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SimCity, One Month Out: Still As Troubled As Day One?

Multi-Player? Good Luck With That

After experiencing all of the above in the single-player version of the game, which is essentially you playing by yourself in your own pre-made region, I thought perhaps I’d try my hand at cooperative play with other people. Maybe I was missing out on the real SimCity experience, building a city (hamlet) next to a bunch of other users’ cities (hamlets) and sharing resources and trying to build great projects together. I ventured forth to the game browser, to see what I could find.

The game browser is a tough thing to explain because it defies expectation and logic. As a user desire, the concept of wanting to find a game to play with other human beings was an afterthought. Up until the patch on April 22, the game browser showed at the top all the games that were completely full. Users involved in those games are shown as icons over a background supposed to represent the map in play, but doesn’t. The browser displays 12 games at a time, until you hit the “Load More” button at the bottom. Until the patch, the first 400 games were full, completely, and there was no way to tell that they were at capacity because there was no way to filter them. You had to click “Load More” ten or more times before you even had the remote chance of happening upon a game that might have a spot open. Finding a game was trial and error, and could take a long, long time. Patch 2.0 improved this mildly, but the experience is still quite bad.

During your search, you might find a grayed-out city in one of the regions you are considering joining. These are cities that have been claimed by other users, most of the time as throwaways, one-shot infusions of cash, bonded out max to $300,000 and with the money dispatched to their main city. Half of these potential spots for you to join generate an error that they're not compatible with your particular version of SimCity. You didn’t buy the British City Set DLC, and the previous user did, so you can’t have this spot. If you are lucky enough to find an abandoned city spot that you can actually claim, good luck getting out of that $300,000 hole. Alas, I would have happily played with any of the friends on my friends list, but my friends list doesn’t work.

  • iam2thecrowe
    It's nice to read a good rant every once and a while. Wonder if EA is listening yet?
  • Driwer
    I laughed.
  • Soma42
    Plenty of single player games like Fallout, Bioshock Infinite, Skyrim, The Witcher, FTL, etc. all are incredibly successful.

    If you make a quality product and make it easily accessible (i.e. limited DRM) to people, they will pay for it.
  • tridon
    It's good to see that more people agree that this feels like a beta, not a release worthy product. It's sad that this game we've waited on since 2005-ish is so lackluster :(

    I preordered Cities in Motion 2 (a €20 Paradox-title) and on releaseday it was excellent, though with a few minor, non-critical bugs. A team of 11 made a game that for my taste beat the crap out of the beta that SimCity in truth is. Maxis has shown through the years that they are able to make great stuff, so I guess I'm still waiting for a number of "huge patches". Still hoping it will become the perfect, aweinspiring citybuilder of epic proportions that I imagined when I heard about it one year ago. Doubts are growing however. *sad face*
  • Shankovich
    I'm really annoyed with the hardware optimization the most. Crappy frame rates, artifacts at certain zoom levels, and a really slow chat system...the game could have used another 4-6 months in the oven.
  • amoralman
    Best. Article. Ever.

    I can't stress enough how EA, fake DLC, always-online is killing the industry, ruining franchises. I can't wait for the day games are given back to gamers, and the aggressive capitalism gets the fuck out of the gaming business.
    /end rant
  • kinggremlin
    I supported EA through the initial servers access issues that only lasted a few days. That wasn't a big deal to me, nor is the always online requirement. But, the more I played the game the more my support has eroded to the point that this was the first game I ever stopped playing because of bugs and instability. This game is such a disaster at the base levels that I am shocked that EA even chose to release this game when it was released. I am baffled how the Q/A testers ever signed off on this piece of junk or if there actually are any internal testers at all. Within an hour of the 2.0 patch release there were numerous users complaining of crippling bugs (horrific pollution from nothing). How did the testers miss these? I hope this game gets fixed and runs the way most of us wanted it to, but I have no faith that that is going to be any time soon. I will never preorder another game from EA.
  • kinggremlin
    I should point out as well, that the official message board on is far more entertaining than the game itself. 24 hour comedy gold.
  • thor220
    Someone should make a movie about the modern gaming industry. They could show the dramatic effect publishers have on games and how companies like EA can continue to lie about a product to sell it and not get fined.
  • dragonsqrrl
    I've gotten pretty far into Sim City, and the only advice I can give prospective buyers is to avoid this game for as long as possible. If you've been seriously considering it, just don't. At the very least wait a while, it's not ready for prime time. A lot of the mechanics in the game are either broken or make absolutely no sense. Here are just a few of the problems I encounter on a regular basis, some of which were also mentioned by Joe.

    Traffic at intersections with stop lights is absolutely terrible, to the point where it simply doesn't work. Users have had to invent creative solutions in street layout to either minimize or avoid the use of stoplights altogether, which is ridiculous. Once you reach a certain population this can completely kill your city.

    Path finding in the game is stupid, which further contributes to the traffic problem. Vehicles seem to take the shortest path (in terms of distance to destination) no matter what, even if there's a colossal traffic jam in the way and there are many other open routes available. Since practically everything in the game is dependent on this system (cars, public transit, trash, fire, ambulances, tourism, etc)... ya, things don't work so well.

    Public services seem to randomly stop working, more specifically trash and recycling pickup.

    Rail cars don't work, even on a simple loop, they're simply broken. But at least Maxis has acknowledged this one.

    Oh ya, you can lose a city or even an entire region due to some sort of critical (and seemingly prevalent) server syncing bug. Yes, you could lose all your progress with no chance for recovery. Why? How? No one seems to know. It's the "City unable to process" error, and there's a 220+ page forum filled with users who have encountered this problem. Unfortunately I'm one of them. Luckily my city was able to recover after about a week of inaccessibility.

    Tourism is broken, largely due to traffic problems. Tourists won't visit your city if you have heavy traffic around tourist destinations. So ya, path finding again. Also, tourist numbers seem to drop off a cliff and never recover for no apparent reason, even in the absence of heavy traffic. Maxis has supposedly addressed this specific problem in their latest 2.0 patch, but I haven't noticed a difference.

    Intercity play, the core gameplay mechanic in Sim City, needs some serious tweaking. Lets just call this broken for now too. The idea is that you can share resources between cities so you don't necessarily need duplicate services in a region that can take a significant toll on your city budget, such as a university. The thing is at a certain point it seems like every city needs a copy of every service in order to progress, and certain services don't seem to contribute to the region in the way they're supposed to... such as universities. Also, money transfers between cities can take a ridiculously long time to go through. I waited almost a week once before another city in my region received a transfer I made.

    Overall Sim City has been a bit of a disappointment, as you might imagine. There are tons of other critical, practically game breaking bugs out there, but I'm tired of typing. It's just sad because this game really seems like it has the potential to be great. For the first couple hours the experience is honestly fantastic. There's nothing like building up a city and watching it work. But then it breaks, and the reality of the broken features and mechanics sets in. There's no better way to sum up Sim City, the more you play the more frustrated you become.