.

Wow, you sound corporate when you say that.

Modern computers should be able to easily handle that. Most current machines have at least two processor cores, if not four, all of which are individually about twice as fast as the 2.4Ghz P4s that were shipping when SimCity 4 came out. So CPU power in a fairly slow machine is about four times what a hot PC offered in 2003, and a current hot machine is eight to twelve times faster. This is threaded performance, natch, but a highly distributed computational load, like in a city simulator, would be a very good fit for widely threaded execution.

Graphics acceleration has come even further; the hot card of the day, in 2003, was the NVidia 5800, which is glacially, glacially slow compared to a modern 680. (or pretty much anything on the market, really.) I'm not even sure how to compare the generations, as they're so widely separated in overall power levels, but I'd guess an increase in overall power of about twenty times.

Even if they stuck to the exact same game logic code, and just gave that engine a nice 3D facelift, it would be smooth and gorgeous on the hottest PCs, and they could simply offer small city sizes, or reduced graphic levels, for those lower on the power curve.

Instead, they went to that boneheaded agent simulation thing, which burns assloads of CPU power, and gives much poorer results than the modeled engine SC4 had.

Complaints about service, business model, and DRM aside, the SC5 engine itself is a huge step backward from SC4 in terms of fidelity and quality of gameplay result.

The only thing this version has going for it is graphics; it is inferior in almost every other way, and it appears to be deliberately inferior, so that they can upsell you.
posted by Malor at 1:27 PM on March 19, 2013 [4 favorites]


Snuffleupagus, thanks for linking the EULA upthread, I'm aware you'd done so and had favorited your comment in appreciation. I pasted the waiver of guarantees "for reference" (as I said), in case anyone was interested in seeing the language. I'm not disagreeing with you on that. Thanks also for your correction on reasonable foreseeability, although I would point out that the questions of reliance and damages are still relevant factors in our hypothetical UCC case, especially if it's a class action. In any event, in addition to the possibility that the waiver is unconscionable in certain factual contexts (as you mentioned earlier), the UCC does provide that a waiver is "inoperative to the extent that such construction is unreasonable."

I was hoping that my idle discussion of litigation strategy against EA would have settled the question of whether I'm a corporate agent, but alas.
posted by Pfardentrott at 2:46 PM on March 19, 2013


Oh, I wasn't trying to nitpick. Sorry if I came off that way. The differing use of forseeability can be an awkward distinction until you get used to it, and Concepcion would've been from before you started law school but it did get some mainstream coverage. Considering the commonality of waivers like this, the ubiquity of adhesion contracts in consumer contexts, and the Supreme Court's approval of mandatory arbitration and class action waivers, I really don't think there's even much of a hypothetical "UCC case" -- keep in mind that your cause of action isn't for a violation of the UCC, you're still suing on the contract.

Looking at the crappy EULAs we get stuck with makes me grouchy.
posted by snuffleupagus at 3:10 PM on March 19, 2013


Point taken! I really should brush up on my contract law.
posted by Pfardentrott at 3:20 PM on March 19, 2013


Also, I'd look more closely at 2-316 -- subsection (1) is a rule of construction, and it refers to the reasonability of an interpretation and reconciliation of language creating, limiting , modifying and disclaiming warranties (including reconciling the provision of express warranties with the disclaimer of implied warranties). Take another look at (2) and (3), especially (3)(a):

unless the circumstances indicate otherwise, all implied warranties are excluded by expressions like "as is", "with all faults" or other language which in common understanding calls the buyer's attention to the exclusion of warranties and makes plain that there is no implied warranty;

and compare the language of the EULA.
posted by snuffleupagus at 3:21 PM on March 19, 2013


Point taken! I really should brush up on my contract law.

I'd be worried if this wasn't more intuitive when you're where I am now (a couple months away from graduation) but not if you're in the first year. Part of law school is that it takes time to absorb all the concepts and even start to fit them together in a practical way.

And I'm not all that great on the UCC myself.
posted by snuffleupagus at 3:23 PM on March 19, 2013


On 2-316, indeed, thanks again. I have to admit I was kind of grasping at straws for the sake of argument. I'm a 2L and I really should know better by now, but I was just writing off the cuff.
posted by Pfardentrott at 3:27 PM on March 19, 2013


Malor, I've rarely been in agreement with you for so long. I cherish these moments (and I might be on my second glass of wine).
posted by ersatz at 4:01 PM on March 19, 2013


Heh, well, that's one of the more backhanded compliments I've gotten.

I am occasionally right... happens twice a day!
posted by Malor at 3:09 AM on March 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


Apathy and refunds are more dangerous than piracy.

Tommy Refenes (the quiet, smart one from Team Meat, makers of Super Meat Boy) talks about the danger of treating piracy as equivalent to retail shrinkage, and the greater danger of an actual purchaser demanding a refund and/or deciding not to buy the next product from a studio, citing the botched OS X launch of Super Meat Boy.
As a result of piracy developers feel their hand is forced to implement measures to stop piracy. Often, these efforts to combat piracy only result in frustration for paying customers. I challenge a developer to show evidence that accurately shows implementation of DRM is a return on investment and that losses due to piracy can be calculated. I do not believe this is possible.

The reality is the fight against piracy equates to spending time and money combating a loss that cannot be quantified. Everyone needs to accept that piracy cannot be stopped and loss prevention is not a concept that can be applied to the digital world. Developers should focus on their paying customers and stop wasting time and money on non-paying customers. Respect your customers and they may in turn respect your efforts enough to purchase your game instead of pirating it.
Also, he appears to have successfully obtained a refund from Origin for Sim City. Which may be of interest...
posted by running order squabble fest at 10:36 AM on March 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


Escapist's review: Bugs and server launch issues aside, SimCity is broken because its deliberately designed ultimate game goal for players is maximizing profits from commodity businesses & trading, rather than city building and urban planning
posted by Bwithh at 2:30 PM on March 20, 2013


So the game's appalling superficial flaws have, up till now, obscured its horrific fundamental flaws?
posted by Sebmojo at 3:42 PM on March 20, 2013 [2 favorites]


So the game's appalling superficial flaws have, up till now, obscured its horrific fundamental flaws?

well, when you put it like that, it just starts to sound like all software.
posted by Zed at 4:00 PM on March 20, 2013 [2 favorites]


Apathy and refunds are more dangerous than piracy.

Granted, it's a different medium, but the BBC reports today --

Music Sales 'Unaffected by Piracy' -- "Research commissioned by the European Commission Joint Research Committee finds that web piracy does not affect music revenue."
posted by ericb at 4:01 PM on March 20, 2013


RPS's latest comes across as a bit wistful about what could have been, versus what actually was.
SimCity is a charming object but has more in common with a model railway set than a city building simulation. The GlassBox engine, so attractive in theory, is unconvincing in practice, incapable of making me believe that even these small neighbourhoods are functioning, living spaces. For a while, I enjoyed watching new buildings sprout out of the ground like flowers in a time-lapse video, but I’ve come to the conclusion that SimCity is showing me a lot, telling me very little and barely listening at all.
posted by barnacles at 3:40 AM on March 22, 2013 [1 favorite]


After all the commotion, as a long LONG term Simcity player I decided to bit the bullet and try it (which involved having to install Windows 7 on my MacBook Pro, but that's another story).

Well.

It sure is pretty.

There are no server problems.

But...

It just isn't Simcity. It doesn't have that blank-sheet-of-paper thing, at all.

The regions are premade, with existing highways and railways. There's no farming, no terraforming. There are just three zone types. Water and sewage and electricity follow roads, so there's no underground infrastructure.

There's no way to undo or make a save point. So if you screw up, you screw up.

And the little things. The writing, which was always one of Maxis' strong points, is dreadful. If someone's ill they say things like "I feel really ill".

I think the jury's out on Glassbox. But the whole thing feels like an elegant toy, not a city.

The city size thing is frustrating but region play mitigates some of that. Or at least it would if you could design your own regions, which you can't.

I see it as the anti-Minecraft. That's not a good thing.

You're continually thinking, wait, is that it? You mean I can't do that?

I've got Simcity 4 Deluxe running as I type this, with a bunch of mods and expansion packs, and it's way more fun. I can download Digital Elevation Models, turn them into vast regions, have great big farming communities. Ferchrissakes, it's a sandbox game.

Short version: Simcity 2013 feels like a beautiful, expensive version of Farmville.
posted by unSane at 9:37 AM on March 22, 2013 [6 favorites]


OMG I wonder if that wasn't their thinking all along. "FarmVille on the desktop!" The timing is certainly right.

shudder
posted by seanmpuckett at 11:48 AM on March 22, 2013 [2 favorites]


Maybe we can petition Mojang to do a city sim.
posted by unSane at 12:06 PM on March 22, 2013


I'm getting excited for Clockwork Empires, which is by the guys who did Dungeons of Dredmor.
posted by kagredon at 12:40 PM on March 22, 2013 [2 favorites]


kagredon: "I'm getting excited for Clockwork Empires, which is by the guys who did Dungeons of Dredmor."

That looks really intriguing. Definitely one to keep an eye on. Another one of those looks like it might be Banished, a medieval city-building game. The alpha video looks pretty compelling, if you're into this sort of thing!
posted by barnacles at 2:49 AM on March 23, 2013


"I'm getting excited for Clockwork Empires, which is by the guys who did Dungeons of Dredmor.

From the press release: Losing is still fun! When your colony fails miserably, earn medals, promotions, and titles as befits a true politician and scion of the Empire! Heh.
posted by ersatz at 4:38 AM on March 23, 2013 [1 favorite]


It does look very good, and I think I'm highly likely to buy it. I love the flavor; it's so well done that it feels like the rest of the game is also going to be firing on all cylinders.
posted by Malor at 5:53 AM on March 23, 2013


So I dug my disks for SimCity4 out of the attic and installed it on my laptop and remembered what a good game it is. The graphics are a little blocky on a modern system but other than that, it's a really deep game to get lost in. I ended up playing for quite a few hours without realizing.
posted by octothorpe at 6:01 PM on March 24, 2013 [2 favorites]


SimCity 2013 dominated the news, didn't it. I got Starcraft II:HotS and its installation was idiotic: if you run the dvd, it attempts to download 15 GB of data (SC2+expansion) even if you have already installed the base game. If you authenticate your key and run the SC2 client, it will 'only' download the data for the expansion. So it takes a few hours of downloading even if you have the dvd, and you have to look up a specific way to install the game unless you want to tie up your internet for even longer. Furthermore, when you load a campaign stage, the game downloads data every bloody time (it says up to 200MB for the first stages, but I doubt it, as it's too quick for that). Since Activision-Blizzard is enamored with the idea of e-sports, that is the equivalent of James Naismith having to send you peach baskets every time you want to play basketball.

No real thoughts on the gameplay so far, but it's a shame they haven't introduced an order queue that continues production when you have enough money/larvae yet. Total Annihilation did that before the original Starcraft. However, the interface for controlling workers is better, there's is a counter on hatcheries so that you know how many workers it has at a glance, and they have added a button that selects all army units so that you can swarm enemy positions. A mass of Zerg overrunning enemy bases without having to fiddle with the interface to select every unit is a thing of beauty.

Battle.net seems to be working better than last time around, but having to log in every time you play is nonsense. Starcraft was great enough to make me get WC3 and SC2+expansion, but I dislike being herded into being always online when I want to play single player. The game itself is a lot of fun, but the business model is starting to alienate me.
posted by ersatz at 8:43 PM on March 24, 2013


ersatz: "Since Activision-Blizzard is enamored with the idea of e-sports, that is the equivalent of James Naismith having to send you peach baskets every time you want to play basketball."

I've got nothing to add to that, but I just wanted to add a comment so I could remember this line. For whatever reason, it has made my day!
posted by barnacles at 1:24 AM on March 25, 2013 [1 favorite]


ersatz: "Losing is still fun!"

Isn't that pretty much Dwarf Fortress's motto?
posted by dunkadunc at 2:03 AM on March 25, 2013


I've had my computer disconnected from the Internet since I downloaded it and sc2 plays just fine. I don't know what the streaming server does, but it's not drm.

As far as queuing, you can queue in sc2, but it's bad strategy. Zerg is very reactive, and you can spawn units when you need them. Larvae pile up, they don't go away. Just hot key your hatches, hit s to select all the larvae, then start building units.
posted by empath at 3:58 AM on March 25, 2013


Yeah, turns out I was just using them up too quickly. I spent a ton of time on Starcraft where you had to check up on your Hives every now and then as larvae went up to three and I didn't bother much with them in multiplayer.

I've been sucked into the expansion once again and my impression of the interface changes are still positive. For the first time I feel like I'm in control of the Zerg instead of having to coax them (one of the last Zerg missions in SC and the last couple in BW grarred me pretty bad)

Apropos the thread, from Richard Garriott's (Lord British) Reddit AMA:

[–]stenweb 28 points 16 hours ago

Ultima VII Parts 1 and 2 were simply amazing.... but, and I mean this in a nice way, but what happened with VIII and IX?...

permalink

[–]RichardGarriott 65 points 14 hours ago

RG vs EA

posted by ersatz at 7:19 AM on March 26, 2013


octothorpe: "So I dug my disks for SimCity4 out of the attic and installed it on my laptop and remembered what a good game it is. The graphics are a little blocky on a modern system but other than that, it's a really deep game to get lost in. I ended up playing for quite a few hours without realizing."

Good game but buggy as hell (or at least not very compatible with newer OSs). Spent five or six hours working on a city just to have the file get corrupted as I saved it with no way to restore it AFAIK. Lesson learned: backup the .sc4 files.
posted by octothorpe at 9:47 AM on March 26, 2013


Simcity 4 can be unstable on multi-core CPUs but you can fix that by editing the target field in the shortcut to the game.

I use,
"C:\Program Files (x86)\Maxis\SimCity 4 Deluxe\Apps\SimCity 4.exe" -CPUcount:1 -CPUPriority:high -CustomResolution:enabled -r1920x1200x32 -f -intro:off
So "-CPUcount:1 -CPUPriority:high" to fix the CPU issue, "-CustomResolution:enabled -r1920x1200x32" so it runs at my desktop resolution, "-f" for fullscreen and "-intro:off" to disable the intro.

If you're not using the Steam version you might also want to make sure it's on the most current patch. Maxis doesn't have them on their website anymore but you can get them here.
posted by the_artificer at 10:54 AM on March 26, 2013 [2 favorites]


On the Mac you're better off running SC4 virtualized in VMWare Fusion. The Mac version is dog slow, and I've had instability with the Wine version. However it runs like the wind in VMWare and is rock solid.
posted by unSane at 11:09 AM on March 26, 2013


Thanks, I'll try to setup the shortcut with the CPU affinity tonight. After the corruption issue, I did go into Task Manager and pinned the process to the first CPU but that's a non-sticky fix.

I am at the most recent patch (it's SimCity 4 Deluxe w/Rushhour) and I added the most recent patch for that.
posted by octothorpe at 2:27 PM on March 26, 2013


Meh, none of that worked. Still deletes the city and the underlying tile of the region everytime I try to save and exit. I can't even save once so I have nothing uncorrupted to backup. Bother.
posted by octothorpe at 4:55 PM on March 26, 2013


Zero Punctuation: Welcome to Dogbollock
posted by snuffleupagus at 8:52 PM on March 27, 2013 [2 favorites]


Now you can place Nissan Leaf docking stations in your town for free. They add happiness at no cost.
posted by Elementary Penguin at 2:09 AM on April 3, 2013 [1 favorite]


I liked how PCGamer described the Nissan Leaf stations:

In other words, you’re handed a Mary Sue building doubling as a constant happiness generator with no significant downsides beyond the space it takes up. Oh, and the cheerily red [Nissan] logo made large enough so you can spot it at most zoom levels.
posted by barnacles at 9:55 AM on April 3, 2013 [2 favorites]


Okay, EA's got to be straight-out trolling at this point, right?
posted by kagredon at 9:58 AM on April 3, 2013 [1 favorite]


It cracks me up that the electric recharging stations which provide power to electric cars do not require electricity.
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 10:16 AM on April 3, 2013 [5 favorites]


God if I was a SimCity dev I'd risk getting fired just to put in an Easter egg claiming the Nissan docking station ran on internet outrage.
posted by griphus at 10:39 AM on April 3, 2013 [5 favorites]


I swear to god on my eyes it is like EA is rolling around the floor laughing as they keep anteing up the bets for "how big of a shit can we take in our customer's mouths and have them keep coming back begging for more" because the people do keep coming back for more no matter how big the shits get. There is going to be someone in the corner who is basically cannonballing schnapps, peanuts and creamed corn right now just to see what will happen in 24-48 hours.

It beggars belief.

At some point they are going to look up and say, "oh my god, this must be how the Republican party feels! THIS IS FUCKING AMAZING"
posted by seanmpuckett at 10:47 AM on April 3, 2013 [4 favorites]


Libertarian Utopia - 1,801,800 people, all zoned residential, no public services.

Roller Coaster Simulator

SimCity pedestrians 'teleport' to keep the game fun - GDC talk by Dan Moskowitz, Senior Software Engineer at Maxis
posted by the_artificer at 5:31 PM on April 4, 2013 [1 favorite]


Microsoft's (probably soon-to-be-former) Creative Director really stuck his foot in his mouth here.
posted by empath at 8:19 PM on April 4, 2013


For the record, I have always-on broadband in Janesville, WI, Manveer Heir notwithstanding. (He says he worked at Raven in Madison, which is how he knows the name.) There are some nearby rural areas that don't, though.
posted by dhartung at 11:58 PM on April 4, 2013


Oh, please make an always-on console, Microsoft. Between that and the near-invisible Wii U, it's time for Sony to retake the lead in the console wars.

If only they would show the goddamn hardware already.
posted by zombieflanders at 5:06 AM on April 5, 2013 [1 favorite]


I'm quite excited for the PS4, and I'd decided several years ago that consoles just didn't make sense any more. I think Apple has actually made a good case for consoles, in that with a closed ecosystem you get a lot of predictability, stability and reliability -- thus developers are free to concentrate on much more on content and less on compatibility. Sony is running with this idea, in a Big Iron (or Big Silicon) kind of way, with the knowledge that if they make their box easy to make games for, then there will be a lot of games for it.

So if the PS4 is going to be like the home console version of the App Store with better curation and decent discovery, but also with the App Store's rock-solid delivery mechanism and a bunch of $60 AAA titles and a whole lot of creative interesting $10 Indie titles, then I think they'll have found the perfect path for the next decade.

I do hope Apple does open up a store for the Apple TV though. Because there's a lot of possibility there for comparatively low tech, low content big screen gaming at the $1-$5 price point.

I see no reason why this wouldn't co-exist marvellously with a PS4 in my living room.
posted by seanmpuckett at 5:49 AM on April 5, 2013


I have always-on broadband, but it goes out when the power does, which happens way more frequently than it should. I've been meaning to call my ISP about that, actually.
posted by ODiV at 7:57 AM on April 5, 2013


My cable internet died sometime yesterday while I was at work - power's fine, connections seem fine, it's just...not finding a connection.

Called, they have to send me a new modem via express mail, so presumably I'll be sans internet all weekend. Still played Borderlands for a few hours yesterday.

Screw always-on, real life has a way of screwing that up.
posted by Lemurrhea at 8:33 AM on April 5, 2013


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