SimCity Developers Maxis Closed Down by EA

Game developer Maxis, creator of “successful” franchises The Sims and SimCity, is being consolidated by its parent company, Electronic Arts. Though the Maxis label will still be used on its existing series as a brand name, the studio itself has been dissolved.

The news was announced during the Game Developers Conference (GDC) 2015 in San Francisco, which is odd timing, to say the least. The story broke after former Maxis developer Guillaume Pierre tweeted the sad news:

EA followed that with an official statement on Wednesday evening:

Today we are consolidating Maxis IP development to our studios in Redwood Shores, Salt Lake City, Helsinki and Melbourne locations as we close our Emeryville location. Maxis continues to support and develop new experiences for current Sims and SimCity players, while expanding our franchises to new platforms and developing new cross-platform IP.

These changes do not impact our plans for The Sims. Players will continue to see rich new experiences in The Sims 4, with our first expansion pack coming soon along with a full slate of additional updates and content in the pipeline.

All employees impacted by the changes today will be given opportunities to explore other positions within the Maxis studios and throughout EA. For those that are leaving the company, we are working to ensure the best possible transition with separation packages and career assistance.

Maxis was founded in 1987 by Will Wright and the company made its name with a series of simulation games, of “digital dollhouses,” as Wright described them.

EA has developed quite the reputation for ruining respected game development studios, with gamers turning against the likes of Maxis, BioWare, Pandemic, and Westwood Studios after their EA buyouts.

Source: Kotaku

Why Build A City In SimCity When You Can 3D Print it!?

If you’re a big SimCity fan then this latest use for 3D Printing could be right up your street. A designer called Ittyblox has produced modular buildings from the SimCity game using 3D Printing. As you might expect, they aren’t to scale, but if you like the novelty of having decorative gaming paraphernalia then these are pretty cool. There are a range of residential and commercial buildings up for grabs which you can arrange into the baseplates to form your own city. Trying to build yourself a full city-sized assortment could get quite expensive – you’d probably need to spend about €500 just to fill a decent sized coffee table or shelf. If there was ever a reason to go out and buy a 3D Printer, then this is certainly one of them.

The experience may not be quite as entertaining as playing SimCity on your PC, but at least you won’t run out of space……. right? (make those maps bigger Maxis!)

Source: Softpedia

Image #1 courtesy of Maxis, Image #2 courtesy Ittyblox

Maxis Considering Offline Mode But Not Larger Maps For SimCity, Too Little Too Late?

In a blog post the Maxis General Manager Patrick Buechner has stated that the team at Maxis are still considering some of the “larger asks” that fans have been asking for such as implementing an offline mode or creating larger city maps. Of course since SimCity’s release the game has been criticised heavily for a variety of problems, but two of those bigger problems that keep coming up are the lack of an offline mode and the relatively small maps.

With regards to an offline mode Maxis’ General Manager stated that “Right now we have a team specifically focused on exploring the possibility of an offline mode… I can’t make any promises”. Maxis say that they would like to give players the opportunity to choose whether they want to connect or not. They also believe an offline mode would be beneficial for the modding community as they can experiment more.

Offering bigger city maps is something Maxis have acknowledged as “a constant point of conversation among our players” since its release. Yet Maxis claim that after “months of investigation”  they will not be providing bigger city sizes because of “system performance challenges.” Maxis claim that closing off the bigger city maps avenue allows them to put more time into improving the overall game’s performance and exploring the offline mode further.

You can read the full update about the latest SimCity developments by Maxis here. Do you think it is too little, too late for SimCity? Or are Maxis doing a good job in meeting the demands of SimCity owners?

Image courtesy of Maxis

EA Reveal SimCity Red Cross Charity Pack, 80% Of Sale Price Goes To Charity

EA is being the good guy once again and has unveiled another stunt that will no doubt do good things for its public image. SimCity will get a Red Cross charity DLC pack which will cost $9.99. EA has pledged to give 80% of the post tax profits on the Red Cross Charity pack to the participating Red Cross National Charities, they also claim they will provide a minimum of $100,000 irrelevant of how well or bad the DLC pack sells.

The DLC pack itself includes a relief centre, tents and two emergency response vehicles. In the event of an in-game meteor strike, earthquake or tornado the Red Cross tents automatically  appear to provide aid to needy sims.

“In the event of a natural disaster (meteor strike, earthquakes, or tornado), having the Red Cross set will cause Red Cross tents to automatically appear all across a player’s city. Sims that need aid are instead given aid at these Red Cross tents. As the city recovers from the natural disaster, the tents will disappear. Each tent that disappears releases 10 Sims back into a city. Ambulances, fire trucks and police cars will protect a player’s city in addition to Red Cross relief services. “

Only 10 Red Cross national charities are participating so the pack is available in only 10 countries which are – the USA, UK, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Italy, Norway, Spain and Sweden.

The SimCity Red Cross DLC pack will be available to purchase for a year.

Image courtesy of EA

Three Big Devs Quit Maxis To Make New Game ‘Tethys’

Ocean Quigley has announced that he has now left EA and Maxis, joining forces with two other former Maxis employess and that he has formed a brand new indie studio called Jellygrade.

Quigley was the SimCity creative director for Maxis, having worked on titles in the Sim City series such as 3k, 4 and the newest one, but him and his fellow team members Andrew Willmott (SimCity’s cimulation architect) and Dan Moskowits (SimCity’s lead gameplay engineer) think it’s time for something new and between them they’ve got the knowledge to create something truely impressive.

“After 17 years (SimCity 3k, SimCity 4, SimCity, also a little work on the Saturn version of 2K) it was time for something new,” said Quigley via Twitter.

The new title fro the new studio is called “Tethys” and Quigley says it’s “still pretty early – the simulation engine is under active development”, “We’re starting off on the iPad with a fundamentally new simulation engine – I can’t wait to start showing it off.” He continued, “There’s a bunch of cool stuff that you can do with touch & fluid simulations.”

That last bit gives us a HUGE hint of what this game is about, especially if your clued up on your Greek mythology, don’t worry if you’re not, there is always the Wiki page for it. Effectively Tethys was a water god and it sounds like we could have a very specific god sim on our hands.

Quigley hints that we can expect more information in a month or two.

Thank you CVG for providing us with this information

Image courtesy of Jellygrade.

SimCity Goes On Sale And New Airship DLC Is Launched

If you have yet to purchase SimCity and you have been waiting for a sale, now might be the right time to buy. Unless of course you just are not interested in the game. I am one where I will read what others comment about games, but it seems that many people don’t look at the individual game and point out the good and the bad about the game. Yes SimCity has some bad, and some good, but don’t nearly all games?

SimCity is currently on sale, $20 off. Perhaps this is just a sale, or maybe SimCity has reached that golden number for sales. Maybe even with the DLC that they are offering they figure they will make more money. Personally I am not a fan of paying $10 a pop for DLC, some people love it.

If you are interested in getting $20 off SimCity you can check out the Origin sale that is going on until the 30th of June! Click here for more information.

SimCity has a bit of DLC available for SimCity so far.

If you have SimCity and you’re still playing it, then you might want to get this cool new DLC that has been offered. SimCity is now introducing the AirShips pack. In the video balance designer Ross Treyz shows us the features of the Airships pack.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2kIy4NrMFiE[/youtube]

Price: $8.99

If you purchase the Airships set you will gain access to…

2 New Parks

  1. Hot Air Balloon Park
  2. Urban Hot Air Balloon Park

New Public Mass Transit

  1. Airship Hangar

An Event Blimp will also visit your town and hover around landmarks and stadiums during events

Personally I think that the game has been fairly well made, with many others to argue that it is not it is hard for anyone to say anything about the game. With this sale it gives you the opportunity to decide for yourself if the game is good or not. Of course I think that all of these DLC releases are killing the game though.

What are your thoughts about games that go on sale within the first few months of release? Are they placing the game in a dead category, or just offering it up for sale?

Image courtesy of leviathyn.com

Breaking News: Sim City for Macintosh Pushed Back To August

SimCity’s senior producer Kip Katsarelis announced today vai the Sim City Blog that they will not be bringing SimCity to Mac users, yet, and not on June 11th either, as stated before. Mac users will not be able to play their version of SimCity until at least August, the new date has not yet been announced. Could this hurt sales, or promote them? Some Mac users may pull back their pre-order copies of SimCity because of this delay. Though I think that this may be a good thing, and I almost wish that they would have done this with the PC version. Katsarelis stated that the makers of SimCity “do not believe it is ready for primetime yet”.

Many users believe that PC was released to soon, with many glitches and other problems with the game. SimCity has changed their stance though for the Mac users, and want to make sure that they have a great experience. The developers of SimCity are opting to take more time in perfecting the game, pushing the game back a few weeks, at least that is what they are saying right now.

SimCity is still working of many fixes for the PC users and server fixes and will likely bring players Update number 5 which should be available in a couple of weeks. At the same time, work has already started for Update number 6, primarily focusing on residential, commercial and industrial improvements.

Sim City developers have been seeking feedback from their userbase on their forums, you are also able to see what they are working on by checking their “Currently in Development” thread.

As a bonus to all Mac fans, and as a thank you from SimCity, they will be giving the SimCity Launch Park to all who have purchased the mac version.

What are your thoughts on the pushback of the game? Let us know in the comments below.

Original image courtesy of SimCity.com

SimCity Amusement Park DLC Released

Do you play SimCity? If you do, you know very well that SimCity has had a ton of issues with their newest release. Though they have been working to fix all of the issues that their servers have had, and glitches within the game they still haven’t gotten them all fixed. Yet they are releasing downloadable content left and right. First they gave us a Nissan Leaf Charging Station, then they gave us The Launch Park. They have also partnered with Crest / Oral-B to bring us “Attraction Sets” which are different landmarks we get by entering codes we get off select products. Now they bring us an Amusement Park Set!

Some users are frustrated with the issues within the game, you would think that three months after the game has been released that all of the issues would be fixed. SimCity is taking a different approach it seems, I have no real major complaints with the game, though I haven’t gotten into it as much as I may have liked.

If you love the game for what it is, you may very well love this new DLC, though I am not sure about offering so much DLC so quickly, and charging so much for the DLC. The new Amusement Park has a retail value of $9.99. Bringing you a new way to bring revenue to your city, you will be able to fund your newest addition.

With this new content you will have the ability to chose the look and design of your theme park! MacOS users will be able to play SimCity on June 11th

Will you be getting this awesome new content, or will you be passing?

 

Source and images from SimCity.com

Sim City 4.0 Update Available For Download Today

SimCity is due to received update version 4.0 today which brings in a lot of old and new features to the game. In terms of the “old” things, it brings back those things which were taken offline to reduce server strain such as leaderboards. Dynamic global market prices and region filters will also be re-enabled too.

The new additions to the game include a “launch park” available for early adopters and also a new region called Edgewater Bay that has seven new potential city sites. The full change log is as follows:

– New: SimCity Launch Park, an exclusive new park just for our dedicated fans who were early adopters.
– New: Region: Edgewater Bay. Seven city sites in one cluster around a beautiful bay with one great work site.
– New: Your current server will now be shown in the options menu.
– New: More detailed rollover information on buildings telling player’s if their Sims received happiness from a park or from shopping. Previous to this fix, this information was generic.
– Re-Enabled Feature: Global Market prices now dynamically change during gameplay.
– Re-Enabled Feature: Leaderboards will be active on EU West 3, Pacific 1 and Pacific 2 at the release. We will enable them on additional servers throughout the day.
– Re-Enabled Feature: Region filters are now enabled on all SimCity servers. Players will be able to search for open games by Map Name, Sandbox Mode, and Abandoned Cities.
– Rain Clouds: Fixed an issue where some cities would not have rain clouds to replenish their water table. If you had a city with this issue, you will start seeing clouds again within a game day.
– Fire: Improved response time of fire trucks to fires. Improved the time it takes for a fire signal to reach a fire station.
– Mission updates: Tuned Metals HQ and Community College missions. These were appearing too early, making them difficult to complete. They now appear later in a city’s development.
– Solar Farm Great Work: Reduced fire risk at the Solar Farm Great work. Local fire engines were spending too much time at the Solar Farm.
– Messaging: Improved pre-requisite messaging for Trade Port, Casinos, Smelting Factory and Oil Refinery. It should be clearer on how to unlock these buildings.
– Graphics: Fix for flickering low wealth buildings on NVIDIA graphics cards.
– Education: Fix for an issue some cities experienced where commuting students did not return from a neighbor’s city. This was causing a problem where students would disappear from a city in some cases.
– Tuning: Sims will lose a small amount of happiness if they don’t have a place to shop. Cities without places to shop will see complaints and feel the effect of unhappy Sims. This will emphasize the importance of commercial zones.

You can check out the full details on the official website, the update will be dished out via Origin today (May 23rd).

Analysis: Were EA Right About SimCity? The Evidence Says That They Were!

It’s been two months now since the release of the latest Sim City, and it sure has been an adventure in terms of PR for both consumers and EA alike. Yet two months is a long time in the gaming world and people are quick to move onto the next farce and start yelling at that, forgetting whatever was wrong with Sim City in the first place.

For those of you who don’t know, when Sim City launched it caused a huge uproar from the public, most notably because people who had gone out and bought the game with their hard-earned cash couldn’t play it due to what is believed to be DRM.

EA’s defense was that they didn’t have enough bandwidth on their servers, which prevented people from playing because the game is so inherently dependent on online access for its social features. EA says it’s just like an MMO, it needs the internet to live and breathe as it should, as this way their vision of how the game would operate and it couldn’t do it without the internet. This has been widely debated to be a cover story for DRM, although personally I don’t think it is DRM, but I do believe its a system that acts like DRM, either directly, or indirectly.

Yet with all that fuss, the rage of the consumer seems to have dwindled and what was once a riot has reduced to a dull roar, even EA’s Facebook page is no longer endlessly trolled with hundred of comments about “you should fix you f***ing game” on every status they post.

Yet was it worth it, after all this fuss about DRM, piracy, always online gaming and gamers that can’t play their game due to server issues, has the system settled into place and does it work? Apparently, yes! Or should that be annoyingly yes? I’ll let you decide that one.

A quick search on Google shows that there are seemingly illegal downloads for the new Sim City, but on close inspection, all of them appear to be fake, or a virus disguised as an “offline play” patch. Some players have hacked the game to play offline, but not without draw backs and it seems some extensive re-coding would be required to fully obtain such a system and I doubt EA will rush to do that anytime soon.

Next stop, torrent websites, if you’ve never heard of them, you’ve had your head stuck in a box for the last few years! The Pirate Bay and countless others provide a source for illegal downloads and just about any game you can think of ends up here pretty quickly… except Sim City, or at least not the new one. A quick search of several of the big sites turns up nothing, I did find a few false positives that were already voted as fake, but that’s it, I couldn’t see any legit torrents for this game.

So what ever EA has done, they seem to be fixing it, there are less and less, or maybe even no reports that people can’t play the game anymore and while some may complain it’s not that great a game compared to other Sim City titles, that  isn’t the subject I want to discuss. DRM or no DRM, it doesn’t matter, EA has pretty much stamped out piracy of this game and if I’m honest, I’m not sure if this is a sign of good things to come, or a sign of a dark future for PC gaming.

EA may have been successful in stopping piracy for this game, but that doesn’t mean the game has been successful. The game would likely have done better without the online features or DRM and overall I think this is a scar that will take a long time to heal in gamers hearts, if it ever does heal that is. Stopping piracy is one thing, but it could have more negative side effects than it does positive ones, most likely in the form of end-user feedback, or worse, a drop in sales due to protest.

It’s been suggested that no one has cracked the game yet because no one likes it, and while I’m sure there are plenty of haters out there, ok a LOT of haters, there will be a lot of fans too. I expect that someone somewhere will crack this game soon enough, it will be pirated, but for now, EA’s security is holding, the question is, for how long. Either way, stripping the DRM like features of Sim City is likely too little too late to save this game.

Are you still playing Sim City? Or have you chosen to never play it at all, sound off in the comments section below as I’d love to know how you still feel about the game.

Of course, there is still a cure for those effect by Sim City 2013 and you can find it here.

Sapphire Bundling SimCity With Its 1GB Radeon HD 7790

For those of you who haven’t been paying attention recently there has been something of a “game war” going on between AMD and Nvidia. On the AMD side we have seen them expand their Never Settle Reloaded Bundle to include more games than ever before, in addition to that they also speculated that EA’s Battlefield 4 would be part of the next bundle and AMD bundled EA’s SimCity with select A10 and A8 APUs. On the Nvidia side we saw them bundle $150 of in-game credit for free to play games such as World of Tanks, Hawken and Planetside 2 and bundle Metro Last Light with GTX 660s and above.

Now it appears Sapphire is joining in, arranging deals with EA independently of AMD. Sapphire technology is going to be providing a copy of SimCity with its 1GB HD 7790 that it is dubbing the HD 7790 SimCity Edition graphics card.  This deal is currently a Japan only exclusive, but it may be expanded to other regions depending on its success. We are not 100% certain if the inclusion of SimCity eliminates eligibility of the Never Settle Reloaded bundle but we certainly hope it doesn’t. It is expected that the SimCity edition of the Sapphire 1GB HD 7790 will be only slightly higher priced than the “normal” variant that doesn’t include the SimCity game, although if the Never Settle Reloaded bundle eligibility is removed in place of SimCity then we would surely expect the pricing to be identical.

As far as the graphics card goes, it is based off the Sapphire HD 7790 2GB OC graphics card design except it is missing the backplate, features only 1GB of GDDR5 VRAM and uses stock AMD clock speeds of 1000MHz core and 6GHz effective memory.

Source: PR

SimCity Update 2.0 Coming Monday April 22nd

According to a lot of Gamers SimCity has been desperately in need of quite a few AI and bug fixes and it looks like the development team at Maxis are responding to that. EA and Maxis are launching version 2.0 of the game which promises to bring a huge number of fixes and gameplay changes to SimCity.

Gamers will find access to new cards and helicopters within the game as well as more ways to view relevant data linked to the cities that Gamers have created. In colour blind mode the HUD (Heads Up Display) now colour corrects itself properly.

The list of fixes is huge and we won’t list them all as you can find the full list here. However, some of the notable fixes include school buses no longer get stuck, tourism is no longer random and explainable and the looping issue on public transport has been fixed.

The Maxis team commented about the update:

“we wanted to inform you in advance that we’ll be taking down all servers for a few hours while these changes are being issued. Choosing a time to issue a major Update is never easy, but after looking our peak player time, we’ve concluded 1pm PST is the best window for us to make these improvements.”

The Update 2.0 has been promised since SimCity launched so hopefully this fix will make the game a lot more playable and make Gamers happy.

What are your thoughts on Maxis finally releasing update 2.0 for SimCity?

Source

EA Vows To Improve Relationship With Gamers, Mainly Rhetoric

EA has been having a tough time of late with its public relations after being voted the worst company in America for 2013 by the readers of the consumerists, it lost to the Bank of America by gaining 75% of the votes. EA also experience numerous criticisms and controversies over SimCity’s always on DRM and the just generally poor quality of the game as well as with Dead Space 3 and microtransactions. EA’s COO, Peter Moore, has vowed to strive for a better relationship with EA’s customers and has attempted to dismantle some of the criticisms from EA’s perspective.

“I’ll be the first to admit that we’ve made plenty of mistakes. These include server shut downs too early, games that didn’t meet expectations, missteps on new pricing models and most recently, severely fumbling the launch of SimCity. We owe gamers better performance than this,” Moore said.

EA’s Peter Moore responded to frequent and common criticisms of EA with EA’s story. Although I might warn you in advance, he doesn’t really pledge to fix any of them, just explain why EA are apparently right in what they are doing. Here is what he had to say:

  • On SimCity DRM – “Many continue to claim the Always-On function in SimCity is a DRM scheme. It’s not. People still want to argue about it. We can’t be any clearer – it’s not. Period.”
  • On Origin – “Some claim there’s no room for Origin as a competitor to Steam. 45 million registered users are proving that wrong.”
  • On Microtransactions – “Some people think that free-to-play games and micro-transactions are a pox on gaming. Tens of millions more are playing and loving those games.”
  • On winning worst company in America – “We’ve seen mailing lists that direct people to vote for EA because they disagree with the choice of the cover athlete on Madden NFL. Yes, really…” and “In the past year, we have received thousands of emails and postcards protesting against EA for allowing players to create LGBT characters in our games. This week, we’re seeing posts on conservative web sites urging people to protest our LGBT policy by voting EA the Worst Company in America.”
  • Closing Comment – “Every day, millions of people across globe play and love our games – literally, hundreds of millions more than will vote in this contest. So here’s my response to this poll: We can do better. We will do better. But I am damn proud of this company, the people around the globe who work at EA, the games we create and the people that play them.”

What do you think about EA’s responses? Are they adequate?

I don’t know about you, but to me Peter Moore’s responses are inadequate. This next bit is totally my own opinion but this is how I would respond to Peter Moore’s arguments. Even if always-online with SimCity isn’t a DRM scheme, it is still a nuisance to a lot of gamers and they should offer an offline mode. Even if Origin has millions of users, is that not because EA forces people to have Origin accounts to play premium games like Battlefield 3 and SimCity? Even if 10 million gamers play the games with microtransactions it doesn’t mean they are all happy about it, where’s the proof that those 10 million support microtransactions? Playing the game doesn’t mean you support EA’s microtransactions it means you like the game, everyone that plays SimCity doesn’t support the always-on feature yet they still play it. Winning the worst company in America award has nothing to do with petty criticisms, thousands of other gaming publishers have had blunders and petty criticisms from consumers but they didn’t even get close to winning worst company in America. The reason why EA has won it is because it creates minor blunders in abundance, hundreds of them every year and then it refuses to listen to consumer feedback and fix them, these all add up. It may just be small things adding up, but EA’s general disinterested attitude to consumers has caused them problems time and time again.

Source

AMD To Bundle SimCity With Select A10 and A8 APUs From April 18th

AMD’s Never Settle and Never Settle Reloaded gaming bundle deals have been incredibly successful, helping increase the value for money consumers get when purchasing select AMD products. AMD knows it has been successful and is looking to extend this type of bundle deal to its FM2 “Trinity” APUs.

According to the details on the slide, which have been confirmed by AMD as true, the latest bundle will allow buyers of eligible AMD A8 and A10 series processors to get a free origin game download code for SimCity. We think the eligible models will be the A10-5800K and A8-5600K only, but this is yet to be confirmed.

What is confirmed is that these bundles will be made officially available by AMD from April the 18th. There is no confirmation on which regions will get the deal but it should most definitely be available to the United Kingdom, the USA, Canada and most of Europe.

Whether you agree with SimCity’s $59.99 price-tag or not, this game certainly adds some extra value to these AMD APUs. The performance available to APU users in SimCity also looks pretty snappy and as you can see the (£80) A8-5600K offers better performance than the (£110) Intel Core i3 3225 in SimCity, and better performance than the (£110) i3 3225 with a (£45) Nvidia GT 620. This is thanks to the integrated graphics on these new AMD APUs being much better than Intel HD Graphics and most low-end video cards.

What do you think of AMD offering SimCity with these APUs? Will this encourage you to jump onboard with the AMD FM2 APU platform?

Source

EA Has Finally Accepted What Many Gamers Have Been Saying

Looks like the SimCity series of unfortunate events was just what the doctor ordered for EA to finally acknowledge the point that many industry experts, reviewers and journalists & gamers have been saying for a very long time: DRM = VERY BAD!

EA spoke to GamesIndustry International at GSX, where the president of Electronic Arts Frank Gibeau said,”DRM is a failed dead-end strategy; it’s not a viable strategy for the gaming business. So what we tried to do creatively is build an online service in the SimCity universe and that’s what we sought to achieve. For the folks who have conspiracy theories about evil suits at EA forcing DRM down the throats of Maxis, that’s not the case at all.”

Mr. Gibeau made it very clear that DRM is simply not an option for publishers as a business model anymore, he also adds that EA probably should do a better job when it comes to interacting with the community, but also added that in regards to SimCity’s policy of an always-online gameplay, gamers need to understand the nature of MMO and its need to be always connected.

He added,”That’s not the reality; I was involved in all the meetings. DRM was never even brought up once. You don’t build an MMO because you’re thinking of DRM – you’re building a massively multiplayer experience, that’s what you’re building.”

To defend himself, he said that they weren’t the only ones who had issues with servers and online gameplay experience and pointed out that companies like Activision Blizzard, Steam and Ubisoft had their own share at some point.

While its nice to see that EA’s president has finally acknowledged that DRM simply makes things worse, one will have to see when will EA translate this acknowledgement into reality in their near-future titles.

Source: Games Industry

EA Sells 1.1 million SimCity Copies Despite Server Issues

For those of you who have been living under a rock recently, there has been a lot of action going on with regards to EA:

As you can see for the most part the news of SimCity has been inherently negative with either EA being involved in controversy, or responding to criticism. So on the face of things you might think that SimCity has suffered in all of this? Well no, as it seems quite the opposite has happened. SimCity has sold over 1.1 million copies in the first 2 weeks of its release.

EA has stated that the sales figures make this the biggest SimCity launch of all time. Interestingly, 54% of all sales have been digital downloads via Origin or other digital download services.

“SimCity had a great weekend with sales strong across both North America and Europe, adding to overwhelming demand at launch that has us tracking well beyond expectations for the game,” said Peter Moore, chief operating officer for EA. “SimCity is one of the storied brands in gaming, and Maxis delivered a game re-envisioned and engineered for the online age.”

All these gamers playing SimCity, and forced to use the Origin service as a result, have helped set new records for peak concurrent users on Origin – currently at 1.3 million and rising. In the two weeks SimCity players have managed 15 million hours of online gameplay, 5.7 million cities and 780 million buildings with enough road and railway tracks constructed to circle the globe more than 40,000 times – all very impressive stuff.

Since the initial server troubles Maxis has increased server capacity by more than 400% improving response times by a similar amount. Players can have up to 16 cities at once so the expectation is that servers will need to continue to grow at a much faster rate than the game sale rate.

On a slightly off-topic note, if all the doom-and-gloom of the past few weeks around SimCity has got you down, then be sure to reminisce with our just-published review of the classic SimCity 4 game.

Source

Sim City 4 Deluxe Edition PC Review

There have been so many debates recently over the issues with the new Sim City title. The issues with the game have been so wide spread, so highly publicised, and a combination of being blown out of proportion thanks to social media and not been taken seriously enough by some of the PR folks at EA have caused the issue to turn viral, making for one of the worst gaming product launches of the entire generation. We’ll I personally haven’t lifted my wallet to purchase the new Sim City and for good reason too, why would I buy a product that may not work, when in my mind it could never be better than its predecessor.

When Sim City 4 launched in 2003 it was a breath of fresh air, its relatively advanced graphics were praised given that it used a 3D rendering engine for the bulk of its graphics, a far cry from the more isometric sprite based system used in the earlier titles, not that there is anything wrong with isometric sprints of course. Ten years ago the games graphics and calculations were quite the taxing effort for CPU / GPU combinations of the time, it could also be that the game isn’t the best optimised either and overall the game just wasn’t easy to get running smoothly on more decent system of the time. Fast forward today however and even a low spec system will rip through the rendering options on Sim City 4 with ease, it may have 10 years on its clock but Sim City 4 is far from being an ugly looking game thanks to its hidden support for custom resolutions.

Music is a little more old school, and while many of you may enjoy the classic chimes of the Sim City I find that are capable of inducing a gaming coma after an hour or so. Fortunately there are options to customise the playlist, or just turn the music off all together. Personally I just prefer to keep it off and enjoy the sounds of the city.

I shouldn’t need to explain the gameplay to the bulk of you, this is one of the purest and true to form city building titles ever made. With no complications of online functionality, social networking or anything else to get in your way, Sim City 4 is about starting a new, laying the foundations of your City and building your way to success over the generations. Of course, its nowhere near as easy as just laying a few blocks and watching your sims develop into a clean and organised society.

Sim City 4 strikes a strong balance of managing the extremely large and the extremely small aspects of your city, every item you place has an initial layout cost, as well as a monthly maintenance cost, not to mention a long list of benefits and/or side effects toward the well being of your city. It offers a level of challenge you rarely find in games these days, and while it may take you a few cities turning to hell before your eyes before you learn the ropes, its worth the effort as the rewards can be great. It’s generally regarded as the hardest game in the Sim City series, but to me its the most enjoyable too and its easy to find your self lost for hour after hour as you turn the smallest farm town into a bustling mega city.

Now that the game has been on the market for quite some time, there is a robust network of third party content for the game to be explored that opens up a whole number of possibilities within the game its self. software such as Lot Editor, Network Addon Mod, Building Architect Tool is just a few of the mod tools available and a quick google throws up sites where you can download new buildings, landmarks, maps based on real cities, or even fake ones such as Tamriel. Add extensively more advanced and easy to use road building systems, fix bugs that EA missed and even improvements for modern quad-core systems.

Its certainly a game that has gotten better with age, not just because of the mods, but also the community that is behind those mods and its a community that is still building and releasing content for the title even after ten years. Modern PC’s also do a much better job of running the game than they did 10 years ago, obviously.

Yet my favorite thing about revisiting this title is a reminder of how cans can be, it really wasn’t all that long ago that we had a more pure gaming experience. There are no Facebook or Twitter features, no microtransactions, in game currency exchanges, if you buy the retail edition it doesn’t require a 3rd party launcher app (Origin, Steam etc), it doesn’t require online activations and doesn’t feature always on DRM, the list goes on. What you do have is the game and that’s all that really matters its all you really need and once you get a few hours into the game and realise that none of these things are there to distract you, then it just makes it all the more enjoyable.

Its also quite the bargain these days too and a retail edition of Sim City 4 can be bought from many major online retailers for under £6 / $10 and given the wealth of content that the game its self offers, plus the free mods and easily obtainable extra content its one of the best deals in gaming.

I think I’ve hit on a perfect antidote, the cure, and the thing that will make all your Sim City misery go away, its called Sim City 4, and to my mind, its one of the greatest management titles ever made. If you’ve never played a Sim City game before, this is a great place to start and if your having troubles with the latest Sim City title, why not revisit its predecessor and find out why people were so excited in the first place.

Maxis General Manager says Online Nature of SimCity is Fundamental to the Game

The need for a constant internet connection to play the new SimCity has been criticised by many to the extent where some people have even developed mods that allow you to play it offline. However, Maxis and EA have rebuked all the criticisms by saying that the Online Nature of SimCity is fundamental to the game and the vision they had for the game.

Maxis’s General Manager, Lucy Bradshaw, claimed that the “always-on” nature of the game was not added because of pressure from Corporate EA, it was added because it is part of what Maxis wanted the experience to be like and because SimCity needs to “catch up with ever-improving technology”. Lucy Bradshaw claims there are no secret clandestine plans to try and control players actions and that the Online component is meant to enhance the gameplay experience – not stifle it in any way. She goes as far as claiming that with SimCity she believes that Maxis have actually created an MMO. Offline mode was a possibility that Maxis rejected because it didn’t fit in with their vision of what the game should be like.

Lucy Bradshaw’s argument is quite convincing but it neglects to answer many other critcisms. Maxis and EA have both pulled away from the “online connectivity is necessary for the game to run properly” because the offline mod showed that this simply wasn’t the case and in essence EA and Maxis were lying about this particular aspect of the game. They have also left themselves open to immense amounts of criticisms as no doubt people will attack the “online experience” statements with “is server downtime and waiting in a queue for hours part of this wonderful online experience?” Maxis also haven’t answered any questions about the nature of the DRM, continuing to dodge those questions despite pressure from fans.

You can read the full statement/blog post by Maxis’ General Manager, Lucy Bradshaw, here.

Is constantly connected gaming the way of the future? Are Maxis and EA right to not give in to pressure to develop an Offline mode? Let us know what you think! I don’t know about you but this video really summarises what I think about a lot of video game publishers and producers at the moment:

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=e-LE0ycgkBQ[/youtube]

Source

 

A SimCity Mod by UKAzzer allows Offline Playability

Since its launch SimCity has been plagued by server downtime, always-on DRM and controversy over EA banning people who have tried to claim refunds through PayPal and their banks.Currently, it can be seen that the situation has improved a lot since launch day but things are still far from perfect and improvements are coming into place very slowly. As far as refunds go, people are still having trouble and people are still being banned – EA’s accountability has been horrific at best.

During this entire time a LOT of people have been unhappy with the way EA have organised the SimCity DRM system. This includes gamers, modders, hackers and many other people with an interest in the SimCity game. However, the first successful attempt to make SimCity playable offline came not from a Torrent hacker but from a modder known as UKAzzer. The mod he has created essentially provides a workaround that effectively removes the always on DRM controls.

What the mod does is it fixes connection issues by removing the game’s disconnect timer. Previously, you were able to rack up about 20 minutes of offline gameplay before the game would stop and require reconnection. However, now you are able to play indefinitely. Although, there is one major and significant drawback which is that if you want to save your game you need to be online to do so.

UKAzzer also modded a few more things making highway editing outside your city possible and changing the population count to more accurately reflect how many people are living in the city. UKAzzer provided a video of his achievements which you can see below. What we all want to know is how will EA respond? Will they block this particular mod? Will they patch some of his changes in? Will they offer an offline mod? Or will they just continue with the status quo? Let us know what you think.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Bmce9oIxJag[/youtube]

Source

Angry employee’s open letter to EA over SimCity’s series of server bloopers

EA recently put up an apology for problems that many players are facing in SimCity so far, saying that the only reason this is happening is because a lot more people logged in than they initially expected in comparison during BETA, admitting that its a mistake from their end. To dull the pain, EA is offering its SimCity players a free PC downloadable game within EA’ stable. These games will be available to be downloaded on March 18th as they’ll send an email to its players giving them instructions on how to redeem their free game.

But recently, an EA employee with username “DissappointedEA” has expressed his anger via an open letter towards EA management in Reddit, which is now being deleted. Forbes and some redditors who claim to be working for EA as well were able to confirm that the person who posted the open letter is an artist at EARS as he provided an email from EA Executive Vice President and Chief Talent Office Gabrielle Toledano to address about International Women’s day.

The employee mentioned in the open letter that EA should have patched the game to allow offline play and accuses the company that it lacks integrity, shrugs off accountability and brought down itself as an anti consumer, all of which goes against EA’s own official list of company values mentioned under their “About Us” site.


This is the copy of the now-deleted open letter:

“To the executives at EA, from one of your employees

I am deeply embarrassed by the troubled launch of Sim City and I hope you are too. When I walk around our campus and look at the kind of talent we’ve collected, the amenities we have access to and the opportunities working at such a big company affords us, I can’t imagine how for release after release, EA continues to make the same embarrassing, anti-consumer mistakes. We should be better than this. You should not be failing us so badly.

Another thing I see when I walk around our campus are massive banners that display what are said to be our company values. They are on posters on every floor, included in company-wide emails and hanging above the cafeteria in bright colors. You even print them on our coffee mugs so we see them every day. But somehow when planning the launch of Sim City, you threw them all out the window.
Most important of the values you are ignoring is Think Consumers First. What part of the Sim City DRM scheme, which has rendered the game unplayable for hundreds of thousands of fans across the globe, demonstrates that you are thinking about consumers before you are thinking about yourselves? Does “first” mean something different in boardrooms than it does to the rest of us? Does the meaning of that word change when you get the word “executive” in front of your title?

You can’t even pretend that you didn’t know consumers would be angry about this. Common sense aside, consumers complained about this during your public betas. In fact, when one of them posted his criticisms on the forums, he was banned! You tried to silence your critics. The same thing is happening now as users write in to demand refunds. What part of this behavior aligns with our company value to Be Accountable?

What you’ve demonstrated with this launch is that our corporate management does not believe in our core values. They are for the unwashed masses, not for the important people who forced this anti-consumer DRM onto the Sim City team. This DRM scheme is not about the consumers or even about piracy. It’s about covering your own asses. It allows you to hand-wave weak sales or bad reviews and blame outside factors like pirates or server failures in the event the game struggles. You are protecting your own jobs at the expense of consumers. I think this violates the Act With Integrity value I’m looking at on my own coffee mug right now.

On behalf of your other employees, I’d like to ask you to fix this. Allow the Sim City team to patch the game to run offline. If Create Quality and Innovation is still a core value that you believe in, then this shouldn’t be a hard decision. Games that gamers can’t play because of server overload or ISP issues are NOT quality. Be Bold by giving the consumers what they want and take accountability for the mistake.
Finally I’d like to ask you to follow the last company value on the list in the future: Learn and Grow. When you made this mistake with Spore, the company and all your employees suffered for it. You didn’t learn from that mistake and you are making it again with Sim City.

So please, learn from this debacle. Don’t do this again. Grow into better leaders and actually apply our company values when you make decisions. Don’t just use them as tools to motivate your staff. With the money, talent and intellectual property available to EA, we should be leading the industry into a golden age of consumer-focused game publishing. Instead we’re the most reviled game publisher in the world. That’s your fault. Things can only change if you actually start following the company values and apply them to every title we launch.

Sincerely,
A Disappointed But Hopeful Artist at EARS”


Possibility exists that this employee won’t be nameless for a long, considering that both EA management and the internet would love to track down and identify him. However, it goes without saying that EA will have to brace themselves for another epic PR nightmare if they are successful to find the identity of this employee and fired him/her.

In any case, hopefully this disaster will teach EA or any publishers on how not to release a game.

Amazon returns money after SimCity dissatisfaction to a player while EA still being stubborn

Electronics Arts are still struggling with SimCity features and servers days after the North American launch, and any form of reassurance to customers just isn’t working. To make things worse, gamers who purchased the game via Origin are having a tough time with EA and their return policy.

Many gamers are complaining about SimCity server issues which vary between access problems and restricted in-game features, ever since the North American launch. Still, EA stated that it will still not alter its digital refund policy, leaving the gamers in question in a state of complete dissatisfaction.

“In general we do not offer refunds on digital download games.” Said EA via Twitter where it directed its followed to the company’s returns and cancellation policy page.

There was also a case when one irate customer posted a screenshot of his interaction with EA support, where they threatened to ban his Origin account if he called the bank and stop the pending transaction since EA wasn’t willing to refund his money, (because screw your rights as a consumer?!? – Pete)

EA still continues to apologize for its ongoing multiple server issues. However, the company made a new spin as Senior Producer Kip Katsarelis said in a forum message,”what we saw was that players were having such a good time they didn’t want to leave the game, which kept our servers packed and made it difficult for new players to join” and continued, saying that their number one priority was to bring stability in their servers.

There was an issue which happened in EA Korea’s Facebook page since the page manager said that there were no local Asian servers for the game as there is a lot of piracy in Asia, so it would be difficult for the time being.

But then one of the players who bought the game via Amazon, Alex Gladd, said that the online retail store would be giving the refund. He contacted the company via their “Contact us” page and expressed his anger. Amazon gave a reply,’as a standard policy, Games, Game Items, and Software Downloads are not returnable after purchase. However, because of the circumstances, I’ve made an exception and issued a refund in the amount of $54.99 [not including $5 refunded for a previously screwed up pre-order].’

Its still not clear if Amazon would be returning the money to other people who have bought from them. But as of now, EA has stopped selling the digital edition of SimCity.

Via: Ars Technica