Download Problems and Server Queues Plague SimCity 5 Launch
Tuesday was a tough day for fans of SimCity 5. The much anticipated Sim game suffered delays in downloads and playability—largely due to the controversial always-online component of the game.
At 12:01am SimCity 5 was supposed to unlock to be able to download. A quick download would enable the launcher, which would in turn download the rest of the game. The final download should have taken a while, but not too long. Then everyone should habe been able to start building epic cities.
Trouble started right at launch. Those trying to get into SimCity 5 experienced download failures that prevented them from even passing the first step. Once they got over that obstacle, it would take hours and hours before the launcher finished and you were able to play. This was all due to server congestion.
Something that had nothing to do with server congestion was that Origin never unlocked for a ton of people who pre-ordered the game. Let me say that again: If you paid for SimCity 5 in advance, there’s a good chance that you weren’t able to play it on launch day. Those who really wanted to play it could re-buy it and the launcher would start just fine, but that seems a bit severe. Everyone’s favorite Diablo 3 YouTuber, Francis (warning, language), had this to say:
“Not only can I not log in…but I can’t even download the (#%*) thing. Haven’t you ever heard of (#%*) preloading like everybody else in the entire (#%*) industry does?”
Speaking of Diablo 3, once the launcher finished downloading (if it ever did), potential users were greeted with
an error 37 a message letting them know they had to wait to play. “SimCity sever busy” boxes told everyone that they were in a queue, and that “the play button will become active once space is available.” The thing is, it wasn’t really a queue. There was a 20-minute timer (some people had 30 minute-timers) that would allow the user to try to get in again… kind of like a queue to get in a queue. MMO players used to queues for getting onto busy severs waited the 20 minutes to push the button again and were greeted with… another 20 minutes. Even if you could get onto a server, chances are the client would crash–deleting your sim build entirely.
Tuesday’s SimCity 5 mess has confused reviewers about what to say. Should they take the launch into account when scoring the new game? Most reviewers seemed to like the game when played under controlled circumstances. However, always-online gameplay doesn’t offer many controlled circumstances.
“The film hasn’t changed, has it? Do the critics need to go back and change their review of the movie?”
That’s a pretty good point. Early reviews of SimCity 5 were positive. People liked the game and the public was excited to play it—so excited that they naturally wanted to play it right when in came out.
“Comparing this to the restaurant industry, the game is the food and the internet-required connection is the table service…What we’ve seen following the launches of Diablo 3 and SimCity are people paying money to walk into the restaurant on opening day and not being served a meal. In a restaurant there would be immediate and dire consequences for such poor customer service. In the video game industry, there’s no shortage of apologists justifying the outcome.” Alexander Sliwinski
The heart of the issue is that SimCity 5 has forced users kicking and screaming into the always-online world. We are used to it being a single-player game, but they are now marketing it as some kind of MMO. People said the same thing about Diablo 3 because we were used to it being a single-player dungeon crawler. D3 turned out to be pretty fun to play with friends, but if you didn’t have kick-ass internet service, the game was unplayable… and still is.
It’s no argument that the tides are turning us to always-online gaming. There will be a time when all of us are always online anyway. Internet will be flowing through our streets like the air we breath and this conversation will be moot. Games like SimCity 5 and Diablo 3 might be pioneers in the industry, but until all the homes in the world have the magically fast interwebs and every game company decides to have enough servers to handle the load, it’s just gonna piss us all off.