SimCity-5Hello guys,

I’m writing to you with a concern that has been on my mind for quite some time.
As the title says right away this post is going to be about the SimCity 5 madness that has been brought to us by EA and Maxis.



1. I am going to discuss the problems with the released game.
2. I will talk about the community requests.
3. And finally I will try my best to reason why Maxis is not listening to any of the complaints of their customers.

Lets start right away, I hope this will give you a little insight of what I think is going on, enjoy reading:

1. What’s wrong with this game?


There are a lot of complaints and I did notice most of them myself.
Basically, the biggest problem with this game is that it is not following the original path of the series and people feel offended that they hoped for a standard SimCity with better graphics, but actually got an entire different game. This will be a large section so stay with me as I am going through everything.
Here are the differences:

  • You had to stay online all the time, even if you’re playing on your own. We had this with other EA games before, even games which are singleplayer only.
  • Small tiles prevent people from building huge cities as in the titles before. (This is a huge problem for most people playing SimCity 5)
  • The game focuses on building a functioning region, not a single city, as all titles did before. (This is a tricky one, because the game somehow has a “social game” element which does not really work, because the EA servers are bitches)
  • No city is meant to be self-sustaining, which already changed a little for SC4, but is a drastic point for SC5. (This also adds to the social game argument)
  • Resources like water appear to deplete, resulting in more planning for the future and problems which did not exist in the previous game. (Basically a “game sin” where cities go down in the long run, because you did one bad decision in the beginning)
  • Cities, apparently, are not meant to be played forever, and they won’t last forever, usually going down after playing them for too long. (I’m not sure if this is just a problem of the game mechanics in general and it was never planned to be that way, but it usually happens pretty often. Also the limited amount of space limits long term gameplay and motivation.)
  • traffic_jamTraffic problems are worse compared to SC4 and SC3k (and with smaller cities) – (I actually liked that one, because managing traffic was my long term motivation for this game BUT the buggy pathfinding in this game caused a lot of cars locking each other. Also people were just using “some kind” of transportation which could lead to situations like millions of workers arriving by train in the morning and leaving by car in the evening. It’s pretty odd to see this in a game and you can’t do anything to control or prevent this…)
  • Important previous features which have been implemented with SC4 Rush Hour (One way roads for example) are just missing. This adds to the traffic problem, because RushHour for SC4 was basically just a patch addon to fix all the traffic issues you had with the standard install of SC4.
  • Mechanics like build density and zoning are entirely different.
  • Some more complex aspects of the simulation tend to confuse people, not knowing why certain areas of the city aren’t developing as anticipated.
  • Other pretty interesting aspects of the simulation do not exist anymore, like underground constructions including subways.
  • City specialization feels odd and useless, because you can’t mine resources forever. You think you invest into worthless facilities which will become useless after a while, so why even bother?

It is quite clear that these differences in gameplay alone make a huge impact and we did not even talk about the general problems if you just look at this game alone.
With that being said lets take a look at these problems, bugs and also launch problems, shall we?
Here we go:

  • The split simulation between EA servers and user clients does not work well at all. I think the developers thought about a lot of awesome features and wanted to provide the best possible connection between cities. Sadly, the Glassbox engine does a terrible job at supporting these interconnecting features and the general game design suffers from it. (Not a bug but rather poor engine design)
  • All the servers were overloaded on launch, even though EA did a stress test on their servers. One of their bad moves on this beta stress test was to disable the multiplayer feature. City specialization was not enabled in that test, you could not play on larger regions and you always played alone AND for just one hour until your city got a plain reset again. The stress test did not stress out the servers, therefor it was unsuccessful and rather a marketing flick. This led to a bunch of problems during launch. Many players could not start a city at all, the region simulation was not responding for hours, changes were not saved sometimes, people lost cities. This could’ve been prevented, because EA knew about the amount of pre orders and therefor players on launch. (This is a class-A bug, because it renders the game unplayable)
  • sim-city-garbage-truck-conga-lineBugs in the simulation prevented servicing cars and trucks to drive to their designations properly. Why is this a problem? Well, in SC5, you don’t need tons of e.g. fire departments to cover your whole city. You only need one department of a given public service and their trucks and cars drive around the city, servicing all buildings. This is a neat feature but completely frustrating if their pathfinding just won’t work properly at all. Garbage trucks, for example, were driving around in rows, servicing the same buildings together without spreading over the city. This means, more trucks won’t bring you more coverage, which was the initial idea of this feature. (This is a class-B bug, because it has an impact on gameplay and can be frustrating.)
  • Service vehicles got stuck and did not leave the garage at all, sometimes. Also they kept cycling the same block, sometimes. If this happened with firetrucks your buildings simply burnt down. (class-B bug.)
  • The simulation does odd things, sometimes. You simply don’t know HOW the water demand in your city could double all of the sudden, even though the population did not change, at all! This also happened for electricity, and sewage. The only way to prevent this was building twice the supply you actually need.
  • The same strange changes happen to your budget. Sometimes, your city does not change at all. Or at least it appears as if it’s not changing, but your budget suddenly drops through the ground or explodes and you have no idea where the money went or came from.
  • The trading system, import and export, sometimes locked itself up not sending enough trucks bringing supplies to your city. Keep in mind, this is a big part of the game! This is quite nasty, because if you based your income on manufacturing goods your city could go down because you did not get any resources anymore. And I’m not talking about trucks not coming because your traffic situation was horrible. I’m talking about trucks not coming, because the game did not generate ANY of them. (Somewhere in between class A and B, in my opinion. It can be game breaking)
  • Some of the weird simulation bugs exist because the Glassbox engine is cheating, sometimes. A sim does not drive to the same job (working place), every day. They also don’t live in the same building every day. They simply drive to the closest available job, in the morning. And they are driving to the closest available home, in the evening. The previous games weren’t THAT sloppy, also because they did not move the sims each day. So the claim in their trailer, that each sim is simulated individually and has his own life is simply wrong. They are just dummies to create an appearance of a city and to simulate traffic. (Would also call this bad engine design and misleading marketing. Either do it right and as you announced or announce it differently.)
  • Some little and simple graphics glitches like terrain clipping through streets. The game, overall, looks gorgeous, and these bugs were very rare. I’d rather say they did a great job at the appearance but I had to mention what a class-C bug is. (class-C bugs. They look ugly but do not affect gameplay)

There are much more problems, but I think this is enough for now.
So yes, SC5 is an entirely different game compared to all previous titles in the series and this did disappoint many people. This had been topped by all these glitches in the simulation and the gameplay itself. And this caused the community to split in haters and lovers of the new title. And then there are the disappointed few fans of the previous titles which just hope for bugfixes and patches, but there weren’t many.
For me as a developer, I am disappointed, but I also understand how this could happen.
What I can’t accept is why they had that many severe bugs in the release.
Class A and B bugs are a no go for a release version, especially if they are that obvious.
Enough about the rant, lets see what the community says!


2. What does the community demand?


Surprisingly not much. The problems with the simulation are not that bad to many of them, obviously. Most are okay with the new zoning and density system, and I must say, I like it myself, too! But there are some loud voices out there which shouldn’t be ignored if EA does not want to doom the series entirely.
I will only mention the 4 biggest complains/requests to which I can relate alot, here.

So one of the requests is pretty obvious.a_SC5_tile
And I have to agree, this is the biggest problem of SC5. The game plays like a casual game, because you can’t build on one city for days, even weeks, anymore. In the end, it’s rather like Tetris, fitting little building blocks in the grid, somehow. This was a big thing in SC4, 3k and both titles before that.
The devs say “This is simply impossible, the engine does not support that AT ALL”
We all know that this is not true, it’s just to much work for them and since the Glassbox engine is pretty resource greedy it will also cause slower execution on local machines. But! We had that with previous titles as well. The older titles of SimCity simply slowed down the simulation speed if the engine could not keep up with everything which is going on. Glassbox could do the same. Also, people with beefy machines will still be able to play at max speeds without an impact. Why do we know this? Because there is a community mod which increases the tile size already. Sadly it’s pretty sloppy and not a solution compared to an actual implementation from the devs but they ain’t going to do it.

Another obvious request:
YES! We needed that. Why can’t we have the EA server backend running on our local machine? Why do the EA servers have to take over the region simulation? It’s just bullshit to say “it is not possible, the technology is not supporting this” NO! These servers are normal computers as well, this is an excuse of EA so they can keep up their eagle eye upon every client which is playing, to make sure no one copies the game. And even that issue has been fixed quickly by a community mod. I don’t want to be to hard with the devs, here, because they added thisĀ  feature themselves as well. But to be honest, next time, don’t tell the community it wouldn’t be possible!

What else makes people happy:FIX_ALL
I don’t have much information on that one, because I lost track of the SC5 problem after a while. But what I know is that alot of patches were promised in the beginning and they just took way to long to get released. Also most of them did not fix anything, but made things worse, somehow. I don’t know how this can happen but it did and it’s not acceptable. In the meantime they released a couple of content packages or DLCs. Yepp! That pisses off any customer.

Last but not least:
Yes, I have to agree with that one as well. I was so damn excited to play this game. Especially the multiplayer part was announced quite differently, but in the end it’s just passive “side by side building”. Also, as mentioned before, people expected a reboot of the SimCity series, same complexity, same gameplay, same sizes, but they recieved nothing of that. SimCity 5 is not a bad game, the marketing and expectations therefor were just going into the wrong direction.


3. Why is Maxis so passive about this?


managementWell, I think this can be answered pretty easily. After SC5 has been released EA and Maxis decreased the amount of devs working on this game. In fact, I believe there are not more than 5-10 people working on upcoming DLCs and bugfixes. Therefor they simply don’t have that much manpower to keep up with all the requests. Especially the implementation of larger tiles would ask for complete overhauls of the region maps. Every request done by the community undergoes a critical step where the management decides if it should be done,… or not. These decisions are based on sales of the current game, not on the reputation of the series in the future. They don’t consider these things, therefor it pretty much makes sense why the management says “Nope, tell them we can’t do it”. And of course the developers have to listen to them. After all, dev-time is expensive. I can understand the devs and I can’t blame them for anything that has happened. After all, they have the pressure from above and they have to release if EA says so.



As I said, after all, SimCity 5 is a great game, marketing and management rather ruined it, however. The devs planned a lot of neat features but simply couldn’t do it in time and over estimated their engine.
Lets hope future versions (if there ever will be a SimCity6) will do it right this time.
Hey! The Anno series managed to survive design problems like this as well! I’m holding my thumbs for SimCity!

Thanks for reading!