Maxis general manager equivocates on SimCity refunds and server longevity

Maxis general manager Lucy Bradshaw began to address some of the more pressing questions surrounding SimCity in a recent interview with CVG, but ultimately equivocated on a few key issues raised by players unhappy with the game's launch.

Bradshaw was questioned on her stance regarding publisher Electronic Arts' policy of not offering refunds for purchases through Origin and how long the publisher would support the online only game's servers. She also addressed the emotional toll the game's rocky launch had on developers and the current state of the game.

Bradshaw noted that shortly after launch, Maxis announced it would give SimCity players a free Origin game to compensate for the launch day issues. When asked directly if players "should not be refunded a game specifically if it doesn't connect online straight away," she largely evaded the question.

"We have the best fans in the world, some of whom have stuck by us for more than 20 years," she told CVG. "They are a very vocal bunch and we heard their voices loud and clear: they expect better of us. We've got the server accessibility issue behind us and we're ensuring that the game experience is great for all players.

"Still, we know that this is our fault so we're giving SimCity players who were affected a free EA PC game download via Origin. We'll have more details for that on March 18. With regards to legal precedents, I will leave that to the experts. I'm focused on ensuring our players have a great experience."

While addressing her personal feelings on the matter, Bradshaw also declined to say just how long EA is planning on supporting SimCity's required servers.

"SimCity is an important part of our company's legacy and we want players to be able to continue their experiences well down the line from now," she said, when asked about the game's servers being turned off eventually. "As far as I am concerned, the servers will stay on as long as there are people playing."

When asked if she was still an advocate of "always-online" games, Bradshaw explained that the decision to make the game an online only one was part of the Maxis drive to take the series in a new direction, with a focus on relationships between cities rather than isolated single-city experiences.

"Cities trade resources, workers, shoppers, infrastructure and more," she said. "So we changed the core of the game, and the simulation was no longer city based, it became regionally based. What became very clear is that we needed to create an online, connected experience for our players. And, finally, the technology was in place to allow us to do that."

Earlier today a video surfaced on YouTube of SimCity running a mod that makes a portion of the game playable offline, which the uploader said is capable of running indefinitely. Last week Bradshaw told Polygon that it "wouldn't be possible to make the game offline without a significant amount of engineering work by our team."

Polygon has followed up with Maxis and EA regarding the offline mod to learn exactly what calculations are being conducted at the server level. We've also asked, along with a number of other questions, what role DRM concerns played in the decision to make the game online only. As of this article's publishing, we have not heard back.

Bradshaw told CVG that upgrades made to the game in the previous week have resulted in 92 percent fewer crashes. She said she has been at the Maxis studio "almost 24/7" since March 5, when SimCity launched to server issues and player inaccessibility.

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