*My views do not necessarily represent those of VaultF4 or other staff members* Unless you have been living under a rock for the past week you know of fiasco that is the SimCity launch. The only game launch that comes close to this debacle is “The War Z” back in December. The reason I say it comes close is because there is no excuse for these lies and issues coming from a AAA developer and publisher, but it does come as no surprise as EA is known for its bad business practices and failed launches of online titles. I have always taken EA’s games with a grain of salt as most come from very reputable developers, but they always get that EA twist; this is the first time I believe EA has gone too far in destroying a well loved and known franchise in order to pad their own wallets. LIES & DECEIT The lies and deceit that have been swirling around this game seem to keep growing everyday with workers of EA and Maxis coming forward and modders delving into the programming of the game. The biggest lie Maxis and EA has been telling the gaming community and press is that it’s not possible for the game to be played offline; even telling Polygon “the way the game works, we offload a significant amount of the calculations to our servers so the computations are off the local PC’s and are moved into the cloud. It wouldn't be possible to make the game offline without a significant amount of engineering work by our team.” We now have come to know this as a lie; not only has a Maxis worker come forward to talk about it, but Kotaku has completed their own test being able to play offline for about 20mins before it requires connection to the server to save and send info. Then the big hit came last night when a modder by the name of AzzerUK posted on reddit that he has been able to “enable debug mode” and “modded out the disconnect timer” along with a video showing the ability to edit outside the limited bounds of the cities. In the video AzzerUK shows the ability to edit the highways and rails in the region. He added that there are terraforming tools but they “are disabled without having an actual developer's build.” Now the press and the community wait on a response from EA and Maxis on this latest development and hope that they will embrace this mod and allow for future modding. Nevertheless in true EA fashion they will most likely patch the game and ban anyone who tries to mod in the future. ISSUES COME TO LIGHT Over the weekend, after about three days of downtime, the servers became stable enough for players to login and play the game. That’s when people started noticing issues with the new GlassBox engine that Maxis had been gloating about for the past year. TRAFFIC At first people started experiencing traffic issues so as most would think you add some buses and wider roads; that fixes it for a bit, but it doesn’t last long. As the cities grow so does the traffic, but no matter the amount of roads and mass transit you add the traffic congestion does not subside. In my own city I was having congestion issue; I ended up redesigning my road system about 3-4 times before I found a designed that worked. Unfortunately that design didn't last forever; eventually it all started falling apart. The traffic congestion problem stems from multiple issues with the GlassBox engine’s horrible pathfinding, lack of priority, and mass transit system glitches. Pathfinding for the sims seems very simplistic in SimCity, rather than taking the fastest route they opt for the shortest. For example I have two roads connecting to an event, one is a short dirt road the other is an avenue that curves around a few buildings. In a real world setting it’s understandable that at first you would take the shorter dirt road, but as congestion builds most people would rather opt for the faster slightly longer avenue; the sims unfortunately do not make this decision and instead all stay on the dirt road. Pathfinding isn't only an issue with finding the best route but also getting around mass transit or municipal vehicles stopped on the side of a road; which leads me to the next issue. Lack of priority for vehicles is astounding for a game that claims to be a simulation of a real city. Never have I seen a city where an emergency vehicle just sits in traffic while a house burns down, they always have priority. I’m not sure if this falls back onto the pathfinding or the fact that there is most likely no priority system for the vehicles. The mass transit system glitches and issues which end up causing half the traffic congestion that they are suppose to relieve. Maxis has acknowledged the issues with the streetcar system but oddly left out the bus system which is actually a bigger problem. I won’t say streetcars don’t have their issues but they don’t impact the traffic congestion the way buses do since they are not limited to the flow of traffic. Buses on the other hand are limited to the traffic flow and add to the congestion that is already there. The first issue falls back onto the pathfinding problem, the buses just go to the closest stops that have people there and don’t follow any pattern or path. Buses will just drive around a residential district and never leave as long as people are at stops. This then leads to buses doing a conga line down the road to each stop and eventually getting stuck on a stop opening and closing their doors. This morning I actually sat and timed how long a bus would get stuck on a stop before it would move on; I let one get to 5mins before I finally deleted the stop. SIMS HAVING LIVES This was one of the major selling points of the new SimCity, you would be able to follow each and every sim through their day from home, to work, and out shopping; turns out it isn’t completely true. Yes you can follow sims and yes they all have names, but they don’t have true lives. Instead sims go to the closest item that needs filling. Jobs need filling? All the sims flow to the jobs until there are no more sims or no more jobs to fill. Is your company all the way at the end? Sorry no workers for you today we have run out of people. Sims seem to have no memory of where they worked the day before or where they lived before, just filling space as they are needed. The best analogy for this would be an ice cube tray; you start filling up the first cube and as that fills the water flows over to the next and so on till there is no more water or no more space. I’m not saying this is a complete lie, but more along the lines of over exaggerating what the simulation actually does. The sims do not truly have lives but are instead particles of water flowing where they are needed. ROADS & ELEVATIONS The reason roads & elevations are here is because of the fact that there is no terraforming in SimCity currently, but yet there are cities that have uneven hills in the middle of them with no way of smoothing or flattening them; reducing the amount of actual usable space within the limited city area. To add to the frustration there is no element to adjust the elevation of a road for when you want a tunnel or an overpass. Instead the game chooses whether or not to give you a bridge to the high point to the hill or just follow the flow of the hill. This can end up either giving you an uneven road or a huge bridge up. The guys over at IGN have found a way to trick the system into giving you an overpass but this will only work if there is enough of an elevation difference. FINAL THOUGHTS Currently this game feels like a beta and could use at least another year in development before it is truly ready. I do not know what Maxis’s game testing practices are, but the game clearly shows that it is not very well tested and those “beta” weekends back in January and February were nothing more than demos. If they had given players the full game to test out they would have seen the issues with the servers and other elements of the game. Too many developers are blinded by their passion for the game that they are working on that they never see the issues that are right in front of them or know they are there and blindly turn away hoping no one will notice. I still do find SimCity to be a great success when it works, problem is most of the time it doesn’t. I hope Maxis can fix these issues and really make SimCity as great as it can be. Maxis needs to work with the community to improve this game, nothing will be improved without good communication. Finally Maxis, EA, just come clean and tell the truth. This always online is not really needed what so ever besides for the multiplayer and DRM. Lying about the whole thing only makes you look worse and angers the gamer community. *UPDATE* Not long after I made this post one of Maxis's Designers made a blog post talking about most of this issues I list here, but still have not responded about the modder that was able to make the game play offline. They have also said they are re-enabling the leaderboards and achievements, but no mention of Cheetah Speed.