Crisis management, @simcity style.

513dfa0e26ece2221d000019So, I was browsing Joystiq (please forgive me, I know AOL should die in a fire) and came across this write-up of @simcity responding to player questions and requests over Twitter from the weekend. It featured these some tweets that highlighted the finest interactions from Maxis’ crisis management contingent.

Unfortunately for Maxis, they decided to host an impromptu question and answer session with GM Lucy Bradshaw. As you would expect, improvised answers from upper management just raise a series of doubts that Maxis (and by extension, EA) have any idea what the fuck they are doing anymore.

The following are real tweets by real Twitter users combined with real skeptical commentary by the real author of this post:

Right. If Maxis was truly at the top of the field in the realm of simulation gaming, you’d think they would be critical enough to find that forcing their sandbox city management simulation to become a remotely-hosted city management simulation would be a complete turn on the head of what the general gaming community had come to expect from the series.

I don’t think you can really play the angle as the customer’s trusted adviser when you’ve tarnished the namesake of a game they find important enough to pay for virtually sight-unseen. It’s a nice effort, but releasing a game that isn’t buggy and feature incomplete would have been a better venue to direct your effort.

Designing a game for multiplayer isn’t the problem, here. The Call of Duty series is designed for multiplayer, and they don’t have crippling issues with 600k+ concurrent players in matches of 12-18 player talking to the same server. It’s a sad thing to pay Kotick and company a compliment at running a corporation, but at least Activision knows how to support a big name title launch when it comes to server support.


Secondly, Maxis shouldn’t have even answered this question. At all. Just because Blizzard is taking their only property that has a chance of surviving on a console to the Sony ecosystem isn’t license for every PC game developer to suddenly consider jumping on the console bandwagon.

Thirdly, could you imagine awful how the console life of this game would be when Microsoft is so stubborn about allowing updates to be issued to its masses? Microsoft would probably sooner have Maxis/EA charge its players to deploy more than X updates in a specific period of time.

Fourthly, could you imagine how close to suicide Maxis/EA would be when Sony asks them to consider releasing their game on the PS4 in a digital-only format? All of those lost profits would instantly cause severe depression to set in.

Lastly, DAT SCOUT (repeated for emphasis).

With this admission, you can be rest assured that the “load experience in beta and load test” were either not done at all or completely worthless. Needless to say, the QA team is probably getting fired over this. I mean, if I decided that turning SimCity one degree short of a Facebook title was a good idea, the careers of underlings probably wouldn’t rate that high on my consideration scale, right?

Seems that someone forgot to give the person running @SimCity a general knowledge of computers. That said, there have been a lot of questions about the development of a Mac version of the game. Maxis seem to be wanting to develop this port in-house, but they understandably have their hands full, for the moment.

Although, instead of just licensing Aspyr to endlessly charge Mac users $60 USD for the title and instead of licensing TransGaming to redistributing the best variant of Wine that exists in the world–both of which are completely acceptable, it would seem that they are developing the Mac port in-house. If we can commend them for anything, I suppose building a Mac version of a completely server-generated city simulator should be cause for commendation.

The next crisis for SimCity

I could continue on and on about how Maxis have mucked and are mucking up their biggest launch in the company’s history, but I think that’s enough. For every negative or critical gamer that have reached out to @simcity, there are at least ten, maybe twenty, users who are sharing a positive experience with Maxis about the game. Perhaps this weekend’s server maintenance has done the trick and anyone that has the game can play it now.

Of course, the big question is which server to play it on. I wonder if the game won’t quickly take on an air of World of Warcraft with the fracturing of its servers. When the first servers are finally too full to sustain any new cities being simultaneously simulated on them, I’m sure we’ll be revisiting Maxis’ starling approach to crisis management.

And I suppose there is one thing that Maxis’ approach does have going for them–it sure does look like they’re talking to everyone and not just reinforcing praise for SimCity.

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