As head of Maxis, Will Wright designed the first two SimCity games and oversaw development of the series right up until its last offline iteration in 2003. After Spore, however, he ascended from the games industry to run an entertainment think tank, and has since been doing whatever those do. So what did he think of the new SimCity’s pronounced teething issues, which saw many players locked out of the game’s servers altogether?
“I feel bad for the team,” Wright told GamesIndustry when asked about the launch. “It’s a good game; I enjoy playing it a lot.”
“I could have predicted – I kind of did predict there’d be a big backlash about the DRM stuff,” he went on. “It was kind of like, ‘EA is the evil empire, there was a lot of ‘Let’s bash EA over it.’
“That was basically inexcusable, that you charge somebody $60 for a game and they can’t play it. I can understand the outrage. If I was a consumer buying the game and that happened to me, I’d feel the same.”
Wright added that there were some “very valid concerns” about the nature of always-online DRM in general.
“I think people care if it doesn’t work,” he said. “If you can’t play it on planes, stuff like that… I think there are some very valid concerns about it. Also there’s a perception; I don’t expect to play World of Warcraft on the airplane, because my perception is it has to be on the ‘Net. SimCity was in this very uncomfortable space, like the uncanny valley, almost; [it was caught] between was it a single player game or was it a multiplayer game?”
He seemed less concerned about the direction of EA post-Riccitiello.
“It’s hard to talk about EA as this monolithic thing with one agenda,” Wright explained. “If you move back it’s like all these different studios going in slightly different directions; it’s almost more like a loose federation. It is going through a lot of restructuring right now, but I don’t even have the time to tune into it.”
In the publisher’s financial report this week, EA’s Frank Gibeau said that the company had learned lessons from a “challenging launch”, and promised that similar server issues “won’t happen again” with future releases. What sort of lessons do you think EA need to learn?