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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