SimCity Makers Address Launch Fiasco, Vow To Continue Adding Servers Over The Weekend

The head of the studio behind the troubled new SimCity told Kotaku today that efforts to solve the game's server woes will continue aggressively into the weekend. The statement, from Maxis general manager Lucy Bradshaw, indicates that some people are in fact playing the game but that EA has a long way to go to get things right:

Thousands of players across the world are playing and having a good experience — in fact, more than 700,000 cities have been built by our players in just 24 hours. But many are experiencing server instability and consequently, the rollout in North America has been challenging. It's also now evident that players across Europe and Asia are experiencing the same frustration. Our priority now is to quickly and dramatically increase the number and stability of our servers and, with that, the number of players who can simultaneously access the game. We added servers today, and there will be several more added over the weekend. We're working as hard as possible to make sure everyone gets to experience the amazing game we built in SimCity.

Bradshaw's statement came in response to several specific questions we sent to representatives at EA, the game-publisher that contains Maxis. Sadly, as you'll see, some questions, including a query about an offline mode, were not addressed.

1) Despite EA's experience with online games and the precedent of Activision's shaky Diablo III launch for that always-online game, EA's now had an always-online game that players have been struggling to connect to for three days. How did this happen? How was EA not better prepared?

2) EA statements have indicated that server maintenance is ongoing. But as it stands right now you have paying customers who can't play the game they paid for. What is EA doing to make that up to the customers?

3) SimCity uses its online connection to connect player cities and support online challenges, but it seems clear now that some sort of offline mode would appease many fans. Is EA going to enable this option for the game?

4) Part of the anger I see over this is the assumption that this is, ultimately a DRM step that is only hurting valid, paying customers. How does EA see the DRM aspect of this?

5) What changes is EA implementing to keep this from happening again?


Comments

    It's baffling to think that the need for more servers wasn't apparent to Maxis and EA well before the game was launched. To think that five servers would be sufficient upon global launch (granted, staggered over 72 hours) is ludicrous.

    Last edited 08/03/13 3:26 pm

      They probably asked, but were denied.

      Think about this. Instead of making a game with offline and online components, they decided to spend god-knows-how-much on making SimCity online-only as an avenue for ... monetization? (and get probably piracy prevention for free).

      But it wasn't enough. And because they massively under-budgeted for hardware, they're going to be stuck in a vendor pipeline for fulfilment for at least a month or so and suffer delays with deployment, so they have to try and make do with what they've got.

      Because they wanted to try and lock people into SimCity being online-only, it's going to cost _them_ money. Think about that.

        Not to mention the initial sales lost because everyone is screaming that the game doesn't work and not to buy it.

        I am and it makes me happy. But then I remember it's EA and know they'll get their money back out of us somehow and then I am sad again.

    One of their "fixes" is to delete your user data.

    But if you do that you have to do the tutorial again, and I lost one of my cities :(

    I just wanna play, and force my GF's city into poverty ;)

    the oceanic server is hosted in Europe couldn't they have put in a little closer like in Japan ?

    anyone who is skeptical do a tracert and find out api.p12.simcity.com

    i understand Australia is expensive but come on

    Last edited 08/03/13 3:33 pm

      They put one here for Star Wars, If this was really a game that was so multiplayer it REQUIRED an internet connection they could have put another server in the same spot.

      This is very common for American companies.. they think.. (F*** knows why) that Europe is closer to us than other countries in the world. It'd be better to play on NA servers than EU servers for us. They really don't have an F'ing clue, even the ones with head offices in Australia don't understand.. which is baffling to me.

        That said, for a game like Sim City, latency is effectively irrelevant since none of the comms are sub-second critical (at least as far as I can tell).

          Yeah, Diablo 3 was far worse for latency being an issue.

        But we shared that old analogue TV standard with Europe, rather than the US!

    Honestly, this is what gamers deserve for pirating the hell out of Spore.

      I didn't pirate spore, why should I be punished?

      Wasn't owning Spore enough punishment for me buying Spore?

      In what way is making your product worse for people who paid you money a good idea to REDUCE piracy?

      Last edited 08/03/13 3:44 pm

      The reverse can also be said, though. People who continue to throw money at publishers who add draconian DRM to their games are responsible. Either way you look at it it's lose lose.

      Last edited 08/03/13 3:51 pm

      I never even played the full game of Spore and certainly didn't pirate it. Although I'll only get time to play SimCity tonight, so I guess my game will connect and work perfectly since I wasn't one of these pirates! :P

    Ask them how many units they pre-sold, so we can have some context on their claim of 700,000 cities, ask them how many accounts have created one or more cities.

    These 'stats' without context give no indication at all of the extent of the problem, in service management we call them 'volumetrics', they're they meaningless crap that companies who have no grasp of service quality churn out to pretend that they're measuring service quality when in fact, absent of context, they are completely meaningless.

    I'd be surprised if the presale volume was less than 1.5m, meaning more than 50% of those who bought their shit product have been unable to use it, but absent any meaningful metrics that's just pure speculation on my part.

    The embarrassing excuses and complete absence of planning by EA should result in some high-profile firings, but won't because that would require the senior management of the business to admit that they screwed up.

    I'm available on contract to address EA's woeful capacity planning issues, I have no doubt that they'd rather screw over 1m+ customers than call me though.

    "It’s also now evident that players across Europe and Asia are experiencing the same frustration. "

    So that statement the other day about the same crap not happening... was more EA PR crap then?

    Thought so.

    Even with all the server-woes aside.. the reliance on other people's cities is crippling the game for many players. Think about it.. there are up to 16 other players in the same region as you. You start to rely on one for nuclear power while there are others that rely on you for other things. The guy with nuclear power plant decides to abandon his city, for whatever reason, and so now your city is in danger of collapsing.. and so you end up abandoning it.. and the people who were relying on you now face the same problem.. a spiral of doom.

    They say over 700,000 cities have been built.. but how many of them are accessible, playable cities now? There have been major syncing issues on top of the server problems relating to connectivity.. so just commenting on server problems alone is only the tip of the iceberg for this one.

    A game to be avoided..

    Always-online games will always start with a bang. It's not a case of learning from past mistakes with this, it's about not ending up with only 25% of your servers being used 3, 6, 12, 24 months down the line after the majority of people have been and gone. It's far cheaper to expand to meet demand than to oversupply from the get go and be left with surplus that is actively costing money. The launch debacle that this necessitates is touted as the main reason always-online is bad, for the first month or two after launch, after which people go back to complaining about the long-term issues that they were complaining about before the game launched.

    Sadly, the only thing publishers will learn from this, just as they did with Diablo, is that people will buy it anyway, and anyone that doesn't like it will leave. The community will stabilise after a month or two. At least this game doesn't have spoilers, so patience is an option.

    $20 says someone in middle management asked the questions:

    - How many servers will we need so that everyone can play at launch?

    - How many servers will we need so that people can play it after the hype of launch has died down?

    ...and went with the lesser number, instead of simply repurposing servers that are no longer needed when it happened.

      Repurposing is a good idea, Im sure they have a ton of old TOR servers sitting around.

        ^ This. Keep a few spare which you can use for game launches. How hard can it be? Does each game require a new server?

    Same thing happened with Simpsons Tapped out on iOS, just a mobile game but Massive Success and EA servers couldnt handle the demand so was months before it was stable. You would think with Simcity being the PC game that is and the popularity surrounding it being Simcity and the great reviews it was getting, be a bit more demand so would get it right with the servers.

    I Love the irony of all these articles about Simcity problems causing the game to be unplayable being completely surrounded by ads for Simcity telling you to buy and play it.

    They just followed Blizzard's Diablo 3 example... people will bitch and moan, but still hand over their cash. They know we're stupid and take advantage of us.

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