At the Game Developers Conference in San Francisco, Maxis designer Dan Moskowitz gave a talk about SimCity and sandbox design. But, before he began, a joke.
"So let's get started here," said Moskowitz, firing up his first slide. And yet... it crashed with an error message. "Unable to connect to the server." Laughter from the room as people caught on, then applause. He then tried to reload the slide, only to have a second error message pop up. Still unable to connect.
"As you all know," Moskowitz said as the chuckles died down, "our game had a bit of a rocky launch, a couple of server and connection issues. My contribution to the game happened after the login screen, after the front end. As a member of the team I apologise to anyone here that experienced frustration. I know it was frustrating to a lot of people, and as fellow game developers, I hope you can understand that the first few weeks after launch were an emotional roller coaster for the team. We created this game which people really love and were attached to, and were frustrated by the inability to log in by itself. For those of you who have some rotten tomatoes, and anyone who wants to talk about online requirements, I will happily direct you to our PR guy." More light laughter.
While Moskowitz' joke didn't give any insight into what's really going on with SimCity's launch and online requirement, it was a welcome human moment amid the din of an ongoing controversy.