SimCity launch a complete disaster

SimCity's requirement for an always-on Internet connection is backfiring, as the game servers are currently going up and down like a yo-yo. How quickly can EA solve this problem?

Christopher MacManus
Crave contributor Christopher MacManus regularly spends his time exploring the latest in science, gaming, and geek culture -- aiming to provide a fun and informative look at some of the most marvelous subjects from around the world.
Christopher MacManus
4 min read
An example of an error message seen by players trying to log in to SimCity. Kotaku Australia

Good luck trying to move into the new SimCity.

Ever since the city management game launched on Tuesday, countless gamers have found themselves battling error messages and random disconnections that prevent them from experiencing what SimCity was supposed to deliver in the first place -- fun. In response, publisher Electronic Arts says it's working around the clock to try to fix the problems and add more servers so people can play without worry.

SimCity Senior Producer Kip Katsarelis issued the following statement to frustrated builders last night, hoping to soothe their nerves:

This has been an exciting and challenging week for the team here at Maxis, the culmination years of planning and development. We have been overwhelmed by the outpouring of support and enthusiasm from our fans which has made it even more upsetting for us that technical issues have become more prominent in the last 24 hours. We are hitting a number of problems with our server architecture, which has seen players encountering bugs, and long wait times to enter servers. This is, obviously, not the situation we wanted for our launch week and we want you to know that we are putting everything we have at resolving these issues.

What we are doing is deploying more servers over the coming two days, which will alleviate many of the ongoing issues. We are also paying close attention to all the bug reports we are receiving from our fans. We've already pushed several updates in the last few days. Our live ops team is working 24/7 to resolve issues and ensure that bug fixes roll into the game as quickly as possible.

This team has put everything into this game and won't stop until things are smooth. We ask our fans to be patient as our team works diligently to fix the issues. We share your passion for SimCity and thank you for your support and understanding.

SimCity's connectivity woes originate from heavy server load caused by a high influx of new users who must log in to play. EA touts multiplayer features such as sharing vital resources with neighbors and saving your game to the cloud (so you can play anywhere), but the requirement also acts as one of the few remaining safeguards against software piracy.

It's frankly absurd that SimCity -- with its previous titles that you could always play offline -- now requires an Internet connection to play and stay in the game, even in single-player mode. However, that's the world we live in these days and it doesn't seem likely to change.

The other issue is that EA hasn't allocated the appropriate resources to handle the surge of gamers coming into the servers during launch week, which seems silly considering the enormous fan base that waited 10 years for a new SimCity game. The bean counters at EA should've known there would be huge traffic, and heck, didn't they learn anything from Activision's messy Diablo III launch?

The solution seems simple: let people play SimCity's single-player mode offline, hence alleviating the server load, and maintain the always-on Internet requirement for multiplayer. That would probably solve this debacle and give most people what they really wanted in the first place.

In the meantime, SimCitians can keep up with a routinely updated forum topic that relays server downtime, hotfixes, and improvements. The latest notification echoes the commitment to fixing server issues, but also indicates the developers issued a hotfix that includes "various improvements" and disables a "few non-critical gameplay features (leaderboards, achievements and region filters)" -- a temporary move likely designed to lessen the load on servers.

SimCity may look beautiful, but server stability will always trump graphics in games that require always-on Internet connections. Maxis/EA

Be careful if you can log in, as some players report losing significant portions of their cities after hours of work, because SimCity servers would randomly shut down or the game experienced issues saving to EA's cloud save function. I saw dozens of similar complaints with some light searching. Ouch.

Despite the calamity, many SimCity builders found a way into the lagged servers and kicked off an architectural tour de force not seen since the construction of the pyramids. Katsarelis reports that in just a 24-hour period, SimCity gamers created more than 38 million buildings, 4.6 million miles of roads, and laid 40 million pipes "filled up with poop."

The producer also notes that gamers started over 18 million fires in SimCity, but the real fires are occurring in social media. You can easily spot hordes of frustrated SimCity players on Twitter, Reddit, NeoGAF, and many other outlets for gamers. A petition with over 8,000 signatures on Change.org asks EA to abandon always-on DRM in SimCity and future games.

CNET Editor Jeff Bakalar, assigned to review SimCity, ran into problems trying to connect at least twice a day since Tuesday: "I had planned on reviewing the game for launch -- and I'm not joking here -- I've yet to been able to even play the game. Once."