Gamer anger grows as SimCity debacle threatens to turn ugly

UPDATE: Amazon pulls digital sales, EA addresses concerns... sort of.

UPDATE 3: Maxis general manager Lucy Bradshaw responded to the outrage over SimCity being unplayable in many part of the world due to server issues and DRM.

Bradshaw sent the following statement to Kotaku where she assured everyone that new servers are being added as we speak and more will be added over the weekend.

"Thousands of players across the world are playing and having a good experience - in fact, more than 700,000 cities have been built by our players in just 24 hours. But many are experiencing server instability and consequently, the rollout in North America has been challenging. It's also now evident that players across Europe and Asia are experiencing the same frustration."

"Our priority now is to quickly and dramatically increase the number and stability of our servers and, with that, the number of players who can simultaneously access the game. We added servers today, and there will be several more added over the weekend. We're working as hard as possible to make sure everyone gets to experience the amazing game we built in SimCity."

Regrettably, Bradshaw did not address why there isn't an offline mode or what - if anything - EA will give back to early adopters of the broken title.

UPDATE 2: Online mega-retailer Amazon has temporarily pulled digital copies of SimCity from its shop, following the game's US server issues that have rendered the always online game entirely unplayable.

Under the item's description it reads, "Important Note on "SimCity: Many customers are having issues connecting to the 'SimCity' servers. EA is actively working to resolve these issues, but at this time we do not know when the issue will be fixed. Please visit https://help.ea.com/en/simcity/simcity for more information."

As of now the game's user rating is one our of five stars. Out of a total of 986 reviews 879 rated the game a one.

"Your $60 game is now a $60 Frisbee," read the top-rated user review. "There is no reason at all that anyone who shells out top-dollar for an over-hyped game should have to sit in a queue for hours at a time to even reach the main menu. The queue makes NO mention of your spot in line, and only says, 'ATTEMPTING to reconnect in: (20 minute countdown).'"

Meanwhile, EA's Origin Twitter account noted, "We will not ban players for requesting refunds. Please review our returns & cancellations policy."

Said policy explained that "All physical products purchased through our Origin Store come with a 14-day unconditional guarantee. If you don't like it, you can return it within 14 days of its delivery for a prompt refund - no questions asked!"

This generous return policy does not extend to digital sales. "As a general policy, EA does not offer refunds on any products downloaded through Origin," said EA in its FAQ.

UPDATE: EA is disabling "non-critical gameplay features" within SimCity in a bid to wrestle the game's server issues under control.

"We are continuing to do everything we can to address the server issues," a spokesperson announced via the official EA forum. "In the meantime, so that we can give you as good an experience as possible, we are in the process of deploying a hotfix to all servers.

"This includes various improvements and also disables a few non-critical gameplay features (leaderboards, achievements and region filters). Disabling these features will in no way affect your core gameplay experience."

There was no mention of when these features would return.

"We will continue to let you know as we have more information," EA concluded. "We know it has been said before, but we do appreciate your patience as we complete this latest update. Getting you playing is our absolute highest priority."

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ORIGINAL STORY: Gamer anger in the US is growing after day two of the SimCity server debacle.

Yesterday EA took the SimCity servers offline - rendering the always-online game unplayable - in an effort to improve stability after two days of connection errors and bugs.

But that hasn't stopped paying customers from complaining on social networks - and now the outcry is threatening to get ugly as over a thousand low-scoring user reviews have flooded aggregation website Metacritic.

There are many 0/10 user review scores, each one attacking EA and SimCity for requiring SimCity be connected to the internet to work. Here's one example, from "Busterofwar".

"The game has a lot of problems. Only one of them actually matters. Never support always-online DRM for a single-player game. Lots of people cannot play their single-player game because of this and gamers need to do everything they can to stop developers from including it. Do you still play SimCity 4? Good luck playing this game in 10 years. The servers will probably be down then and you'll be locked out of your single-player game. SINGLE-PLAYER!"

And another, from "RPGFan2":

"This is an $80 Facebook game. This Origin (spyware) dumbed down piece of garbage, not only costs $80 for the full game (any lesser version withholds in-game content), but comes intact with intrusive, always-online DRM. Many people, even reviewers, were unable to access their games or load old saves because this. As a consumer, we should have a zero-tolerance for this sort of practice and boycott any game which is essentially an $80 rental. As to the content of the game, the city plots are abysmal in size, deals with neighboring cities are done automatically, connections with other cities (highways and rails) are done automatically, and much content like subway stations have been cut. The overall nature of the game is so limited that it when taken into context with its social gaming aspects, you have to conclude that would be better fit for a Facebook or iPhone game."

The situation has deteriorated to the extent that, last night, SimCity senior producer Kip Katsarelis at Maxis took to the EA forum to post an impassioned message to disgruntled fans apologising for the server woes that have plagued the city simulation's launch.

It is reproduced below:

"This has been an exciting and challenging week for the team here at Maxis, the culmination years of planning and development. We have been overwhelmed by the outpouring of support and enthusiasm from our fans which has made it even more upsetting for us that technical issues have become more prominent in the last 24 hours. We are hitting a number of problems with our server architecture which has seen players encountering bugs and long wait times to enter servers. This is, obviously, not the situation we wanted for our launch week and we want you to know that we are putting everything we have at resolving these issues.

"What we are doing is deploying more servers over the coming two days which will alleviate many of the ongoing issues. We are also paying close attention to all the bug reports we are receiving from our fans. We've already pushed several updates in the last few days. Our live ops team is working 24/7 to resolve issues and ensure that bug fixes roll into the game as quickly as possible.

"While the ongoing issues are troubling, we can also see that players are really enjoying the game. In a single 24 hour period, there were more than 38 million buildings plopped down, nearly 7 and a half million kilometers of roads laid down, 18+ million fires started and (my favorite fact) over 40 million pipes filled up with poop.

"This team has put everything into this game and won't stop until things are smooth. We ask our fans to be patient as our team works diligently to fix the issues. We share your passion for SimCity and thank you for your support and understanding."

Following up on that post, a message from the embattled SimCity Twitter page: "We are working on the servers 24/7 - expect performance fluctuations. Our fans are our number one priority. Thank you for your patience."

Now, all eyes turn to the game's UK launch, set for tomorrow. EA has patched its EU servers and has said it is hopeful European gamers won't suffer similar issues. Fingers crossed.

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