Wednesday, July 25, 2012

SimCity Social: Not The Game You Know And Love

Rant alert!

EA recently released a game called SimCity Social on Facebook. Since I love the classic SimCity games, and currently play a game called Millionaire City by Digital Chocolate on Facebook, I was pretty excited.

I started playing, had fun with it at first, but unfortunately the fun cannot continue for my humble city pictured above.

Why? Because EA decided to make the game "Social", and I'm clearly not in their target market.

To do anything requires "power". Collect rent? Power. Build a building? Power. Plant crops? Power. Everything requires power. The game puts a cap on how much power you can have and the only way to get more is to wait for it to regenerate over time. I've played other games like this and it's LAME.

I think the point is to get me visiting again and again to get me into the habit of visiting. Or, and I didn't even look, to get me to pay money to get my power back quicker. Either way, what it really does is stop me from playing. Is this really what EA wants?

For some buildings to function properly you need to fill them with "friends". Since I currently have no friends playing this game, these buildings are completely useless. One of the buildings I didn't even put there, yet I'm forced to look at a stupid exclamation mark reminding me that it's not complete. SimCity is nice enough to give me a pop-up each time I click the building with friend suggestions, but I don't want to be "that guy".

EA understands that I might not have enough friends to complete a task, so they give me another option: Diamonds. For all buildings, upgrades, etc, I can choose to use diamonds to pay for it. The game does dole out a couple each time you reach a new level, but not very many. Want more diamonds so you can keep playing? No problem. You can buy diamonds with real money at any time. Thanks, but no thanks.

Random Items
Another feature of the game is the ability to upgrade buildings and complete quests. It's a cool idea. Except that many upgrades and quests depend on using items I collect during the game. The problem though is that the items I collect seems pretty random. For example, to upgrade a car dealership I might need 5 bottles of wax. How do I get these mystical wax bottles? No clue. Everyone once in a while there's a hint, but this part is not transparent enough.

Land Expansion
Everything so far is just annoying. I can deal with it. Sure, it means I'll grow slower, but that's OK. It still provides fun for loners like myself. But then I hit a problem: My city expanded to the limits of the land. Expanding requires 2 permits, some Simoleons, or 12 diamonds. Like I said earlier, diamonds take FOREVER to accumulate, and I'm not about to pay money (I'm assuming those banner ads aren't there for free), so that option is out. I kept playing a while (which at this point is just collecting rents every once in a while), waiting for the random drop of a permit, but it never happened. Meanwhile, I kept collecting Simoleons. I'm up to 95,000 right now, but don't have a way to spend them because I can't expand my city. How dumb is that? I want to play and game won't let me.

I finally searched online about the permits. It turns out that the only way to get them is to have friends gift them to you. Of course, I can send a friend request asking people to gift me permits. Again, I don't want to be "that guy". If someone was already playing, I'd totally ask, but alas, I'm a loner.

I suppose I shouldn't be too surprised that a game called SimCity Social requires me to actually be social with friends. Oh well. I guess it's back to Millionaire City which doesn't limit my play with power, or require me to have friends (though that will speed things up).

I suppose my biggest frustration is that I can tell EA had a good idea for a game. Then they slowly added complexity and layers to the game, not to make it more compelling and engaging, but to artificially increase player counts or force people to pay money. Instead, what they made was a game that feels forced and surprisingly given the franchise's history, extremely limited.

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