Maxis internal SimCity memo leaks

Studio general manager says server rollout in North America has been "challenging," promises studio is working 24/7 to fix issues.

Polygon has obtained an internal memo from Maxis general manager Lucy Bradshaw. It comments to developers on SimCity's rocky launch in North America and outlines the developer's plans to address the game's ongoing server woes.

"I'll start by saying that I couldn't be more proud of SimCity and the Maxis team that made it and are supporting it," Bradshaw wrote. "The game launched with great reviews from both new critics and the veterans who have loved this franchise for so many years. SimCity is a software achievement that everyone at Maxis is extremely proud of. I am also thankful for all of the hard work put in by our marketing, EA Global Publishing and Origin teams, which drove very strong Day One performance around world." [Bradshaw's emphasis.]

"Then we launched it," she added.

Bradshaw said more than 700,000 cities were created by players in the game's first 24 hours, but also acknowledged that a portion of gamers are "experiencing server instability and consequently, the rollout in North America has been challenging. It's also now evident that players across Europe and Asia are experiencing the same frustration."

Maxis' top goal, Bradshaw said, is to "quickly and dramatically increase the number and stability of our servers and with that, the number of players who can simultaneously access the game." A trio of new servers were added yesterday and more will be introduced this weekend, she said.

Bradshaw said Maxis is working "24/7" to fix the SimCity server issues and also commented on review scores for the game.

"I'd like to say that it's not fair--that the game score shouldn't be punished for a server problem," she said. "But it is fair. SimCity is an online game and critics and consumers have every right to expect a smooth experience from beginning to end. I and the Maxis team take full responsibility to deliver on our promise." [Bradshaw's emphasis.]

For more on SimCity, check out GameSpot's review.

Written By

Eddie Makuch is a news editor at GameSpot, and would like to see the Whalers return to Hartford.

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287 comments
topgun182
topgun182

I have been a gamer longer than some of you have been alive, and I can remember when EA was a company I could trust. When Motor City Online was introduced, I loved it. I faithfully and gladly paid a subscription to play a game online with strangers. I invested loads of time and money on this game, and then they pulled the plug. I was furious, devastated, and above all, I wanted my money back. The game I owned was a coaster. They offered a free replacement. I chose the Sims Online. See that operating anywhere? That was the end of Online Only gaming for me. They are not just moving the goalposts, they are flooding the stadium during halftime and having a bass tournament. With all of the technology advances, EA would have us believe that we need their servers to do what our machines can't. Just say you want total control over the games you sell now, and are willing to ruin them to have it.

topgun182
topgun182

Sometimes people want to buy a game, go home and play it. Alone. Without the world watching. Without lag. Without the internet. Get it EA?

Ares2382
Ares2382

Got to love this quote "The game launched with great reviews from both new critics and the veterans who have loved this franchise for so many years."

I guess Ms. Bradshaw didn't see the 67 average score from critics on Metacritics. Yeah, that's some great reviews there.

bloody-hell
bloody-hell

If only they had factual data available to prepare for that, do server hardware and bandwidth requirement sizing and avoid this launch day disaster, like using internal stresstests, a beta, second beta, preorder count statistics - oh wait - they had.

Nice try with the (intentionally) "leaked document", all I read out of it is that she's even bullshitting her employees at Maxis with "overwhelming reception and sales" - 700.000 cities created within 24 hours, that's like 70.000 to 140.000 launch day "customers" if estimating a 5 to 10 cities creation per player on launch day (which for these tiny regions is even still a generous assumption, so the number of people that could actually play this on launch day are probably even less than that).

No need to stock up on server hardware, just patch out Origin, make it playable offline, release the server binaries so we can host our own multiplayer regions (on our hardware) and add a server browser / LAN mode / direct IP join and this game might just maybe start to sell well.

JJS29
JJS29

I liked what I read until the part that said "... consumers have every right to expect a smooth experience from beginning to end."

The experience better not end!  I had to pull my SC4 disc out of my computer to install SC5!

xeoneex66
xeoneex66

Consoles are shit, PC gaming is where it's at, social gaming is meh.  And as far as mobile, no opinion whatsoever dont care either way.

meshuggahzen
meshuggahzen

butthurt, butthurt everywhere. I for one will be buying this game after the issues are fixed. This is where gaming is going so i'll just go with the flow.

stage4saiyan
stage4saiyan

Read the whole post, got to the last paragraph and thought to myself, "Classy response. Gained respect for Maxis." Check the comments and I find shit flinging and people that are taking this negatively.

blackothh
blackothh

no worries,  i wont be buying your product

musalala
musalala

" Leaked" my a**. This is PR Damage control.EA must think we are idiots to not see what this actually is.

yearssomuch
yearssomuch

'Leaked memos'? Yeah, right. More like 'attempt to make EA look innocent and helpful'. Blugh, fake shit like this is unbelievable.

Landsharkk
Landsharkk

Ignoring the non-stability related problems with this game.... The problem is you can't make a singleplayer game require online and still treat the game as a singleplayer game.  If it's 'always online required' then you have created an MMO style game and need to approach the network infrastructure as such.

It's sad to see EA trying to push Maxis as their scapegoat.  Anyone with half a brain would know the publisher holds the weight in the creation of the contract between developer and publisher. EA says always online and must require Origin, so Maxis has no other choice.  Of course, since Maxis agreed EA gets to say stuff like, "You signed the contract, you knew what you were getting into! - It's your fault!"

And now in order for Maxis to continue making money through EA they have to take the PR hit, otherwise EA could stop future projects with Maxis.

The writing is all over the wall on this situation. EA screwed up thanks to their 'money first, gamers last' attitude towards the game industry.

My boycott of EA continues, and it will never end when they keep making such blatantly money-hungry decisions with no regard or respect to the game idea or the gamers.

EA execs have their heads so far up their a** they even have the gall to not only pull advertising for the game, but to deny refunds at the same time!  I mean, how much of a slap in the face to their customers is that?  They have no faith in their game, so they pull advertising, but won't bother refunded customers who bought a broken product.  

Those of you who support EA, please take the blinders off and see the reality.  EA is a viral drain on the game industry.

vault-boy
vault-boy

7.1 Metacritic Critic score, 1.6 user score (granted user scores aren't worth shit because 99% of users are fucking retarded but they're the ones who brought it up). Not exactly great. Average, maybe. I'd probably settle for around mediocre. Just wanted to let you guys know.

bomber1992
bomber1992

We had great reviews? what is she on?

sik3xploit
sik3xploit

I have no pity for Maxis if they continue to stay with EA.  They should know how EA is bad for business but they still get in bed with them.  I hated EA already but Chinese spammers with messages that say things like "Only losers like to play alone."  This is just beyond insulting and detrimental...

They aren't just shooting themselves in the foot, but slitting both their wrists and cutting their throats.

neprisistates
neprisistates

Its like the publishers want their games to be pirated.

fillup0
fillup0

A review is reflective of the product at the time of release. If the product is botched on release, for WHATEVER reason, it is a problem with the product regardless of how well you patch it on a later date. Remember when games HAD to be released in perfect condition because we didn't have online patching?

Warsilver
Warsilver

It's BEYOND fair... server issues are the first thing you should mention in a review! This game  is a real stain on the SimCity franchise.

jinzo9988
jinzo9988

Of course it's fair.  Online is so bloody integral to the game that you'd best believe that it's a critical factor that's going to make or break scores.  A tack-on multiplayer mode to a largely single player experience is what gets a pass on bad online play.  This is -all- online.

SythisTaru
SythisTaru

Guys, I hate drm! One time, on Farcry 3, I had to open this Uplay thing. It took almost 10 seconds! I DON'T HAVE THAT KIND OF EXTRA TIME!

vindicationx198
vindicationx198

I wish that game related sites like this would not post opinions in their findings. Just report the damn news and that's all. 

Also, they updated the problem today http://www.ea.com/news/a-simcity-update-and-something-for-your-trouble


and I agree with Arata. Whenever a game goes wrong under EA's name, there is instant hate and childish comments. Any other gaming company gets like a week or two to fix it and then they are ok again. It is such a shame that we pander to the common spoiled childish gamers that this generation has created. 


I also have to say for the record, that my opinion does not say I prefer online gaming for this, but I can see why they wanted to do it. I was against it for Diablo III, but now it doesn't bother me. 

DiscGuru101
DiscGuru101

"The game launched with great reviews" - There are few good reviews, tons of 1-Star reviews, and most of the bad reviews mention: 

1) The cities are too small.

2) No underground construction.

3) Server problems.

6orange6
6orange6

Not going to repeat what others have said, but I am just staggered that Maxis went full into a social version of Sim City without doing any in depth market research amongst people who like the original, how people enjoy and tolerate social gaming on mobile devices, but demand their own world on home computers, without the internet throwing cat turds into their sand box..

It is an enormous error of judgement on the part of the lead designers at Maxis.


Also, did EA seriously believe they could sell the idea that simulation code was so intricate and powerful, that it had to be done server side? They actually believed in their accountant run board that the gaming community would swallow that BS?


Timmy_Gwar
Timmy_Gwar

Just saying, if this gets pirated six ways from Sunday. EA is helping the wrong statistic in a big way.

Think about it, all games get pirated, so games that are harder to pay for will get pirated more. The circle of life.

Hakkology
Hakkology

What saddens me the most is that, she and the Maxis team took all the responsibility for these.

They didn't deserve this publicity, they really didn't...

jkdwest
jkdwest

@Landsharkk 

I agree with you wholeheartedly, and cannot think of a publisher that I have less respect for than EA.  Unfortunately, as pissed off as the gamers on this site are, they still represent the vast minority.  Company was voted the WORST corporation in the world by the internet community - yet they continue to grow exponentially every single year.  While I think your boycott is admirable, the fact of the matter is that people continue to buy their products -in droves- with no signs of slowdown. 

     EA has proven in the last decade that their goal is to make as much profit as possible, as quickly as possible, and the uproars of gamers across the world have truly fallen on deaf ears.  They will not ever change their behavior as long as they are making astronomical profits, and clearly that isn't changing either.

     It's sad.  EA was my favorite gaming company back in the 80s/early 90s.

Tixylixx
Tixylixx

@Whiskey3romeo I'd be very proud, making software is hard and they've made a great game and the server issues wont last forever.

xeoneex66
xeoneex66

@SythisTaru Guess what, if you bought the game through steam, you have 2 sets of DRM to go through.  So... ya....

MrNWatson
MrNWatson

@SythisTaru When DRM works, it's not an issue.  But far, far too often, it prevents people from accessing a game which they purchased fairly.  I wouldn't have a problem with DRM if it could be executed without denying access to legal users.  Sim City is a glaring example of it done wrong, which only adds more fuel to the fire against the practice as a whole.

freedomspopular
freedomspopular

@vindicationx198 The "instant hate and childish comments" is based on the fact that we all called it weeks ago. We knew this was going to happen. Heck, I said when it was first announced that EA was going to screw it up. EA's reputation is well-deserved. Unfortunately, most people tend to keep whining and crying instead of just not buying their games.

MJ-X
MJ-X

@vindicationx198 Which is why people like you promote this kind of gaming restrictions, who the hell asked for leaderboards or multiplayer where u depend on others to build your Simcity? I did a quick search through google and guess what? the game is hacked and playable offline so who did EA ending up screwing? its you and every single tool out there that has your same mentality.

On another note, other companies get a time out if this happens because they actually bother about the customers with quality releases, Diablo III yes but was fixed asap even if you didn't like it due to a bad release, digital copies got refunded but THIS? EA refused to refund people because digital copies are not covered by law. EA is a money grabbing, self centered, condescending publisher that pushes developers around to meet a deadline no matter how crappy  the state of the game is along with buying small genuine companies and run them to the ground (R.I.P : C&C, Simcity, Mass Effect, Dragon Age..etc)


Join the Government petition to allow returns of DRM games:

%s

stev69
stev69

@6orange6 They clearly don't give a damn what people actually want they will just serve up their traditional offerings and expect people to wear it. what will they do with the servers when they decide to milk it on a yearly basis?

stev69
stev69

@Timmy_Gwar  Agreed, games will always be pirated, the people that like to do the cracking see it as a challenge and will find a way to get their bragging rights fix. 

All measures like this ever do is annoy the legitimate consumers and push them into turning to piracy to get one back on shitty publishers like EA.

shakensparco
shakensparco

@Hakkology If it's not the creator's fault then who? The servers didn't go on strike or anything.

freedomspopular
freedomspopular

@MJ-X Everyone knew that the game was going to be always-online, yet they still bought it anyway. If you want EA to change, stop buying their games.

MJ-X
MJ-X

@stev69 @6orange6 You both don't get it do u? this was not about social addition but a disgusting excuse to tie it to Origin and have a reason for DRM. Probably demanded by EA too since they are planning to go full force with DRMs and IAPs

R.I.P simcity 4 was the last and the best...

MJ-X
MJ-X

@stev69 Very true my friend only genuine customers get shafted in the end.

MJ-X
MJ-X

@shakensparco @Hakkology The most idiotic reply i have ever read stop being that ignorant EA is the publisher its their job to provide the servers amongst other things or do u expect developers to do that? u got any idea how much these things cost or are u just talking out of your rear? ever thought why game developers end up joining publishers? this is not maxis fault but  EA and the reason why we are getting social features is for "DRM" which is another reason why less resources where actually spent in the game to tie cities together hence making the maps way too small compared to previous titles.

xViiRGIL
xViiRGIL

@freedomspopular @MJ-X Yes this is infact why i havent bought the game yet, or Diablo 3 for that matter. The experience i had with another game that was this way, and lauched a lot like this game is doing (Darkspore) left such a bad taste in my mouth, that i promised i would never buy one of these games at launch again. 

While i am a huge sim city fan (yes i remember spending so much time on the orignal and subsequent sequels) I still plan on getting it eventually, but was waiting to see if there would be launch issues before i did. Im thankful i didnt now, but still plan on getting it eventually :)

6orange6
6orange6

@MJ-X oh I get it, I used to work in this industry. My question is rhetorical and laced with irony. I know *exactly* what they are doing. The server side marketing is complete BS to disguise the DRM. And how is this for irony....They use DRM to stop people stealing from them, then ban paying customers accounts who ask for a refund, which is stealing itself. The only difference is they are more powerful than a lone pirate and can arrogantly get away with it.

moonlightwolf01
moonlightwolf01

@MJ-X It's actually a combination of all of these factors, publishers aren't gamers therefore they fail to understand the differences between platforms, part of this is DRM but the other part is failure to understand the market. EA's social mobile games have made money so EA starts to demand social features in all its games. EA thinks the future of gaming is as a service where every game is a store that trys to persuade players to part with their money. DRM is just one factor, remember that by controlling the servers they can monitor players habits for market research and force people to upgrade to the next game iteration a few years down the line by simply shutting off support. Its really all about the money.

moonlightwolf01
moonlightwolf01

@MJ-X @stev69 It already has been and according to the reports the pirated versions of the game which are offline only work far better than the genuine article. So the whole anti-piracy angle really worked out great.

xViiRGIL
xViiRGIL

@SythisTaru @MJ-X Well the thing is, that maxis did this with another game that they developed not too long ago, but being it wasnt as popular, didnt garner as much hate because of the server issues. Any of you play the game DarkSpore? It was made by Maxis, and was one of the first online only diablo style games i had ever played. I played in the beta, and loved the game itself, but when it launched, there was problems a lot like this, and it being online only, got very old, very quick. Not long after the launch issues, the game got pulled off of shelves much like ive been hearing about the new Simcity today. 

In the end, i personally dont know who runs the servers, whither it be Maxis or EA, but theyve done this before, and didnt learn from theyre mistakes last time

SythisTaru
SythisTaru

@MJ-X Lol, of course the developers provide the servers. It's Maxis' fault.