Terrible Video Games: SIMCITY (2013) - Warped Factor - Words in the Key of Geek.

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Terrible Video Games: SIMCITY (2013)

We built this city on bugs and flaws.
Just like every title in our Terrible Games collection, it's not that the 2013 reboot of SimCity is just bad, as such, it's that given the strength of the franchise it really should've been better. Developed by Maxis and Electronic Arts (EA), the aim was to augment the normally single-player city-building game with online features that would allow players' cities to interact with one another, building a software platform rather than a single game. Sounds like a cool idea in theory, but somewhere along the way vital components to support that idea where overlooked, and vision seriously overtook playability.

Many pre-release peaks at game demos had been met with praise by gaming magazine reviewers, but none of them had been hands-on with SimCity at that point. When they were finally sent the 'completed' game for review, it was riddled with technical issues including network outages, problems with saving progress and difficulty connecting to the game's servers. All of this was vital because SimCity 2013 was only playable online at this time. Due to the limited amount of people online many reviewers connected OK and could play the title, but some reviewers were unable to review the game, labeling the launch a "disaster" and the game "unplayably broken", urging players to avoid purchasing SimCity until the issues were resolved.
Maxis promised to address the issues. In best Arrested Development voiceover - They did not. When SimCity was released in March 2013 there was no offline mode included and the servers for online connectivity were well over capacity. Players were made to wait upwards of thirty minutes to just play SimCity. Once in, players would have to hope they didn't get disconnected part-way through a session before they had a chance to save any progress on their city. This critical connection issue went on for several weeks following the launch. It got to the point that the complaints around the server issues created enough negative user reviews at Amazon.com that they temporarily halted sales of the game. Perhaps this was the push EA and Maxis needed as they did eventually resolve the server issues by expanding capacity and disabling certain "non-critical" features.

But that's not all. Given the strength of criticism in those early reviews, EA and Maxis also promised to make improvements to the artificial intelligence - They did not. It was also frustrating to many that a franchise which had been the granddaddy of city building simulations for 25 years now offered far less available land for city building than previous iterations. Yes, it was online and yes there were some cool features with curved-roads and a wide variety of natural (and unnatural) disasters, but SimCity 2013 felt to many like a step backwards.
Further criticism came when it was found that SimCity could've been run in an offline mode all along as the code was there but Maxis hadn't implemented it. Special debugging commands became widely distributed online (in an ironic move to disconnect the game from the world wide web), to which Maxis responded saying that they opted against implementing the developed offline mode as "it didn't fit with our vision". As previously noted, that vision had clouded any user friendly design. The criticism mounted and in a unprecedented move some reviewers, who had originally managed to connect to the servers before release and given a warmer appraisal of the game than many others, began readjusting their opinions on SimCity 2013 (Polygon, for example, had reviewed the game before the launch and awarded it 9.5/10, then dropped it to 8/10 when released, before later dropping it again to 4/10 in response to both the issues and EA's decision to disable gameplay features). Eventually, a full year after release EA and Maxis delivered an update to support the offline mode.

It was, perhaps, too little too late. The franchise name was badly tarnished. EA themselves were named as the "Worst Company in America" in a 2013 Consumerist user-voted poll, with the debacle over SimCity's service launch as part of the reason some voted this way. EA's response was to swiftly pass the buck and shutter Maxis' main Emeryville, California studio, transferring Maxis' other franchises like The Sims to other EA studios.
Not everyone was lamenting the disappointment of the 2013 reboot of SimCity; Colossal Order, a studio under Paradox Interactive, had been wanting to make a city simulator for some time, but Paradox had been hesitant of SimCity's influence on the market. Following the failure of SimCity, Paradox greenlit Colossal Order's Cities: Skylines and the developers concentrated on listening to all the feedback SimCity 2013 had been given so when their game was released in 2015 it was both critically acclaimed and commercially successful. Some reviewers considered Cities: Skylines to have succeeded SimCity as the game most representative of the genre, and to have finally delivered what the 2013 SimCity reboot had originally set out to do.

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