EA Flubs SimCity Launch

Update 3/11/2013: Maxis releases a statement saying the SimCity problems are almost behind us.  EA has also ponied up and offered a free game to SimCity “Early Adopters.”  Having been able to play since Saturday with few issues, I think they might actually be getting their act together.

Update 3/8/2013: Amazon has resumed selling digital copies of the game, but keeps it’s warning up.  EA pulls all SimCity marketing materials from affiliates until further notice.  Wow.

 

If you’ve been paying attention to the internet, you probably know there was a release of a game 2 days ago, that has been pretty rough.  By pretty rough, I mean that EA flubbed the SimCity  launch…hard.  As in, a large amount of people weren’t even able to play the game kind of flubbed.  The issues are varied and despite the cries of the internet, all the exact causes aren’t known.  The generally accepted culprit are is the controversial “Always On” internet connection required by the game.  Essentially, your copy of a single player game must always be connected and in contact with the core SimCity servers.  EA spins this as a good thing, providing content and new depth of game play through the use of Regions where other players can connect to your city, and trade, as well as a slew of other features.  The internet generally holds that the impetus behind the “Always On” connection is to help prevent piracy through the DRM (Digital Rights Management) scheme.

Available Now - SimCity image for SimCity Launch
Irony, thy name is Maxis

The Saga of the SimCity Launch

Regardless of the reasons, EA didn’t adequately anticipate the demand of the SimCity Launch and servers were swamped, crashed and repeatedly kicked players off.  Players were unable to even play private games without any multiplayer elements because the game had to authenticate with the servers, where were down.  In backlash, players took to Facebook, Twitter, the official EA Forums and just about every other possible venue to vent their frustration and anger over the issues keeping them from playing the game.  At the time of this writing,   Amazon had the game as a One and a Half Star rating, and actually pulled the digital download version of the game to the issues, and processed refunds for it as a faulty product.

EA promised refunds for those who found the server issues to be too much, but I’ve heard of several cases where people were denied refunds after the announcement was made.  Customer support times were atrocious to call, Live chat was disabled on the website.  In what reads as a desperate move to save some face, EA actually turned off non-critical features just to get the servers up so people could play.  Let that sink in–they turned off parts of the game, so that other parts would work.  I mean, really?!  this is what the summation of the SimCity launch has become, “We gimped the game so bad, we had to gimp it in other ways just so you can play.”

The controversy around “Always On” DRM schemes started with the Diablo 3 launch where Blizzard announced the controversial plan for the single player game.  So controversial that some governments weren’t overly happy with the scheme.  The Diablo 3 is largely regarded as one of the most disastrous in recent gaming history, with users again unable to access the day for days, or weeks at a time.  Assuming EA would have taken a note from Diablo 3’s short comings, many purchased the game despite the Always On DRM scheme.  So many in fact that the disaster SimCity’s launch has largely eclipsed the Diablo 3 debacle, likely due to EA’s almost complete lack of planning or customer communication.

Cracked versions of the game started showing up on torrents for people to download mere hours after the game launched.  Interestingly, users with cracked versions of the game seem to be consistently enjoying their SimCity Launch, whereas those with legitimate copies of the game are repeatedly hindered with the inability to log into the game.  Officially, EA has yet to say anything about the launch but I think it’s clear that this will be known for a while as how not to launch a game.  As for far-reaching implications on game design and the future of SimCity, it’s unclear.

However, at the time of this writing, EA stock is still in the green.  I have to wonder if this trainwreck will have any impact there.

 

Via: The Escapist (and just about every other gaming outlet on the planet)

The World Really Is Ending – No BlizzCon 2012.

Well, big news from our favorite developer here–reported by IndustryGamers, Blizzard will not be hosting a BlizzCon this year, and instead will be hosting a Battle.net eSporting Championship in Asia. 

I can’t help but feel a little bit betrayed by this.  Sure, there’s tons of money to be made in Asia, but what about some love for the states, which we clearly don’t have.  Even though I’ve never been to a BlizzCon, I’m pretty upset about this.  This shows a pretty big shift in focus that Blizzard/Activision (yeah, we can’t leave them out of this) is willing to shut down arguably one of the biggest events in gaming each year to instead focus on an event in a country that a signficant of people who would have attended BlizzCon can’t get to. 

In light of recent departures on the Diablo 3 team, the reworking of coresystems after 5 years in development, and the lack of a release date, the future of Diablo 3 is pretty unclear in my mind.  Combined with a shifted focus to Asia markets and what gamers will undoubtedly translate as a slap in the face with the cancellation of BlizzCon, I can’t help but think, What are they thinking? 

There’s no way this can seem like a good idea in my mind.  So much uncertainty surrouding key franchises, and they choose to just ignore it and go play in Asia for a while. 

Ouch Blue, Ouch. 

Diablo 3 Beta Imminent?

Looks like Blizzard might be on the cusp of opening the beta for Diablo 3….ya know, soon(tm).  A press release went up on battle.net detailing how to get into the beta, and the common questions about the beta, which is pretty standard fare as it goes.

Exciting stuff — only been waiting for a year for this game, eh?

If past experience with Blizzard is an indication, I think we can probably expect to see the beta invites going out within the next couple weeks.  As to whether Diablo 3 will launch this year — I think chances are good they are aiming for the golden goose of releases – the ever-desired holiday release.

I’ll keep posting as I hear more….and hopefully I’ll get an invite and can post lots of pictures and whatnot.

Via Battle.net Diablo 3 Beta Announcement

More Diablo3: Buying and selling items for Real-world money

Not how I feel about this one.  It came out today that in Diablo 3, the Auction House in game will allow for the buying and selling of virtual goods.  No biggie, right?  Well, kinda … Blizzard is actually going to open it up to real world money.  That means that I could put my epic purpz up on the auction house, and make real money.  Yeah….uhm….yeah.

Blizzard made sure to point out that they would not be selling items on the Auction House, that it would only be player-to-player. It’s not meant to be a revenue stream for them (like they would need it anyway).  However, they did leave it open that they could potentially sell cosmetic items in the market.

Rob Pardo told Joystiq that no one had actually done something like this before, which I think is a little bit of selective remembering, since Second Life from Linden Labs has had a very similar (though not exact) model for virtual goods for real money in place for years.  So they aren’t the utter pioneers in this instance that they are at least presenting themselves to be outright.

But I still have to wonder what exactly this is going to do–to gaming, to gold-sellers, hell to even our real world economy.  This is an unprecedented change in the way that games work – Second Life, while similar, has never had the following that Blizzard does, and therefore hasn’t had the potential for massive change and massive impact on the industry that this does.

I can’t help but think that this move along with several others are Blizzard’s response to the rampant hacking and exploitation of the previous games, even though Diablo 2 though it remains a strong, heavily played game today.  Or maybe something to try and mitigate the gold-sellers that are so prevalent in every online game nowadays, but especially in the cultural phenomenon that is World of Warcraft.

Either way, it’s a bold move.  If Diablo 3 carries the kind of rabid following other Blizzard products have (which really, it’s been in development for about a decade, it’ll probably have more), players buying and selling virtual items for real money has the potential to change a lot of the rules of the gaming industry as they stand, which is always good.  But I’d be lying if I said it doesn’t make me just a little bit uneasy.

via Ars Technica – Diablo 3 will let you buy and sell items for real-world cash

Diablo 3 to require “Always On” Internet Connection

News today that Diablo 3 will require an “Always On” Internet connection to support several features of the primarily single player game.  So let me repeat that–a game, that has an online component (albeit a large one) but which can be played offline in its entirety, still requires you to be online at all times.

Wow.  So.  I’m gonna go ahead and say this is a bad idea.  Just check out the Ubisoft for justification for that statement. Blizzard says (and no doubt will actively maintain) that the always on status is ONLY to support key features such as an auction house, player chat, persistent server-side character storage, etc but I can’t help but wonder how much of it has to do with a heavy handed attempt to smack down the hacking and taking advantage of the system that was so prevalent in the first two Diablo games.  I know for me, the rampant hacking and exploitation of  Diablo 2 online was ultimately why I stopped playing it.

But I can’t help but feel they might be going too far with it.  As others have said, you can easily achieve almost the exact same result by requiring periodic check-ins as opposed to an always online model, which has been not the best received when other companies have attempted to use it.  I kind of wonder what makes Blizzard think that their gamers, arguably the most loud and obnoxious of all gamers, will take to this kindly.

When look historically at the kind of uproar generated by the art team trying to do something more with the art design than “Grind house muted colors complete with lots of blood that looks like it’s rotting,” and the uproar generated by the RealID fiasco which blew up the forums for days and days…it makes me wonder.  This has a ton of potential to not be well received, but Blizzard seems to be blissfully ignorant of this eventuality.  I think it’s become a question of not if there’s an uproar over it, but rather how much of one?

Blizzard seems to be making these somewhat gamer-unfriendly decisions more and more frequently lately, and I have to wonder what kind of influence Activision is having on the company as a whole.  My fear, the quiet, deep nagging fear, is that it’s much much more than is let on anyplace but internally at Blizzard.

via Geekosystem:  Diablo 3 Requires Always-On Internet Connection, Uh Oh