AT THE time of writing, legions of would-be city planners are still marching through the (virtual) streets of their carefully planned cities, ready to wave burning torches and chair legs in the general direction of games developer Maxis, and games publisher/developer Electronic Arts.
But first, we need to step back just a little bit, to the very recent release of the long-awaited PC and Mac title,
Sim City – the latest in a long line of Sim City games, and the one that created the most press, too.
As the name suggests, Sim City is a city simulation game where, as a blend of mayor, architect, planner and, well, God, you strive to create a large, happy, functioning city, working on everything from tax rates to sewage lines, deciding where residential zones should develop – oh, and are they well served by public transport, or are you setting up traffic jams for disgruntled citizens?
All this, and a thousand other questions and issues to sort out in your role as The Man.
Sure, this may sound as deathly dull as porridge, but Sim City has always been an extremely popular series, for many years.
Perhaps the ability to enable or add disasters helps – there’s nothing like seeing a giant monster attacking Downtown to liven up your morning budget meeting.
Traditionally presented with an elevated isometric view, the series has finally evolved to suit modern tastes, with a beautifully presented full 3D world to whirl around in, complete with intricately modelled buildings, fixtures and fittings, while those with powerful enough gaming rigs can enjoy some particularly great visual effects.
Apart from the colossal leap forward in graphics, a serious overhaul has also changed how the game functions, with proper computing of each citizen’s interests/feelings adding to the overall state of the city’s progress, rather than using fairly generic algorithms to guide gameplay.
So, in many ways, Maxis really delivered a terrific update for Sim City fans, as well as creating a more accessible title for newcomers.
Unfortunately, that’s where the good news stops, as a number of unwelcome points need to be highlighted.
Chief of these, and as a singularly unwelcome development, Sim City is now on online-only game (so as to monitor and exchange data with other players and cities).
No internet access: no game – not a very attractive or game-friendly option to buy into, but what has created a mob of irate gamers is the fact that the game servers – and, by proxy, Maxis and EA – had greatly underestimated the amount of players that would be logging on.
The result: an almost unplayable game for the few who managed to log on and play to begin with, with players just as immobile as the teeny tiny cars and trucks stranded at a badly-designed intersection.
Caught by surprise, EA issued an apology and has been working to address the server/access issues, but it hasn’t stopped gamers venting their anger and frustration all over t’internet.
Indeed, things got so bad that, briefly, Sim City’s advertising was suspended, while some retailers, including Amazon, also suspended sales.
These are not the kind of negative headlines and stories that any major new games release, or company, wants to see.
So, what now for Sim City?
After all that, some good news again – the servers issue is being addressed, with the company determined to get everyone playing, with more than enough capacity to address surges.
The occasional bugs, and pathfinding issues, are also being addressed, in a bid to help make your city a success.
If EA and Maxim can sort out these teething problems – and soon – Sim City should be a pretty cool place to visit …