Thursday, August 8, 2013

State of the SimCity aka "Is it safe to buy SimCity yet?"

It's always rush hour in the city of Thamesbridge

I'm just about ready to review SimCity which was released in March this year but there are actually quite a few gamers out there who have either
  1. bought SimCity at the start, /ragequitted after the serious launch issues and vowed to only return when all the bugs were fixed, or
  2. refrained from buying SimCity in the first place based on the feedback from group (a).
These people would undoubtedly be curious to know whether the game is any less buggier after five months. Surely Maxis have had enough time to make the game bug-free, right? I examine some of the most common bugs and issues that I have experienced and give the lowdown of where the game is now at after Update 6.0.

Connection/save game issues [FIXED]:
When the game was first released people couldn't even play the game and losing progress on your cities was common. With fixing of the netcode and heaps more servers (plus players leaving) this problem has more or less been fixed.

Education bug [FIXED]:
At one stage students attending your school would just dwindle into oblivion meaning if you ran a nuclear power plant, it would inevitably meltdown (not to mention crime skyrocketing, power consumption increasing, etc.). This appears to be fixed (after playing on Update 6.0 for a couple of hours)

Casino/Tourism bug [FIXED]:
Or at least the issue isn't as severe as it initially was. Last time I played there were still issues with the most expensive casino in the game but at least all the other ones were raking in the dollars. The cause of the bug were tourists not coming into the city until the others left meaning there was a lull where no tourists were in the city at all.

Trading between cities [FIXED]:
Apparently they have fixed this but I haven't actually tested it yet. I received some money from a fellow player in a recent game though :)

Traffic Pathing Issues [PARTIALLY FIXED]:
I think this will forever be a problem with SimCity although they did make some improvements early on. Originally, cars would only take the most direct route. That's still the case except now cars that notice a particular segment is clogged up will take an alternate route. I've received reports though that trucks coming from outside the city to replenish coal power stations can still get stuck though (another reason to stick with renewables and nuclear power) and freight trucks can sometimes not make it to businesses if traffic is too congested in your city.

Conflicting Messages [PARTIALLY FIXED]:
Some of the messaging is better but I'm still getting silly messages like a factory closing that says there are "No places to send freight to" and then my zoning button flashing red and the advisor saying "We don't have enough freight!" D: Obviously a traffic issue but maybe they should mention that's what the real issue is instead of misleading the player?

Inadvertent griefing [WILL PROBABLY NEVER BE FIXED]:
This just seems to be a "feature" of the game. Thanks to the inclusion of multiplayer, neighbouring cities can help yet also hinder your progress. i.e. if crime or pollution gets out of hand this will adversely affect your city. A great degree of cooperation is required if you want to function as a unit. Not exactly a bug but just a potential design flaw. Especially an issue when you abandon a city and you think the criminals will magically disappear: they don’t.

Only real-time data: No historical data [WILL PROBABLY NEVER BE FIXED]:
Similar to the Conflicting messages point. The fact you only get real-time alerts means you don't really know how well your city is doing in the long-term and whether things are improving or getting worse. This means you can’t actually do any city planning which is what the original SimCity games were all about. Instead you are reacting to any crises or issues that crop up.

Finite water [PARTIALLY FIXED]:
Rain apparently occurs more often (and I've noticed it occurs quite frequently on the current map I'm playing) so at least the water table has a better chance of replenishing itself in the recent patches. However, water along with the other resources, are still finite so if you end up with a huge city you'll probably still need a secondary city to provide utilities.

Always Online DRM [WILL PROBABLY NEVER BE FIXED]:
I can understand being online all the time in order to play multiplayer but considering this game can be played single player there should be an option for an offline mode.

Larger plot sizes [WILL PROBABLY NEVER BE FIXED]:
Maxis claims that plots were made purposefully small so that people on modest systems could still enjoy the experience. While there may be some truth to this there's still a big enough backlash from fans to make this one of the numero uno complaints. Unfortunately, I can't see them fixing this anytime soon – unless they decided to introduce new maps with larger plots (with a warning to users that it may have an adverse impact on performance for modest systems).

TL;DR: Most of the major bugs have been fixed yet the game’s design flaws still remain.

So that’s my take on the current state of SimCity. Do you agree or disagree with the points made? What has your experience been so far? Are you planning to get back into SimCity or buy it for the first time?

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