Why does it seem no matter how hard Maxis VP Lucy Bradshaw and her development team works to improve SimCity 5 everyone still hates them?
Maxis has produced quality innovative simulation games for years, and SimCity 5 may be no exception, the problem is most people are not trying to honestly find out. The interesting thing is, if Maxis released the same game with the more casual title of "SimCity Online" most players would have had no complaint about the game... perhaps due to the fact that their would've been a much smaller buildup of excitement over the new SimCity, and it was this same excitement that caused a lot of the initial connection problems in the first place. Still, connection issues and public opinion should not make or break a game. Besides, a lot of people worked hard to make a game this beautiful and complex come to life.
"There are two ways Maxis could make their SimCity problem go away : Remove the online connection requirement, or change the title of the game to SimCity Online."
Consumers are much more knowledgeable about the tricks of the trade these days, and companies that do not seem genuine are quickly targeted as the enemy. There are two ways Maxis could make their SimCity problem go away : Remove the online connection requirement, or change the title of the game to SimCity Online. Read more to get both sides of this interesting story.
SimCity 5, the most controversial online only single player game ever created. Maxis is having more than enough difficulty trying to convince everyone to not hate them for making a game that forces players to remain online during the entire single player session with terrible server connection issues and instability. To add to their troubles an anonymous employee has spoken out against their employer :
"The servers are not handling any of the computation done to simulate the city you are playing...They are still acting as servers, doing some amount of computation to route messages of various types between both players and cities. As well, they're doing cloud storage of save games, interfacing with Origin, and all of that. But for the game itself? No, they're not doing anything. I have no idea why they're claiming otherwise."
Nobody will say "Oh yea SimCity 5, my favorite SimCity, the one where you can have towns in a shared region with other players online." SimCity 5 will forever be seen by most people as the poster child for un-necessarily making a game online only as a Digital Rights Management method. The gamer community has never seen such a video game giant taken to it's knees by the under dog consumers before this. Here is a breakdown of the events leading up to the disaster surrounding EA Maxis' city builder simulation Simcity 5, what Maxis Senior Vice President Lucy Bradshaw did wrong and if any lessons were learned.
A Promising Game With A Bright Future
- June 2012, SimCity won 8 awards out of 24 nominations At E3 2012
- August 23, 2012, SimCity won Gamescom's "Best PC Game" award. The jury were unanimous in deciding the game features "fantastic graphics" and "struck the right balance between retaining the trademarks of the old parts and making it interesting for beginners".
- Glassbox is the new engine developed by EA for SimCity and works together with EA's server hardware to graphically represent realistic statistical data for an innovative play experience.
The Moment Lucy F**ked Up
December 14, 2012, and the SimCity development team decides to do an AMA (Ask Me Anything) on Reddit. [Insert ominous music here.]
The highest rated questions were coming from Redditors from all over threatening to not purchase the game upon release due to wide spread criticism of the game's choice of DRM (Digital Rights Management). Players are permanently connected to EA's servers to play the game. Maxis VP Lucy Bradshaw did what no company representative that cares about their job's public image should do : She provided a distracting answer to a real concern among the community.
Bradshaw responded to these warnings from potential customers with "real cities do not exist in a bubble; they share a region and affect one another." She also mentioned how crime and pollution can be more easily synchronized, and more connectivity between cities is more fun. Lucy's statements were true; the ability to work with other players, building a huge network of interconnected cities is the dream of many a veteran SimCity mayor. However, the dream does not involve removing familiar features that are equally or perhaps more important, such as the ability to play a private single player game while offline. Redditors that know and love SimCity saw through Bradshaw's attempt at an answer that did not address their main concern, and held tight to their initial warning :
SimCity fans to Maxis : "Maxis, do not force online connectivity into a single player game for DRM protection, we do not want this, we will not spend money on a game we do not want."
Maxis to SimCity fans : [continues force feeding online game anyway.]
How Treating The Internet Like An Infant Backfired
- Simcity is released March 5, 2013 in North America with a lot of issues, the required Internet connection is repeatedly blamed as the main culprit.
- Once the game was up for download on Origin (Origin is EA's 'Steam' client), the somehow unexpected surge of new players caused severe wait times and many were unable to connect at all.
- Crashing with plenty of loss saved data was being reported by players all over.
Scumbag Gaming Critics
Post game release reviews did not get off to a great start when some websites (Eurogamer, CNET, and IGN) were forced to delay reactions after failing to connect to game servers. Others were quick to hop on th Anti-EA bandwagon, many well respected game critics changed their review of the game to match public opinion.
- Polygon : Initial Score 9.5 out of 10 changes to 8 out of 10 which then changed to 4 out of 10
- Destructoid : Josh Derocher admits the game is enjoyable but still gives a rating of 4 out of 10
- Are these really objective gaming reviewers? Game content that is enjoyable and fun to play does not suddenly 'go bad' due to server connection problems. The server issues due to overload should not remove from the hard work done by the teams in charge of game play graphics, and many other features of SimCity that players would want factored into a complete review of the game.
So Has EA Really Learned Their Lesson?
The first step is acknowledging a problem, the next is taking responsibility for it. Even though the Simcity team has been very open about their efforts in making things right with their disgruntled players, it seems they may have missed the point. The general opinion of the gaming community is that the DRM measure that requires the game to be connected online to be playable should be removed. There is no way around that fact.
Overloaded servers and connection issues are problems an entire gaming community can rally around to use as unacceptable yet predicted consequences that resulted from ignoring the angry customer. By keeping the spotlight on those specific game flaws, EA will effectively avoid directly stating "No. We will not do as our customers want and keep Simcity playable offline."
Once the game is "fixed", the majority of players will not discuss whether this game has enough quality to match any other Simcity title. Game features and speed will continue be sacrificed to keep the game online for no purpose other than to ensure nobody is playing a pirated copy. Now, a mammoth of a company is redesigning their public image to that of an awkwardly humbled giant apologizing like he has no dignity left to lose. These are not just angry tweets directed to Simcity, these are tweets RETWEETED by the Simcity team themselves.
The Bottom Line :
If Simcity could do it all over again would they remove the the DRM online protection after it's legendary negative response?
Of course not. We know this because even after all of their talk of wanting to make things up to it's customers, Simcity can still release a tweet typical of EA's strange mix of stubborn and obliviousness.
What Any Company Can Learn From EA
We say try out SimCity 5 and decide for yourself.