SimCity launch 'inexcusable' says Maxis co-founder Will Wright

"I can understand the outrage," says original Sim City creator Will Wright.

Will Wright, who co-founded Maxis and created Sim City, The Sims, and Spore, has said the recent SimCity's troubled launch and server issues were "inexcusable," and that both EA and Maxis failed to correctly communicate the game's MMO intentions to consumers.

SimCity's controversial launch and subsequent backlash saw customers unable to play the game due to it requiring an always-online connection to the Internet. "I could have predicted--I kind of did predict there'd be a big backlash about the DRM stuff," said Wright in an interview with GamesIndustry International, adding that SimCity is "a good game; I enjoy playing it a lot."

Wright's interpretation of the consumer outrage of the game's fumbled launch is down partly to EA's reputation. "It was kind of like, 'EA is the evil empire, there was a lot of 'Let's bash EA over it,'" he said, adding that he can understand why people were unhappy. "That was basically inexcusable, that you charge somebody $60 for a game and they can't play it. I can understand the outrage."

"If I was a consumer buying the game and that happened to me, I'd feel the same," added Wright.

One of SimCity's biggest problems is that EA and Maxis had a hard time communicating the game as an always-online title. "I think people care if it doesn't work," he said. "If you can't play it on planes, stuff like that… I think there are some very valid concerns about it."

"Also there's a perception; I don't expect to play World of Warcraft on the airplane, because my perception is it has to be on the 'Net. SimCity was in this very uncomfortable space, like the uncanny valley, almost; [it was caught] between was it a single-player game or was it a multiplayer game?"

Wright's comments come as Maxis prepares to launch SimCity's 3.0 update this week, which aims to focus on refining the game's traffic management and routing systems, such as cars struggling on u-turns.

Despite the complaints, SimCity managed to sell 1.1 million copies in two weeks and help EA's digital distribution platform Origin hit a peak of 1.3 million concurrent users.

For more on SimCity, check out GameSpot's previous coverage.

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154 comments
farcorners
farcorners

YES, it was inexcusable, and NO, it has always predominantly been a SINGLE PLAYER game.

blackothh
blackothh

thats what you get for trusting EA with your baby you idiot. you should have learned when EA screwed you around with spore.

cgobeil
cgobeil

I've been playing update 3.0 and it still needs fixing ;(

kurtstir
kurtstir

Just saying I am 14 and I can code an offline mode for SimCity in around 10 minutes!

smtgfx
smtgfx

Interesting Read...But Always online if never a good idea. You are restricting peoples freedom and frustrate players. Internet connections are not all the same. Poorer countries do not have a stable or fast connection. 

On another note. Frustrating players = players that hate.

Shanks_D_Chop
Shanks_D_Chop

Not attacking Will Wright at all, I do want to ask out loud in general to anyone within metaphorical earshot...

How the fuck did EA and Maxis have a "hard time" communicating the always online requirement of the game? Where they only using euphemisms? All they had to do was say "It requires an internet connection at all times", surely?

pwc2
pwc2

I wonder if Will can fix SimCity, or just wishful thinking.

starcrafthenry
starcrafthenry

So, it sold 1.1 million in the first two weeks, and has a total of 1.6 million to date. That means, in the past seven weeks, the game has only sold 500,000 units. In over three times the two week time period, the game hasn't even managed to sell half the original amount. That's pretty sad. I'm gonna say that all the negative reviews had their intended effect, and actually prevented many pour souls from buying this garbage. For once, good job reviewers.

Saint_Kaiser
Saint_Kaiser

Greed ran the United States into the ground.

It will do the same to the game industry.

CecilChups
CecilChups

They should've just named the game Sim City Online.

Would've drastically cut down the confusion. Not that difficult.

pwc2
pwc2

Thank you Will Wright! :) It's sad that EA screwed up royally.


BTW I want to plug an interest to people for Theme Park Studio. Kinda like RCT3 but with much better detail. It's mainly for those who want to build theme parks. Find it on Kickstarter or on the web.


Ramus73
Ramus73

Sim City was hacked and cracked days after launch so if the intention was to prevent piracy it failed. EA are trying to patch over problems with cars doing u turns instead of being man enough to admit their AOL DRM is why the game failed and if it wasn't for the million morons that pre ordered sim city this game would have caused EA serious financial harm. The sooner people stop buying EA products in outrage at their business practices the better.

jdt532
jdt532

I'm a big Sim City fan but I will never buy this game. I hope Will Wright and the studio He's with now would make a proper city sim game that's single player first.

paparolo
paparolo

"EA and Maxis had a hard time communicating the game as an always-online title", this is utter bullsh*t, they could have clearly specified it in all places and the frigging game description at Origin, where it only says, like any other digitally distributed game that broadband internet connection is required.

I am really sad people still managed to buy this one in such high amount, it is practically the most "screw you we do what we please with it" game EA has ever released and in my opinion, it tells the customer in a very subtle way that they intend to own the game and you are only playing it because they let you.

SimCity as it is has very little to do with an MMO, the always online to share cities "feature" is clearly DRM in its worst form and ultimately only manages to frustrate legit customers.

Will stick with my Steam bought SC4 Deluxe...

deadpeasant
deadpeasant

I think players had more of a hard time communicating with EA's servers.

helldragonzer
helldragonzer

The thing that really pisses me off is that even after2 months, thousands of complains, every critic in the world bashing the game, them being named worst company in America, they still don't want to make a single player offline mode, if you are worried about pirates then make some kind of drm THAT DOESN'T REQUIRE AN ALWAYS ONLINE. There so many ways to protect the game that don't bother users at all and that kills any tries by the pirates, ways that don't require you to be A**holes about it.

Hurvl
Hurvl

So Will says that people were (W)right to feel outraged, that's nice to know.

santinegrete
santinegrete

If next patch don't give an online mod then there's no point.

Stiler
Stiler

@starcrafthenry Actually that's quite common. The first couple of weeks are where games usually sell the quickest, and it's the most important time when the industry looks at the sales records.

After the first couple of weeks sales settle down and the newer games take over. not always, but usually. 



DaSlyOne
DaSlyOne

No need to single out the United States, greed will take down every monetary based economy, in time.

Ramus73
Ramus73

@Saint_Kaiser  

Yes its odd, there are obviously some intelligent people in America but they have taken on immense amounts of debt without a care for the future of the economy. Probably not helped by unscrupulous members of the Obamanation bringing about Obamageddon. If America is not in depression by Dec 2013 I will be very surprised.

blackothh
blackothh

@CecilChups agreed but that would have also made a lot of people not buy it, EA for some reason does not care about scamming people thinking they will just come back for another, but soon they will find out they have very few customers.

OldKye
OldKye

@CecilChups The reason they didn't is they would have had half as many sales so they were hopping half the people would be ok with it and half could be won over "see not that bad" kinda thing.

EA wanted to have it's cake and eat it too and it got burned so 90% of costumers where mad.

EA needs to just stop it's constant "what can we slip by the costumer Micro-transactions, DRM, Day one DLC?, Monopolizing and over charging for franchises?" 

10 years ago 20 years ago you might have gotten away with that stuff (And god knows what they did) but with the internet today you may as well give everyone a personal phone call "yeah we tricked you" maybe they will quit it now.

jimrhurst
jimrhurst

@CecilChups That's actually a way better idea than I would have thought.  I think the idea that it needs to be online is stupid, but once you've committed to that, making it transparently so probably would have cut down on the rage level.  I bet they just wanted to have it both ways.  Hoping the players who didn't want the online game would buy it and play it without really noticing it required online.  In this case it backfired bigtime.  There really isn't enough transparency in products generally or games in particular.

Adenosine
Adenosine

@CecilChups I agree. Any mmo game never had this kind of trouble because from the get to, people already knew that it's supposed to be an online game. Misleading customers with vague descriptions of a product's functionality might win some extra cash, but in the end, it's the company's reputation that would suffer if the consumer reaction is negative.

slowram
slowram

@Ramus73 I see such comments often (x game was cracked x days after release) and usually they are true.  I don't think anyone has cracked SimCity.  Otherwise I'd expect to see some major site mention how you can unofficially play offline.  Always on DRM is usually very difficult to crack.

jimrhurst
jimrhurst

@Ramus73 The devs at Maxis are doing what they can to improve their game.  The traffic was a major issue in any significant sized city and its been improving through patches.  They aren't allowed by EA to change the company line about always online, so they do what they are allowed to do to improve the product.  I imagine its slowly crushing their souls.  Tragic.  SimCity is a good game just totally fucked by the insistence that it must become multiplayer.  Stupid, stupid decision.

Simplythebest12
Simplythebest12

@Ramus73 It always fails but some companies do not learn their lesson they still waste their money for useless and intrusive DRM that always gets cracked sooner or later by some pirate group....DRM does not stop piracy it only makes the games unbearable for legitimate costumers...

The only company that understand this is CD Projekt RED (creators of  the Witcher games) that avoid any DRM shit

smtgfx
smtgfx

@jdt532 - That's right!!! I am with you and I am sure many are as well.

ggregd
ggregd

@paparolo By saying they "had a hard time" he was being diplomatic.  He means they screwed up badly.

jimrhurst
jimrhurst

@helldragonzer Its just mind-blowing.  EA execs _themselves_ have gone on record saying DRM is a failed, dead-end strategy.  So they are publicly saying DRM has no point.  To which many of us say "duh".  But if not for that, then why this insistence that it must be always online?  I can't fathom it.  Maxis and EA insist it isn't about DRM but everyone in the world can see the game plays fine as a single player game.  Its not Everquest.  There's no reason those online features can't be optional unless its for DRM, but even EA knows DRM doesn't work.

It. Makes. No. Sense.

Hurvl
Hurvl

@santinegrete Yeah, let's get an online mod for an always-online game, that'll be great :P.

starcrafthenry
starcrafthenry

@Stiler @starcrafthenry I don't disagree that games sell more when they're first released, but look at the decline. 1.1 million sold over two weeks is an average of 550,000/week.

500,000 sold over seven weeks, is an average of roughly 71,500/week. That's just barely more than 1/8 of the initial average. That's a very sharp decline, and I would bet it's much steeper than the industry average.

Also, Sim City had no competition when it released, so it's not like people stopped buying it because another similar game was available. They stopped buying it because they heard all the negative feedback.

Ramus73
Ramus73

@jimrhurst @Ramus73 Once upon a time EA were publishers and that's all they did. Now they have bought out companies, like Maxis in 1997, they are the developer as well. Maxis is now just a department in EA and (considering EA laid off nearly half the Maxis staff after buying) a shadow of it's former self.

But then Maxis themselves are a bit wanting. Did you know the Maxis board of directors turned down Will Wrights The Sims idea? Which EA then snapped up and The Sims became the best selling game of all time. You also mention the road network has had to be patched but in Sim City 4 the road network had to be fixed after release too. How could they make the same mistake twice? Both Maxis and EA need to shoulder the blame.

steve4123456789
steve4123456789

@Simplythebest12 The problem isn't the company it's retards buying it, and preordering as he said. Remove that from the equation, and I wouldn't mind laughing at EA but the fact that it's there best selling game makes me very depressed.

Ramus73
Ramus73

@slowram The point is EA are saying it has to be online to play because the software is server side but the article clearly shows that's not true and EA are liars. With regards to cracking to avoid copy protection, ie pirating, just have a quick google and you can soon find places to download a cracked version. Though I condemn any kind of piracy even for EA games. Hacking/cracking is the same thing for what we are discussing. Saying DRM is 100% uncrackable is simply untrue and that is not it's purpose anyway.

slowram
slowram

@Ramus73 @slowram Thank you for the article link, I had read same content elsewhere.  I guess we have a different definition of hacked/cracked resulting in financial harm.  The guy in the article was playing a paid version and could only go offline for a few minutes and worse couldn't save content offline.  I thought you were saying the DRM didn't work that the game was pirated.  Not that the DRM didn't work you could play offline (but not save) if you bought the game.

Ramus73
Ramus73

@jimrhurst 
 I have been making indy (pd) games for over 20 years and worked for SonyCEE and the only way to make sure your game doesn't get watered down is to go the indy path. 20+ years ago devs had more freedom but now, as in the movie industry, corporations like to stick their big nose in because they have a checklist of what they want in games. Its a damn shame. Maxis bowed down to EA instead of sticking to their guns and Sim City is the mess that resulted.

jimrhurst
jimrhurst

@Ramus73 @jimrhurst Fair point.  But even in wholly owned studios there generally remains a certain tension between the studio itself and "corporate".  So I just have to imagine there are some hard working developers down there who made a pretty decent game and they are getting eviscerated in the press because of this one dumb high-level decision.  I don't know that for sure, but it seems very plausible to me.