Tuesday, March 12, 2013

SimCity V (one week later)

Eight reviews of SimCity V appeared on March 4 or 5. These were all, presumably, gaming journalists who had been given early access to the game on a private server.

The review scores were 100, 95, 94, 90,90,88, 80, and 80. That's an average score of 89.5.

Since then, another twenty reviews have appeared. Here are the scores, in order:
90, 80, 80, 80, 75,70,70,70,69,60,60,60,50,50,50,40,40,40,20. That's an average of 60.7.

I'm not Sherlock Holmes, but that certainly doesn't seem right, does it?

Why would anyone review a game that requires a persistent online connection without playing the game in the wild? If you don't, you might give a shit sausage a 9. Embarrassing.

It's been quite a train wreck since the game launched. Within days, "company memos" were leaked  that put a brave face on the situation. A cynic might suspect whether the memo was leaked accidentally on purpose. Then Maxis General Manager Lucy Bradshaw, in the course of explaining what went wrong, added this:
"An online interconnected world has been part of our design philosophy since day one," she said. "It's the game that we've been wanting to create since SimCity 4 as we've wanted to explore the dynamics between cities as they exist within regions. Real cities don't exist in bubbles; they specialize and trade resources, workers and more. 

"With the way that the game works, we offload a significant amount of the calculations to our servers so that the computations are off the local PCs and are moved into the cloud. It wouldn't be possible to make the game offline without a significant amount of engineering work by our team."

Well, except that people have been playing for up to 20 minutes after losing their Internet connection. Then Rock, Paper, Shotgun was contacted by an anonymous SimCity developer today:
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. It’s possible that Bradshaw misunderstood or was misinformed, but otherwise I’m clueless.”

...“It wouldn’t take very much engineering to give you a limited single-player game without all the nifty region stuff.”

When developers are defecting from the company line (and I haven no reason to think that RPS has anything less than an accurate source), there's blood in the water.

Well, if you get caught in a lie, there's only one thing to do: tell a bigger lie. So I think what will happen tomorrow is that Maxis will claim that Bradshaw didn't actually say what she said. They'll focus on how SimCity V can't even be truly experienced in offline mode, which is why one doesn't exist. They won't explain how people can play for 20 minutes without an Internet connection, and they'll claim the anonymous developer is either misinformed or bitter.

I saw a comment (I think it may have been at RPS, but I'm not sure) where a user said "I wanted to buy a game, not a service." That is a perfect description of the problem here, at least for most of us. We wanted to buy a game, but EA didn't want to sell us a game. They only wanted to sell us a service, and in a semi-delightful bit of irony, the damned service doesn't even work.

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