‘SimCity': Server failures lock out players

March 07, 2013 | 7:00 p.m.
Disaster strikes the new "SimCity" (Maxis / Electronic Arts).

Disaster strikes the new “SimCity.” (Maxis / Electronic Arts).

Gamers expect headaches when it comes to “SimCity.”

Building cities, bulldozing cities, navigating miles of traffic patterns, surviving natural disasters, surviving a monster attack — all of it fuels the addictive nature of “SimCity.” Yet Electronic Arts’ update to the genre-defining 1989 original, released this week, has thus far been hampered by one of the more mundane realities of daily life: server issues.

A significant number of players, including this Hero Complex reporter, have had trouble so much as launching the game, even prompting online retailer Amazon.com to offer a warning to potential buyers. “Many customers are having issues connecting to the ‘SimCity’ servers,” the retailer posted, and Electronic Arts noted Thursday that its back-end infrastructure is “aggressively undergoing maintenance” to correct the issues.

Electronic Arts warned players Thursday that problems with the game may continue in the days ahead. “We are aggressively undergoing maintenance on our servers to add the necessary capacity to meet the demand. Players may continue to play throughout the weekend but we want to note that performance will fluctuate during this time,” said the company in an emailed statement.

“This is, obviously, not the situation we wanted for our launch week and we want you to know that we are putting everything we have at resolving these issues,” wrote senior producer Kip Katsarelis on the game’s official message boards.

While “SimCity” has garnered early rave reviews, it requires users to be constantly connected to the Internet in order to run it. Players need to be logged into Electronic Arts’ content-delivery platform Origin to play the game, and although this could provide such benefits as allowing much of the game’s data to live in the cloud and the game to be played anywhere, it also means users are at the mercy of the company’s servers.

“What we are doing is deploying more servers over the coming two days which will alleviate many of the ongoing issues,” Katsarelis wrote. “We are also paying close attention to all the bug reports we are receiving from our fans. We’ve already pushed several updates in the last few days. Our live ops team is working 24/7 to resolve issues and ensure that bug fixes roll into the game as quickly as possible.”

Early buyers of the game, which was released Tuesday, have reported numerous horror stories online, such as the server locking mid-game and destroying the majority of a built city. The $60 PC game has already garnered more than 1,000 reviews on Amazon, with user after user reporting difficulties in booting the game or losing data.

This is the first “SimCity” game to boast multiplayer capabilities, but even playing as a single player requires an Internet connection. An online petition on Change.org to remove the restrictions that made it necessary to be connected to Electronic Arts’ servers to play the game has garnered more than 20,000 signatures in less than 24 hours.

“Many people with an unstable connection will not even be able to play the game in the first place, let alone anyone who wants to play on the go/with no internet connection,” wrote petition starter Ryan Lashley.

There’s also been confusion as to whether those who purchased the game direct from Electronic Arts’ Origin service could receive a refund if they so desired. Video game site Polygon reported Thursday that a community manager for Origin had posted that customers could request refunds, but Origin noted on its official Twitter that refunds likely won’t be forthcoming.

“In general we do not offer refunds on digital download games,” read the tweet. An Electronic Arts spokesman referred Hero Complex to the aforementioned tweet when asked about the confusion.

The fact that users need to be connected to the Internet to play the game has been a matter of debate and discussion for weeks prior to launch. Lucy Bradshaw, the senior vice president for Electronic Arts developing studio Maxis, wrote a post in December touting the benefits of a game that was always connected to the company’s servers.

“While you play, data from your city interacts with our servers, and we run the simulation at a regional scale,” Bradshaw wrote. “For example, trades between cities, simulation effects that cause change across the region like pollution or crime, as well as depletion of resources, are all processed on the servers and then data is sent back to your city on your PC. “

Yet thus far Hero Complex has been unable to test the game, and others are downgrading their reviews to reflect the disappointing launch. Polygon, for instance, changed its review from a 9.5 (out of 10) to a 4.0, and IGN has more bluntly advised users to “don’t purchase [‘SimCity’] until there’s a reasonable expectation that you’ll be able to actually play.”

Plenty, however, have apparently sampled “SimCity.” The game’s senior producer Katsarelis bragged that so many users have logged into “SimCity” in its initial days that “40 million pipes filled up with poop.” The simulated infrastructure,  at least, appeared to be running smoothly.

– Todd Martens

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Comments


19 Responses to ‘SimCity': Server failures lock out players

  1. ATCrunch says:

    http://www.change.org/petitions/electronic-arts-1

    Sign this for a full refund. Support the cause. Share to facebook

  2. Jake says:

    They aren't working on anything. They are doing the same thing Blizzard did with Diablo 3. Sell as many copies as possible and don't buy additional hardware because things will die down in a couple weeks. Funny how all these new DRM games never work on launch day when they obviously can calculate due to pre-orders how many users will be trying to get online. Instead of getting the necessary hardware to handle all us fans, they wait to see how many players will keep playing.

    • chris says:

      You think that everyone who logs in to the game in the first few weeks have pre-ordered? It's actually only a small percentage that are pre-orders.

  3. jon says:

    We are aggressively undergoing maintenance on our servers to add the necessary capacity to meet the demand. That speaks miles if you think about it. What he is really saying is we were attempting too squeeze a little more out of our bottom line for myself and my stock options and my shareholders and severely underestimated how many severs we needed up too meet the demand, on purpose.

    • chris says:

      Yep. This is exactly what I thought when I read that statement. There has been more than enough precedent, even among EA, for them to have avoided this. I mean, remember the SWTOR launch? I could name a dozen "online" EA games that have suffered from grossly underestimated server demand.

  4. Shawn Hubbard says:

    When will publishers get it through their thick skulls that DRM schemes like these encourage otherwise law-abiding citizens to download pirated versions so they can play the game anywhere and anytime they please? Requiring players to always have an internet connection only affects users who actually buy the game — pirates will have cracked versions in a couple of days and will enjoy the game when and where they please while those who paid will get screwed.

    • chris says:

      I disagree. The consistent Internet connection is crucial to this game. If you read the article, you would see that the very game systems are dependent on communicating with the online servers. They could, however, add an additional game mode, that doesn't take into account "regional" settings, but that would require more development than it is probably worth in a world where so much of the world is connected to the Internet.

  5. Matt says:

    Because you have to be connected to the internet is the primary reason why I am not buying this game. I want to be able to play this game while I travel or am stuck at the airport (ironically they make you pay for WiFi).

    It is incredibly stupid on EA's part to force people to access their games by the internet now.

    • chris says:

      How do you expect the game to make decisions about what other people around the world are doing around you if it can't communicate with the game servers? Be reasonable. They should have developed a secondary game mode that didn't require an internet connection, and as a result, wouldn't be as dynamic since it couldn't know what others in the region were doing.

  6. @rlinden86 says:

    It's almost 35,000 so keep it up people. EA sucks!

  7. bob says:

    EA is a sticky claw.

  8. Aaron Pye says:

    This situation is shocking and newsworthy in what manner? EA has consistently botched release after release going back to War Hammer and well before. EA believes in quantity, not quality. Changing their name to Origin will not fool people since the same EA problems still exist. Small wonder EA is hemorrhaging cash the past several years. Many game studios reputations have been destroyed after joining the EA family, and now DRM will only guarantee EA/Origin's demise. EA has killed too many good titles the past 15+ years. Shame too as the label once meant a really fun time for all.

  9. Matt says:

    Hey EA! You suck, you suck, you suck, you suck, you suck, you suck, you suck, you suck, you suck, you suck, you suck, you suck, you suck, you suck, you suck, you suck, you suck, you suck, you suck, you suck, you suck, you suck………… and you suck

  10. Mike_LV says:

    Why is anyone surprised? EA has a confirmed history of poor performance, including buying out award-winning games/studios (Bioware) and destroying them (Dragon Age 2, Mass Effect 3.) The entire original key development team for Bioware is now GONE.

    There is no excuse for server load kicking a player-base offline. Or is EA going to claim that "gosh gee, we are new at this whole internet computer thing and we have never used servers before…"

    It boils down to management bonuses first…and everything else comes last. So EA makes sure to get your money up front…that way they can deliver what's most important, management salaries. Actually delivering a product that customers paid for, well that's what their legal department is for.

    The really sad thing is that EA used to be a game company. I still have fond memories of Archon, MULE, etc… Now it is just a company.

  11. Dean says:

    No one seems to be reporting how EA is outright refusing refunds for the digital customers, and their cutomer service reps are bordeline hostile towards anyone seeking a refund.

  12. cpmcjr says:

    This is insane. I made the mistake of pre-ordering and I have been trying to log in to the game all morning with no success. I finally got passed the digital timer only to have the server go offline before I could even get into the game. This is very frustrating. I wonder if my credit card company would back me on a charge back request to EA?

  13. john says:

    EA has become the mitt romey of gaming…take good game companies.comsume them like jabba the hut and spit out the programmers who won’t fall in line.bioware was the latest company to have the EA slime thrown in their faces.why make a game that’s not an MMO but force people to have a internet connection just to play single mode?and a simcity game at that?Maxis and Sid Meyer have walked away with a truckload of money and NO credit!

  14. JohnO07 says:

    Suppose SIM gamers can create a Simulation of how to solve the federal debt? Congress can't and therefore needs help. Come on kids you can do it.

  15. Larry says:

    Only a note to say thanks for the games update here, this is exactly what I

    was looking for!

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