The latest version of SimCity didn’t quite hit expectations, in case you missed it at the time. Excitingly received by a massive community, it almost immediately fell over thanks to an always-online requirement that many felt wasn’t needed. Things spiraled from there between servers never being fully repaired, community mods removing the online requirement and other PR gaffs. Now in an interview with GameInformer, the project’s creative director at the time of release, Ocean Quigley, has revealed some of what lead to those problems.
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The decision to make SimCity always online didn’t, perhaps unsurprisingly, come from Maxis, but from publishers EA. They felt this was the direction games were heading, and believed the game should function as a full platform on which to base other developments in the future. Quigley specifically says that while microtransactions were a consideration, they weren’t the driving force.
It did lead to some bonuses, like the constant linking of cities between friends. Naturally, Quigley would have preferred making those features optional, especially in the wake of the disastrous launch. That’s when the sinking ship analogy comes in, as a million players did their damndest to burn Maxis’ servers to the ground on launch day.
“The back end of it all, sort of, collapsing in flaming server rooms was, well — it feels a little bit like being somebody on a sinking ship,” he explained. “You've done a really nice job on your part of it, but it doesn't matter. It doesn't matter if you've made all these beautiful things, because the rest of the ship is exploding.”
Heart-breaking for a team who, he says, we quite proud of what they had built when it worked. Loads more in the interview, embedded below, which kicks off at about 1:13:22.