SimCity problems persist

Electronic Arts city-building sim still gridlocked; publisher promises more servers on the way

It usually takes virtual decades for a SimCity game to bog down into a quagmire of intractable growth-induced problems, but Electronic Arts' latest installment of the metropolis-making franchise has been crippled by overpopulation issues since its North American launch earlier this week.

In a post on the game's official forums last night, senior producer Kip Katsarelis acknowledged that technical issues with the launch had been getting worse. He said that issues with EA's server architecture resulted in bugs and lengthy wait times for players to get into servers. To remedy the situation, Karsarelis said EA will add more servers in the next two days, and noted the live operations team "is working 24/7 to resolve issues."

EA's Origin servers have been so overwhelmed by the demand for SimCity that some users were temporarily unable to play other games purchased from the storefront earlier this week. The official Origin Twitter account noted that EA was working to resolve the issues, and was "confident that Origin will be stable for international launches later this week."

SimCity's issues have been particularly troublesome as they were aggravated by EA's decision to require players be constantly connected to its servers to play the game, even when playing solo. A similar digital-rights-management scheme boomeranged on Blizzard Entertainment last year when Diablo III launched with a slew of server problems, leaving many paying customers temporarily unable to play the game.

Latest comments (16)

Steven Hodgson Programmer, Code in Progress Ltd5 years ago
Every single time, how do none of these companies learn. This is the problem with DRM - reward the pirate, punish the customer.
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Christopher Bowen Editor in Chief, Gaming Bus5 years ago
Hey, customers keep buying these things, first day. Their complaints are meaningless. All EA reads is their ledger.

Anyone who bought SimCity, knowing full well these issues were coming, deserves what they get. I hope the damn thing never works at this rate. And I felt the same way about Diablo III, too.
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Graeme Quantrill Mobile App Developer 5 years ago
I think the metacritic user score of 2.0 and an rating of 1.3 stars kinda says it all.
Bad DRM will actually just put off potential customers which would have a much larger effect on people pirating it.

My actual issue with EA is that you can't cancel pre-orders. Is that even legal?
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Jolon Bankey President, Mysterious Development5 years ago
The approach of requiring people to always be connected to the publisher's servers is just plain stupid. What if you're on an airplane, or at the beach, or in a hotel with a crap connection? Those are the times when I usually want to play a single-player game personally, when the internet's not working!

Not to mention the problems manifesting here, of simply keeping the server architecture up to the task. And how's the ROI on that strategy? There are also about 75 supposedly working pirated copies of the game available which don't require you to be connected to EAs servers, so the company is actually creating a situation where they are almost encouraging people to pirate at the end of the day.

Not a winning strategy.
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Brian Kramer , Subsoap5 years ago
I know the saying and I don't like intrusive DRM, but reward the pirate? SimCity is impossible to pirate by its nature. Unless I'm mistaken, it's like an MMO. People would need to code custom servers, and even then "private servers" are nothing like the real game.

EA is willing to deal with the inconvenience to customers in exchange for completely blocking pirates from playing at all. It worked with SC2/D3. EA probably is not going to stop with systems like this even with hiccups - it's been two days since release!
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Bryan Robertson Gameplay Programmer, Ubisoft Toronto5 years ago
I've not played the game, but isn't this game a multiplayer-only title? I thought even the "single-player" game had mandatory multiplayer elements? If that is the case, then how is this DRM?

DRM would be requiring users to be constantly online for the sole purpose of copyright protection.
DRM is not, requiring users to be constantly online, in and of itself. World of Warcraft requires you to be constantly online, but that's not DRM, and no one calls it DRM, it's just how multiplayer games work.
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Morville O'Driscoll Blogger & Critic 5 years ago
They tailored the game specifically as a social-game, so whilst it is single-player, it's a bit... unusual. Essentially, every player's city joins up with every other player's city (in a vague "real-world" kind of context). Hence the need for company content servers and a constant internet connection. Now, there's absolutely no reason for Sim City to be designed as such (SC4 wasn't, for instance), but it is as much design-choice for the game as it is DRM.
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Steven Hodgson Programmer, Code in Progress Ltd5 years ago
Sorry, I see there was a bit of confusion with what I was saying. I meant that this is same problem that all always online DRM has, it requires the servers to be active and working for the number of users. While it may have been the design of the game to be online to play, they should always have more servers on for launch day, they are servicing a customer, there shouldn't be any inconvenience.
Why did EA get cheap when it came to launch month on the number of servers, they don't need to maintain a large number forever, and they can find out how many preorders at least they have and base estimate off that.

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Steven Hodgson on 7th March 2013 8:55pm

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James Prendergast Research Chemist 5 years ago
What's the difference between single player with mandatory online connection and single player with mandatory multiplayer elements?

For my money, and given the level of actual interactivity between "players": nothing.

It's DRM.

Edited 1 times. Last edit by James Prendergast on 7th March 2013 9:09pm

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Brian Kramer , Subsoap5 years ago
They are being actively DDOSed. It's not easy to plan for that. Only react to when it happens and attempt to mitigate. Same thing happened with the D3 launch - it was not just large demand but hostile actors purposefully attempting to stress and disrupt the service for whatever reasons they have.

> there shouldn't be any inconvenience

This happens even with games which have zero drm, zero online services. There are always things you can't easily prepare for even as a larger company
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Brian Kramer , Subsoap5 years ago
>It's DRM.

Make no mistake: it is all about keeping people who may have chosen to pirate from being to play at all.

People will say "it's a single player game and it didn't need online services!" Ok, you all can make your own games and take your own risks, right? Do that then. EA wants to make more money and they think they can force pirates who think "why should I pay for anything I can get for free" to pay.

I hope EA keeps doing what they are doing. It will mean more open opportunity for us independent developers.
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Nicholas Pantazis Senior Editor, VGChartz Ltd5 years ago
@ Brian Diablo III was pirated and this will be too. It takes simple editing of code to turn these server-based DRM systems into singleplayer games, and there's always a pirate out there who codes better than the best of the gaming devs themselves. So no, this will not work. What it can and has done is create massive amounts of ill will toward the company and unquestionably damaged the sales of both this game and future games.

And in the obvious piracy vs DRM argument, numerous studies show quite clearly that DRM does not improve sales and most pirates were never potential consumers. Removing DRM has actually increased sales for most companies (like Ubisoft) on PC, and if you want some sort of unobtrusive and generally accepted DRM, all you have to do is publish your game on Steam.
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Christopher Bowen Editor in Chief, Gaming Bus5 years ago
@Brian Kramer - If you need this kind of crap to be able to do your job, get another job. Though I'm loving your lazy justification of "uh, something something piracy".

Back on topic, the launch issues are bad, but what's going to happen down the road when EA closes these servers, deeming the game no longer convenient, the same way they do with all their other games?
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Bryan Robertson Gameplay Programmer, Ubisoft Toronto5 years ago
It takes simple editing of code to turn these server-based DRM systems into singleplayer games
Not if the client is relying on non-trivial game logic being done on the server.

Depending on the complexity and amount of game logic being performed on the server, turning an always-online game into an offline game can be a serious amount of work.
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Lee Hansiel Lim Game Developer - Unity3D, Anino PlayLab5 years ago
If the game had been marketed as a true multiplayer-only game from the get-go, would we be seeing similar reactions regarding DRM from the gaming community like we are now? Or would the community see it as a simple server-only problem. I wonder hehe.

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Lee Hansiel Lim on 8th March 2013 5:45am

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Abraham Tatester Producer 5 years ago
@ Graeme
I cancelled my pre-order with Amazon—and that's after even being promised a $20 gift card. Very glad I did.

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Abraham Tatester on 8th March 2013 8:51pm

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