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All Articles: SimCity
Even though EA claims that SimCity included as “always-online” requirement because it was developed as an MMO, the publisher plans to cut the online cord with the next update. According to a post on the official SimCity blog, when Update 10 is made available to players, it will add the ability to play offline in a new “Single Player Mode.”
Patrick Buechner, the General Manager of Maxis, had this to say about Single Player Mode:
Yes, Offline is coming as a free download with Update 10 to all SimCity players. When we launch it, all of your previously downloaded content will be available to you anytime, anywhere, without the need for an internet connection. We are in the late phases of wrapping up its development and while we want to get it into your hands as soon as possible, our priority is to make sure that it’s as polished as possible before we release it. So, until then… testing, testing and more testing. As one of the final steps, we’re putting Offline into the hands of some of our most hardcore players, the DevTesters. This group of volunteers is going to put Offline through its paces before we release it.
EA and Maxis plan to reveal more details about SimCity’s offline mode soon.
Amazon has an interesting deal for you today. It looks like Electronic Arts has teamed up with Dove Men+Care… yes, the soap guys… and is offering $20 off any one EA game when you buy $15 or more of Dove Men+Care products. There’s no expiration date on this offer, but as always, if you’re interested, jump on it sooner rather than later.
The games being discounted are SimCity, Dead Space 3, and Need For Speed: Most Wanted (however, the offer doesn’t apply to the Vita version of Most Wanted or the recently released Wii U port, Need For Speed: Most Wanted U).
Nothing says hygiene like staring at your computer for ten days straight as you play SimCity, right?
The end is near for the SimCity launch debacle as Electronic Arts has finally worked their way through the five stages of grief:
- First came denial… “There’s nothing wrong with our game, it’s just too popular!”
- Then the anger… “No, you can’t have a refund.”
- This was followed by the bargaining… “What if we add more servers?”
- Then wallowing in depression… “It’s supposed to be an MMO!”
- Finally, acceptance and the promise of a free game for all of our troubles.
If you’ve purchased SimCity or plan to activate it by March 25 (that’s right, this offer is good even if you haven’t bought the game yet), you’ll also be given the opportunity to select one of eight games as a free download from EA’s Origin service. Your selection must by made by March 30 and the selection page will open by March 22. The eight games are:
- Battlefield 3
- Bejeweled 3
- Dead Space 3
- Mass Effect 3
- Medal of Honor: Warfighter
- Need For Speed: Most Wanted
- Plants vs. Zombies
- SimCity 4: Deluxe Edition
If you’re on the fence about SimCity, perhaps a free game to go with it could sweeten the deal. But I guess that means EA has slipped back to the bargaining stage.
When SimCity first launched, Electronic Arts and Maxis were adamant that the game required an “always-on” connection to supplement your PC with server side computing that would handle some of the game’s more demanding simulations.
Apparently, that’s a bigger lie than “I tried it, but I didn’t inhale” and “I did not have sex with that woman… Monica Lewinsky” combined. (Side note: Bill Clinton was a great President, but when you need a “lying politician” joke, he’ll forever be the go-to guy).
In a blog post titled “Straight Answers from Lucy” on EA’s official website, Lucy Bradshaw, the General Manager of Maxis, has admitted that SimCity could have shipped with a single-player option. But it didn’t because the developer’s thought of the game as an MMO:
So, could we have built a subset offline mode? Yes. But we rejected that idea because it didn’t fit with our vision. We did not focus on the “single city in isolation” that we have delivered in past SimCities. We recognize that there are fans – people who love the original SimCity – who want that. But we’re also hearing from thousands of people who are playing across regions, trading, communicating and loving the Always-Connected functionality. The SimCity we delivered captures the magic of its heritage but catches up with ever-improving technology.
This abrupt 180 comes on the heels of a modder discovering an “offline mode” within SimCity’s code. With this new information, I suspect the number of players who demand a refund from EA will continue to grow.
Modder discovers “offline mode” for SimCity
The SimCity debacle reared its ugly head again today and it continues to look bad for EA.
The latest Godzilla stomp on EA’s city simulation is the news that a modder has discovered an offline “debug mode” that bypasses the always-online requirement of the game. EA has always maintained that their servers provide constant computational support to SimCity players, but this debug mode paints the always-online requirement as little more than a backdoor DRM scheme.
This backs up a recent anonymous tip reported by Rock, Paper, Shotgun that claims SimCity doesn’t require an Internet connection.
“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.”
However this brouhaha resolves itself, I think EA’s mayoral aspirations are over.
It happens almost every time, doesn’t it? Some publisher releases a game with a massive online component and then throws their hands up in horror as more players than they ever expected bring down the servers. EA’s SimCity is just the latest bungled launch in a grand tradition that goes back a long time. Lucy Bradshaw, the Senior Vice President at Maxis, has admitted that it was “dumb” not to expect so many players in a new blog post on the developer’s website:
The server issues which began at launch have improved significantly as we added more capacity. But some people are still experiencing response and stability problems that we’re working fast to address.
So what went wrong? The short answer is: a lot more people logged on than we expected. More people played and played in ways we never saw in the beta.
OK, we agree, that was dumb, but we are committed to fixing it. In the last 48 hours we increased server capacity by 120 percent. It’s working – the number of people who have gotten in and built cities has improved dramatically. The number of disrupted experiences has dropped by roughly 80 percent.
So we’re close to fixed, but not quite there. I’m hoping to post another update this weekend to let everyone know that the launch issues are behind us.
To make up for their mistake, EA plans to offer a free game download to all SimCity players. The game (likely a list of games, and each player will get to pick one) hasn’t been chosen yet, but SimCity players will learn more in an email set to be delivered on March 18.
It seems EA is going out of its way to retain the “Worst Company in America” award gifted to it by The Consumerist last year. Since the launch of SimCity on Tuesday, unhappy gamers have taken to the Internet to voice their frustration at a number of issues with the new title. While consumers have had to swallow the bitter pill that is the permanent Internet connection required to play the game, others have simply been unable to play at all due to server errors with EA’s Origin service. While EA and developer Maxis have been working to correct these issues, some gamers have simply decided it is not worth their time or effort, and asked for their money back.
The answer? “No.”
One user, going by the handle CalebPeters, posted a rather frustrating text conversation with the publisher’s customer support team on EA’s forum. During the conversation, he is refused a refund, despite drawing attention to a quote from Origin’s own Community Manager, “if you regrettably feel that we let you down, you can of course request a refund for your order” (the post has since been edited). When pressed, the agent states, rather worryingly, that “if you choose to dispute it, your account will be banned.”
To summerise, if you ask EA for a refund for a game that you cannot play because of their always-online “feature” and related server issues, it is completely at the company’s discretion to give one. If you challenge that decision, your Origin account will be banned. Consumer rights seem to be a thing of the past.
This is just one example. Many have voiced similar tales of woe on EA’s forum, as well as on SimCity’s Twitter account and MetaCritic, where the game has a current user rating of 2 out of 10. We can only hope this debacle serves as a valuable lesson to game developers, and that the burden of always-online will die a quick death.
[Source: Game Chump]
Alright, after a few slow weeks, we’ve got a much more substantial list of new releases this week.
Leading the pack is Crystal Dynamics’ Tomb Raider reboot. The game travels back to Lara’s first adventure and looks to be more of a survival tale than a hunt for shiny babble #23. It’ll be available for the PC, PS3, and Xbox 360 and it definitely looks interesting.
Another interesting entry in this week’s new release list is SimCity. The last game in series, 2007’s SimCity Societies, made quite a few changes to the standard SimCity mechanic. SimCity, while not technically a “reboot,” will attempt to bring back the franchise’s familiar feel.
Also available this week this is Castlevania: Lords of Shadow – Mirror of Fate, the 3DS interquel set between Lords of Shadow and the upcoming Lords of Shadow 2. Namco Bandai will also bring Atelier Ayesha: The Alchemist of Dusk exclusively to the PS3 this week.
A complete list of this week’s new releases can be found after the break. (more…)