SimCity Articles RSS Feed | GameSkinny.com SimCity RSS Feed on GameSkinny.com https://www.gameskinny.com/ en Launch Media Network Everything Our Dream Sequel to Cities: Skylines Would Fix https://www.gameskinny.com/tr0iy/everything-our-dream-sequel-to-cities-skylines-would-fix https://www.gameskinny.com/tr0iy/everything-our-dream-sequel-to-cities-skylines-would-fix Tue, 08 Nov 2016 12:14:49 -0500 Jared Elliott

If you're anything like me, you've spent many moons huddled in front of the screen building houses, theme parks, and even cities in Sims-like sandbox games -- and Sims alone was the staple of the genre for many years. But with the series of unfortunate events which plagued the release of the newest SimCity, the time came for the old king of sandbox builders to be deposed, and for a new ruler to reign.

Enter Cities: Skylines -- a SimCity clone in every respect which manages to take the good bits from traditional SimCity gameplay and leave the gristly ones behind. While its uniqueness as a game is debatable, its smoothness and addictive nature are indubitable. Cities: Skylines has effectively replaced the SimCity series as the ultimate sandbox builder -- but can it keep its title for long? For all of its great qualities, the game will need to address a few annoyances for future titles (or perhaps even in this one) if it plans to keep the throne.

First off, building a successful metropolis in Cities: Skylines is a cakewalk.

The cities you build are difficult to manage in some respects, depending on their complexity, but this never seems to get in the way of a successful and prosperous society. Generally, the people are always happy -- you really have to try to rustle their jimmies for anyone to give a shit about your city's living conditions, which removes a great deal of challenge and incentive from the gameplay. In other words, once your city is running smoothly enough on its own, there's little need to tamper with it, save the occasional maintenance or creative endeavor.

This disappointing issue could be remedied quickly with the inclusion of natural disasters, a la SimCity. Think about it -- every once in a while, an unanticipated disaster arises which requires your full attention and care, lest your entire metropolitan creation be reduced to ash and rubble. The heat is on -- perhaps literally -- and your best hopes for pulling through are prior preparation and a quick wit.

Doesn't that sound like fun? Of course it does! It's one gameplay element that SimCity got right a long, long time ago -- and if Cities: Skylines wants to be remembered for more than a couple of years, its sequel will need to stir up the pot for players in similar fashion.

Another aspect of Cities: Skylines that needs desperate improvement is the way it communicates with its players.

"Chirps," for example, are the in-game equivalent of Tweets, and they serve to inform the player of the general state of their city using a form of crowd-sourced information. Power outages and fires tend to set off a number of Chirps, for example. Without paying much attention to the Orwellian mass surveillance required to pull this off, the Chirp feature is pretty neat -- except when it isn't.

As mentioned above, Chirps are very helpful for figuring out what's going wrong in your bustling city at any given time -- but what if nothing's wrong? Here, the game world of Cities: Skylines starts to become painfully familiar as the Chirp-sphere becomes inundated with pointless comments and banal jokes. In real life, however, one can simply choose to turn off Twitter notifications and live in peace from the constant deluge of Tweets. Cities: Skylines offers no such refuge, which can become intensely irritating very quickly.

Finally, if there's one thing that Cities: Skylines needs to do better in a sequel, it is, above all else, to provide access to public transit options earlier in the game.

Subways, above-ground train lines, and bus systems are difficult to build around a bustling city which the player has already spent hours building. And all Cities players know that it can get frustrating. It is much easier to do it the other way around -- that is, to plan your city around public transit options. In its current form, this approach makes the logistics of a city more difficult than it should be to maintain.

Do you agree with our Cities: Skylines gripes? Is there anything you would change about the game? Let us know in the comments below!

 

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Who does city building better: SimCity or Cities: Skylines? https://www.gameskinny.com/ci9rh/who-does-city-building-better-simcity-or-cities-skylines https://www.gameskinny.com/ci9rh/who-does-city-building-better-simcity-or-cities-skylines Thu, 28 Jul 2016 06:43:29 -0400 ChrisDeCoster

The city building genre, while small, has a very dedicated fanbase, which is why so many people were angered when the newest SimCity game launched in such a poor state.  While a lot of the original issues with the game are fixed, many fans had already jumped ship to Cities: Skylines, a new franchise with a similar layout.  To determine which one is the better buy for fans, here's a comprehensive look at the two titles.  

Please note that, while SimCity's launch was a disaster, this comparison will focus on the current states of both games.

Round 1: City Size

In a game focused on city building, size definitely matters. While it's not the only thing, as games such as this thrive on the amount of detail you're able to put into your city, the size of your sandbox does a lot to limit or expand your vision. In this category, Skylines wins, hands down, with a map of 36 square kilometers, or nine times the size of SimCity.

SimCity: 0, Skylines: 1

Round 2: Customization

Both games support the modding community, so customization is a big part of each game. They both offer a huge amount of customization, and SimCity has an expansion pack that offers even more.

However, this one goes to Skylines, due to its advanced map editor, the ability to construct damns for hydroelectric power, and the need to build powerlines and pipes to keep the city running. If you're getting into city building and want to manage all the little details down to a T, Skylines is the one that will let you do it.

SimCity: 0, Skylines: 2

Round 3: Events/Gameplay

One of the signature features of the SimCity series is the disasters that force you to adapt and rebuild, and those return in the most recent game. Skylines has no such feature, instead you just keep building. While that's still fun enough, it keeps the game somewhat predictable, so SimCity wins this one.

SimCity: 1, Skylines: 2

Round 4: Systems/Options

Each game also has an offline mode -- as much of SimCity's disaster of a launch was linked to its poor implementation of forced online connectivity. In terms of platforms, both play on PC and Mac, but only Skylines is available on Linux. While that's no huge loss, if you want to download SimCity, you'll have to use Origin, which means that this one goes to Skylines, as it's available through Steam.

Final Score: SimCity: 1, Skylines: 3

While SimCity isn't without its merits, it's no match for Skylines, the new champion of the genre. Still, it's close enough that the real winner is just a matter of preference.

Do you agree with our decision? Let us know in the comments!

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10 Types of Games We Want to See on Microsoft Hololens https://www.gameskinny.com/x34i0/10-types-of-games-we-want-to-see-on-microsoft-hololens https://www.gameskinny.com/x34i0/10-types-of-games-we-want-to-see-on-microsoft-hololens Wed, 17 Jun 2015 19:30:05 -0400 CallSignDriver

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What games did we miss?

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I tried to cover some pretty broad genres in this article, but if I made any glaring omissions that made you go, "WHOA! How could he forget this!" please let me know in the comments below. I look forward to hearing anything you've got to say, and maybe in time we'll see some of these fantasies become augmented realities.

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Tabletop Role-Playing Games

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Dungeons & Dragons, Pathfinder, Shadowrun
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Tabletop RPGs are very much intended to be a "theater of the mind" experience. Sure, there are rules and mechanics in place to facilitate gameplay, but most of the actual experience relies on player imagination. That means that depending on the player, a game of Dungeons & Dragons may be better than any video game, or it may be more boring than a game of Clue. 

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More visual or tactile players may look to supplement their RPG experience with decorative elements like lead figures and miniature terrain, and there's nothing wrong with that, but it ultimately restricts the flexibility of your story. It doesn't matter how well you describe your character's appearance; if you have a mini, that's what your character is going to look like to the rest of your party. Likewise, Dwarven Forge terrain (like the set seen above) is really cool, but also really expensive. If you want to get your money's worth, you'll be stuck spending your next several adventures revisiting the same eerily similar hallways, when you could have stuck to the endless possibilities of wet-erase markers and a vinyl mat.

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It isn't wrong to want your tabletop RPG to feel like a video game, but trying to construct a vast imaginary world with overpriced doll house furniture is expensive and impractical. 
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Microsoft Hololens provides a possible alternative to this, allowing game masters to project virtual landscapes onto an augmented reality tabletop, without the need for expensive model terrain. Even with something as simple as a basic level editor, a game master could construct any number of diverse roleplaying and combat scenarios for his or her players to experience, interacting with each instance as if it were a level in a tactics RPG.

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But that's only the beginning. An online marketplace of downloadable tilesets, items, and creatures would provide game masters with an even greater variety of atmospheric set pieces, and at a fraction of the cost. By allowing creators to share their own custom assets with one another via "Steam Workshop" or something similar, these options increase exponentially. Create a campaign set entirely in The Elder Scrolls universe, or use an indie designer's assets to create something entirely original.

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With the power of Hololens and the support of the community, a GM's only limitation would be his or her imagination.

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Tactics RPGs

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X-Com, Fire Emblem, Final Fantasy Tactics
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The more I think about it, the more I can't help but feel like Hololens was made for tactical RPGs. After There Came An Echo showed us the potential for voice commands in a tactical RPG, this seems like a rational step forward. Plus, by using hand gestures to draw a path for units to follow, players can circumvent any unintentional pathfinding mistakes (like the kind that get me killed in X-Com every damn time).

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This could work particularly well for isometric games like Final Fantasy Tactics, which--like Bastion--appear to lend well to the format. Imagine circling around one of the cubic stages of Final Fantasy Tactics as it hovers just above your table, selecting units with a hand gesture and bringing them to life with a word.

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The Hololens format also allows for competitive multiplayer at a single table. Having two Hololens headsets would enable players to view the same shared landscape, but with different context-sensitive details, such as fog-of-war. This feature alone makes virtual tabletop stealth tactics an actual possibility. Without it, you have a game of holographic "wizard's chess." With it, you have a three-dimensional game of combat battleship. It's win-win.

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Top-down Action RPGs

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Diablo, Magicka, Bastion
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All right, boys and girls: let's talk co-op.

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Cooperative multiplayer games are usually some of my favorite video games of all time. I can't think of many single player gaming experiences that wouldn't have been made better by co-op. To me, just about any video game is best when enjoyed with a friend. 

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Top-down action RPGs are great for drop-in drop-out co-op play, and thanks to the camera angle, they're also perfect for Hololens. A game like Diablo 3 could easily be projected onto the surface of a coffee table, with up to four players seated around it. While each player would view the game area from different angles, each Hololens doesn't have to display exactly the same image, allowing each player his or her own GUI to always appear right-side-up.

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Unfortunately, scrolling 3D worlds on Hololens can look a little weird around the edges, as we saw at E3's Minecraft demo. I could imagine isometric games having less of a problem here, especially Supergiant's Bastion, whose mysteriously floating platforms could easily fly in and out where necessary. As for games like Diablo 3, I'd suggest some sort of visual effect, like a boundary of fog to obscure the edges of the projected area. 

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With all these considerations in mind, I can't help but imagine just how cool it would be to control a team of miniature heroes fighting a scaled-down version of Belial, bursting from the center of my table. 

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Life Simulation Games

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The Sims, Animal Crossing
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Let's not hide from it, people: The Sims is a dollhouse simulator. You create a character and play dress up with it. You build a dollhouse and decorate it. You use the game to live out the life you wish you had. Learn to own it: playing with dolls is fun, playing with Sims is funner, and playing with Sims on Hololens could be the funnest yet.

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I could see The Sims being played on surfaces of varying sizes and shapes, from a small plot of land on a tiny desktop to a luxurious estate spanning a banquet table. Building your home could be as simple as drawing up blueprints, then watching those plans spring to life. Furniture could be previewed as an over-sized 3D model before being shrunk down and placed inside. Need to expand your home? Moving walls could be as simple as "pinch" and "drag."

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Until I know the limitations of the Hololens, I'm going to assume that with the right setup, gameplay could be projected onto just about any surface. With that in mind, I can imagine character creation and character interaction sequences being projected onto the floor, allowing the player to view his or her creations at full scale whenever appropriate. Need to make fine adjustments to your character's appearance? Go full scale and tailor him or her to perfection. A fight broke out at your house party? Project it to the living room floor, grab your popcorn and watch the drama unfold.

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Board Game Video Games

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Mario Party, Sonic Shuffle, Animal Crossing: Amiibo Festival
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See "board game feel" on slide two and tell me that playing Mario Party on tabletop wouldn't be rad as hell. Most fans would probably buy a physical Mario Party board game if there was one, but packaging seventy-five minigames into the box would be impractical, and Mario Party without minigames is just... well... a board game.

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A game of Mario Party on Hololens (or similar technology) could begin by opening a virtual box, revealing a selection of boards to choose from. Once selected, the chosen board would fold out onto the table as a flat surface, then spring into life as a three-dimensional landscape. Imagine the board shown above with a rotating Ferris wheel, functioning roller coaster, and even a flowing river cascading over the edge of your table. Imagine using gestures to roll virtual dice, and maybe even using amiibos as game pieces.

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Between rounds, the board could temporarily disappear, revealing whatever arena necessary for that particular minigame. I can't imagine that every game could be played with gestures and voice commands, so a controller would be a welcome peripheral. Coins won in minigames could be represented by growing stacks arranged around the edge of the table. Give those coins physics and watch players maliciously topple each other's stacks at every opportunity.

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Pet/Card Battle Games

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Pokémon, Yo-Kai Watch, Yu-Gi-Oh
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Yes, I understand why there can't be a Pokémon game on XBox, but that doesn't stop Microsoft from developing its own competing property--especially when they have the potential to do so with better technology. A Pokémon-style pet battle game on Hololens could project miniature monster battles onto a table, or even life-sized ones onto the floor of your living space, using trading cards or even amiibo-style figurines as augmented reality markers. 

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Remember Eye of Judgement? It was a PlayStation 3 game that used the PlayStation Eye to turn a trading card game into a Yu-Gi-Oh styled augmented reality experience. It had an interesting concept that might have been better realized with the help of Hololens, and could possibly even be expanded upon through Amiibo-style figurines. Imagine a game where players buy and collect creatures as lifeless cards or figures, but bring them to life through the power of Hololens. Players could raise these creatures as pets in a fashion similar to the Pokémon-Amie minigame, interacting with them in a three-dimensional augmented-reality space. By keeping the creature's stats saved to the cloud, or even to physical media within the figure, players would be free to carry their creatures from place to place, challenging others in one-on-one Hololens battles in real-world settings.

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The crazy thing about this idea is that nothing is stopping Nintendo from doing it now with the 3DS's augmented reality capabilities. It's just a race to see who does it first, and who does it better.

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Multiplayer Online Battle Arenas

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Heroes of The Storm, League of Legends, DOTA 2
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Depending on the size of the table, I feel like a MOBA on Hololens could be played zoomed all the way out, with the entire map rising up from the table's surface. This perspective might grant players betters situational awareness, allowing them to quickly survey the entire arena in the blink of an eye, then refocus on their own characters without missing a beat.

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To seasoned competitors, however, this mode of gameplay might be an unnecessary complication. In that case, the Hololens perspective might still be appealing to eSports viewers, who could watch a match unfold below them as if they were seated in a football stadium.

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City-Building Sims

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Cities: Skylines, SimCity, Tropico
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Imagine building a model city in your own three-dimensional space, with computer-generated skyscrapers rising up from your dining room table, and miniature civilians buzzing about the streets like the denizens of some holographic ant farm. Level mountains with the swipe of your hand. Draw roads and rivers with the tip of your finger. With technology like Hololens, all this power could be yours.

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But why stop there? The limitations of Hololens are yet to be seen. Why limit your city to the table when you could project it onto the living room floor? From here you could survey your entire city in all of its grandeur, without the need for zooming in and out. Peer into windows like a curious giant, or stomp through buildings like a rampaging kaiju. The city is yours. Do as you please!

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Real-time Strategy Games

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StarCraft, Age of Empires, Homeworld
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Way back in 2006, I watched a video of a person playing Warcraft III on a table via a projector and a touch-sensitive surface. Today, gamers can accomplish a similar feat... if they have $7000 to shell out on a coffee-table-sized tablet. Tomorrow we might be able to manage something even better, and hopefully for a fraction of the cost.

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Like in our 4X fantasy, players could manipulate units via gestures, voice commands, or a controller, but this time with the added freedom of zooming in and out when necessary. This is more of a novelty for top-down RTS games like StarCraft, but could be tremendously practical for games like Homeworld, where units can be manipulated in three dimensions. Imagine issuing commands to fleets of starfighters as they float about your living room, assigning a destination waypoint by simply pinching that point in space.

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4X Games

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Civilization, Endless Legend, Sins of a Solar Empire
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The earliest 4X games were inspired by traditional board games, like Risk. The transition from board game to video game allows for a greater degree of complexity and visual appeal, but sacrifices that board game feel. With Hololens, you could project that board onto a table, turning your dining room into a medieval war room.

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From your war room, you could survey your empire from every angle, interacting with it via gesture, voice command, or a controller. And when it comes time to convene with diplomats from other nations, what if Hololens could project those characters onto the floor instead--a life-size representation of Napoleon Bonaparte standing across from you, preparing to negotiate terms. 

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E3 2015 was pretty damn awesome, but in spite of the amazing new features and games that were announced, I think the thing that I'm most excited for is Microsoft Hololens. For gaming to grow as an entertainment platform and as an art form, audiences will need to embrace the new and exciting technologies being implemented. Unfortunately, "new" and "different" can be slow to catch on. 

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While motion controls have apparently overstayed their welcome, and Oculus Rift-style VR has yet to fully arrive, I believe that Microsoft's Hololens might have the appeal necessary to push gaming forward towards new and exciting changes, revolutionizing the way that we play video games. Sure, playing Minecraft with the Hololens is a novel idea, but just think of all the other video games that would benefit from a similar concept, played on a coffee table like a 3D board game, or even projected out onto the floor of your living room.

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The following slideshow is a list of games and game genres that would be absolutely killer on Microsoft Hololens. Keep in mind that while some of these games are unlikely to appear on a Microsoft platform, that doesn't stop Microsoft from developing similar games, nor does it stop their competitors from developing similar technologies.

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EA Closes SimCity Developer Maxis https://www.gameskinny.com/2kgp9/ea-closes-simcity-developer-maxis https://www.gameskinny.com/2kgp9/ea-closes-simcity-developer-maxis Wed, 04 Mar 2015 17:36:47 -0500 Brian Spaen

EA is shutting down Maxis Emeryville, the developers behind SimCity and Spore, and the main studio of the Maxis brand.

In a statement from the publisher, EA clarifies that The Sims 4 is still being worked on, and they will be moving work to the other subsidiaries under the Maxis brand.

Today we are consolidating Maxis IP development to our studios in Redwood Shores, Salt Lake City, Helsinki and Melbourne locations as we close our Emeryville location. These changes do not impact our plans for The Sims. Players will continue to see rich new experiences in The Sims 4, with our first expansion pack coming soon along with a full slate of additional updates and content in the pipeline.

Work on The Sims franchise was mostly done at the EA Redwood City campus, also known as "The Sims Studio."

Still, everyone that worked at the Emeryville location will have to find other jobs. News first trickled out from Daniel Willis of BeyondSims, which is a site that covers everything Sims related. He posted tweets from former employees like Guillaume Pierre, which emphasized that he and everyone else were "out of a job."

The disastrous release of the SimCity reboot contributed to the shutdown. The game was plagued with a buggy online experience from the beginning, and never gained traction with the gaming community.

There's been no clarification on whether former employees will move to the other locations. It's always rough news to hear about developers losing their jobs, and especially when it comes during an event like GDC.

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We Are Not Go For Launch: Broken & Problematic Launches Are One of 2014's Worst Gaming Trends https://www.gameskinny.com/4kuzr/we-are-not-go-for-launch-broken-problematic-launches-are-one-of-2014s-worst-gaming-trends https://www.gameskinny.com/4kuzr/we-are-not-go-for-launch-broken-problematic-launches-are-one-of-2014s-worst-gaming-trends Sat, 29 Nov 2014 14:07:22 -0500 Connor Van Ligten

My excitement upon receiving Halo: The Master Chief Collection was unfathomable. I could not wait to jump in and frag some noobs across 4 games and hundreds of maps. (Realistically, I would be the one getting fragged.) However, this fantasy was crushed after it took more than 20 minutes for me to find a lobby.

I was placed in a match, a 4v3. (Luckily I was on the larger team.) I played one game. I performed decently and was ready to play another round. Once my lobby emptied and the waiting continued, I was so frustrated that I didn't feel like trying any longer. One of my most anticipated games of 2014 had launched in a poor, broken state. We've seen this far too often this year, and it has raised questions about how thoroughly multiplayer servers are tested before launch, and whether or not a game is truly complete when it's released.

Poor launches were also an issue last year, and perhaps those were an omen of the issues we're experiencing now. The first problems came from EA. When 2013's Simcity launched, many players were angered by the game's mandatory internet connection for a multiplayer feature most wouldn't even be using. This was worsened when the mass number of players connecting to Origin caused network outages, rendering the game completely unplayable.

This wasn't the end of EA's troubles. Battlefield 4's launch was plagued with horrible ping and a variety of game-breaking bugs that angered those who were excited to play it. The launch was so bad that DICE put all their future projects on hold in order to fix the game. One more time in 2013 launch problems reared their head towards a major release.

When the highly-anticipated multiplayer component of the acclaimed Grand Theft Auto V, GTA Online, launched, the number of players attempting to connect was so large that the majority of players could not take part in the first race, which was required to start their experience. Understandably, Rockstar was not prepared for the massive playerbase, and quickly fixed this problem, but other issues such as small lobbies for jobs and the loss of characters, vehicles, and property continued to persist for much longer. These launch problems surprised many, but what happened in 2014 was far worse.

2014 was a year in which many massively hyped games release. One of these was Watch Dogs, Ubisoft's own twist on the open-world crime genre, with an interesting hacking mechanic to boot. Unfortunately, many PC gamers who had built or upgraded a rig just for this title experienced poor optimization and framerates, especially those with AMD cards. Not only did the game have technical issues, but many were also shocked to see a severe graphical downgrade from builds of the game seen at tradeshows. Watch Dogs did look reasonably presentable at release, but was a far cry from what blew everyone away at E3 2012. Imagining what the game would have been if it had released during the console launch in 2013 gives me chills.

Assassin's Creed Unity, another major Ubisoft title, had its fair share of issues, from the creepy yet hilarious "no face glitch" to random dips in framerates, and a poor port on the PC side.

Driveclub, a major racing title exclusive to PS4, had a number of annoying glitches and connection issues that resulted in the free edition for PS+ owners being delayed.

Far Cry 4 had issues with connecting to multiplayer matches, continuing Ubisoft's lackluster launch record.

Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare angered players with bad spawning and basing matchmaking off of skill and not ping, resulting in matches with poor connection and lots of lag.

Halo: The Master Chief Collection, as mentioned before, was released with ridiculously long matchmaking times, and connection issues, as well as ranking, UI, and hitbox problems that resulted in the removal of 2 playlists and detracted from what should have been a celebration of one of gaming's greatest franchises.

LittleBigPlanet 3 shipped with game breaking bugs, GTA Online didn't work any better on next-gen consoles, and Nintendo's struggle to implement a successful online system into their games was obvious with both versions of the new Smash Brothers.

Why are so many games launching with broken online features?

That question is hard to answer. In some situations, the game isn't prepared for the size of its playerbase (like GTA Online), and that's a more acceptable (albeit equally frustrating) reason for a broken launch. Sometimes, it can be because of a lack of sufficient play-testing or server testing. Sometimes it's because of players connecting from far areas, creating inconsistent ping and lag.

As much as we want to blame it on something, launch issues can be inexplicable and random. Unfortunately, many of these problems result in the developers rushing the game to "completion" in order to get it out by a specific date - perhaps before the release of another rival game or before the holiday season. The developers often view the problem as unfixable before release date, and would rather release the game sooner (and fix issues through patches and DLC) than delay it and risk suffering marginally smaller profits.

I hope this doesn't occur often, but thanks to the massive hype and pre-order numbers we see piling up for major AAA releases, it could be true. I hope developers learn from this year and decide that "we're not going to fix it in time, let's release it now, we're going to make a lot of money, and we'll fix it later" is not an acceptable option. I have hope, though, becomes some companies are taking their time with their games. EA delayed Battlefield: Hardline into 2015. Turtle Rock took Evolve out of the holiday lineup and pushed it into February. In addition, Rocksteady pushed back Arkham Knight and Bloodbourne was delayed by From Software.

With the power and potential that the new generation of consoles hold, I hope to see a complete game release without a large number of bugs and server issues. It's not a very unreasonable thing to expect, at least in most cases.

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Thailand Bans "Dictator Simulator" Game Tropico 5 https://www.gameskinny.com/7pnot/thailand-bans-dictator-simulator-game-tropico-5 https://www.gameskinny.com/7pnot/thailand-bans-dictator-simulator-game-tropico-5 Tue, 05 Aug 2014 06:15:02 -0400 PencilPusha

Thailand has been going through a lot of drastic changes for the past three months. According to the Associated Press via ABCNews.com:

"Thailand has been under a military dictatorship since May 22, when soldiers overthrew a civilian government in a coup. The junta has issued several edicts that critics say infringe on media freedom and free speech."

That must be why the new "dictator simulator," Tropico 5, was recently banned by the Film and Censorship Office of Thailand, which is conveniently under military 'junta' supervision. It's an extremely popular video game but it has very strong political - and possibly influential - themes to it. According to the game's official website, WorldofTropico.com, the game features the ability to dictate "from the early colonial period to beyond the 21st century." The game also features challenges such as "advanced trading mechanics, technology, scientific research, exploration" and a co-op/competitive multiplayer experience allowing up to four players to play together.

Unfortunately, the gamers of Thailand won't be able to experience the game. Perhaps the Film and Censorship Office believes that the democratic influence - or the possibility of another type of government other than a dictatorship - could cause an uprising or revolt from the people. As a result, the Film and Censorship Office banned the game, saying that "some contents of the game are not appropriate for the current situation," according to GameSpot.com.

But here's the kicker: the game's cover art has an image of Fidel Castro and Abraham Lincoln look-alikes, back-to-back while smiling, with the world right beneath their elbows. Cuba's long-time dictator and one of America's most memorable presidents back-to-back on the cover? This game is definitely trying to make a political statement, but with some humor involved since their smiles look creepy and too wide to be believed. Kalypso Media, past distributor of Tropico 3 and Tropico 4 in Thailand, had this to say about the Tropico 5 situation:

"Tropico 3 and 4 both enjoyed successful releases in the country and although the Tropico brand does have a realistic political element to it, the scenarios and content are all delivered with a certain trademark tongue in cheek humor."

Oddly enough, the game was released in May, the same month when the current dictatorship in Thailand began. And since the dictatorship has been in place, it's been strict on its people. According to ABCNews.com, Thailand television viewers, for example, see only blurred images of things like cigarrettes and alcohol and almost completely eradicate suggestive sexual themes or things that might go against the dictatorship way of life.

How would you like to rule an island as its president and build it the way you see fit, controlling everything, right down to the media? Sound familiar? Seems similar to SimCity or something like an Island Tycoon-type of computer game! The only difference is that the dictator of Thailand sees this game as a way of letting others know how they could possible overthrow him either by another dictator or by a revolt of the people. And he's obviously not about to let that happen.

Tropico 5 is set to be released on the Xbox 360 and the PlayStation 4 later on this year. For more information on the game, check out their official website.

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Video Games in the Classroom: The Future of College Education? https://www.gameskinny.com/76bwm/video-games-in-the-classroom-the-future-of-college-education https://www.gameskinny.com/76bwm/video-games-in-the-classroom-the-future-of-college-education Fri, 25 Jul 2014 10:26:05 -0400 PencilPusha

Communication has gone into the digital age, and eventually so will teaching and learning, as if it hasn't already. There are commercials all over television encouraging screen-based learning: ABCMouse.com for the little ones, K12.com (a K-12 alternative) as opposed to physically going to school, and things like KhanAcademy.com and Lumosity.com for those grown folks who need a little fine-tuning or help in certain areas like math or memory. Whatever happened to just taking a regular class at the local community college? It's the sign of the times: the technological times.

On KQED.org, writer Jordan Shapiro writes that "[while] digital games will certainly never replace a great teacher, they are tools that can help teachers do their jobs more effectively." Teachers bring so much to the table: mentorship, the ability to relate to their students, personality, and the list goes on.

Could video games teach the children of the future?

Shapiro's opening sentence leaves a lot to think about: "We often think about game-based learning as if video games can become robotic teachers." As much as some of us might like them to, they can't. Video games can't teach us about the world and its pros and cons. What it can do is teach us about one or two things in particular or show us how a good story unravels.

For example, The Last of Us is ideal for an English class or writing class. It has plenty of gameplay open to analysis and it's full of literary devices such as ambiguity, flashback, foreshadowing, tragedy, and it serves as a visual allegory. The game is long and difficult at times, unfortunately, so for the sake of time and frustration, a gameplay walk-through video on YouTube would suffice (minus commentary of course). It'd make a great project and an interesting one at that.

Other examples would be SimCity and Final Fantasy Tactics. SimCity would be ideal for a Civil Engineering class, while Final Fantasy Tactics would be great for teaching strategy, staying a couple of steps ahead of your opponent, learning to predict movements and act accordingly. Shapiro believes that social impact is key. Without social impact, this idea won't manifest itself into something greater.

Shapiro brings up a great point in her blog:

"In my undergraduate college classroom, I sometimes require all of my students to play a popular game in the weeks immediately following a unit on Freud. I challenge them to analyze the game like a dream. I ask them to identify the latent content. We identify gender biases, the subtle differences between games aimed at boys and games aimed at girls. What skills are these games teaching? What conceptions of reality are they privileging?"

These are very interesting concepts and questions that would be fantastic for Gender Studies classes! With video games and education, the possibilities are limitless - and lucrative, too.

According to phys.org, ASU Professor Elisabeth Hayes says: 

"Game players often develop sophisticated technical and language skills that can lead to STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) careers.  It's a hidden opportunity for literacy that we could take advantage of as educators and parents."

What better way to reach college students than through something most of them enjoy? And the fact that it will lead to a successful career makes it so much more appealing to not only students, but parents as well.

Shapiro also writes:

"We need more video game studies departments that are not about game development and computer programming, but rather about critical thinking. Not video game classes that analyze game design and mechanics — video game classes that are about analyzing the literature of gaming. We have film studies, now it’s time for video game studies."

So instead of playing games that sometimes do end up numbing minds, play games that stimulate minds to think, and think well. 'Video Game Studies' would give Humanities a whole new perspective, as well as college. Imagine being a Video Game Studies major!

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Are Game Publishers Going Down A Bad Path? https://www.gameskinny.com/qnsb9/are-game-publishers-going-down-a-bad-path https://www.gameskinny.com/qnsb9/are-game-publishers-going-down-a-bad-path Sun, 30 Mar 2014 12:06:18 -0400 Xavier's

Roughly 4 years ago, I was a fighting game fanatic. A self-proclaimed star in the arcades and on home consoles, I was very much entertained playing the genre. In the mist of all the publishers that brought great titles to these fighting adventures however, no other company was as more reputable and well-known than the juggernaut known as Capcom.

What a colossal and creative group of people, bringing us some of the most influential video game characters of all time, Mega Man and the Street Fighter cast to name a few. There games series were borderline perfection, with many of their franchises containing solid entries year after year. Marvel vs Capcom had first shown me that different brands crossing together was a really awesome thing, and that no characters were limited to one game.

So you could imagine a longtime supporter such as myself feeling betrayed when Capcom decided to put the almighty dollar over their fan base with a slew of DLC ripoffs.

Marvel vs Capcom 3 was a great fighter, with fantastic cell-shaded graphics and interesting characters, but was lacking many options like the basic spectator mode to watch people fight while you were waiting in the lobby online.

Capcom decided to remedy these hindrances with a completely new retail version of the game, abandoning the suckers that had bought the first one. This blatant cash grab titled Ultimate Marvel vs Capcom 3 showcased everything that was wrong with greedy studios.

This release featured a small amount of extra characters put in (even less which characters we actually wanted), bug fixes that could just have been addressed with a simple patch on the first game, and SPECTATOR MODE, a feature that has been implemented since the prehistoric period of the '90s free of charge (not to mention it was supposed to be in original from the start).

Capcom had begun to lose followers and respect from this decision, but regardless of how unpopular they were in the eyes of the public, they were still making a profit therefore continuing their bad habits with Street Fighter X Tekken.

Again, although a great title, Street Fighter X Tekken's business practices faltered even more dramatically as people found out that the supposed "DLC" characters were already on the disc, meaning you were basically paying double for the overall experience.

Various other bad marketing decisions and missteps have put Capcom in their current financial predicament today, with reports showing Capcom only has 152 million left in the bank, definitely cutting it close considering they're a 3rd party developer.

What do these businesses decisions reflect upon the whole gaming empire?

Unfortunately, Capcom's shady practices are not alone in the industry, as corporate giant Electronic Arts has fallen victim to the art of squeezing the consumers' wallet in lackluster experiences as well.

EA has fallen under immense scrutiny for their implementation of multiplayer online passes, a trend so hated by gamers that it has gotten taken out entirely due to the negative outcry. In addition, they have put to use very costly microtransactions that exchange real world money for imaginary items inside the game. And, as we know, EA is not new to releasing unpolished messes of games for the general public to suffer through, all for quick cash.

Battlefield 4 is a prime example of a buggy launch due to a very rushed development cycle. Although obviously trying to go for a blockbuster experience, the title falls short due to its unfinished game mechanics and buggy online play that is still a half-working to this day.

And then there's Sim City....

Remember how ostracised this poor game got? All justified, sadly, as the game did not work upon release. EA rushed this travesty out early, with online servers that were practically nonexistent functionality-wise, kind of a problem if your game is always online...

The developers were trying to go for something innovative, with actual people connecting to create wonderous cities, only problem was the game desperately needed the extra time to smooth out all the very real hiccups and online connectivity issues, something EA would not allow.

Well at least it's getting an offline mode soon, so maybe this one will actually flourish the way it was supposed to, the way EA had promised some time ago.

What can be done about all of this?

Latest offender Konami has partook in questionable choices by releasing small amounts of content in the form of Metal Gear Solid: Ground Zeroes, a title that gives fairly little gameplay substance for a controversal price of $20 or $30 dollars depending on the system. This game signifies that the trend of manipulating the customer for the publisher's favor is still very much alive even after all the backlash.

In order to stop this growing epidemic of mediocrity, we need to protest with our wallets. Stop supporting these awful practices with our money. I'm not saying we need to miss out on great games, just do purchase these rehashes and unfair DLC that publishers are trying to force down our throats.

Let's bring gaming back to a time where we can simply buy quality titles made by respectable companies.

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SimCity Offline Arrives for PC and Mac https://www.gameskinny.com/ups8a/simcity-offline-arrives-for-pc-and-mac https://www.gameskinny.com/ups8a/simcity-offline-arrives-for-pc-and-mac Wed, 19 Mar 2014 09:42:10 -0400 Katy Hollingsworth

Those who experienced the launch of SimCity recall the horrors of trying to install and play the game. Many have complained that the forced multiplayer feature, which also (obviously) requires constantly playing online, is stupid and unnecessary, especially for a SimCity game.

They aren't wrong. Multiplayer in SimCity isn't actually building a city together or participating in a meaningful way--you just build cities on adjacent plots and sometimes volunteer or sell resources to your neighbors. It's nothing terribly awesome.

Well, that's changing.

EA has finally done something semi-right. Though the plots sizes will remain miniscule, offline mode has officially launched for PC and Mac, meaning that players can now take their experiences into a single-player mode.

Some changes to note:

  • Offline means no achievements
  • Offline means no dynamic pricing for items on the Global Market
  • No cloud saving when playing offline
  • Obviously, no multiplayer
  • No access to SimCity World or leaderboards
  • Regions may not be transferred between online and offline modes.

While these changes might be annoying in some instances, I'll take them whole-heartedly in exchange for being able to play single-player. Half of the regions in multiplayer are like graveyards, anyway.

However, this does open up a lot of opportunities for modders. Currently, there's a sandbox mode for multiplayer that allows you to change some aspects of the game, but gamers will "...now be able to Mod components of the game without harming the integrity of the Online game. It’s more than just buildings and palette swaps, they’ll be able to dig into the UI, modify the simulation and more. "

If you need some help figuring out Offline Mode, try the video below:

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5 Reasons Why Banished is Better than SimCity https://www.gameskinny.com/oxnsh/5-reasons-why-banished-is-better-than-simcity https://www.gameskinny.com/oxnsh/5-reasons-why-banished-is-better-than-simcity Tue, 11 Mar 2014 08:35:54 -0400 Katy Hollingsworth

SimCity, while flashy and shiny and high-tech (at least in Cities of Tomorrow), isn't exactly living up to expectations for veteran SimCity players. Though the game has been out for a while, playing multiplayer is almost like trying to play soccer in a deserted wasteland.

Banished, while there's no multiplayer feature, has proven to be a far more interesting experience. SimCity 2013 was incredibly dumbed down compared to its predecessors, such as SimCity 4, where pipes weren't placed for you and buildings could be placed before roads. Banished, however, doesn't hold your hand outside of the tutorial. Roads aren't even a basic requirement, though they do give workers a bit of a speed boost.

I've logged a considerable number of hours in SimCity--but never more than four or five on one plot. Why? Because I ran out of things to do so damn quickly. Banished, however, offers days spent on one single town. But how?

5. Hey, look, real consequences

It's possible to completely lose at a game of Banished. Money isn't an issue, and the game won't stop like SimCity when your budget hits the red and you run out of funds. Banished uses resources such as logs, stone, and iron to complete buildings that are essential to life. Fisheries, hunting cabins, and houses require these resources, and you'd better hope and pray that your people get them all before winter hits.

People starve and die in Banished, they don't just leave your city in hopes of a better life. If all the people in your town die, well... you're SOL. With no one to gather resources or actually do anything, you can't actually progress.

The feeling of consequence in Banished is heavier than that of SimCity, and it actually gives you a goal and a purpose. I felt pretty damn pleased with myself when I managed to get through the beginnings of a Hard game and survived my first, second, and third winters.

4. I can build any way I want

Like I mentioned before, Banished doesn't force you to connect to a highway or build roads before placing your buildings. In fact, roads are completely optional. More like in Sim City 4, you can place buildings anywhere you like, allowing for more planning and strategy on the part of the player.

There's actual strategy and involvement required from the player in order to succeed, and I believe that these two aspects have been phased out by EA and Maxis in order to appeal to a wider audience.

In Banished, it's important to remember that placement of buildings heavily factors in to time spent travelling for your townspeople. Sure, that plays a small part in SimCity in terms of your commute, but people aren't going to die from a longer drive to work. Keeping buildings fairly close together without strangling your resources is key (i.e., you shouldn't build two fisheries right next to each other, but you can if you want). However, having the choice to completely screw myself over or win at life is like a breath of fresh air.

3. I can customize my experience

SimCity has one difficulty. Easy. I often felt like an ape being trained to stack blocks when playing it. Banished, on the other hand, allows me to choose a terrain (yes, also available in SimCityand my own difficulty.

The difficulty changes your starting conditions in ways that really change the way you play and the buildings you rush for. In Hard mode, you start with very little and therefore run out of things much more quickly. You have to rush to build houses and food before your cart runs out and you lose workers; like I said, losing workers means losing resources.

Your difficulty also changes the number of families you start out with--the harder you choose, the fewer families, which means fewer workers, which means fewer resources.

You can change your climate to make things even more difficult with insane weather conditions, and even more importantly, you can change your plot size. Thank baby Jesus.

2. I can spend more than a few hours on one town

In SimCity, it's difficult (for me, at least) to spend more than a couple of hours on one city before I've filled up my plot, evened out my budget and have nothing really more to do than sit back and watch people live their lives. There's no real struggle for balance or survival in SimCity, and that's including the extra content offered in Cities of Tomorrow, the expansion pack.

Banished fills that void. I can spend a couple of days, perhaps more, on one town. I feel like there are actually things I have to do in order to keep these people alive, and that makes this game a completely different experience. There's actual strategy and involvement required from the player in order to succeed, and I believe that these two aspects have been phased out by EA and Maxis in order to appeal to a wider audience.

1. It feels like a city builder, not a fancy city-making machine.

More than anything, what I enjoy is the required involvement from the gamer. In SimCity, it's incredibly easy to sit back and let the game pretty much play itself. More often than not, once you're about half-way established, aside from the occasional crisis with your garbage, water, or electricity, you're sitting back and enjoying the high life.

Banished doesn't work that way, and it may be more because of the style of the game and the technology available to the townspeople; however, it makes for a more enjoyable experience that I think veteran SimCity players will appreciate.

Designating workers for each individual building, making sure people are populating (AKA making more workers), making sure people are fed and healthy is incredibly important in this game. Unlike SimCity, resource management is something that requires constant attention from the player, and that makes me feel like I'm actually playing it and not just watching some shiny engine build my city for me.

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Sim City Revisited: Has it Improved? https://www.gameskinny.com/7ey6t/sim-city-revisited-has-it-improved https://www.gameskinny.com/7ey6t/sim-city-revisited-has-it-improved Fri, 31 Jan 2014 14:00:16 -0500 MandieM

When SimCity first debuted in 2013, I agonized for a week trying to decide whether I wanted to pre-order it. Eventually, I not only pre-ordered the game, I pre-ordered two copies of it. My thought process was that the game had a long-time reputation for success and, well, if I bought two, I could play alongside my partner. It all sounded very lovely and flighty and peaceful-laying-on-clouds, sunshine, roses, and kittens.

So with that, I spent over $160 and waited patiently for the day to come when I could sail away to Nameless City Land and craft a new life. Unfortunately, as many of you are aware of, the launch was an unmitigated disaster. When we were even able to log in, there were so many errors and issues that the game became unplayable. Eventually, when the launch disaster resolved, we began to see the truth of the inherent issues within it. Small maps, no offline mode, and bugs that caused traffic to route poorly or not at all were just a few of the issues within the game.

It's been a long time since SimCity was launched. Two days ago, I decided to give the game another try. What's the worst that could happen? I had already forked out the money for the game. It wasn't like I had anything to lose. Here's my thoughts on what I found.

First Impressions

I wish I was kidding when I said this, but I encountered an unavailable server at first. Unlike the launch disaster, it self-resolved in only about two minutes. Better--much better. Server issues are bound to happen to any online game occasionally. I can't fault EA for an issue that self-corrected so easily. However, it still bothered me a little bit because frankly, I play single-player mode only--thus, there shouldn't be a forced online component anyway. Thankfully, I was presented with a large Offline Coming sign when I logged in.

I started a brand new city, because I wanted to get a completely "clean" experience playing the game. For the sake of this review, I called my city "GameSkinny Land." For the purposes of this review, I chose sandbox mode.

Negatives

The biggest negative still remains within the SimCity game--the tiny maps. I had my map almost filled within about 45 minutes. It then became a game of what-to-demolish, what-to-keep. While that's fun sometimes, it feels forced and actually made me resent the game a little bit. I found myself sitting there thinking "ugh...maybe I should start a new city. This is boring."

It's not that I don't like challenge--it's more that I like challenge when I want challenge. I'm also one of those gamers who occasionally just likes to cheat my way into building or developing a monstrosity. This is something I loved about SimCity as well as The Sims itself as a series; if I wanted to, I could just cheat myself a few million dollars and build, build, build. I miss that. While sandbox mode does give you $1,000,000, you go through that pretty fast maintaining buildings before you have a solid populace. Maybe it qualifies me as a cheater, but I miss being able to cheat. 

The problem with the map is twofold; there's simply no way to plan your city properly because there is such little space. When your industry, commercial, and residential areas are crammed so tightly together, it becomes a game of trying to maintain each. Simply put, the game stalls out.

Also, I'm unimpressed with the fact that most content is the same as it was when the game launched. There's paid content available, but I'm simply not willing to fork out more money for a game I really feel I lost money on in the first place. There's a few kitschy little parks and landmarks that have been added, but nothing significant.

The other issue is that, reportedly, each update added to the game seems to fix certain things and break others. The game is inherently broken/poorly made, and I don't feel like EA has any interest in fully correcting it. It's just been too much for too long for most fans.

Positives

Although I listed several negatives, I'm not totally down on SimCity now. I did have fun building up my city. The first thing I noticed was that the game seems...smoother, somehow. I don't remember hearing about any upgrades regarding the smoothness, but it's certainly possible. Regardless of video settings, the background or distance still appears blurry, and that still irks me.

The second thing I noticed is that the game seems to respond much more quickly. The first time around, I found that I would place a building and then have to wait for two or three minutes for it to respond. This time, everything seemed to kick in much faster and this made it easer to respond quickly to issues that cropped up in the city.

I also noticed that traffic appears to be flowing correctly now, and the resident bug where residents would simply never go back to their homes seems to have resolved, too. This is a major hooray--no more traffic jams or loss of workers.

Conclusion

After playing for a couple of hours, my feelings toward the game are vastly unchanged. It seems EA hasn't been able to "put out the fire" it originally encountered, and it seems like most of the changes so far have been cosmetic. I do have a little bit of hope for where the game can potentially go, should EA find their way out of this mess. Unfortunately, it's really the game itself that holds the inherent issues, and that's not going to change without basically creating a whole new game. EA should consider making a SimCity 2015 (or maybe SimCity: It Works!) to overhaul the entire game. EA originally stated that bigger maps weren't possible because it would cause the game to require too many resources to run. I don't buy that as an excuse; there are many other much larger, resource-heavy games developed on other engines that are able to run huge areas just fine. In short, SimCity still feels more like a casual game I'd play once in a blue moon, than a game that I'd really dig into often.


Pictures sourced from (in order of reference)

http://community-sitcom.wikia.com/
IncGamers.com
Forbes.com

 

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Offline Sim City: Is EA's 'Patch' Meant to Cover Up Larger Issues?" https://www.gameskinny.com/dfx8o/offline-sim-city-is-eas-patch-meant-to-cover-up-larger-issues https://www.gameskinny.com/dfx8o/offline-sim-city-is-eas-patch-meant-to-cover-up-larger-issues Mon, 03 Feb 2014 09:40:31 -0500 MandieM

Image sourced from www.simcity.com 

If you've followed EA's many troubles over the past two years, you've invariably heard about Sim City and the debacles it has experienced since launch. If you haven't kept up on the game after the semi-disasterous launch on March 15, 2013, reading through the Sim City Facebook page will illustrate what fans have disliked about the game from the start. Near-constant comments indicating that fans wanted offline mode sit next to near-constant comments about how the maps are too small (another major issue.) It's like an old Nintendo game that's frozen up...except no one has taken a moment to "blow the dust off" of the situation.

Ch-Ch-Ch-Changes

Fans very rarely take kindly to major changes in their favorite franchises. Other games have demonstrated clearly in the past that changing the very nature of a series can have devastating consequences. There is a very fine balance between adding in enough changes to keep things interesting, and bastardizing the game to a point where it is unfamiliar and cold to those who love it.

The Biggest Complaint

Easily the biggest complaint from long-standing fans of the Sim City series, the game requires all users to connect to EA's servers over the internet to play--this is true whether you plan to play alone or with other players. So far, there is no offline Sim City mode available to the public. While this may not seem like such a big deal to the average gamer, it presents several inherent problems for most.

Sim City has always been an offline franchise; not only was the game originally designed for offline Sim City play, it has always been a largely one-player experience. Part of the charm and fun of the original series was that it was easy to get lost in the simulation process without any need to socialize. As a bit of an introvert, I can say that the escape from reality was rather soothing.

Socializing, however, was not the main issue fans had with the forced online connection. At first, EA claimed that the online connection was required. In fact, Maxis' head Lucy Bradshaw is quoted as saying:

"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."

 In an article by Rock Paper Shotgun, a Maxis insider reported that the online feature was unnecessary at best; at its worst, it was a blatant attempt to control pirating of the game by requiring verification on each run. Within the same article by Rock Paper Shotgun, the developer stated: 

"The servers are not handling any of the computation done to simulate the city you are playing. They are still acting as servers, doing some amount of computation to route messages of various types between both players and cities. As well, they're doing cloud storage of save games, interfacing with Origin, and all of that. But for the game itself? No, they're not doing anything. I have no idea why they're claiming otherwise. It's possible that Bradshaw misunderstood or was misinformed, but otherwise I'm clueless."

While many fans were angry at the lack of an offline option, this comment raised that ire even further within the gaming community. Tempers were riled; jimmies became rustled. The pew pew pew of angry comments pinging back and forth on the Sim City Facebook page echoed far into the night. After the already disastrous launch, many people who had spent money on the game felt burned by EA. Considering the game's high American price tag of nearly $80, fans felt that online access should have been an option and not a requirement. (Much to EA's chagrin, the game was eventually semi-pirated despite this attempt to control game theft.) 

 This was when things went from bad to worse. EA responded...sort of. Posts began popping up strangely claiming the game was perfect and wonderful and exciting. A screenshot of a post positively reviewing the game surfaced; the written review showed as written by a "SimCity UK" Facebook page. Fans assumed that the SimCity UK page was a legitimate SimCity page - and called the company out for fake reviews. This post was later proven as posted by a fan page and not an official page, but plenty of damage had occurred. In true conspiracy fashion, fans thought that every positive post was from EA hiding behind fake accounts.

In a measure that appeared to many like tossing fuel on the fire, EA began totally ignoring fans who posted negative comments on their Facebook page. While this is a common and smart tactic in some cases, they were equally quick to respond to positive comments. While the intention may not have been to make it seem that they were ignoring fan complaints, it did seem that way. Pair this with EA's original policy to refuse refunds of any kind for digital copies of the game, and incredibly long customer queues for support, and you start to see why things escalated so quickly.

 

The Light at the End of the Tunnel? Or Just a Panacea...

Image sourced from www.facebook.com/SimCity

On January 14, 2014, General Manager of the Maxis Emeryville studio Patrick Buechner announced that offline mode was finally coming to gamers. In his announcement, Buechner recognized that it had been a long time coming. He made clear that the offline mode would be released with Sim City Update 10, and that it would officially be called "Single Player Mode." 

What exactly this would look like and how they would go about reprogramming the game is outlined in a different post by Simon Fox. Fox suggested that major changes would be required to make it happen; this was a stark change from the original claim that it  was "impossible." Fox said that the biggest changes would be "removing lots of code integral to Multiplayer include code and UI supporting Trading, Social Features, Global Market, Leaderboards and Achievements. And, all without crippling the Multiplayer game." 

Maybe it is the fact that EA is struggling. Or maybe it's the fact that this statement wasn't released for nearly a year after the original release date of the game. Whatever the reason, it was immediately clear that some fans simply wouldn't be returning to the game.  For many, the best predictor of future behavior is past behavior (Thanks, Dr. Phil!), and the risk was simply to great to spend time waiting for a potential turnaround. True to EA style, requests for bigger maps were often dismissed.


To many, it felt like offering the single player mode was like offering a kleenex to clean up an ocean; if it had been the only issue with the game, it probably would have been just fine. When it first launched, sims routed through the game incorrectly and/or disappeared, and broken cities were all too common. Many players spent hours or even days building cities only to come back to find their little works of art gone and unrecoverable. Lackadaisial responses were given for why the cities could not be recovered. 

Unfortunately, it was EA's own inattention to their fans that brought them to where they are today, and it may very well be their inattention to their fans that makes this attempt at a panacea ineffective. Other game companies have very adeptly integrated fans with development, resulting in wide fan bases and fierce loyalty. 

The face of gaming is changing. More often than ever before, fans are demanding to be an active part of creation, development, and even management. The old adage "content is key" is true not only of the written word online; it is also true for video games. Creating content is great, but only if you create content that your fans enjoy and find useful. The fact that EA had to disable features to allow for a successful launch is telling. It points to a lack of planning on their behalf, and a lack of clear understanding for what it is that gamers want from a game like Sim City. 

Image sourced from Rock Paper Shotgun. Can EA "put out the fire" and move on?

There is a bright opportunity in such a disaster, even for a company that has fallen as far as EA has in the last two years. They have a glaring opportunity to freshen their marketing style and company approach to the gaming industry. It isn't possible to predict whether offline mode is truly a "patch" to cover bigger problems. With a tentative launch date not yet predicted, many find that it feels more talk than action. All eyes are on EA at the moment, waiting to see if the company drops the ball or runs with it; here's hoping it's the latter.

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Why Gamers Should Stay Online In SimCity https://www.gameskinny.com/8ttcg/why-gamers-should-stay-online-in-simcity https://www.gameskinny.com/8ttcg/why-gamers-should-stay-online-in-simcity Wed, 22 Jan 2014 09:57:46 -0500 Destrolyn.Bechgeddig

It’s been almost a year since the embarrassing launch of SimCity. As Electronic Arts (EA) Games have now learnt that listening to the voice of their customers might actually be worth their while, SimCity will soon be playable completely offline with Update 10. 

Whilst this is welcome news for many fans who heavily resented the always online requirements for SimCity, we’re going to put a case forward why you might not want to unplug your connection right away. 

Always Online Was Never the Big Problem 

Restricting players to playing only when connected to a server caused one of the most disastrous high-profile launches in gaming history. With so many trying to play on launch week, the server capacity simply wasn’t enough. Because you couldn’t connect, you couldn’t play the game that you’d paid for. 

To add insult to injury, after EA Games solved the server problem, people soon found that the game itself was actually very broken. After you’d built up your city to a certain size, everything would just collapse around your ears. Causing this was woeful AI behaviour which would make traffic gridlock too often, stifling you city’s ability to grow, or baffling things like all your fire trucks attending the same fire despite numerous other needing extinguishing. 

The biggest problem with SimCity was it was too hastily developed and tested, not because it required an internet connection. Server connection issues have not been much of a problem since fixed making concerns about the connectivity requirement more of a grumble than and problem. After nine major updates making significant changes to the AI and how the simulation engine operates, the game seems pretty stable and finally playable, online or off. 

YouTuber TheHollowBlade bemoans some of the shockingly bad AI in early versions of SimCity. Contains some bad language.

SimCity is Designed To Play Online 

The whole raison d’etre of SimCity is that it that it is an online game, therefore its mechanics revolve around how other players in your region affect your city. So why play a game how it isn't meant to play? 

"Why play a game how it isn't meant to play?"

In saying that, it was always possible to play solo online by creating a private region. So if you already play the game by yourself, then the ability to play offline isn’t going to change much. 

Online Makes SimCity More Dynamic 

http://www.simcity.com/

The level that other players can influence the region in which you play in makes this a very bold and different game from other SimCity games. For the first time, players have to think a lot more on their toes and react to other players' decisions. The result was that you could play the same city on the same map with the same specialisations and it could look completely different by the end of play. It’s actually a really interesting approach to the game and one that is actually quite absorbing if it all goes well.

The downside to this is that players might start building a city next to yours and then abandon it quickly, causing effects that are never followed through or just generally messing things up. Whilst some might see this as a challenge, it’s mostly a great irritation. 

Online Makes Building a City Easier 

Getting access to bigger bonds, better transport solutions, and other things in for your city is dependent on the requirements to unlock these being completed in just ONE city in the region. This means you can build up your city at a much quicker by having other players do some of the work for you. As other player specialise, the benefits will spill over into your city, such as getting your Sims educated, making progress towards the metropolis you’re dreaming of much quicker. 

Why You Shouldn't Play Online 

However, this is not the experience some fans look for in a SimCity game, and there are some good reasons to play offline too. Some of these reasons you might want to consider are: 

http://press.ea.com/Experimentation is Easier

The ability to save and reload a city when playing offline means players can fine-tune or dramatically change their city without causing permanent damage and/or spending boatloads of Simoleons on bad decisions. Something gone terribly wrong from a wild punt? Just reload the game and try again.

You Have more Control

Whilst online makes play more dynamic, some might prefer being able to precisely control aspects of the game to create a very specific city without the frustration of other players derailing strategy. Why this can technically be done playing private regions whilst being online, there’s no reason to connect to the servers if you wish to play solo. 

Should You Buy SimCity When Offline Becomes Available? 

This is very dependent on whether you want the dynamic play outlined above, or a very structured city-building experience. If you’re after the latter, or want to build absolutely massive cities (the size is very restricted in SimCity), you’re better off buying either SimCity 4 or Cities XL.

Yes, SimCity looks very pretty, but be aware that it is very different from what has come before it in many ways. 

How to Make the Best of Online Play 

http://press.ea.com/The answer is short: bring your own friends. If you actually know the people you’re sharing a region with, then there’s less chance that they’ll scarper too soon or cause problems with your game-plan.

SimCity still has a lot of potential online if the idea of it appeals to you, and we for one are still willing to give it a second chance. But if it doesn’t, then there are better suited city building for the experience you want.

SimCity is available to purchase directly from the Origin store. For more information about the game, visit www.simcity.com.

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SimCity Gets an Offline Mode in Next Update https://www.gameskinny.com/8sngi/simcity-gets-an-offline-mode-in-next-update https://www.gameskinny.com/8sngi/simcity-gets-an-offline-mode-in-next-update Mon, 13 Jan 2014 09:12:20 -0500 Rich Kovarovic

SimCity will soon offer an offline mode, a feature developer EA Maxis announced in a recent post on the game’s official website. The mode will be included as a free download with Update 10, and will finally allow players to engage in a single player, offline experience.

According to General Manager of the Maxis Emeryville studio Patrick Buechner, all previously downloaded content will also remain available to players, as well as saved progress.

“When we launch it, all of your previously downloaded content will be available to you anytime, anywhere, without the need for an internet connection,” Buechner states.

http://www.simcity.com/en_US/media/screenshot/airships_set

“In Update 10, you can still play solo in Regions on your own, or in Multiplayer with people from around the world,” writes Buechner. “What’s new is the Single Player Mode, which allows you to play the game Offline by yourself. And because your saved games in this mode are stored locally, you can save and load to your heart’s content.”

The multiplayer aspects of SimCity will still remain for those interested in the online experience, as “all of the benefits of being connected will remain including access to Multiplayer, the Global Market and Leaderboards.” In addition, “all of your pre-existing saved cities and regions will still be accessible should you log-in to the Online game.”

The addition comes 10 months after the admittedly rocky launch and reception for the game, with many lamenting that SimCity has been online only, as well as being plagued by server issues. The inclusion of an offline, single player mode will likely attract those put off from the always-on aspect that deterred many from trying the game in the first place, or pushed others to simply stop playing altogether.

EA is also encouraging modding of SimCity, which the developer claims is one of the primary reasons for adding an offline mode. Modders “can now make modifications to the game and its components without compromising the integrity of the Online game” the post states.

No release date for Update date was provided, but the developer states it is in the “late phases of wrapping up its development” and that for now it’s just “testing, testing, and more testing.”

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EA Greenlights SimCity Modding... But With Fine Print https://www.gameskinny.com/rpzjr/ea-greenlights-simcity-modding-but-with-fine-print https://www.gameskinny.com/rpzjr/ea-greenlights-simcity-modding-but-with-fine-print Sat, 11 Jan 2014 17:16:07 -0500 JohnHeatz

Maxis and EA have officially announced that if you want to mod SimCity, you’re free to do so, and your work will definitely be welcomed, and possibly even used by them in the future. Oh, yeah, there’s a catch though; you must follow EA’s rules about this matter.

Now, one might believe that this is totally reasonable, however, you must check these rules:

  1. Mods must not jeopardize the integrity of the gameplay or harm the experience of others. Mods that affect the simulation for multiplayer games and multiplayer features, such as leaderboards or trading with other players, are not allowed.
  2. Mods must not infringe any copyright, trademark, patent, trade secret or other intellectual property right of any third party and will not include content that is unlawful, tortious, defamatory, obscene, invasive of the privacy of another person, threatening, harassing, abusive, hateful, racist or otherwise objectionable or inappropriate. SimCity has an age rating of ESRB Everyone 10+ and PEGI 7, and similar ratings from other ratings boards around the world. EA requires that Mods not include any material that would not be allowed under these ratings.
  3. Mods may not modify any .com, .exe, .dll, .so or other executable files.
  4. The terms and conditions of SimCity EULA and EA’s Terms of Service are specifically incorporated into this policy by this reference. In the event that the terms of this policy are in conflict with the terms of the SimCity EULA or EA’s Terms of Service, the terms of this Policy shall supersede and govern over any such conflicting terms.
  5. To maintain the integrity of SimCity and ensure the best possible gaming experience for our players, EA reserves the right, in its sole discretion, to revoke permission to use, distribute or make Mods at any time, to disable any Mod within SimCity and to take disciplinary action against players who harm the experience of others.

Did you see what Maxis and EA did there? Well, if you didn’t let’s explain a little bit of this situation.

SimCity is plagued with this “always online” feature, making it basically impossible for anyone to test any modding in their single-player experience without somehow causing any changes in the game’s multiplayer experience, meaning that it will be really hard for anyone to not break the first rule.

Now, let’s check something else that was mentioned in this official announcement:

  1. Mods must be non-commercial and distributed free-of-charge at this time. Accordingly, Mods cannot be sold, licensed, rented for a fee, nor can the Mod Game contain features that would support monetary transactions of any type. Mods may not be used to advertise any goods or services
  2. Donations may not be solicited directly through Mods. However, EA recognizes that the time and resources needed to create Mods can sometimes be substantial. Accordingly, Mod developers are allowed to fund their development costs through donations outside of the Mod itself

So, this doesn’t sound all that bad, you can’t sell your mod, however you can accept donations, outside of the mod itself. What does this mean? For instance, you create a website to freely distribute your mod, and there you ask for donations, that won’t give them absolutely anything in-game. Whereas, you can’t add anything that suggests making donations within your mod, so nothing can be said about this in-game.

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The Sims 4 Will Release in Fall 2014 - Here's What To Do In The Meantime https://www.gameskinny.com/mocas/the-sims-4-will-release-in-fall-2014-heres-what-to-do-in-the-meantime https://www.gameskinny.com/mocas/the-sims-4-will-release-in-fall-2014-heres-what-to-do-in-the-meantime Fri, 25 Oct 2013 16:16:35 -0400 Destrolyn.Bechgeddig

Hitting the news this week was EA Games' announcement that The Sims 4 will not be released until "Fall 2014". This essentially means that it's another full year until we see more emotionally diverse and neurotic Sims, and more powerful personalisation tools than ever before.

Although the prolonged wait has undeniably disappointed many fans, here's some tips for what to in the meantime in The Sims 3 and beyond.

Go "Into The Future"

Just released a few days ago is the latest and LAST expansion pack for the The Sims 3, was The Sims 3: Into The Future. Interestingly, there could well be a few elements in here that will be a precursor to The Sims 4. For example, out in the wasteland, you can grow "Crystal Flowers" which you can charge with an emotion, making them objects that give other Sims specified moodlets: much like certain items are reported to do to emotions in The Sims 4. Whilst it most definitely is NOT The Sims 4, getting a glimpse into how things might work in the next installment may be the next best thing. 

Create A Legacy

Legacy challenges can be found around the internet. Essentially what these are is an attempt to have a single Sim beget a line of 10 generations, after starting on a large empty lot with minimal funds.

There are many variations on a theme and countless different ways to play and score a legacy. One of my particular favourites is "The Random Legacy", where you let fate decide what generation goals and gameplay rules/parameters that you must adhere to. This adds further ways to "fail" making it a bit more interesting than just breeding Sims ad infinitum.

Compete In A Challenge

Some online communities offer competitive challenges. Carl's Sims 3 Guide's forum has a particularly good programme of competitions. Compete in more than three over the course of a calendar year and you can climb up their world rankings. With the scoreboard being wiped clean for 2014, there'll be ample opportunity to reach the top before The Sims 4 comes out. I myself am currently attempting the "Thank You For Your Service" challenge, so look out for seeing my (terrible) score up there in the next few days.

But even if you feel shy about submitting a score, the challenges themselves offer new ways to play The Sims 3 if you're a little bored.

Play In A Whole New World

Lets face it, not all of the EA Games/Maxis worlds are brilliant (I'm looking at you, Bridgeport). So why not improve on them?

This really is only for the most tenacious of players. The official Create A World tool is an absolute pig; unintuitive, user unfriendly, and needlessly fiddly. However, aside from bulldozing every lot and reconfiguring them yourself, a quick search on the internet will find you plenty of players who have already created blank version of EA Games/Maxis worlds, or blank custom worlds, giving you the freedom to just build.

Or, even easier, revel in the creations of other players and communities, such as the wonderful amount of worlds found at My Sim Realty. Evansdale County (pictured), in particular, is the most comprehensive of their worlds, including content from all expansion packs up until The Sims 3: Island Paradise.

Give SimCity Another Chance

First off, this really applies for people who originally bought the game but ragequit, like me and countless other players, over the hideously broken and game-breaking AI. I wouldn't willingly convince someone to buy the game purely to experience what might still be a brilliant masterclass in the art of trolling. But there have now been a lot of changes and, who knows, it might actually be playable.

It might be time to give this disastrous title another chance because, as a concept, there was always a huge scope of potential for it to be fantastic. With (more) traffic tweaks, and the ability to add bridges and tunnels where you please on flat ground, it might finally be good enough to function. Plus, if you're really brave, you could try the upcoming SimCity: Cities of Tomorrow expansion pack, out in November.

But if you're still unsure, there's always the rather brilliant SimCity 4 which is cheap and easy to run.

None the less, we at GameSkinny will endure to keep you abreast with any further The Sims 4 news for the next 12 months!

The Sims 4 will be released on PC and Mac in Fall 2014. To pre-order (if you're REALLY keen), visit www.origin.com.

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Are You "Bugging Out" For The Sims 4? https://www.gameskinny.com/65oxu/are-you-bugging-out-for-the-sims-4 https://www.gameskinny.com/65oxu/are-you-bugging-out-for-the-sims-4 Fri, 18 Oct 2013 15:48:27 -0400 Destrolyn.Bechgeddig

The Sims (TS) 4 may still seem like an age away for dedicated fans of the series, especially as an official release date is still uncertain (although, supposedly March 25 2014 after an accidental slip-up was spotted on GameStop's website). For me, I've decided to pass the time by getting back into playing TS3.

Over the last week and a bit since I last wrote about TS4, I've been "Woo-Hoo"-ing, rubbing dusty lamps (not a euphemism), and sending magicians on tour to my heart's content. During this time I've remembered something that my fondness for the series made me forget pretty quickly: TS3 is still a very buggy game, despite the cockroaches that used to appear if the house got too dirty no longer being a thing. So can we expect TS4 to be any different?

Destrolyn.Bechgeddig Changed His Relationship Status With EA Games/Maxis to "It's Complicated"

TS3 is very complicated game, and technically a big step up from TS2. For the first time, you family's world/town would live on around you, rather than just log the interactions that would happen when you saw them.

The programme processes interactions such as marriage, birth, death, people moving in together or out, or sims just simply going about their business; all without you necessarily seeing these happen. So there was bound to be issues along the way, especially with additional packs and DLC adding more and more interactions and animations to the already thick soup of code.

I'm an experienced gamer, and I know that sometimes the course of a great game never did run smoothly. I've already sat through the mess that has been the Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn launch and observed the debacle that has been Grand Theft Auto Online.

But what astonished me is that some of the issues still in TS3 are years old! There's still the "Free Vacation" opportunity where adult household sims go but never return. Sometimes using the mirror to change your clothes or style can end up resetting your sim's age counter for you age bracket. Countless weird things, freezes, and sims simply getting stuck. And even unnecessary judgements by the game about your performer's custom costume causing you to no longer perform a show.

You don't have to delve deep into the game's official forums to find outpourings of grief from players about how annoying, and in some cases game-breaking, these bugs and glitches can be.

You don't have to delve deep into the game's official forums to find outpourings of grief from players about how annoying, and in some cases game-breaking, these bugs and glitches can be. And then there's the following ire that EA Games/Maxis seem to be do very little, if anything, after players first report them. So what faith can we have in them for this next installment?

Lessons Learned?

If you're cynical and jaded like I am, it's easy to think that the problem is that The Sims franchise is too successful and profitable for EA Games - officially the worst company in America - to really care about how stable and playable the game actually is. The Sims has always been a huge money sink for gamers, with the base game never being the be all and end all, with the inevitable umpteen expansions packs that follow. I've probably spent somewhere around £500 on these damned games, being a dedicated fan since the original. With TS4 looking to set fans back $59.99 (or £44.99 here in Blighty) for the standard edition, it doesn't look like EA Games are going to be any less shamelessly avaricious.

The Sims OnlineAnd not everything EA Games/Maxis has done with The Sims franchise has been brilliant. The Sims Medieval wasn't the classic (pun intended) some were expecting, and can anyone remember The Sims Online? Thought not.

However, EA Games/Maxis have recently received a shocking reality check with their much touted and highly anticipated SimCity relaunch. Expensive and hyped to the nines, it was, and still continues to be, a colossal failure. But here it wasn't a bug that kept reappearing, it was that the entire simulation engine, specifically traffic and the AI, was outright flawed and insufficiently tested, making it literally unplayable. There have been no less than seven desperate attempts/patches by the development team to fix these, reconfiguring the simulation patterns and other resorts to solve them. And let us also not forget the scandal of the game requiring you to be online even to play solo, which is still a huge irk for players.

YouTuber TheHollowBlade bemoans some of the shockingly bad original AI in early versions of SimCity. Contains some (understandably) bad language! 

The embarrassment caused by worldwide damning of the game was spectacular, and EA were shown that there's only so far they can exploit the loyalty of their customers. Direct download purchases of the game meant that many fans essentially were unable to return the game, and had essentially spent up to $80 (£60) on a broken game, which fueled and justified the community's anger. Origin have since introduced a returns policy for direct download purchases through its platform; the "Great Game Guarantee". Despite its name, it guarantee's a refund, but not necessarily a great game!

The embarrassment caused by worldwide damning of [SimCity] was spectacular, and EA were shown that there's only so far they can exploit the loyalty of their customers.

Hopefully, this will mean that EA Games/Maxis will be taking a bit more care in releasing a product that is robust, but also ensure better support and continued development post-release like they've been forced to with SimCity.

The Future of The Sims 3 After "Into The Future"

The other big concern will be The Sims fans who will be sticking with TS3 and not buying TS4, at least not straight away (me being one of them). With only one more expansion pack to be released for the series, TS3: Into the Future, means that there will be maximum of two more possible patches; one that will come with the expansion itself which may fix older issues too, and another possible one to address any issues that may arise from that pack itself.

It's sad to say, but any issues that are not fixed after that will probably never will be, and that's a shame because TS3 is likely to still have a thriving and playing community long after TS4 is released. But why would EA/Maxis bother fixing an old game when a more popular and potentially more lucrative one is just around the corner? It seems like a case of them knowing the price of everything but the value of nothing.

Is There Hope?

With the world economy still shaky, and gamers finding themselves more and more strapped for cash, EA Games/Maxis should be weary about taking their customer's fandom for granted again. Their reputation has received a near mortal wound after SimCity and it would be utterly insane to let that sort of thing happen again.

However, you can't make a leopard change its spots. With all the genuine best intentions I'm sure the individual developers have for the game, trying to make TS4 as great as it possibly can be, I wouldn't hold my breath that it's going to be perfect when it first hits the shelves, and wouldn't be surprised if these issues aren't fixed quickly, or at all.

But I'm very willing to be proved wrong. Nay, hoping that I will be.

The Sims 4 will be released in early 2014. For more information about the game, and to pre-order, visit www.thesims.com.

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Modding in SimCity? Maxis Says Maybe! https://www.gameskinny.com/mmiv6/modding-in-simcity-maxis-says-maybe https://www.gameskinny.com/mmiv6/modding-in-simcity-maxis-says-maybe Tue, 01 Oct 2013 10:33:38 -0400 Wokendreamer

SimCity has had a troubled history since its latest incarnation came out.  Even ignoring all the technical issues, whether they be non-functioning servers or patches causing more bugs than they fix, the game is undeniably a different experience from what many people were expecting.  It just might be possible they will gain some ability to build the experience they wanted, however.

Maxis has a post on their official forums detailing what the company calls a first draft of potential user-generated content guidelines.  Apparently they are giving serious consideration to allowing open modding support for the latest SimCity, and they want to hear what the community has to say about the idea.

Aside from getting players to share their thoughts on how to deal with modders who take things too far, Maxis is also looking to hear what the players of their game think actually constitutes going too far.  As the post itself puts it,

It's difficult to determine what makes a 'good' or safe mod and what mods cross the line. Clarifying guidelines for UGC will help players understand where that line is and protect both our UGC and non-UGC community.

I think this forum post also hints at something about as interesting as the mods themselves.

SimCity has already seen some downloadable content available for sale.  Open mod support would enable anyone who wanted to to create their own freely available copies of any cosmetic DLC ever created, and potentially even DLC with extra features.  Underestimating the capabilities of modders is something one really should not do, and one look through some of the mod databases for Skyrim or the custom maps for Starcraft 2 is ample evidence of that.

As exciting as the idea of open modding support is for SimCity, does this mean Maxis and EA have given up the idea of trying to create more DLC for the game?  Will they just make DLC too closely resembling paid-for content against the user-generated content guidelines?

Only time will truly tell, but taking something this potentially direction-changing for granted is not something I can really do.

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Digital Preorders are a Ridiculous Scam - Stop Encouraging Them https://www.gameskinny.com/vfp4r/digital-preorders-are-a-ridiculous-scam-stop-encouraging-them https://www.gameskinny.com/vfp4r/digital-preorders-are-a-ridiculous-scam-stop-encouraging-them Wed, 25 Sep 2013 20:02:01 -0400 Mat Westhorpe

A fool and his money are easily parted, and modern video game marketing wants to make fools of us all.

When Preorders Made Sense

In the real world, pre-ordering an item has often been a sensible way of ensuring that you got what you wanted. This is, of course, assuming that you are certain it is the item you want, because you have read reviews and so on, right?

Whether it was a weekly comic book or the latest Porsche 911 model from your local dealership, chances were good the retailer would only receive a limited number and there'd be no guarantee they'd still be in stock by the time you sashayed in.

That's when tapping the folks behind the counter to hold onto a copy for you (I'm more of a comics man, you can keep your fancy cars) was the sage thing to do. Only the simple-minded would leave it to chance.

When They Still Make Sense

Queue, Queue!

For particularly popular items that you want right away, preordering or getting to the store early is prudent. But if you're considering camping, you should perhaps re-assess your values. If there is that much demand, they'll likely make some more.

It's not like iPhones are made from meteor rock and there's only a couple of tonnes of it in existence.

No doubt, come the November releases of Sony's PlayStation 4 and Xbox One, we'll see herds of hyper-materialistic console consumers and desperate Christmas shoppers take to the high streets like rabid zombie sheep in a no-holds-barred fight to the cash counter.

They probably should have pre-ordered.

It'll be a sad sight which will show how pathetically materialistic and impatient we have become, but it's understandable to an extent. The combined forces of marketing, scientifically developed addiction strategies and the social/family pressures of Christmas make slaves of us all.

When Preordering is Inexcusable

Consumer Idiot of the Year Award Goes to...
The really inexplicable, gold-standard stupid award has to be reserved for those who pre-order digitally downloadable games.

But the really inexplicable, gold-standard stupid award has to be reserved for those who pre-order digitally downloadable games. Digital products are infinite, they can't go out of stock, there will be no delay as you wait for the next batch to arrive, there is no urgency.

... Other than the urgency artificially created by the forces of marketing.

Of course, the Sith Lords of Sales have that covered, they'll offer you an incentive. A free game, a reduced price, something, anything to make you commit to their product without anyone having tested it.

Why are they so desperate to get your money so early?

Did they go over budget and have to organise a desperate pre-release cash grab to pay the bills and if so, how rushed is their product? Do they know they've got a poor game that will receive a critical mauling so they want to grab your money and run?

There's just no reasonable justification for the practice of encouraging pre-orders for digital goods. It's a scam.

Time is On Your Side; Use It

Needlessly throwing away money on digital pre-orders is behaviour that evokes the highest facepalmery.

Game are so frequently in need of more work at release, they almost always get better with time post-release, so why should consumers rush?

Until buyers--and publishers--learn these lessons, we will continue to see gamers charge like lemmings over the precipice of pre-ordering toward the jagged rocks of the next Aliens: Colonial Marines, Sim City, The WarZ, Diablo III, Duke Nukem Forever, Hellgate: London, Vanguard: Saga of Heroes and many more...

Wait for the reviews, let developers iron out the bugs they left in to meet the shipping date, let somebody else suffer the disappointing game experience. We live in an enlightened age of information and communication. Let the internet work for you, don't let publishers use it to make you dance for them.

My advice: don't get mugged - stay away from digital pre-orders.

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Why I've Completely Given Up On AAA Titles https://www.gameskinny.com/frotw/why-ive-completely-given-up-on-aaa-titles https://www.gameskinny.com/frotw/why-ive-completely-given-up-on-aaa-titles Sat, 14 Sep 2013 17:09:34 -0400 Mat Westhorpe

“If your time to you is worth savin',
Then you better start swimmin'
Or you'll sink like a stone
For the times they are a-changin'.”

 - Bob Dylan, The Times They Are A-Changin' (1964)

There was a time when I could lose weeks to the glorious indulgence of a well-polished triple-A game. I would be happy to pay premium price, which here in the UK is usually £30-$40 ($45-$65,) then invest dozens of hours in working through the content.

It felt like great value for money and an acceptable use of my time. Fond memories of overnight marathons playing through Half-Life 2 or Rome: Total War are forever lodged in my brain.

But that was a decade ago and things have changed. I want to be able to look the game industry in the eye and say, “it's not you, it's me.” But I'm not certain that's true. I think it's them.

Corporate-Led Gaming

I suspect that, as we consumers have tightened our belts and been forced to make hard decisions about how we spend our time, game development studios (or more accurately - the publishers) have had to find creative ways to extract money from us. Not content with moderate successes, the corporate need for ever more profit efficiency will almost always be the driving force behind AAA titles.

The same forces that have led to the cynical practice of drip-feeding game content through various “in-app” purchases or other “let the gamers choose how much they pay” freemium nonsense are also the faceless enemies of creativity which make it impossible to see past the rabid hype of the AAA title.

As Indie developer Mike Bithell tweeted recently:

But you only need to look at recent debacles like Sim City, Aliens: Colonial Marines or even the troubled Total War: Rome 2 launch to see that there are no guarantees of quality even at a premium price.

Throwing out sub-standard or unfinished material under the pretence of being a AAA title is certainly not a new practice, but one which seems to be showing no sign of going away.

It won't unless consumers stop supporting it.

Pre-Ordering is for Mugs

The ridiculous practice of allowing the pre-purchasing of unreleased digital content is the damning nail in the coffin which shows the extent of the corporate greed defining the industry.

Pre-ordering a product is only appropriate for the sale of goods which are in limited supply. It makes no sense for the consumer to pay in advance for games available for download in infinite quantities. People who blindly pay for a product unreleased and unseen – whether as a show of good faith, brand loyalty or other weak justification – are simply encouraging this culture of exploitation.

The sad truth is that, somewhere beyond this desperate scramble for the almighty dollar are true, talented artists and visionary creators of content whose work deserves to be experienced. It's just a shame that in order for that to happen, their work has to be fed through a parasitic system which obfuscates and dilutes their creativity to the point where it is lost in a repellent miasma.

The Indie Answer?

However, perhaps there is some hope. In recent months, I've found a lot of joy in a number of indie titles and will be spending my money in that sector in the future.

The problem that exists within the indie developer ecosystem is that, in order for most young development studios to succeed, they have to make the choice between falling in with a pushy ultra-capitalist publisher or going the crowd-funded route. For the consumer, this essentially equates to pre-ordering with a large dose of roulette thrown in.

Add to that the thought that today's successful indie studio is probably tomorrow's EA buyout and I find that I've ranted myself into a corner.

Somebody please give me some positive examples of honest, ethical and noble working practices from the video game industry.

Afterthought

Of course, the irony of opening with the Bob Dylan quote is that the next lines to that song are:

“Come writers and critics
Who prophesize with your pen
And keep your eyes wide
The chance won't come again.”

Make of that what you will.

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