Seriously EA, didn't you see Diablo 3's growing pains?
Developed by Maxis, SimCity 5 for Windows PC uses "the most advanced simulation engine ever" to deliver the most immersive and personal experience yet. It's available now across stores nationwide, and as a digital download from EA's own Origin distribution platform. A Limited Edition is also available on Origin until March 11.
Besides throwing in a new (modern) engine, the biggest addition to the franchise is multiplayer, a first for the series. Decisions a player makes impact not only the local virtual city, but a whole region of players. They can either collaborate or compete to earn achievements.
"Underpinning SimCity is a live service that simulates real-time updates and pushes them to players in the form of new challenges and achievements," the company said. "Players will track their progression alongside their friends and the world for the most polluted city, the richest city and more."
But like Blizzard's Diablo 3, which launched on the PC almost a year ago, SimCity 5 requires a constant internet connection, even for the single-player portion. And like Blizzard, EA claims it's because of the social and multiplayer aspects even though the underlying fact is that this DRM requirement thwarts piracy. Now EA is facing the same launch issues, as the company's online servers just can't handle the initial traffic.
Players are reporting long delays for the Digital Deluxe download from Origin, and in connecting to the Origin servers to actually play. Popular YouTube game-streamer TotalBiscuit even highlights the 30-minute queue he encountered for what he notes as "a traditionally single player game." Ars Technica is also reporting connectivity issues, as well as Microsoft editor Peter Bright, who saw his game hang at the loading animation for a full eight hours just after the game went live, with no results.
There's speculation that EA simply didn't anticipate a huge crowd flooding the servers after the game officially went to retail at midnight. Pre-loads also weren't allowed before midnight due to Maxis wanting to polish the game until "the very last second". This decision has reportedly caused widespread download problems and delays before the game even unlocked and started downloading for many pre-order players. Even those who purchased the disc-based version are experiencing delays during installation.
IncGamers points out that players in the pre-launch beta were also reporting connection issues last week. Maxis Creative Director Ocean Quigley waved it off, claiming that the point of the beta was to test the server structure with "tens of thousands" of users.
"We looked at those results and built a lot of infrastructure as a consequence," he said in an interview. "By the third beta test we made sure the infrastructure we put in was actually working. [It was] for us to figure out what’s working, what’s not, and make changes if necessary."
If anything, the launch issues associated with the game's always-connected requirement just adds fuel to the anti-DRM fire. Underneath the socialization aspect is a means of not only curbing piracy, but of controlling a product that a consumer has purchased. Customers are not given a choice – they can't opt out of the features that require an internet connection – so that they can play their game whenever they want, wherever they want.