Firstly, I’m not exactly a big video game fan. The only video games I’ve every enjoyed for longer than a month are Roller Coaster Tycoon 3 and, well… that’s it. But, I thought that I might enjoy SimCity… I really like the idea of creating a city online, so that’s what attracted me to SimCity.
Downloading SimCity was an absolutely horrible experience.
After buying SimCity, you need to download it and install it, which is to be expected . But because SimCity is distributed by Electronic Arts, you encounter a lot of problems… EA assumes that you are guilty until proven innocent, and because of this they make you run through a lot of hoops just to play their games. One of these hoops is a program called Origin.
Origin is a service run by EA (Electronic Arts), where you can buy games. But, in order to play them you must be connected to the internet (so anyone with Dial-up or slow internet cannot play this game). Those of you tech-savvy people may have already noticed a problem with this. Because they make it so that you must always be connected to the internet, they need to have enough servers for the hundreds of thousands of people who are all downloading the game (maybe even millions of people… the figures are still unknown). There are not enough servers for all of these people, so the experience in general is horribly slow, even if you have Google’s Gigabit Fiber internet, the download speeds for this game is horrible!
I also had a problem with the servers, for some reason the game would be stuck at a certain percentage, and I would need to restart the download in order for it to continue, and then stop. It stopped at 10%, I restarted. 13%, I needed to restart. 20%, than I needed to restart. 24%, than I needed to restart. Et cetera, et cetera. Magnae Famae contacted SimCity and we were told: “We are currently looking into this, we are working as fast as we can.” At this point, I’m not even sure if I will be able to do a review.
Looking at the SimCity twitter feed, you can see an endless list of problems with downloading the game, and servers that are down. Electronic Arts needs to change this horrible way of releasing games, that treats the consumer like criminals.
I did eventually get SimCity loaded… let’s start playing! Or at least try…
I was able to play the beta, so I know what to expect in this SimCity. I am still forced to do the tutorial.
They give you a pre-made city (more like a town, actually) called Summer Shoals. What happens in this city?
There are supposed to be some pop ups, suggesting ideas, and showing you things to do (I know this, because I played the beta). All that you can do is look around. Yay… $60 well-spent. I contacted SimCity regarding this issue, with no response… I gave EA my money, now they can go take someone else’s.
I loaded the city a few times, going on different servers until, for some reason or another, it just skipped over the tutorial.
Also not working.
It is safe to say that so far my experience with SimCity was not fun, but was frustrating, and felt like #AWasteOf60Bucks… I thought that maybe after finally getting through all of the hoops, and actually playing the game, maybe it would be better. Maybe I would be able to get over this initial reaction and forgive Electronic Arts.
Nope, nope, not at all.
I started by trying to create my own region (a set of cities in a close area), for just myself to play with. Of course, I get the error “Unable to claim this city.” So I tried other cities in the regions, than other regions, than other servers. None of these attempts worked. EA just didn’t want me to play my game.
I than tried to join a public region. This also didn’t work for a while, but eventually it did. I joined, and was enjoying it for a while.
After leaving the game for a break, I came back and decided to try to create my own region again. It worked! Yes! I was ready to forgive EA for this horrible experience. But, it only got worse.
I was really enjoying creating my cities. I started by focusing in on one city in sandbox mode, than I moved to focus in on another city in the same region. This was when it started going downhill… again.
After about 5 minutes of playing in that 2nd city, the game crashed (not my computer, the game. This means that it is a server error). I tried it again, and it crashed. Again, and it crashed. Once more, and it crashed. Every time I completely lost my city.
One of the very few benefits of running the game on a server (like SimCity does), is that you get off-site back-ups. Theoretically, the game is backed up on the server, so it doesn’t take up any space on my computer (except for the program’s space), and also the server is likely more reliable than my computer. Key word: Likely.
The servers are horrible.
So every time the game crashed, I lost my game. It completely forgot that I ever played it.
Sadly, this is a common issue. There are endless forum pages talking about this issue on the official SimCity forums (and this forum just launched yesterday). I have been watching this forum page, which currently has over 14 pages of discussion over this issue (EA has yet to respond to this forum with a fix).
I contacted SimCity and Electronic Arts for comment, and they have not.
CONCLUSION… THUS FAR
Heading into this, I was expecting a few issues. But this is absolutely insane. I am so disappointed in EA and Maxis for releasing this game. I can only imagine how horribly overloaded the servers will continue to be as the release of SimCity continues in other countries around the world (In particular Europe, which is having its release on March 8).
I decided to publish this review early, in order to try to save anyone from buying this horrible product, that is essentially robbing $60 from each person (and if you buy the Deluxe version it is even worse, at $80).
They did two beta tests, and said openly that they had fixed the issues reported in the beta (which is obviously not true, as I notice many of the primary issues with the beta still in the final release).
I am going to give SimCity a 2/5 stars. Why 2 instead of 1, because when I did play the game (for that short 30 minutes of actual gameplay), I really did enjoy it. This game has great potential, and I hope to be able to release an update later giving a better review, however I am skeptical at this point.
WHY DID SIMCITY HAVE SUCH GREAT REVIEWS IN ADVANCED?
I believe that the primary errors are with the servers and Origin. The game itself, looks great. But because EA believes that you are guilty until proven innocent, they force us to use these servers to prevent any possible chance of piracy (however, it has been endlessly proven that these tactics don’t work, but actually make it worse).
When the people who had advanced copies of the game to review were playing the game, no one else (or very few others) were playing. They had no server issues. I just don’t see how EA will ever be able to avoid server issues with such a big game. I don’t think that we will have the technology for many years to be able to support hundreds of thousands of people playing a game (which is a lot of work for computers to run). And because of this, I believe that EA has eliminated any chances of possible success. And eventually, the servers will cost too much for EA to run, and they will be closed, and we will have all lost our money to EA.
For the time being, do not buy this game. I will update this post with further information as time goes on.
You can see all of the Twitter responses from the SimCity twitter feed here. You can also see their typical response to go to the forums, and never get a response from an EA rep.