Am I An Idiot For Playing SimCIty?

Never write a question in a headline if you don't really want people to answer the question, but there it is. I'm wondering how stupid I should feel for playing the new SimCity day after day last week — while I was on holidays! Especially since I was getting angrier about the game day after day.

The SimCity mess has been well-chronicled. Game launches on March 4, requires on online connection that its publisher, EA, can't actually support, foul-ups and apologies ensue, as do gradual server improvements.

Our reviewer, who tagged the game with a "Not Yet" (Answering whether you should play the game) optimistically suggested that "somewhere beyond the rage, pain and technical issues there's an amazing game that I'm dying to play."

Let me announce today that that "amazing game" is reallllly well-hidden.

Let me also announce today that, for all the insults I want to send SimCity's way, the fact is that, given a week off from work (a stay-cation!), a week when I could have played anything, I played this game several hours a day, several mornings in a row.

So if I give you the impression that this game sucks, I'd be like the guy at the diner who tells you the pancakes suck and then orders another plate of them the next day.

But, come on. Look at this:

Above you'll find a display of crime in the city of Bankruptcity, a city where the police commissioner is complaining that crime is out of control.

Hey, commissioner, how about your police officers — represented by those little blue teardrops — cross the damn intersection? You see this? The purple represents police coverage. I have a massive police station in the top left of that screenshot. Two blocks away! I have cops all over the streets and yet somehow I have no police coverage two blocks away from the police station.

It's not just the cops who are morons in SimCity. For some reason the people who track the trade are fools, too.

You're looking at the town of Biddle's Hope, where we're trying to make computer processors and doing our damnedest to import alloy. But look at that "Trading" box on the right. No sign that we're importing alloy. Argh!

This is the sad discovery I've made in my recent SimCity binges: those mostly-fixed servers manage to simply provide me more opportunities to load a game that makes no sense to me.

This game is about building and managing a city, right?

It's sort of a chemistry set in an extended urban metaphor?

And maybe the most realistic version of a game like this would be full of the idiosyncrasies a real city might experience in real life? Like, maybe the cops don't go to that corner because they're afraid of the criminals there or because they're lazy or something? And some mob dude is preventing us from importing alloy in Biddle's Hope? Or a truck broke down somewhere?

Could this be it? Could SimCity be the most realistic game ever made? Or is the damn thing just broken? (Option three: Maybe I just suck at this game.)

My recent sessions with the game were triggered when, two weeks ago, Sam Biddle, ex-Gizmodo guy and now editor of Valleywag, coaxed me into playing SimCity again. I hadn't touched the game in about a month. When I'd last played, I'd built an education city. A university town. It had gone well until my colleague Mike Fahey pulled the plug on this city. Since the big gimmick in this SimCity is that cities in the same region can help or hurt each other, I suffered the consequences. No more electricity from Mike. No more water. I had to bankrupt my city to keep basic services running. It was a disaster.

Sam started a new region, built a thriving coal-mining town. He ran a huge budget deficit but made up for it with profits from his coal exports. Kirk made a city, too. I hopped in, made an education city, thought things would go ok. Except.... Sam's residents never came to my schools. I'd built a university and the dimwits in his town couldn't be bothered to enroll in it. We built train stations. Ferry docks. Nope. No one came. The fools.

My education city — Biddle's Hope — went in the red. So I built another city: PlayItAgainsville.

Yeah, that didn't work out either.

It was going to be a gambling city. But people wouldn't come to the casino, not even when I built a Russian tourist attraction next to it.

I bulldozed that casino. PlayItAgainsVille would now be a high-tech city making computer processors. For a while, that worked. I ran a deficit, as Sam did, but I made huge profits in processor sales. Too bad my city was drying up. And... what was with my factories complaining that workers were unskilled? There were schools all over my city and a university one city away!

I made a third city:

Bankruptcity actually did well. They export coal. Success!

I had so much success that I started constructing an arcology tower — one of the end goals for the game. You can see it in the background there. All I needed was for my cities to export the right goods to the arcology work site.

You know, like alloy.

Remember alloy?

Here are three screenshots taken within seconds of each other, showing the alloy-exporting progress from the perspective of my three cities.

Spot the difference!

Ever since I started this arcology, the game can't seem to keep it straight about whether I sent enough alloy to my arcology.

Does not compute! Literally.

Also, note the lack of a play-clock in the lower left. That's a bug that happened every day I played the game.

Aggravation piled upon aggravation last week, but I kept playing. I kept playing because this game had proven to be, just that, a game. It was a game with rules I didn't understand, a game that vexed me, that seemed to break or trick me or who the hell knows what. But a game it was, nevertheless.

Some time last week, the switch in me was flipped: I was going to beat this thing.

I was going to juggle this game's ridiculous fake finances.

I was going to accept that fact that it wants 2000 people to study at my university in one day but won't ever exceed 1700 no matter how many houses, passenger stations, roads and bus stops I build.

I was going to accept that my oil-run power plant was going to run out of oil because the trucks trying to deliver oil to it were perpetually stuck in a traffic jam.

I was going to conquer this game, build that arcology tower and win.

Wait a minute.

Really?

Why was I going to do that? Glutton for punishment? Or player of an unintentionally fascinatingly-difficult game?

After a few mornings of this, I bailed. I saw a new 2.0 update would be coming out for the game. Coming right now as I write this, in fact. Maybe it would fix things. Maybe it would expose the amazing game that seemingly should be here.

All I can say for now is that I really wanted this game to work, and I'm not convinced, given the amount of playtime I've gotten out of it, that it's really failed me. I just know that I hate to love it right now. And kind of love to hate it.


Comments

    I was actually going to buy this game but said no when I learnt that it doesn't allow you to use subways. I've decided to stick with the old SimCity games. It's basically the same expect for graphics and round rounds but the good thing is that you have bigger maps in the old SimCity

      ^This. Definitely this. Plus when you use Rush Hour its fantastic :D

        Is that a mod for Sim City 4? Are there any other good mods for SC4 that you can recommend for me weresmurf?

        I've since given up on SC2013 and probably won't touch it until I hear "Offline play" being implemented.

      Expect subways in the "Sim City: The Fast Lane" expac.

      Or Subways (Eat Fresh!) as free DLC.

    Only as much of an idiot as I am for playing Diablo 3. Running the same damn dungeons 6 or 7 times because every time you get up to go get a snack or something only to come back to have lost the connection.

    Queue the insanity speech from Far Cry 3.

    What I think this game shows, along with how much everyone likes Elizabeth in Infinite, is that AI is the next big important thing that needs big improvements.
    Not graphics, not social integration, not multiplayer modes, not control gimmicks.
    Real top quality computer AI is what needs to happen now and will make the biggest impact on new games, imo.

      Not that Elizabeth is any great work of AI. She's basically just an invincible NPC with a semi-functional follow command who vocalises elements of the user interface and has a wide range of context-sensitive idle animations.

    Setting aside the fact that if something you're doing for recreation is bringing you aggravation and not enjoyment, it's probably not worth it...

    I've been trying to get into SimCity (not as in log in - that only took a week and a half, but I keep getting booted for losing server connection) on and off since launch and I just can't do it. I can't work out what I'm doing wrong, because the data I can see isn't at a broad enough level for me to grasp the fundamental problems. And when I think that everything's falling in a hole because of a glitch (like the above), I can't confirm it because I don't understand their model deeply enough. I've played about 20 hours across a dozen or so games and never had a city able to fill the board.

    The game's just not ready for prime time, and the corrections it needs are more than is ever going to be released in a patch. I'm just glad I've been able to steer half a dozen friends and co-workers away from buying the game. Last week a friend asked me if I'd be willing to join him in a region if he bought the game. I couldn't stop myself from laughing in his face.

    I may not have played SimCity since SC2000, but I think I'm done on Maxis products on the back of this debacle.

    I've paid actual money for multiple Calls of Dutyin the past 4 years. Now how dumb do you feel?

    I ended up playing it for a bit because I found it cheap. It was enjoyable for a bit. The early game is pretty good, you have some fun building a city and reacting to things.
    But then it goes down hill.... rapidly.
    The AI is useless, the whole regions and multiplayer aspect simply doesn't work. Every now and then I get a garbage truck from a neighbouring city that my neighbour never sent. You get cops that don't do their jobs, and building that burn down next to fire stations.
    After the first city I made sure there was no congestion, the streets were clear and all the service vehicles could do their job.
    There started to be too many inconsistencies and too many stupid AI decisions that I gave up.
    I got about a week out of the game... that is all.

      Yea i know wat u mean aye. Mine started off fun and I was doing alright. And then my friend's 200k population city started having congestion problems right outside his city and that affect mine cause the congestion came all the way to my city and my delivery trucks cant get out of my city to get money. I ended up being bankrupt cause of that highway to my friend's city. Why would there only be 1 highway entrance and exit to a city??? 4 lanes merge into like 1 or 2 lanes is ridiculous. There should be more entrances and exits.

      And on the 16 region maps, they arent even connected to each other. You might get like 3 to 4 regions connected to each other but then the others are separated from your region. Its like a 4 x4 region maps all in the same world.

    As much as I may disagree with whether a game is fun or not or is worth playing, the simple answer to this question is are you having fun? If so then no, not an idiot. If not, well...

    If it makes you feel any better, I've caught myself giving someone a thumbs up... over the phone.

    Not sure if you're an idiot for playing it Simcity, I know I am one for paying money for it.

    You already bought it.
    If you knew what you knew, then went out and paid for it.
    Luckily for me I've not given EA games any money.
    Although I'm an idiot for buying the DLC for Mass Effect 3. You know the one where they removed a character from the game, claimed it was added later then when it was proven to be in the code from the beginning they replied with he usual f' you Im EA!

    Plus I'm considering buying Citidal :(

    I for one feel like a complete moron for disregarding my common sense. I'd read review upon review about SimCity pointing out the major (and minor) problems with it. Based on that, I decided to leave the game alone.

    However, upon watching Sips and Duncan from Yogcast playing this game, I was suitably intruiged. "Can't be that bad, looks like the game breakers have been solved I guess."

    So I bought it.

    A week in, several restarts and whatnot, I have given up on the game. This isn't SimCity, it can't be! CitiesXL is more SimCity than this. Apparently, in the future, no-one has heard of subways and tunnels or zoning specifically for densities or affluence.

    Short answer, yes with an "if". Long answer no, with a "but".

    I stopped playing about three weeks ago in frustration that my cities would end up rolling back several hours' gameplay at a time. Had a go at it again on the weekend, getting a neat oil city going, only to lose TWO HOURS of gameplay for what I presume was one of my housemates downloading a Steam game.

    IF I COULD SUE EA FOR LOSS OF PRODUCTIVE LEISURE TIME I WOULD (I've even discussed it with a lawyer and confirmed that it's pretty much a futile exercise).

    This just in: Not everyone has a flashy internet connection. I'm boycotting this game and all other EA games until this is fixed and I can enjoy a city before demolishing it in anger because it's gone from a small metropolis back to a dirt road mining town.

    No I don't think your a idiot for playing SimCity, I do think your a idiot if you bought the game.

      Did you even read the Article.

    I wouldn't say an idiot, I have a friend who I keep talking out of buying it. He (like myself) loved the previous games and keeps hoping they will fix this new one.

    There is an amazing game in here somewhere. It needs bigger maps so you can build a properly self sustaining city. If you are using trade and so on, well, it should work. Not to mention that it is hard to actually find an online game that has slots.

      You missed the reason why you have a small city; the AI is so broken that it would collapse on itself if you build it any bigger. The small city is designed so that you won't notice the non-existent AI for the first few hours. The city would SEEM to work, as long as you only have a small area. Big cities would render the game unplayable.

    I'm amazed you've gotten that much of a progress on the arcology... I've played dozens of cities, and not one of them has resulted in a SINGLE bit of material being registered as being delivered...
    Don't get me started on how many Cities and Regions are useless because the game wont load the city...
    I Really hate EA for this Bullsh*t excuse for a game...
    I built a new computer for this, and can't even play the f*cking game I bought the computer for...
    Ah well... I guess I'll play SWTOR... at least the Asia Pacific Servers are reliable... Wait...

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