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Post by Eorl @ 11:04am 08/03/13 | 29 Comments
EA has today announced that new servers will be making their way to Origin in hopes of bolstering the quite disastrous SimCity launch which has left many people unable to play their game thanks to the consistent online connection needed, a reminder of the quite draconian DRM. Previously EA had stated the international launch of SimCity wouldn't be affected by the issues plaguing American users however many Australian and New Zealand players are having a hard time even logging in.

Among the new servers EA is also disabling certain "non-critical" features according to an official forum post from EA (thanks Polygon). "We are in the process of deploying a hotfix to all servers," said a Maxis community manager in on the EA Forums. "This includes various improvements and also disables a few non-critical gameplay features (leaderboards, achievements and region filters)." EA has also deployed a new patch which has disabled one of the faster speed increases, called Cheetah mode. Previously the mode would increase the game speed, a feature that has existed in the game series since inception, but will now act as the second fastest game speed.

In related SimCity news, American distributor Amazon has frozen digital sales of the game after a large backlash of complaints from customers which is no doubt tied to the server issues (thanks Verge). According to the website, the game has a total of 877 of 1,001 total ratings which gives the product just one star. Amazon continues to sell physical copies of the game but is warning potential buyers with a message stating that "Many customers are having issues connecting to the SimCity servers."



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Latest Comments
thermite
Posted 11:08am 08/3/13
I hope this is costing EA a lot of money.
Viper119
Posted 11:09am 08/3/13
How hard is it to have a bit of elastic hosting and load balancing?
carson
Posted 11:13am 08/3/13
This is why I don't buy games with s***** DRM. No matter how good it would be. (I am a huge Sim City fan)
thermite
Posted 11:18am 08/3/13
How hard is it to have a bit of elastic hosting and load balancing?


People keep saying that like there are infinite free resources. It probably does scale... to a point.
trog
Posted 11:23am 08/3/13
If only there was a proven network model that has been around since, oh, let's say 1996, that was scalable and fault tolerant and had service providers lining up to handle the heavy lifting of network services for you!
parabol
Posted 11:36am 08/3/13
If only there was a proven network model

If only there was a way to predict at which stage of a game's life there would be maximum user activity ...

The publishers are caught by 'surprise' *every time*. Yet they somehow manage to meticulously and surgically organise all of the DLC months in advance without any problem ...
trog
Posted 11:44am 08/3/13
I personally don't think they're caught by surprise at all - I think it's known that it will likely fail or have problems, but they've got some MBAs that have crunched the numbers and figured out that it's cheaper and more effective in the long term to have this all f*** up at the start than it is to over-supply services.
Jim
Posted 12:01pm 08/3/13
People keep saying that like there are infinite free resources. It probably does scale... to a point.


actually I did a survey of all people who said that, and none of them were saying it like there are infinite free resources
Raven
Posted 01:35pm 08/3/13
Do you think they've tried turning it off and on again?
paveway
Posted 01:43pm 08/3/13
I personally don't think they're caught by surprise at all


that's what i was saying to teq last night during his Francis rant at me

this would be 100% expected there would probably be a time period allocated to how long this will take to stabilise because lets face this is exactly the same problem diablo 3 had and within a week you could login game just fine

it's just that people crack it now like the world is coming to an end because they can't get on now

don't get me wrong, it is retarded but i'd guess it is more likely as described above than EA just sitting around at launch with thumbs up asses thinking it's all going to be completely smooth
arkter
Posted 03:48pm 08/3/13
I personally don't think they're caught by surprise at all - I think it's known that it will likely fail or have problems, but they've got some MBAs that have crunched the numbers and figured out that it's cheaper and more effective in the long term to have this all f*** up at the start than it is to over-supply services.


exactly this.

If only there was a proven network model that has been around since, oh, let's say 1996, that was scalable and fault tolerant and had service providers lining up to handle the heavy lifting of network services for you!


What is that cloudflare things you guys are using? website seems to go offline 3-4 times a day for about 20-30 seconds.
Hogfather
Posted 04:02pm 08/3/13
I personally don't think they're caught by surprise at all - I think it's known that it will likely fail or have problems, but they've got some MBAs that have crunched the numbers and figured out that it's cheaper and more effective in the long term to have this all f*** up at the start than it is to over-supply services.

If it costs $X for a flawless launch, $Y in refunds for a s***** one and X is safely > Y then it makes absolutely no sense to fund a flawless launch. Look at me I'm an MBA!

The whole point of the press review was to get all those shiny 9/10 and above reviews so that the vast majority of players will reach the conclusion that its worth waiting for the dust to settle rather than demand refunds.
icewyrm
Posted 04:32pm 08/3/13
It seems they don't bother budgeting server resources for peaks. They set up to meet average demand in the long term, instead of allocating a safety net+average demand at launch and then releasing those resources for other purposes after the peak is over.

It's the logical tightarse way to do it if you are still managing your server resources the way you would have 10 years or so ago.
eski
Posted 04:34pm 08/3/13
I absolutely think they were caught by surprise, the way they patched out features of the game, I doubt they were expecting that.
It feels like they potentially got the bandwidth right, but were surprised by the processing load on the servers.
Hogfather
Posted 04:39pm 08/3/13
I absolutely think they were caught by surprise, the way they patched out features of the game, I doubt they were expecting that. It feels like they potentially got the bandwidth right, but were surprised by the processing load on the servers.

Or they knew exactly what was going to happen and had updates to trim the feature set 90% ready (40-50% dev cost, 2.5% cost of fixing the actual root problems) to whip out in the 95% chance that tested-under-load-weak-point-X caused the problem they expected.
eski
Posted 04:38pm 08/3/13
You MBAs have it all figured out!
Tollaz0r!
Posted 04:48pm 08/3/13
Perhaps their modelling of expected launch players is flawed. In recent years there has been more and more people buying online CD keys and getting their game through that method.

So whilst they have good solid models of player peak loads vs store bought copies, maybe their data for online purchased games underestimates the player load?
mongie
Posted 04:57pm 08/3/13
If anyone is actually playing - add me - mongie0
TicMan
Posted 05:15pm 08/3/13
"This includes various improvements and also disables a few non-critical gameplay features (leaderboards, achievements and region filters)." EA has also deployed a new patch which has disabled one of the faster speed increases, called Cheetah mode. Previously the mode would increase the game speed, a feature that has existed in the game series since inception, but will now act as the second fastest game speed.


I see the achievements and leader board stuff disabled but cheetah mode is still zooming along.
Hogfather
Posted 05:17pm 08/3/13
Perhaps their modelling of expected launch players is flawed. In recent years there has been more and more people buying online CD keys and getting their game through that method.

So whilst they have good solid models of player peak loads vs store bought copies, maybe their data for online purchased games underestimates the player load?

A few things wrong with that.

#1 - They released X amount of keys, so they know that X number of people is the upper bound of players. Its not infinite.
#2 - They know as the keys are redeemed how many players have purchased keys. I'm pretty sure there was also a pre-load process?
#3 - There are queues to enter the game itself, which should sensibly be set to the maximum load the servers can bear.

It would be astonishingly bad management if despite all of this the number of players trying to play was at all surprising. EA is a great big company so its reasonable IMO to be a little cynical about the level of 'surprise success' involved in releasing an AAA title.
Tollaz0r!
Posted 06:28pm 08/3/13
Oh Hoggy, sadly I agree. I would be ever so surprised if EA really did underestimate the amount of resources they needed at launch. I would totally not be surprised if they new exactly what was going to happen and are just ignoring it.

I'm not sure they expected such widespread criticism of it. I guess people are still sensitive from the Diablo 3 launch experience.
TufNuT
Posted 06:38pm 08/3/13
I hope this is costing EA a lot of money.


this will never cost them money, why would it? they have already got what they wanted, people paid for the games, a lot of people pre-ordered and others even got second copies just so they could play, if people stop playing now EA wins cause then they can shut down servers saying there isn't enough demand.

if people keep playing the numbers will become normalized and the infrastructure they have will be enough for the players and they will continue to milk them for DLC.. either way EA wins for as long as people keep buying their games.

I find it funny when reading articles that say EA will learn from this cause of all the anger... Why would they? people are still buying and still playing. when they release the next piece of s*** game people will buy that as well. this is no different to ubifail.


thankfully i resisted the urge to buy SimCity cause i knew this would happen.
thermite
Posted 06:42pm 08/3/13
yeah I know :(
Raven
Posted 07:21pm 08/3/13
this will never cost them money, why would it? they have already got what they wanted, people paid for the games, a lot of people pre-ordered and others even got second copies just so they could play, if people stop playing now EA wins cause then they can shut down servers saying there isn't enough demand.

Which is why I've never understood why games companies are or were ever willing to take the risk of subscription models. Sure, they might make more money when people to continue to play the game, but if it sucks? Then they lose huge.
paveway
Posted 07:42pm 08/3/13
i just got on and played the tutorial..
mongie
Posted 08:28pm 08/3/13
I've been playing for hours... look at their twitter page (@simcity) and they tend to post updates on which servers to use...
Viper119
Posted 03:07am 09/3/13
Ahh, yeah what trog and the MBA's said.

Try AWS even.. or any solution provider. Obviously it's not infinite, but there's enough IAAS and PAAS providers out there now to create one that could handle this load pretty cost effectively.

I dare say the technical side was expected but it wasn't catered for due to some business/marketing logic. Or EA really could be so incompetent they don't load test at all, let alone do sufficient infrastructure planning!
mongie
Posted 09:40am 09/3/13
Well, I played the beta, and I don't remember there being multiple servers to select from... They obviously didnt allow (or get) enough people into the beta to stress test their infrastructure.
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