With SimCity's launch debacle entering its third day and the game remaining inoperable for many people, EA is shifting its tone and promising a resolution, but with no time or date for the fix.
"We are aggressively undergoing maintenance on the servers and adding capacity to meet demand," read a statement posted to the game's official Facebook page last night. "Performance will fluctuate during this process. Our fans are important to us, and we thank you for your continued patience."
A note on the message boards of EA's SimCity studio Maxis indicates that servers are being added over the next two days, presumably referring to Thursday and Friday.
These are more grave statements than the one the company was using Tuesday, back when SimCity's always-online requirement and troubled servers seemed to be barring players from playing the new city-building game less consistently. The Tuesday statement: "Due to the high demand for SimCity, Origin has experienced some delays that have impacted a small percentage of users. The team has been working non-stop to resolve. We are also making changes to prevent further issues, and we're confident that the Origin service will be stable for our International SimCity launches later this week."
Since Tuesday, EA has pulled the servers offline, promised resolutions on the game's launch page, but still not managed to keep the game up and running. That SimCity Facebook page is covered in the rants of angry fans, some of which I shared on Twitter last night:
Poll posted Sunday to EA's SimCity Facebook page: "Wow, we really got this city back on track. How should we celebrate how awesome we are?"— Stephen Totilo (@stephentotilo) March 7, 2013
Current first comment: "maybe launch a rocket up EA's ASS"— Stephen Totilo (@stephentotilo) March 7, 2013
Mar. 2 poll: "What kind of power should we use?" Comment: "the power to allow people to actually play the game"— Stephen Totilo (@stephentotilo) March 7, 2013
While SimCity has traditionally been a single-player game, the default mode of the new SimCity automatically connects a player's city to those of a handful of other players, setting up trade and transit between cities. Residents from one city shop or work or go to college in a neighbor's city. Players can buy power from each other or coordinate on massive "great works". Even the game's solo, private sandbox mode requires an online connection, which many critics see as EA's attempt to bake anti-piracy digital rights management (DRM) into the game, even as EA designers have maintained that the always-online requirement is more of a design choice that persistently connects fans to a global SimCity marketplace and to new game-wide challenges.
Kotaku writers, myself included, have struggled to get access to the game, despite trying to log in at all hours of the day. I was last able to play at 8:00am ET on Wednesday morning and have run into server alerts that blocked me ever since. Our Mike Fahey, who has been laboring to review the game, says he briefly got access to the game this morning. He and I both were able to access the game on EA's private servers this past weekend without much trouble and played on public servers on launch day with few hitches.
The game's current problems echo those of Blizzard's Diablo III, which launched last May to days of errors that seemed to arise from its always-online requirements. Back then I was given a demo of the game by EA producer Kip Katserelis and asked him what they were doing to not have Diablo's problems strike SimCIty as well. He said:
"We've got experience from Spore and Darkspore," Katserelis said, citing other recent Maxis games. "EA is an on online company. We're definitely watching what's going on at Blizzard, and we're putting in backstops and checks to try to prevent those kind of things from happening."
Last night, as those very problems were striking his game, "Maxis_MD " (presumably Katserelis) posted a comment on the game's message boards:
This has been an exciting and challenging week for the team here at Maxis, the culmination years of planning and development. We have been overwhelmed by the outpouring of support and enthusiasm from our fans which has made it even more upsetting for us that technical issues have become more prominent in the last 24 hours. We are hitting a number of problems with our server architecture which has seen players encountering bugs and long wait times to enter servers. This is, obviously, not the situation we wanted for our launch week and we want you to know that we are putting everything we have at resolving these issues.
What we are doing is deploying more servers over the coming two days which will alleviate many of the ongoing issues. We are also paying close attention to all the bug reports we are receiving from our fans. We've already pushed several updates in the last few days. Our live ops team is working 24/7 to resolve issues and ensure that bug fixes roll into the game as quickly as possible.
While the ongoing issues are troubling, we can also see that players are really enjoying the game. In a single 24 hour period, there were more than 38 million buildings plopped down, nearly 7 and a half million kilometers of roads laid down, 18+ million fires started and (my favorite fact) over 40 million pipes filled up with poop.
This team has put everything into this game and won't stop until things are smooth. We ask our fans to be patient as our team works diligently to fix the issues. We share your passion for SimCity and thank you for your support and understanding.
Rough times. We asked a SimCity rep a day ago if any of these problems will alter the game's online requirement and to explain how in the world this happened. If or when they respond, we'll let you know.