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Old 19 March 2013, 02:50 PM
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Default Electronic Arts Chief Resigns, Sending Stock Up

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Electronic Arts, based in Silicon Valley, released the latest version of its best-known game, SimCity, two weeks ago. It sold 1.1 million units in the biggest SimCity debut to date, the company announced Monday.

But many of those players had trouble connecting online and staying connected. Joystiq, a gaming Web site, called it a “calamitous launch” and pointed out the game had a Metacritic score “lower than the abysmal Resident Evil 6.”
http://www.nytimes.com/2013/03/19/te...-stock-up.html

If feel they've somewhat buried the lead here, as I think it's a key point that his ouster is very likely a direct result of the disastrous SimCity launch, something that was not only entirely predictable but in fact had been predicted by many, and THAT was a direct result of his widely decried decision that every EA game would have a multiplayer component.
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  #2  
Old 19 March 2013, 02:55 PM
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EA Press Release
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  #3  
Old 19 March 2013, 02:59 PM
zerocool zerocool is offline
 
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Everything about this game sounds incredibly botched from what I've read. First were the lies about the 'always online' requirement - EA said it was required because some of the game's calculations were run on the server side. This has turned out not to be true, so the only remaining justification is that the requirement to be online, even for the single player game, was for DRM purposes. They did not need to lie about that.

Then there have been all the people not able to play the game because the servers were overloaded, dropped connections etc. This was predicted by many, and since the connection is not required for the game to actually run, makes it even worse.

Finally, the gameplay itself is flawed. The game was supposed to model the growth of the city by simulating individual sims in their daily lives, and from their individually programmed behaviours, the society was supposed to emerge, and thus the city could be planned and grown by catering to the sims needs. Except the AI the sims have just sounds incredibly shoddy, especially the path finding, which uses a 'shortest distance' calculation instead of 'quickest route', and thus every sim in the city will try to take the shorter 1 lane dirt road instead of the 6 lane superhighway that is 0.1 miles longer to get to work. This results in gridlock, and eventually the city dies. I'm glad I stayed away from this one.
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Old 19 March 2013, 06:02 PM
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Man, I feel bad for defending even the idea of this game. I just figured that nobody would actually be so stupid as to explicitly lie to the press and the fans about how their game worked. Because...well...they're going to figure that out pretty quick. And the damage to the brand would be nearly insurmountable.

But I'll bet Gearbox is happy that this SimCity scandal blew up so big - they can quietly sweep Colonial Marines under the rug now.

...seriously, can't believe we had both of those debacles back to back

They're supposed to have a talk at GDC this year about SimCity. Man oh man do I wish I was going this year. I'd love to be a fly on the wall of a panel given by that team about now.
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Old 19 March 2013, 08:11 PM
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Honestly, the whole idea of needing to pass off calculations to the server side seems kind of ridiculous on its face. (I think) you'd need to have an utterly ridiculous array of supercomputers in order to handle complex calculations for millions of end-users at once. Doing calculations locally is typically going to be more efficient because you have dedicated hardware. And that's not even factoring in the potential for lag being introduced by sending all of that data over the wire, doing a calculation, and then sending it back. It's no wonder people were skeptical about that. And as Rebochan points out, that's pretty darn easy for tech-savvy users to catch.
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  #6  
Old 19 March 2013, 08:13 PM
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Yeah, the always online requirement/busy servers is just one aspect of it. That kind of stuff can result in a very bad launch, but those sorts of problems tend to get worked out. But some people are so outraged by it that it results in whining that is out of all proportion. In real life I am always online, so the always online requirement doesn't bother me that much.

So with all that predictable whining drowning out all discussion of the game, I didn't see some of the more legitimate complaints and bought the game. There are some serious game mechanics problems with it that are making it not very fun to play. Some of them are just stupid and inexplicable (e.g. the pathing issue mentioned becomes obvious very quickly, and there is no excuse for it), although I guess coming from EA I shouldn't be surprised that they didn't approach this franchise with the right mindset.

Some of the gameplay problems however, derive directly from their goal of trying to make it a multiplayer game. They try to force cities to depend on one another. So it is basically impossible to have a good, sustainable city. If you could, then you wouldn't artificially need other players help.

In theory, then a group of cities should be able to be sustainable, but still no, not really. Once your city gets up and running, you will fairly rapidly deplete your natural resources. It's one thing to say you have to rely on another city to provide your ore, for instance, but pretty soon that city will run out, so you need another city, and there are't an infinite number of cities to keep expanding to. So producing resouces is basically a dead end. You can buy things like ore from the global market.. But you can't buy water, and water is another resource that will eventually run out too. You can't buy landfill space or clean up pollution once you've trashed your city. If you make mistakes you're stuck with them, it's not necessarily something you can improve on over time, and after you start depleting things it's pretty much a steady downward trajectory for your city in the long term. Your city slowly grows to be large and thriving, and then it all turns ugly.

Garbage is a big problem, and there doesn't seem to be a good solution to it. You can keep building more dumps, which will fill up and up and take up more space until you're stuffed to the gills with trash, or you can build a ton of incinerators to burn your trash and create lots of pollution. There are low pollution alternative electricity sources (which tend to be impractical until you research alternatives that take a long time and a lot of time polluting before you can afford), but if there is a cleaner solution to trash I haven't found it. Presumably recycling is meant to help with that, but I'm not seeing a recycling center make much impact at all, especially when I try to loan it to another city. I guess the solution they intended is for you to designate a specialist city that does nothing but incinerate everyone elses trash and has horrible pollution. But I've found the interface very difficult for relying on another city to handle your trash in any consistent manner. And if there is every any disruption or backlog in that flow of trash then your city is ruined. Maybe I just haven't figured out the magic formula for creating a smoothly running hell hole city that will keep other cities from having to be polluted or full of trash. That doesn't sound like fun to play even if there is a way to make it work though. I'd like to at least have the possibility that if you run everything right you can have a harmonious region that's not constantly in the process of falling apart, depleting its limited natural resources, and gradually and irrevocably increasing pollution to intolerable levels.

Most of all the cities are very very small, which I suppose is another mechanism to make them depend on other cities in the region. Trying to fit things into a small, compact space is your constant, number one concern. You may have a few designated parks to create nice neighborhoods, but forget having any real green space or nature. You can't possibly fit in everything you need into your city, so things that you don't absolutely need but would just be nice to have are out of the question. Spacing some things out more would cripple you.

Last edited by Errata; 19 March 2013 at 08:31 PM.
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  #7  
Old 19 March 2013, 08:25 PM
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I rather object to the complaints about the always online requirement being classified as whining. Perhaps you are always online. Many people are not, many cannot be, and many try to be but have unreliable internet connections. This is particularly true in rural areas, but even where I am in a major city my connection drops for at least a few minutes a day. It is a very valid complaint - because it would not affect you does not make it "whining."
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  #8  
Old 19 March 2013, 08:46 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by chillas View Post
I rather object to the complaints about the always online requirement being classified as whining. Perhaps you are always online. Many people are not, many cannot be, and many try to be but have unreliable internet connections.
Unfortunately, a constant internet connection used as a form of DRM is neither a new tactic, nor one likely to vanish any time soon. Steam popularized the method in multplayer gaming by masking it as a social network almost a decade ago, and massively multiplayer games have been (by their very nature) enforcing constant online connections since the late 90s. Even those little Facebook games require a constant internet connection, and no one finds the need to protest their unfairness of Whateverville requiring them to be logged in. Unless someone is brand spanking new to the multiplayer gaming community they should have noticed that a constant online connection requirement is pretty much the norm these days, even if they wind up playing over a LAN with real life buddies. At least for the near future, connection requirements are here to stay; blame EA for the disastrous server stability, for the broken or disabled features, or for their lack of communication with their customers, but online connectivity requirements are pretty run of the mill these days, and hardly exclusive to SimCity 2013.

All that said, I think this particular game - especially coming from a decades old line of single player micromanaging games - really should have an offline, single player only mode, but I can see why EA chose to go with DRM flow.
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  #9  
Old 19 March 2013, 09:50 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Kallah View Post
Unfortunately, a constant internet connection used as a form of DRM is neither a new tactic, nor one likely to vanish any time soon.
Yes, I am aware of this and I said nothing regarding whether it was either new or going away at any point. The ONLY thing I said was that I vehemently disagree with people who complain about it being classified as whiners. Whether or not it is new it IS a problem. Whether or not it is going away it IS a problem. And the only possible way there might be any change to it, however unlikely that is, is if people keep bringing it up.
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  #10  
Old 19 March 2013, 11:21 PM
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I don't have a problem, in itself, with 'always online' DRM if it's done well (Steam for example.. Most of the time..) though obviously I'd prefer it wasn't there (but then that's one we can thank the pirates for).

I also have no problem with people complaining about it, not only is that of course their right but it's a legitimate problem particularly if you have less than ideal internet.

Where I do get a little eye-rolly (and we saw this a lot in Diablo III*) would be people who hate persistent-online DLC, know a game has persistent-online DLC, but it anyway, then complain that they were ripped off. It's like saying "I hate Taco Bell" then eating there and complaining about it.

*Diablo III was somewhat unique in that, particularly early on, it's online issues.. Sucked.. Causing dropped connections, lag, etc. It certainly didn't fall into the 'done well' category. That said many people were complaining about the fact that it had this form of DLC in the first place (not that it wasn't done well). I suppose some may not have been aware of it but given how popular (infamous may be a better word) it was far before the launch it's hard to take that seriously, not reading up on an expensive purchase (which a launch day title of a game would be) makes it your own fault if you miss a 'feature' like that.
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  #11  
Old 20 March 2013, 01:45 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by chillas View Post
The ONLY thing I said was that I vehemently disagree with people who complain about it being classified as whiners.
Of course someone could make a well thought out, non-whining complaint about persistent online requirements in what amounts to a mostly single player game. However, the vast and overwhelming majority of people who are complaining about this form of DRM knew about it months in advance, purchased the game knowing the requirements, and then complained loudly when they found themselves dealing with the fallout of having to play online. If they disagreed with it so strongly, why did they purchase the software? They knew exactly what they were getting into. So no, I agree, not all who complains about the DRM in this particular title are whiners - but most of them are (more than 3,000 negative reviews and counting) as seen in game reviews, social media, and the official forums.
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Old 20 March 2013, 02:20 AM
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Well to be fair, the people that knew the requirements and bought it anyway had no idea that EA would screw it up as royally as they did (although we can cite the whole Diablo 3 incident). They knew what they were supposed to get but real people did get bent over the barrel.
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Old 20 March 2013, 02:32 AM
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I think the difference is whether the complaint is the fouled up part or the idea of having it to begin with.. To be fair in examples like Diablo III (and apparently SimCity) the concepts may blend over some but it would be all about how the complaints are being leveled. Is it about the specific issues of the poor functionality, or the overall concept "Why do I have to be online for a single player game!". If it's the former it's fair, encouraged even, if it's the latter.. See my above post I guess.
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  #14  
Old 20 March 2013, 11:22 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Kallah View Post
If they disagreed with it so strongly, why did they purchase the software?
I seem to remember in the Diablo 3 case that a lot of the complaints about the idea of a constant server connection for what's essentially a single-player game running locally were dismissed as coming from people who hadn't bought it and wouldn't buy it anyway...

And it still isn't common for single-player games, or "all games" to require that. Of course a multiplayer on-line game needs an internet connection, but there's no need to force all games to have this connection, even if they do add some sort of tenuous multiplayer aspect.
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Old 20 March 2013, 01:36 PM
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Most Steam games (so far as I understand) require you to be connected to the internet, even single player ones.

There is no need gameplay wise, but there is need (obviously) pirate wise. I haven't kept up but I've been told that there has been minimal, if any, pirating of the game, much like Steam games and MMOs are allegedly very difficult to pirate.

I'm not saying it was done well, or that DRM is a good thing to begin with, but the argument of "What's the point of a forced online component in a single player game?" is missing the real purpose (which I'm sure Blizzard tried to market around but I don't recall them ever outright lying about it).
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  #16  
Old 20 March 2013, 01:48 PM
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Steam will occasionally "check in", so to speak, with the servers. I'm not sure what this time interval is, but it is at least in the weeks range. It does not require a constant on connection, and games can be launched in offline mode with no problem.
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  #17  
Old 20 March 2013, 01:57 PM
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That is perhaps then the more realistic way to do it with today's internet system, and as digital gaming platforms become more common it may be easier to do without having to re-invent the wheel each time.

Look no argument here that Diablo III's launch was a terrible example of how to screw up a game with a feature people didn't like to begin with but you forced on them.. Just saying that, IMO, the issue of 'are people who complain about them justified or whiners' is not a binary choice to me.
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  #18  
Old 20 March 2013, 05:38 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Mickey Blue View Post
Just saying that, IMO, the issue of 'are people who complain about them justified or whiners' is not a binary choice to me.
I completely agree with that, which was my objection to the blanket statement.
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