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Talroth

This is the future of video games? No wonder I've been buying so many board games lately.

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I will admit that I'm very disappointed in myself. I wasn't going to do it, but then I saw a few guys in my office doing it, so I decided I would join them.

 

I purchased the new SimCity game.

 

Things were a tad slow in the office today, so I managed to take off early to get a few things done, and this left me with free time. In theory this also meant that I would have a chance to explore the gameplay and design aspects of the latest SimCity. Bought it, got it installed in the afternoon, and sat down to play a bit. Co-workers warned me to set up on European servers as the US ones were hammered, followed their advice, and then half an hour later I was getting errors about having lost contact with the servers.

 

No big deal right? This is still technically a single player game, I'm not interacting with any other players, so clearly not having contact with the server isn't a huge deal. I'll miss out on a few easy achievements maybe? It isn't kicking me off and has been flashing that message for awhile, so obviously everything is fine... Wait, I was eventually kicked off.

 

So I take a break for supper, come back, and now I can't log in because the servers are down for maintenance, and their ETA on coming back up is <parameter string>. Great, so not only can the servers go down for an unknown length of time, but the people behind them are sloppy enough that I can see internal strings that I'm not suppose to.

 

 

And this is the trend developers are pushing for? To piss me off enough that I declare to hell with their product, and have called up a friend to see if she and her roommate wants to play Carcassonne The City with me?

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(Full disclosure -- I happen to currently work at EA, but on a completely unrelated project.)


They've been having server problems. It is still launch day after all. blink.png

The game's forums they've been talking about two specific sets of issues:


First there were some rolling connectivity issues as the servers are updated with the patches. This started about three hours ago and should be done by now.

Second there are some rather common crashes in the game that can be resolved by video driver updates. Updating the drivers makes the crashes go away in almost every case. Make sure yours are current.


I played two of the betas and it was great. I also played it several hours last night without issue.

There is no single player mode that I could find. The game is entirely "multiplayer", although that doesn't quite describe it. Your city lives in a world with a bunch of others, I think it is 4-16 depending on the map. People in neighboring cities can sell you power and water and sewage space and recycling/junkyard space. Also people in neighboring cities can have their sims commute to your city for work, or yours can commute to other cities for vacationing/gambling, and so on. Also every player is somehow supposed to help build certain regional items, like a regional airport or a regional tourist trap. I haven't seen any of those complete yet.



As for it being the future of games, sadly the answer is yes, for major games.

For the projects I've worked on and the stats I have seen piracy is normally 90% to 95% for major titles. I have watched as my own work hit a 93% piracy rate on our server telemetry. Always-online requirements and SaaS are one of the best ways to combat piracy. For some reason people don't complain about it any more with Valve -- I've never been able to get Steam to allow me to play offline for any game. A few seconds on Google will find many complaints when Steam was introduced about its always-on requirements. Edited by frob
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Why is launch day an excuse? Weren't they testing the servers beforehand? Couldn't they do a progressive roll-out to make sure they had enough capacity? Couldn't they... not make a single-player game require a permanent connection to the internet in order to work? (Shocking idea, I know.)
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They've been having server problems. It is still launch day after all. blink.png

Which is all well and good but this isn't a purely online game and while online is part of the experience the fact that you can set a region to 'private' implies single play is possible which brings up the question of why do you have to be connected to a server?

More to the point why does the game depend on the server when they clearly haven't setup enough resources to handle the demand? It's bad enough when an MMO does it but when a game which you CAN play on your own requires it and doesn't have the resources... seriously, what the hell?

The fact the people have been liking this to an MMO launch (wut?) and have been busy defending EA over it just shows they can and will get away with this.. I just hope everyone remembers their defence when a single player game requires a server connection and they can't play it because it needs to be online and because of the costs involved the publisher hasn't brought up enough hardware to deal with the demand.

As I said in my journal about this I'm willing to bet a sizable chunk of the EA apologists have also complained about the prospect of the next consoles requiring an always-on connection to play games...

Seriously, when people are saying 'wait a week for the demand to go down...' to justify things then something has gone VERY wrong somewhere.

On the upside it just means EA won't be getting yet more money off me (BF3, Deadspace 3, SimCiy to name but 3 games) as between the over pricing on Origin ('we are doing it for competition!'), their inability to learn from Valve (no pre-load, and apparently for this game the 'pre-load' is only part of it and it patches up several gigs once you launch!) and stupidity like this means I have no desire for this game either and it just makes me less likely to buy things in future.

The annoying thing is that when this all crashes and burns it won't be the people making these big calls that suffer, it'll be yet another studio being shuttered and people just trying to do a good job out on their ear... *sigh*

On the plus side the new Tomb Raider has been getting some good reviews so I think I'll pick that up next week instead... Edited by phantom
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Yeah, I've lost count of the number of games that have shit me to tears on their launch day now.

 

Even going back as far as Half-Life 2 -- I bought the retail 5-CD copy, and it still took 5 hours to install thanks to Steam being hammered....

 

It's sad that this is the norm.

 

Oh, and all of Oceania apparently only has one Sim City server... balls.

 

Why is launch day an excuse?

I spoke to the people behind Battlefield 3's master server, and they seemed very proud of the fact that they didn't have any launch capacity issues, due to... you know... actually testing their software!

They wrote a fake user client that they could run from the Amazon cloud, so they could simulate the actual load caused by a thousand, a hundred thousand, a million users, all the way through development and find all the weak links. They'd also set themselves up so they could scale up or down capacity almost instantly.

 

You'd think giants like EA (who bought these people recently) and Acti-lizzard would be able to handle this...

Edited by Hodgman
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^ I agree with everyone except frob. And seriously OP, you didn't knew the new SimCity would require an always on connection and its a pure (more or less) multiplayer game?

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Even going back as far as Half-Life 2 -- I bought the retail 5-CD copy, and it still took 5 hours to install thanks to Steam being hammered....

Half-Life 2, while no less annoying I'm sure (I wouldn't know, I'm like one of 12 gamers in the world who don't like the HL series it seems biggrin.png), does get a semi-pass as it was 8 years ago and this kind of activation was very new.

The fact that 8 years on this is still happening however is laughable - heck if Valve released HL3 tomorrow and it had the same problems I'd be laying into them too... (as I'm apparently one of about 6 gamers in the world who doesn't think they are perfect and that the large ball of yellow in the sky shines out of their rear areas... ;))
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^ I agree with everyone except frob. And seriously OP, you didn't knew the new SimCity would require an always on connection and its a pure (more or less) multiplayer game?

 

I didn't know. In all the history of SimCity has it ever been online-always and mulitplayer? I mean sure it's a feature, but I'm surprised that the game itself is a MMO. WTH? It's always been a single-player experience. I don't think I'd rag on someone for assuming the thing.

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For some reason people don't complain about it any more with Valve -- I've never been able to get Steam to allow me to play offline for any game. A few seconds on Google will find many complaints when Steam was introduced about its always-on requirements.

I think people do complain about it, mostly those in internet poor countries, but the difference is that when a big game releases on Steam you have generally a) been able to pre-load 99% of the content already and b) don't end up with hours waiting to 'sign in' to get at the game itself.

Mix in crashes and no local saves (so if the remote server is down there is no way to save nor get at your saves!) and is it any surprise this is a problem?

The expectation is that when you PRE-ORDER a game that when that game goes live you can play, not sit in a queue for hours waiting to get on (anecdotal but I did read of someone who played for a bit, had to quit, came back a few minutes later and was greeted with 'servers are full; your wait time is X' where X was a few hundred minutes!).

If you want to make your game depend on servers then fine but you'd better test the shit out of it and not leave people hanging or that game will get panned and future sales of games by other teams! are likely to get hurt as well.

As noted I've already got issues with EA's software delivery system but releases like this just sour me even further. Why do I want to give them my cash when there is a good chance I won't be able to play the game? I'm sorry but if you want to charge me £45 for a game (most Steam game retail between £29.99 and £39.99, so that already puts your 'limited' (aka 'standard') edition over the odds price wise) then I'd better be able to get on from Day 1 - anything else is frankly inexcusable.

(I've done with with an MMO as well; pre-ordered Aion, played beta, game was released, couldn't get on AT ALL for 2 days, cancelled subscription right away and never went back to it.)
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Couldn't they... not make a single-player game require a permanent connection to the internet in order to work? (Shocking idea, I know.)

Yeah, GOG thought the same XD (c'mon, guys!)

 

The fact that 8 years on this is still happening however is laughable - heck if Valve released HL3 tomorrow and it had the same problems I'd be laying into them too...

I have the feeling that the day Half-Life 3 comes out it won't be just Valve's servers that will be severely hammered, but the ISPs' too...

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I didn't know. In all the history of SimCity has it ever been online-always and mulitplayer? I mean sure it's a feature, but I'm surprised that the game itself is a MMO. WTH? It's always been a single-player experience. I don't think I'd rag on someone for assuming the thing.

To be fair the 'always online' thing has been reasonably widely put about (the SimCity team did an AMA on reddit which basically became a 'wtf always online?' steam) and complained about for some months now and with this release it seems the complaints are justified somewhat...
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I didn't know. In all the history of SimCity has it ever been online-always and mulitplayer? I mean sure it's a feature, but I'm surprised that the game itself is a MMO. WTH? It's always been a single-player experience. I don't think I'd rag on someone for assuming the thing.

To be fair the 'always online' thing has been reasonably widely put about (the SimCity team did an AMA on reddit which basically became a 'wtf always online?' steam) and complained about for some months now and with this release it seems the complaints are justified somewhat...

That's my point pretty much. It think it was known since its announcement that it would require an always-on internet connection.

 


Couldn't they... not make a single-player game require a permanent connection to the internet in order to work? (Shocking idea, I know.)

Yeah, GOG thought the same XD (c'mon, guys!)

lol, nice.
Edited by TheChubu
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Just marketing departments relentlessly trying to solve the wrong problems, as usual. DRM cannot. be. resolved. in. this. way. While physical objects are difficult to replicate, information can be efficiently copied with perfect accuracy. It is not possible to apply the same copyright methods to those vastly different forms of media. Every popular game that has come out equipped with some form of DRM has been stripped clean by various organisations with very little effort. Every single one of them. Is this because the developers suck? No, it's because their approach is fundamentally flawed and cannot succeed. It's time to stop making token efforts which do more harm than good, and actually try and be intelligent and adapt to the digital world, instead of struggling to bend that same world to our corporate will and ideals.

 

/sigh

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People whine and complain about games that pull this kind of thing, and yet people still buy those offending games. Look at Diablo 3. Hideous launch problems, constant whining about how this is an abomination that must be ended... and yet one of the largest single-day sales records ever. Really? I mean, not to trot out the dead old D3 horse again, but this SimCity thing is the same exact thing, the same exact user abuse. And yet, people still bought it. As long as people continue to buy this shit, they are going to continue to stuff it down our throats. We're rewarding bad behavior. And yes, I'm guilty. I did buy D3, even against my better judgement. That was the last AAA game I've bought, and that will probably be the last game I ever buy from a AAA publisher. I just won't reward this stupid crap any more. Despite the fact I own the previous SimCity games, and despite the fact that I enjoyed the hell out of them, EA (and Actiblizz, and Ubisoft, and every other asshole company that wants to treat me like a criminal and disallow me from playing games I purchased) won't get any more of my money. I'm done with it, I'm done with them.

/soapbox
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@Bacterius -- arguably that's why they decided to make a multiplayer game rather than a single-player game. Cracking the MP part requires fooling the online authentication, which can be practically impossible (when was the last time someone cracked your online bank account?)

To be fair the 'always online' thing has been reasonably widely put about

And when I saw the box on the shelf at EB Games, it had a huge sticker on the front warning about this.

People whine and complain about games that pull this kind of thing, and yet people still buy those offending games. Look at Diablo 3. Hideous launch problems, constant whining about how this is an abomination that must be ended... and yet one of the largest single-day sales records ever. Really?

Aren't the follow-up sales more applicable than the first-day sales?
The people who bought it on the first day are the people who suffered through the problems after they'd put down their money.

If they had the ability to play for the first week free and then pay, then the "first day sales" would probably look pretty different (especially as D3 isn't a very good game after playing it for a week...tongue.png ) Edited by Hodgman
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I've not even played, let alone bought, an EA game since FIFA '95 was far far worse than the original FIFA soccer ;) Slow, and nearly every game ended up 1-0 or 0-0. And the graphics were like, exactly the same... Yay, I could play as Everton. but they were rubbish compared to everyone else in the game since it was based on 1994 season (although we did win the FA cup beating Manchester United in 1995 of course - Paul Rideout goal...).. And no Big Dunc special headbutt move :(

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I've built 2 cities. I'm not super fussed. Much more fun than any other sim city I've played so far; even with constant crashes and disconnects. If they continue into next week I'll probably start being upset, but seeing the progress from yesterday to today I'm not that worried.

 

That said, I'm totally fine with the cloud. It would be nice to have an offline option, but really other than when I'm flying I don't run into situations where I'm without internet and when servers go down I have a backlog of games to play. Understandably that's not everybody.

 

I will say on the other side of the coin, no cloud saves in The Walking Dead is the reason I only made it half way through the last chapter and still haven't beaten it. It's easy to decry the inconvenience of always on internet connection when you ignore how convenient it is 90% of the time. If you don't pirate games and have access to internet it's really a much less obtrusive drm scheme than most of the others I've seen.

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@Bacterius -- arguably that's why they decided to make a multiplayer game rather than a single-player game. Cracking the MP part requires fooling the online authentication, which can be practically impossible (when was the last time someone cracked your online bank account?)

 

Of course, I'm talking about games with a significant single-player component which force you to be online "for authentication purposes" (e.g. "I want to check if you are playing this single-player game legally"). Multiplayer games obviously require you to be online while playing. Though this rush towards "you must have/purchase an account to play" is not always warranted, people care so much about stats, they've apparently forgotten what it means to have fun, and, really, so have I, to some extent, after so much bullcrap. I know money has to come from somewhere, but.. come on, this is getting stupid. I know this is old, but does nobody remember playing UT99 with their friends? Did we want to deal with this crap at the time? Do we want to now? We play games to escape reality and enjoy ourselves alone or in groups (or with strangers), not to be presented with endless error messages of "this cd key has already been used", "your account has been banned", "the servers are down", "we have detected your authentication key is invalid", "your password has been reset", and so on..

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I'm fine with connect once to launch the single player game but if you always have to be online after launching it that sounds even worse than the FIFA 95 travesty...

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And yet, people still bought it.


This is the part that makes me a bit sad. Why would they spend the money needed to make for a smooth launch when it doesn't matter? - people will still buy. There will be some bad press, a lot of grumbling etc., but does that really impact buying habits for the next game?

I don't know, but I do know that my buying habits have changed in the last couple years. I personally very rarely buy AAA games anymore, and when I do I make sure to pass on games with even a hint of these types of shenanigans.

Which is a shame, since I would have gladly plopped down money for SC, D3 and many other recent titles.
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As for it being the future of games, sadly the answer is yes, for major games.For the projects I've worked on and the stats I have seen piracy is normally 90% to 95% for major titles. I have watched as my own work hit a 93% piracy rate on our server telemetry. Always-online requirements and SaaS are one of the best ways to combat piracy. For some reason people don't complain about it any more with Valve

Because Steam(mostly) does it right. I don't really mind DRM per se, I just hate crappy, bugged out DRM. Which is to say %95 of DRM. I don't consider Steam to be more inconvenient than "please insert disc to play". If most DRM looked like Steam, I don't think there would be a lot of hate for it.
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^ I agree with everyone except frob. And seriously OP, you didn't knew the new SimCity would require an always on connection and its a pure (more or less) multiplayer game?

 

I have a full time job, and generally don't spend hours and hours pouring over news sites and watching every last scrap of information pouring in on development of many games. Sure, I knew it was a highly social centred game, and was heavily focused on the online aspect, but it isn't like any of the devs were screaming:

 

"Yeah, and if the servers go down, you're totally boned and have zero access to any element of the game... And they're going to go down a lot."

 

 

I test games professionally as a near-shore contractor, and have dealt with dozens of games with highly social focused designs. Generally every game that comes across my desk with a "Single player Social" design aspect (Where game play is primarily single player, but with general social interaction as more of a meta-game) has a very simple design of when the network dies you carry on with your single player experience, and feel only slightly cut off from the rest of the game play.

 

When we find a game that utterly fails and craps itself when it can't see the server, we log that as a bug "User is unable to play game".

 

 

There is really [i]Nothing[/i] in the game play design that would limit a user from working primarily offline. Worse, with their cloud only save they have this fun aspect where the game will happily [i]Over Write Your stuff![/i] Got back on awhile ago to find that part of what I had been doing when it was giving me 'warnings' of not being able to see the server was gone. "No great loss, I changed my mind and don't actually want to expand my city like that" was my thought when I saw the problem. Played some more, rebuilt the expansion in a more sensible manner, switched to another city in the region and returned to my first one: Oh look, that crappy expansion I decided I didn't want, and built better version of? Yeah, that one is back, and all my far better expansion has now disappeared.

 

 

Bugs and flaws like that are the kind of stuff I expect a first week newbie at a testing house to spot and point out.

 

 

(But in general, I'm less than impressed with the city building in this newest edition. Their curved street planning is wonderful, but they've horribly botched it by apparently sticking with rectangular lots, while making zone design even less informative about expansion and growth than previous titles. Where is the setting to view entire lot sizes so I have half an idea of how things are growing? I was playing heavily with circles and arcs, only to find out later that the high density stuff won't actually expand inside the huge circular road sections because their rectangular footprints would overlap and they block each other instead of fudging area with flexible building foundations)

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People whine and complain about games that pull this kind of thing, and yet people still buy those offending games. Look at Diablo 3. Hideous launch problems, constant whining about how this is an abomination that must be ended... and yet one of the largest single-day sales records ever. Really? I mean, not to trot out the dead old D3 horse again, but this SimCity thing is the same exact thing, the same exact user abuse. And yet, people still bought it. As long as people continue to buy this shit, they are going to continue to stuff it down our throats. We're rewarding bad behavior. And yes, I'm guilty. I did buy D3, even against my better judgement. That was the last AAA game I've bought, and that will probably be the last game I ever buy from a AAA publisher. I just won't reward this stupid crap any more. Despite the fact I own the previous SimCity games, and despite the fact that I enjoyed the hell out of them, EA (and Actiblizz, and Ubisoft, and every other asshole company that wants to treat me like a criminal and disallow me from playing games I purchased) won't get any more of my money. I'm done with it, I'm done with them.

/soapbox

 

I didn't play diablo 3 on launch day, but I did find the whole launch process to be absolutely hilarious. You would think a company that runs one of the largest MMOs in the world could LAUNCH a game without massive issues. Guess not.

 

I did buy and play Diablo 3, I was very disappointed in the product. It was not a game that I found enjoyable. It is no longer installed, and after hitting max level, I didn't even bother with the top level difficulty because the idea of running through the EXACT same maps repeatedly offered me none of the replay that Diablo 2 still has. Nor did the itemization offer any sort of variation, due to the limited stats and applicability of runes, etc.

 

Meanwhile Diablo 2 is still installed smile.png

 

I'm not a Sim CIty person, I have Sim City 2000 somewhere around here, but it was not a game I enjoyed much, just not my kind of a game. Nonetheless, the idea that it would be an ONLINE "MMO" style game is actually quite startling.

 

Another prime example of horrible online issues: Splinter Cell. A game whose single player requires a constant online connection to Ubisoft's servers. Its great fun to lose a bunch of progress simply because someone at Ubi decided to reboot the server you're connected to and thus get booted out of your single player game.

 

Speaking of Steam:

While I'm not a huge fan of steam they have managed to CONSISTENTLY avoid these same issues that are being experienced right now by people. Borderlands 2? No issues at all playing it on launch day. Nor any of the other games I've bought through steam, with the exception of some of the early ones, like HL2.

 

So how does steam manage it? Here's a hint: Look at the URLs in your network snooper sometime. You might be surprised to know that they use the amazon cloud to scale automatically. Instead of, you know, having a bunch of servers at a data center somewhere.

 

So is this trend going to end? No. If anything it will become more common. My only HOPE is that these companies... EA, Activision, etc. will hire some people who actually know what the hell they're doing (with relation to cloud/scalability) and not do the typical game developer thing of rediscovering the same ideas the rest of the software industry figured out decades prior.

Edited by Washu
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Trying to get a refund on my online purchase... their game info page says it runs on a Mac, however after I purchased and installed Origin, it said Windows only. I'll stick to Steam / Humble Indy Bundle for "PC" games from now on. 

Edited by tstrimple
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