Zen Of Design

The design and business of gaming from the perspective of an experienced developer

What’s Wrong with Game Journalism?

Here’s a good example:  SimCity launched with technical problems, to be sure, but what offended many people was that the game was designed to be online-only, not just technically but also for some game features to work. It was a clear case where the game design didn’t match player expectations, which is always unfortunate, and in this case, that design was instrumental to the overall architecture of the game. Last March, the SimCity team announced that fixing this would be difficult to do.  They now have announced that they are finally wrapping up this change to allow for single-player mode.

Which prompted this headline: “EA continues race to the bottom with unexplained SimCity offline reversal.”  Yes, that’s the headline for Maxis COURSE CORRECTING THEMSELVES AND GIVING THE PLAYERS WHAT THEY WANT.

The official statement from Maxis’ Patrick Buechner didn’t address how the addition of offline mode was possible, and that may be the most infuriating aspect of this sudden reversal. All the seemingly insurmountable technical details that were supposed to make this close to impossible have been hand-waved away

Gee, I don’t suppose the fact that a YEAR WILL HAVE PASSED since originally asked about this is a factor?  It turns out you can do difficult technical things if you have time.

There never seemed to be communication that offered realistic explanations or apologies, even when a modder released evidence that many of the company’s statements were falsehoods.

Having something released that kinda sorta works probably isn’t hard. Having something released that is fully functional, including dealing with aspects of the game design that are no longer there (other cities and their economies) as well as dealing with opening up the client-server relationship without threatening the security of existing servers, as well as being sure all of this doesn’t somehow break existing cities and savegames… it turns out this ISN’T trivial, which anyone who has ever worked on a live game before could have told you.  Possibly with intermittent sobbing.

I’m not saying that mistakes weren’t made, or that SimCity is a perfect game now — hell, I don’t know much about SimCity or its plans from EITHER the player’s or the developer’s perspective.  But again, this article was written about what is unqualified the Developers giving the Players exactly what they asked for.

I’m disappointed.  Polygon is usually better than most of the noise machines.


  1. Wilhelm Arcturus

    January 13, 2014 at 11:12 pm

    Perhaps we have discovered why Polygon hired him after Penny Arcade Report shut down. Ben does not shy from the inflammatory.

    I tend to have a dim view of EA myself and was pleasantly surprised with today’s news.

  2. You’ll note that the author is Ben Kuchera, who is new to Polygon, most previously of the link-baity and bombastic Penny Arcade Report.

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