Why you shouldn’t trust our SimCity “review”
EA originally wanted reviewers to travel to their offices and play SimCity on their machines, under their supervision, and get a sense of the multiplayer features and overall game over a few days. There are many reason why that’s not an optimal way to play a game, and their compromise of sending us review code to use on our home machines and to play for around five days was acceptable. That’s a good amount of time, and good circumstances, to play and write about a game. The problem is that we’re not playing on final, retail servers. EA knew exactly how many reviewers would be playing the game, so our experiences with the always-on requirement is in no way representative of the final product. It could be the same, or the servers may buckle under the pressure and no one will be able to play the game they paid for. It wouldn’t be the first time such a thing has happened, and since reviewers didn’t play under the same circumstances as normal consumers, our good or bad experiences writing the review shouldn’t be used as evidence that the sytem is ready to go, or that it will break. It could go either way. We also weren’t able to try out many of the game’s social features, and those are expected to play a large role in how the game acts and feels in its latest incarnation. As Sophie pointed out in her thoughts on the game, it’s much like playing The Old Republic as a solo character. Sure, you can do it, but that doesn’t give the player a good idea of how things will be once friends and family are online and playing, and the mechanics of connected cities have in no way been tested by critics or players in a serious way. That sort of thing will take place in the ongoing coverage that takes place after launch. I’m not comfortable calling what we published today a review, although Sophie certainly put the game through its paces in a good environment using what should be finished code. I learned much about the game from reading her story, but it’s in no way authoritative, and no one is really going to be able to publish the last word on the game with these circumstances. Things will be adjusted, re-evaluated, and perhaps revisited once the game has actually been released. This is the sort of thing that’s going to become more common as games require Internet connections and everyone struggles with the best way to get reviews out. I hope you learned something from our coverage of the game, but don’t ask if the servers will stand up when the game launches, or how the social features will work out in the real world. We don’t know yet. No one does, really. Keep that in mind when reading today’s coverage. My recommendation? Don’t preorder or buy the game unless you’d be fine with non-functioning servers tomorrow. If that sort of thing would make you angry, hold off until you know things are stable. Until then, it’s all conjecture.