SimCity problems led to offline Sims 4

EA's Frank Gibeau says that the problems with SimCity's launch and player feedback led to the decision to make The Sims 4 an offline game.

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Shortly after SimCity's online requirement backfired on Electronic Arts, the company announced The Sims 4--notably without any similar online requirement. EA's head of labels, Frank Gibeau, says that's no coincidence, and the decision was made due to the SimCity problems.

"In the last few months, we have started making changes to the business practices that gamers clearly don't like," Gibeau told GamesBeat. As one example, he cited, "We listened to the feedback on SimCity and decided that The Sims 4 would be built as a single-player, offline experience."

That was a reasonable conclusion given the timing, but it's surprising that an EA executive stated it so bluntly. It also implies that, had SimCity gone off without a hitch, The Sims 4 might have had an always-on requirement as well.

As for the SimCity launch itself, he regards it as a disaster. "That first week after launch was really rough--an experience nobody wants to live through again," he said. "Since then, we've sold more than 2 million units, and the number of people logging in and playing is holding steady. SimCity is a success. However, underestimating demand in the first month was a major miss. We hope that the game and the service we've provided since then meets the fans' high standards."

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From The Chatty
  • reply
    July 24, 2013 11:30 AM

    Steve Watts posted a new article, SimCity problems led to offline Sims 4.

    EA's Frank Gibeau says that the problems with SimCity's launch and player feedback led to the decision to make The Sims 4 an offline game.

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      July 24, 2013 11:34 AM

      TL:DR "We can't do it right correctly, so we are going to do it wrong correctly instead"

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      July 24, 2013 11:37 AM

      lol

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      July 24, 2013 12:04 PM

      Is anyone even still playing this?

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      July 24, 2013 12:05 PM

      wait what

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      July 24, 2013 12:07 PM

      ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh

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      July 24, 2013 12:30 PM

      "We listened to the feedback on SimCity"

      Uh-huh. After the fact, when lots of people decried it long BEFORE the fact.

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        July 24, 2013 12:34 PM

        I posted the Idle Thumbs 35 transcript when they announced always-on SimCity. I was on-the-mark on a few things that day.

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      July 24, 2013 12:33 PM

      I doubt Gibeau would've been this candid if it wasn't for EA missing their FY'13 numbers, resulting in Riccitiello resigning (which was NOT caused by SimCity; it wss the whole mess that was EA's business plan that entire fiscal year, including MoH Warfighter).

      Also, I seem to remember EA standing 100% behind always-on on every product. So if SimCity's backend wasn't a house of cards, would we have seen the continuation of the always-on message?

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      July 24, 2013 12:34 PM

      How is this still going on? Will we ever hear the end of that damned game lol?

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      July 24, 2013 12:46 PM

      Fucking fix Sim City and relaunch it. I want a proper sequel to play. :(

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        July 24, 2013 12:51 PM

        I don't think it's ever going to get properly fixed... they keep releasing patches but not fixing the things people really want!

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          July 24, 2013 12:59 PM

          SC5 is a lost cause, it was improperly designed from the ground up. I'm convinced the reason for small cities is the poor simulation.

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            July 24, 2013 2:07 PM

            Yeah, the entire simulation is built on a sham of a concept. To fix it would require a massive amount of work and re-engineering.

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              July 24, 2013 3:06 PM

              Almost the entire design was driven by business strategy, by execs like Riccitiello and Gibeau demanding that all of EA's games have online elements, if not entirely reliant on online infrastructure. Hearing about how this game basically had EC2 instances spun up "dumb" like virtual machines makes me imagine this game getting online infrastructure duct-taped to its design late in the game.

              They announced the always-on requirement in late March 2012 ( http://www.shacknews.com/article/73074/simcity-to-use-always-on-drm-no-mod-tools-at ), but I have to wonder when exactly that decision was made, and how much time they had to set up the backend software, and the business plan decision to use EC2 instead of a private cloud or their own server infrastructure. There's plenty of reason to suspect that they balked at planning extra capacity at launch, since they would've had to wind down the servers after launch, but doesn't EC2 charge per usage?

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                July 24, 2013 3:18 PM

                the problems these guys are talking about are completely unrelated to the online systems

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                July 24, 2013 6:10 PM

                "Almost the entire design was driven by business strategy"

                No, you are wildly incorrect. Why is it so hard for you to accept that the creative leads at Maxis pitched a multiplayer focused SimCity game and then crafted a design to accommodate that overall goal? The reasons why there wasn't an offline mode or that the service fell down initially have a lot more to do with the realities of game development (too much to do with not enough time or people, unknown unknowns for a team without extensive networking experience, etc) than the fictitious executive machinations you cling to. If you want to blame EA's executive, blame them for (not pushing) the release date and not that Maxis chose to make a game you don't particularly like.

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                  July 24, 2013 6:41 PM

                  Again, I'm not even talking about online, I'm talking about the agent-based stuff (which I believe limited them to small cities, and even then the engine can't process it well) and the relationship between R/C/I.

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            July 24, 2013 2:56 PM

            I'm going to pretend it never happened and wait for the next real SimCity. With all the DLC pushing out, SC5 seems like a lost cause.

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              July 24, 2013 3:52 PM

              With the digital storefront, there's probably been well over $10,000 worth of DLC for The Sims 3 during its lifespan. Seeing them pull similar marketing and crazy priced "item" style DLC for Sim City 5 makes me think that's not going to go away.

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      July 24, 2013 1:38 PM

      I have a copy of SimCity 5, but I still haven't ever played it due to no offline mode, and also due to the small city size. Might as well just play SC 2000 still.

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      July 24, 2013 2:35 PM

      It's funny, because an always-online Sims game where your neighborhood could be populated by real people instead of AI (optionally, mind you) would be fucking awesome.

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        July 24, 2013 2:38 PM

        yeah it's dumb. sim city should have been offline, and the sims should have been online

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          July 24, 2013 3:41 PM

          They should both be online but neither should be online-only.

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            July 24, 2013 3:49 PM

            really the problem was just shitty execution. If the online stuff had launched with minimal hitches it would've been a bitch fest and then people would've moved on and enjoyed the game (ex Diablo 3). There were plenty of core gameplay issues beyond that from most accounts, from city size to other systems not matching peoples' expectations, which seem to have little to do with any online features.

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              July 24, 2013 3:51 PM

              That's true, but there's still no good reason for the games to be online-only.

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                July 24, 2013 3:54 PM

                in this community that comment usually means 'this game could've been designed completely differently to be a singleplayer experience' which is kind of a tautology. There're plenty of good reasons they could make it online-only, like a robust set of inter-city systems to appropriately model how a city works (ie not in total isolation from the world). They just fucked it up from back to front.

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          July 24, 2013 5:50 PM

          Yup, exactly - it shouldn't be online-only but could definitely be designed with a multiplayer-supported (if not necessarily reliant) gameplay in mind. I'd picture that being a lot of fun.

          I get what they're trying to say with this announcement, but (and I hate to say it) it feels like they're now overcompensating way too much.

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            July 24, 2013 5:52 PM

            And yes, I had some brief stints with The Sims Online and recall how the only fun I got out of it when I was griefing someone. But if they made something multiplayer based on the advancements made in The Sims 3 (i.e. the open neighborhoods and much higher levels of interaction available) it could be a lot more enjoyable.

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        July 24, 2013 3:53 PM

        I'd go into other people's houses, steal their babby, and bbq it in my back yard.

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      July 24, 2013 3:57 PM

      Huh, cool of them to at least admit it.

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      July 29, 2013 11:17 PM

      Its almost as if they finally realized that if they piss off those last 5 or 10 customers
      they might not be around to stick it to the next generation of gamers......

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