The city-building PC game "SimCity" launched almost two months ago in a nearly unplayable state. At its current rate of repair, it should resemble a fully functional product in another two months or so. A recent patch upgraded the game to version 2.0, but while the game runs better than before, it's hardly complete yet.
The game from Electronic Arts has been beset by problems from day one. "SimCity" requires players to be online at all times, even in single-player mode. This always-online requirement created enormous problems when players found themselves unable to log into overcrowded servers for days after release.
In order to address the manifold issues plaguing gamers' simulated cities, EA had to withdraw a number of features from the game, including achievements, leaderboards and "Cheetah Speed," a mode that accelerates the game for players who have already established thriving cities.
Over the last two months and a number of patches, the server load has eased (due, in part, to a large number of gamers abandoning it) and all of the removed features have returned. Still, while it's easier with version 2.0 to start up "SimCity" and play through the early parts of the game, advanced players are experiencing the same problems as before — plus a whole host of new ones.
We had a chance to sit down with the latest build of the game, and can report that the early portions of the game are smoother than ever. Provided that you have a stable Internet connection, getting online and joining or creating a game is quick and easy. We encountered no online hiccups or gameplay glitches, and the game itself is attractive and intuitive, especially for experienced players of the simulation genre.
Veteran users, however, tell a very different story. One of the key hubs for information on the game has been the " SimCity " page on reddit. Since the patch went live at midnight (Apr. 23), users have posted almost 1,000 comments about "SimCity 2.0." Few of them are positive.
The patch promised to fix a number of bugs, notably transit and audio bugs. Previously, police cars in the game would become so backed up that they formed "conga lines" en route to crime scenes, and unusual sounds seemed to emanate from nowhere. According to a reddit thread almost 400 comments strong, police cars still conga around the city and trees still blare airplane sounds. [See also: 12 Biggest Game Fails ]
New bugs are present as well. Big cities are flooded with taxis, some players' existing save-game data are inaccessible and pollution springs up from nowhere without any way to alleviate it. First-time players likely won't encounter these issues until many hours in, but building a flawless, functional city is still tougher than convincing your residents that they really won't mind that coal plant right next to their houses.
With players already clamoring for a 3.0 patch, it's somewhat remarkable that "SimCity" still has a contingent of die-hards willing to stick with the game until it runs perfectly. Perhaps expecting a game to work out of the box is an attitude that died with the 1990s, but at what point will EA throw up its hands and declare that "SimCity" is as good as it's going to get?