SimCity Won (And Broke) My Heart In Just Three Days

This is the story of how the new SimCity hooked me in three days. This is also the story of a bustling city on the banks of the Chickville river. A place filled with hard-working folk not afraid to get their hands dirty, plucking riches from the depths of the Earth and sharing them with the world. It's called Fahey's Folly, my finest creation.

See that screenshot up there? Isn't it beautiful? Those ambitious brick high-rise buildings reaching into the sky, defiant in the face of the gleaming spires of its neighbors?

That's not Fahey's Folly.

That's the example city provided by EA for the purposes of this weekend's closed press preview. I call it a preview, because despite the content being considered review-ready by EA, this new SimCity is a game so heavily invested in online play that judging it before the rest of the world enters the mix is folly indeed.

After poking about the EA-provided city to get my bearings, I struck out on my own.

Well, that's not technically true. The only time you're really on your own in this latest SimCity is when you create your own Region and set it to private as I did with my Secret Squirrel region. I figured I might have more fun without having to trade and pool resources with other players in the same region. I thought an obligation-free sandbox would be right up my alley.

I was mistaken.

As immediately satisfying as it was to just plop (that's the official term) down Germany's Kölner Dom without having to spend hours developing my tourism industry, ultimately the single-player sandbox I thought I wanted left me feeling empty and unfulfilled. It might be good for folks looking to make movies, but this SimCity is designed to play with other people, and it's a lot less fun without them.

Not Fahey's Folly either.

So I hooked up with Kotaku's Stephen Totilo to see if we'd make good neighbours. He did. Me? Not so much.

This sprawling coal-mining town is where I learned the intricacies of city planning. From a small road leading away from the highway I built houses. I placed water towers. I powered them with coal. Soon that single small road became many small roads crisscrossing the land. I painted the roads with zones commercial, residential and industrial, attempting to balance a trio of meters that never seemed satisfied with my choices (except for commercial, which was barely ever in demand).

I discovered (read a preview, Fahey!) that upgrading roads helped maximise building density, and that strategically placing parks attracts more affluent residents.

Totilo's town helped me during those early days, supplying waste management and emergency services as I struggled to balance utilities and facilities with explosive growth. Eventually I returned the favour, letting him tap into my nuclear reactor to power his city. It was a good relationship. We worked well together.

When I destroyed everything I had built in order to start over, the effect on Totilo's town was devastating. Without my nuclear reactor he had no power. Business closed. People left town. His city plunged into an economic nosedive he couldn't pull out of. He wound up abandoning the city and moving on to a new region.

That's what he gets for relying on a town called New Roanoke.

But this isn't the story of New Roanoke. It's the story of Fahey's Folly, my greatest SimCity creation. A glorious symmetry of living and working and shopping. A tableau depicting my growing understanding of the game's symbiotic mechanics — that is Fahey's Folly.

From these humble beginnings I grew a tiny empire, built on petroleum and precious metals. Mining and drilling provided the financial seed to raise the simple folk of Fahey's Folly from trailer parks to town homes to deluxe apartments in the sky. Sure it has crime, regularly scheduled fires and the odd zombie outbreak. It also has an excellent education system, a bustling trade centre and the makings of a successful microprocessor plant, ready to catapult the once-primitive city into the digital age.

Building those other cities I was merely flirting with the new SimCity. Fahey's Folly is where we fell in love. We'd spend hours painting roads and watching the powerful GlassBox engine calculate and populate the city's buildings on-the-fly. We'd bulldoze buildings just to watch new ones crop up. We'd pan and zoom through the streets, watching the tiny people going about their business, unaware of their omnipresent god. We'd often pause to flip through the game's various map views, easy-to-interpret x-rays of the city's vital systems.

Fahey's Folly was built in eight hours. My plans for it extended far beyond that. Sadly, those plans have been dashed.

I've been unable to load my greatest creation since yesterday evening. I've restarted the game. I've restarted my computer. I've created new cities in other regions, in hopes of somehow knocking Fahey's Folly loose from the limbo it's in.

I can load any other city I've created, but when I attempt to enter my mecca, I get this:

So I cannot show you Fahey's Folly at its finest, and considering the EA-provided press accounts will expire in a few days, it's likely I never will. I'm not too disappointed, seeing as the town's days were numbered anyway. I just hope the issue doesn't strike when the game goes live, because Fahey's Folly shall surely rise again.

We'll have a full SimCity review for you later this week, once the floodgates have been opened. I leave you with all that's left of Fahey's Folly, jewel of the early-access press review planet.


Comments

    So basically EA have taken one of the best single player experiences ever and totally ruined it as a single player game.

    On top of that they've thrown in bizarre limitations and insane DRM so that it breaks regularly (this isn't the only article I've seen about it breaking).

    What a shame.

      But but but they need to make sure those nasty pirates don't get to play the game!

        Lol yeah but give the pirates what a week, and they will have a pirate servers for download available anyways.

          yep, cant wait to pirate it, i was excited to buy it until all this drm crap.

            +1 another game spoilt.

            Oh, you know what you should do - break the law to prove a point. That'll show 'em.
            By all means have your opinion on DRM, but the existence of it is no reason to pirate. Just an excuse to be a cheap gamer.

              you are 100% wrong, its not even to prove a point, i just dont think they deserve my money,

                If that be so, then no game ye should have.

                  Economic votes are actually the most influential votes in the world. That's why I steal from walmart and shop at local stores and food markets.

                I'm with chestbrah on this one. Nothing wrong with voting with your wallet.

                  I totally agree - but that should mean you don't get the game. Is that what you mean?
                  Or are you pirating in "protest"?
                  Pirating, in this case, is the very essence of hypocrisy - "You suck so much you don't deserve my money, but I will risk breaking the law just to play your awesome game".

                  Always on DRM = A lost sale, I'll pirate it and seed it even if I have no intention of playing it.
                  No DRM = I'll Pirate it, If I like it I'll buy the collectors edition or similar, if I dont like it I'll delete it.

              i wasted my money with D3... PC games can stick their DRM where it fits. I'll wait for the ps4 version.

                Coz consoles have no DRM at all....

                  Yar Har Fiddle Tee Dee
                  Beeing a Pirate is alright to be!
                  Do what u want cause a Pirate is free!
                  You Are A Pirate

      omg the obligatory anti-EA statements looool

      90% of the time people are hating on EA because its some hipster thing, not for any justified reason, plenty of other publishers stuff around with DRM/DLC and they don't get half the crap EA do, in the end its hardly crippleware, always-online games have overloaded servers day 1, IDGAF.

      i'll still buy and play this game, this was a press trial lrn2read.

        It's not a hipster thing. We all know that EA are far from the only company pushing these anti-consumer practices (though in terms of micro-transactions and DLC they are probably second only to Capcom in terms of cheek). The reason they are particularly disliked is because they have a track-record of buying it successful developers and then running them into the ground.

        Yep, there's no reason to 'hate on' EA, it's because we're all hipsters.

        On the topic of lrn2read fails - Mike said that the game he played fails utterly as a single player game. That breaks the entire concept of Sim City. So by all means spend your mums money and buy the game. Enjoy not being able to play for the first few days (but as you said YDGAF which to me completely invalidates you as a genuine video game player so not sure why you're here). Enjoy the online DRM breakages. Enjoy pouring hours into a city only to have a d!ckhead online "neighbour" screw up his region and therefore yours.
        But hey, you've always got that really cool Aliens Colonial Marines game to play, right?!

          Oh thank GOD you are hear - I have a mate who I don't think is a "genuine video (do they still make video?) game player. Can I get you to invalidate his yearly pass to the Uber Gamer Den of Awesome? He like said that he played Sims 3 and had fun. What a lie...
          But in all seriousness, I think people get a bit self righteous about DRM - specifically to those has who paint it as the bane of all games. In this case - this game isn't released yet. Infrastructure not finalised. And there is a hiccough in loading a city in a press trial.
          Step back, and ask yourself - would your cries of foul on DRM stop you enjoying a good game? If yes, don't buy it. Simple.

            I agree. So much venom when talking about DRM, it's completely disproportional.

            I really have to call this out. Some DRM is fine i.e. relatively non-intrusive methods like Steamworks, where the benefits of the library arguably out way the costs. But in this case: they designed the entire game for the DRM. I literally can't think of a more intrusive implementation.

              I'm not sure what you are "calling out" here. I agree with what you are saying. Some DRM is balls, othere good. My actual point is, the DRM is part of the product. If it such an issue, don't buy/play the game. Access to the game is not a right - it's a privilege you earn through payment. Don't pay? Don't play.

                The point here is i want to play the game WITHOUT THE GOD DAMN BULLSHIT DRM.

                So i will, i will pirate it, probably only play a few hours to see how they ruined a single player experience but i will still pirate it. I have the money to buy it, i wanted to buy it , but i forced myself not to, on principle.
                Every single person in the world who has even a tiny bit of knowledge about pc gaming knows DRM doesn't stop piracy and in any case where it has any sort of impact on game play for a legitimate user,it 100% Guaranteed to worsen the experience, period.

                I took a chance with D3 (against my better judgement) and it provided me and every other naysayer with the certainty we needed to boycot any and all future draconian always on DRM.

                Its not my right to play this game, i dont "Deserve" to play it. But its also not EA's right to force things upon end users for no reason what so ever sure they can do it but this is thier punishment.

                DRM is not an accident, they know it doesn't work, they know it pisses paying users off pushing them to piracy. They know it does nothing but hurt their bottom line yet they put that bullshit anyway.

                But you know who's games i dont pirate, CD Project, they make games WITHOUT DRM, and for that they DESERVE my money, EA do not.

                  But its also not EA's right to force things upon end users
                  Err.. but actually it is. Without EA, there is NO GAME. Like it or not, this is the product. Piracy is taking what you want without paying - under some pseudo-guise of fighting DRM. By pirating you ensure the continuation of DRM - you are actively supporting the reason it exists.
                  I find it amazing that in an electronic age that people still hold these views - and it seems that I am in the minority - well, minority of commenters. I can only attribute this to the fact that though most people consume electronic products, that few actually make and support programmes. Start giving your work away for fee and see how long things last.
                  For those who say "they wouldn't have bought it anyway", I retort "pfft". That is not entirely true. Games, like business applications, have a portion of potential users who "warm" to the idea. In a business application, showing how the product can streamline processes is step 1. They go away and think on the ROI, all the time experiencing the "unstreamlined" work, now knowing a better way exists. Until the ROI is affected by the new perceived clunky work processes.
                  Games are the same. As a game is released, those who haven't bought it day one will have their decisions moved by other's experiences. If they've gone and pirated and tried it out for free, any chance of selling to them has gone. But if they haven't, they may be swayed by reviews, friends or price drops.
                  I keep saying, it's simple. Don't pay, don't play. All the grandstanding on who deserves your money and draconian DRM just shows how little is known about software sale lifecycles and consumer rights.
                  The choice of DRM is not yours to make. The choice of product is.

                  Your a delusional muppet of a person Crowknee, the fact that you honestly believe that if no one pirated there would be no DRM or any other such bullshit to control the users is insane.

                  The fact that you think DRM is acceptable is wrong.
                  The fact you think DRM works is wrong.

                  The choice of DRM is in fact mine to make, i want this product i am prepared to buy this product, but the legitimate way harms my experience therefore I pirate it which gives me the best experience. It is simple and there is nothing wrong with that. It shows EA that i still want to play their game but that i refuse to give them $$ for it while they have DRM. No other method is more effective.

                  You can spout your bullshit that they use DRM to stop piracy nonsense all you want. But the fact remains IT doesn't work. IT doesn't Stop the people who will pirate it regardless and it only harms legitimate users. So Mr high horse, time get off it.

                  Making games is a BUSINESS you don't run a business by ALIENATING YOUR PAYING CUSTOMERS, period. Anything else makes this argument void. I'm not discussing the morals or the legality of pirateing. I am simply stating facts.

                  DRM costs them money to make and implement, it then costs them even more as it then drives users like me who are fed up to piracy. DRM has never ever made someone go out and buy a game. IT is 100% a detriment to any game. It has no positives and all negatives.
                  So untill such a time as it exists in games i want to play i will either never buy it, or pirate it its worth the effort.

                  Last edited 06/03/13 9:05 am

                  Your a delusional muppet of a person Crowknee
                  Wow - this is always the problem in trying to discuss DRM. People always make it personal. I guess it's because pirates are self obsessed, what's in it for them, so I shouldn't really be surprised.
                  I'm not sure why you think I am on a high horse. I have made software as a living for many years, and by standard use licencing (called DRM in games) to control access to my products. Not all licencing mechanisms are perfect (EA seems to have a reasonably dodgy one), but are necessary whether you as a consumer think it is or not. I never said DRM prevented piracy - I said it was a response to piracy. Its questionable effectiveness isn't even up for debate.
                  You blanket all DRM as bad, yet Steam is universally accepted.
                  I know what you mean - you hate a portion of the product. That's fine. Do you still want to play it? Go buy it.
                  If you are going to just drivel nonsense about EA "ruining your experience", which I might add you haven't had, then I'm at a loss. You say you are "stating facts", yet your whole post is a slew of opinion and mis-information - for starters, I'm no muppet, more Mr Squiggle.
                  I'm afraid we'll have to just disagree on this one.

                  I love how you blanket every point with "opinion" and mis information when all of these are facts, they are un deniable.

                  DRM losses a company money both in development, implementation and fan base alienation.

                  (In gaming, have you ever heard someone was going to "not pirate" or purchased again because of the DRM?, On the other hand how many people do you think get pissed at DRM and pirate to spite said DRM.)

                  DRM does not stop anyone from pirating software, there will always be pirates.

                  (DRM is broken almost immediately on release, If someone wants to pirate a game it will be pirated regardless of counter measures)

                  DRM makes the game worse for the end user in almost every single way.

                  (Anything from entering online codes and activating, being forced to create another online account with yet another game company all the way to always on DRM, Every single one that forces a user to do anything but Install and play is having a negative impact on the end user, regardless of how small)

                  None of these points are arguable, yet somehow you dismiss them.

                  The point is that I shouldn't be forced to pirate a game to get the best version. Pirating a game should not be easier than buying the real version. Game companys need to learn that nothing they do will eveyr stop piracy, so lose the DRM and make the best damn game you can.

                  Its the way CD Project does it and I have bought their games and have tremendous respect for them. Compared to EA who make a game and sell 2 versions, 1 an unfinished completely inferior product the other $20 more with all the actual game stuff put back in. Then on top of this they make a completely single player experience and force always on drm into it. Now you tell me which company deserves my money, because im sure as hell not giving it to EA. All that would do is show them its okay to bend people over and ream them.

          "completely invalidates you as a genuine video game player so not sure why you're here"

          i'll never be as cool as you.

          ಠ_ಠಠ_ಠಠ_ಠಠ_ಠಠ_ಠಠ_ಠಠ_ಠ

          BRITISH CITY SET!!!!!! PLUMBOB PARK!!! MLG 10/10

          just did a pre-order, I'M GONNA MAKE SOME BIG TOWNS.

      I'm tired of hearing everyone's whining surrounding TS2013. I've owned every Sim City game from day one on the PC, and enjoyed every one as well. If you don't like it don't buy it! Stick with Sim City 4, simple as that.

    Im still on the fence to buy this or not, not sure if its worth it or just wait for heart of the swarm

      See while i like the idea of relience on other players, it also scares me... and that excites me.

      Who to financially support.. EA or Blizzard.. thank god I'm not in your situation lol

    So an amazing game with bugs that mess with your saves? Pretty much exactly what I expected.

    So disappointed in this game. The entire series has been such a part of my life since the SNES version which I still play a hell of a lot. It made me want to take up Urban Planning. Now EA has stuffed it all up like everything else, especially C&C. Don't buy this crud, that will just encourage them. I got more into CitiesXL anyway, you can build multiple cities yourself and trade, or do it with friends. I would love a good multiplayer element to SimCity, but if that's the only element it's totally destined to be remembered as another much publicised flop from EA.

    This settles it for me. I will not be purchasing this game. Having the "feature" that my city can be completely destroyed on the whim of what somebody else is doing in their game is a dealbreaker. I don't mind the idea of sharing content between regions, but having to rely on other players doing the right thing and continuing to play strikes me as silly.

    And what happens if they do stop playing entirely? Is their city going to just tick along without them, or will it slowly die and take your city with it? So, what, everybody has to play forever?

    Too much Farmville, not enough Sim City.

      I'd suggest rereading the first few paragraphs. >_>

        I read the first few paragraphs. They don't seem to answer what he's asking...

          All I can see is proof that if you let yourself rely on someone else then everything you love will be destroyed.

            Yeah, that's how I'm reading it too. Come play with other players. Your cities will be interdependant and thrive accordingly, until someone quits, the AI doesn't take over and your city goes tits up due to the giant void that is your neighbour's now abandoned city. I'm sure there's more to it than that, but that's what B-ob was asking about and I didn't see it covered.

            Kinda seems like a real pain in the ass, especially if players have short attention spans or bad connections.

              It was said in an interview that if players have not logged into their city for a certain period of time on a public region, then their city can be taken over by someone more active in the region. I think that's completely fair. If you want to make sure your city doesn't get taken over, create a private region.

        Yep, I did. And then I read them again. If anything they reinforce my position. "The only time you’re really on your own in this latest SimCity is when you create your own Region and set it to private as I did with my Secret Squirrel region."

    I'm going to wait a few weeks and see how this goes. I was originally keen for this but now I'm starting to think it's too much hassle.

      My feelings exactly. Always-online was strike one, lots of press-preview reviews bemoaning lost saves strike two. (I'm going to call near-forced multiplayer strike one and a half, since it's clearly a result of the always-online feature.) Such a shame, I've been looking forward to this for ages.

    I don't get it. So why is that city not playable any more?

    I had every intention of buying this game, but the online only features and DRM pissed me off.
    I worked in an ISP for Australia and the Online Only option isn't even possible for so many people. They are just limiting their player base in a move to protect against piracy? Congrats, your an idiot, you have just made myself and everyone I know not buy this game and instead look for a 'fixed' version.

    I'm curious how simple a town can be in this game and whether you can build little satellite towns that never grow up and still be relatively successful in their own right.. SimCity is something I've always loved at the beginning but grow tired of when it becomes a chore to micro-manage on a macro level. When you first start out, micro-managing a small town is great fun.. but when you're micro-managing something 20 times the size of that starter town, it becomes a chore. I'd much rather it become a task for underlings to do by themselves and you manage from a macro level that gets increasingly higher level management the bigger the town becomes..

      I am sure I have read somewhere in a preview that necessary micromanagement is heavily reduced in this game. Zoning instead of building and electricity running via roads come to mind as examples.

        Yup.. that's why I am curious, now that the game is in the hands of reviewers, how this is actually bearing out. It seems, from the descriptions given by EA, that there is less micro-managing... but the proof is in the pudding.. :)

          Very true. I trust EA as far as I can throw them.

    wait what? you have to work with other people? wtf?? i wanted to buy the game then build my city by my self, i don't much care for that always online DRM thats ok to have i guess, but no way am i buying this if i have to play with others all the time

      Huh? He said you can set your game to Private and play by yourself. Albeit it wasn't much fun apparently.

        oh ok good, i single player is a huge biggie for me

    Nice, so I get to build a super grid of power stations, attract other players to use it. Then when all is right with the world, turn around and request more resources from them or I'll cut the power? Hence leave them to scrounge for resources to build their own power because I've since taken it all. Hmm sounds familiar.

    If I wanted to play a game that has the potential for skulduggery, I'll play DayZ.

    I don't agree with some of EA's practices but I really want this game so regardless of grievances I'm still going to get it.

    Really interested early on but the always online thing took some wind out of my sails. Pair that with the scaled down size of the buildable areas and the notion that co-dependency is paramount to enjoying the game as intended makes me err on the side of caution.

    I can make my game private, but I still cannot build on a massive scale as per previous iterations. Something which is the identity of a single player city builder...

    The beta tempted me to throw all of my skepticism out the window. It is a bloody nice looking game. It gets so much right. It made me want more.

    Still on the fence. May wait a month or so to see how it all unfolds.

    Oh great, so not only is my own play time at the mercy of EA's servers, the game itself plays like a group assignment.

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