SimCity and Tomb Raider: Two major PC game launches marred by technical problems

Credit: Source: Electronic Arts

It's been a rough week for PC gamers, hasn't it?

All I can say is Square Enix ought to be sending some lovely gifts to Electronic Arts right about now, considering how much heat EA is drawing away from SE. The Windows version of the Square Enix's new Tomb Raider game isn't running well on some Nvidia graphics chips. The situation is bad enough that Nvidia acknowledged the issue and apologized to their customers:

We are aware of performance and stability issues with GeForce GPUs running Tomb Raider with maximum settings....In the meantime, we would like to apologize to GeForce users that are not able to have a great experience playing Tomb Raider, as they have come to expect with all of their favorite PC games.

You may not have heard too much about the Tomb Raider problems; a lot of that discussion has been drowned out by the tremendous outcry about Electronics Arts' SimCity launch, which can best be described as a debacle.

The new SimCity launched Tuesday night. Immediately upon release (or more specifically, as soon as the downloads for the digital edition were unlocked) folks encountered problems with congested download and patch servers, but by morning (the unlock happened just after midnight) that seems to have cleared up.

Tuesday was relatively uneventful and plenty of customers were enjoying SimCity, and then work and school let out for the day. At that point the servers started crashing and the game has been plagued with problems since.

Electronic Arts initially tried to write off the issues as trivial. On Twiiter, EA's official account for its Origin gaming service (essentially EA's answer to Steam) said

"Due to the high demand for SimCity, Origin has experienced delays impacting a small percentage of users. We’re working non-stop to resolve." and then "We’re making changes to prevent further issues, and are confident that Origin will be stable for international launches later this week."

After that, the @OriginInsider Twitter account went dark for two days, only to come back today to let us know they don't do refunds. In the meantime EA did add some servers, but as of this evening (Thursday) that hasn't seemed to help much. Earlier today an EA Community Manager announced that a hotfix was rolling out that would disable 'non-critical gameplay features' in an attempt to ease the load on their servers.

Senior Producer Kip Katsarelis also sent a message to the communuty acknowledging the issues and asking for patience, but not offering any kind of apology to the many customers who shelled out $60+ and who can't play.

In the meantime, Amazon has yanked the digital edition of SimCity from its store and has placed a warning on the game's page:

"Important Note on "SimCity"Many customers are having issues connecting to the "SimCity" servers. EA is actively working to resolve these issues, but at this time we do not know when the issue will be fixed. Please visit https://help.ea.com/en/simcity/simcity for more information."

Dodgy online game launches are hardly news, but what has many gamers in an uproar is that SimCity is a game many prefer to play solo. This version does have MP hooks in it, but I can't really talk much about them because I'm one of the customers who hasn't managed to get his game to start yet. This newest version of SimCity requires an Internet connection in order to function even if you want to have a single-player game, and that's where much of the annoyance comes from. Many see this as a case of legitimate customers being punished with a draconian DRM system.

I don't disagree, but I think we, the gaming community, need to moderate our behavior. We have to start resisting the temptation of pre-orders. If you knew Tomb Raider wasn't running well on Nividia hardware, or that SimCity just plain wasn't running, you wouldn't purchase the games, correct? But if you're anything like me (I'm definitely part of the problem.) you read about some freebie or bonus that comes with pre-ordering a game you're interested in and you jump at the chance, thus giving away any leverage you may have with the publisher. (The word on the social networks is that EA will not offer refunds to customers who purchased SimCity directly from them. Or at least not without a very determined and persistent effort.)

I'm sure Tomb Raider will get fixed and EA will repair whatever is plaguing their infrastructure soon. But we need to remember these problems the next time some publisher tries to seduce us with pre-order freebies. Let's wait until we see a working game before we hand over our money, and when a publisher saddles their game with unreasonable DRM, let's make the (sometimes hard) choice of not supporting that publisher, no matter how much we want to play their game.

Nothing is going to change as long as we gamers don't change our behavior. Now if you'll excuse me, I have to go sit an a queue and see if I can finally play this silly game!

Read more of Peter Smith's TechnoFile blog and follow the latest IT news at ITworld. Follow Peter on Twitter at @pasmith. For the latest IT news, analysis and how-tos, follow ITworld on Twitter and Facebook.

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