Maxis sheds light on SimCity (2013) launch disaster

March 10, 2013

Maxis sheds light on SimCity (2013) launch disasterBy now everyone is probably aware of the massive server connection issues that have been plaguing SimCity since its recent launch. EA and Maxis, the studio behind the game have both issued an apology vowing to resolve all issues by working around the clock. According to Maxis the studio severely underestimated the demand there would be for the game.

In an interview with Polygon, Maxis GM, Lucy Bradshaw tells-all, explaining exactly what went wrong with the launch. Since the game’s release many users have faced connection issues resulting in the loss of hours of work spent building their city. The game received harsh criticism for its always-online setup in order to play the game.

According to Bradshaw,  Maxis in coordination with EA have been working around the clock to add new servers, but apparently capacity is only one of their concerns. The issue stems from how the game’s engine interacts with the database.

We have teams producing new servers, but we’ve identified that many of our issues were related to how [SimCity's] GlassBox [engine] managed the vast amount of simulation data through its database. We’ve addressed that and we’ve seen an 80% decrease in connectivity or responsiveness issues.

Bradshaw stated that she hopes that most of the issues should be ironed out by this weekend. She also clarified that it wasn’t just the sheer number of people hitting the servers that caused the issues, but had to do with the way people were playing.

More people played and played in ways we never saw in the beta.

simcity_1

Maxis scaled its SimCity servers according to demand data through various channels such as pre-orders. However, there was a huge surge in pre-orders leading up to launch that wasn’t accounted for. She elaborated that users were doing things not seen in the beta, exercising the database in different ways.

We test and work out the capacity load of each server in load testing and through our beta events. We have seen play behavior and load in areas that have stressed our game server [databases] in ways that we did not experience in Beta or Load Test.

Fans of the game have been clamoring for the online-only requirement to be stripped from SimCity. However, Bradshaw explains that’s just not possible due to the fact that the game requires data from its servers in order to work properly.

An online interconnected world has been part of our design philosophy since day one. It’s the game that we’ve been wanting to create since SimCity 4 as we’ve wanted to explore the dynamics between cities as they exist within regions. Real cities don’t exist in bubbles; they specialize and trade resources, workers and more.

With the way that the game works, we offload a significant amount of the calculations to our servers so that the computations are off the local PCs 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.

Since the game’s launch, the studio has stripped the game of several features such as the ability to play the game in Cheetah mode, which allows players to speed up the in-game clock and leaderboards. EA also announced plans to offer one free game from its catalog to those facing issues in SimCity as a gesture of apology.

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5 Responses to “Maxis sheds light on SimCity (2013) launch disaster”

  1. CON:

    Boycott this game

  2. FahKinSuPah:

    “With the way that the game works, we offload a significant amount of the calculations to our servers so that the computations are off the local PCs 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.”

    Sounds like a shitty game design to me.

    I love the Simcity franchise and I thought about getting this one but with everything that I am hearing I have my doubts.

    The always active internet connection required for Starcraft 2 and Diablo 3 have been unobtrusive.. but this one is completely different.

    From what I have read so far about simcity your city is not saved locally but on the EA servers. You can’t save and reload an hour later if you fuck up.

    Given the fact that Simcity has always had a big following, then they design the game so that everything pretty much runs off of servers what did they think would happen?

    Common sense suggests you end up with a cluster fucked mess.

  3. oldschool1987:

    I don’t like Sim City anyway but I might buy it just to go against CONs advice.

  4. Godless:

    I like the concept of what the creators are trying to do. bit like the Eve online / dust battle game, where everyone is connected to a grand overall war, and the performance of your particular skirmish has an impact on the game for everyone else.

    It’s a pity they didn’t include a “play offline2 option, that played SANDBOX in the same way the older games did.

  5. dans:

    http://www.eurogamer.net/articles/2013-03-14-simcity-modded-so-it-can-be-played-offline-indefinitely

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