Last week, Electronic Arts Inc. released a new edition of its nearly quarter-century-old game “SimCity.” The reviews are out and among them are observations that the virtual city-building game seems to be pushing environmental preferences, like renewable energy.
The environmental aspect of the new SimCity by developer Maxis isn’t new news. Scientific American reported last year that creators wanted players to encounter true-to-life realities in their virtually created cities, like pollution and diseases. Here’s more from Scientific American at the time:
“The most important thing is the integrity of the simulation underneath [the game], the stuff that represents the systems that make up a real city,” wrote creative director Ocean Quigley in a recent online forum where game developers took questions from critics and fans. “I don’t want to enforce sustainable design principles in the game — I want them to emerge as natural consequences of your interaction with the simulation.”
What these environmental choices and consequences look like are out now that the game is being played. Popular Science’s Andrew Groen called them out in a post titled “7 Signs SimCity’s Creators Are Environmental Activists.”
Coal, for example, is true to its real-life attributes, like being cheap and effective, but cities using this as a power source are likely to see a cloud of smog and health conditions to go along with it.
Groen also pointed out “playful pokes” the game makes at some energy sources. For example, the description for Clean Coal as an option says, “This is as ‘clean’ as it’s going to get, bub. It is coal after all.”
Having a successful city is dependent upon things like taking proper care of garbage. Groen called it idealic of the game to drive people away from towns that are over-populated and garbage-filled, because it’s not technically true to life.
Groen also highlights what he considers an anti-big business sentiment and favoritism toward natural food sources, among what seem to be other politically driven aspects of the game.
Read all of Groen’s review here.
Watch SimCity’s video about “going green”:
In addition, issues related to the game have also had some players asking for refunds over the weekend.
Several gamers weren’t able to log on after “SimCity” launched, prompting some retailers to stop selling it temporarily.
Lucy Bradshaw, general manager at “SimCity” developer Maxis, said Friday more wannabe mayors logged on than they anticipated and that the developers have been increasing server capacity since the snafu.
“More people played and played in ways we never saw in the beta,” said Bradshaw. “OK, we agree, that was dumb, but we are committed to fixing it. In the last 48 hours, we increased server capacity by 120 percent. It’s working – the number of people who have gotten in and built cities has improved dramatically.”
The problem was an “always on” component, which means it requires a constant connection to the Internet for play. The Guardian reported this week that there is a petition signed by more than 60,000 gamers to remove this component.
Bradshaw said EA would give players a free PC game to compensate for the hassles. Players who registered copies of “SimCity” will receive details on how to download the free game March 18.
Some gamers still were asking for refunds though, which the company was not honoring. The Guardian has more on why:
Meanwhile, those who bought the game via online download and now want a refund are running into one of the key issues of digital distribution: ambiguous consumer rights. As laid out in EA’s terms of sale, purchasers in the US are denied refunds outright, while customers in Europe are somewhat protected by an EU consumer rights directive, which gives consumers a 14-day cooling off period during which they can ask for a refund. However, EA’s terms suggest that outside of Germany, consumers will lose the right of withdrawal if the purchaser has started to actually download the product.
But the Consumerist reported some people did in fact get refunds using a tactic called the “executive email carpet bomb,” which is a technique where you issue your complaint directly to the company’s top executives. Can’t find their email addresses? Consumerist talks you through an executive email carpet bomb here.
“I am very happy with the support that [A.] provided me, but I am still disheartened that it took this much effort on my part to get the proper end result,” a gamer named Kevin who was successful at getting a refund through this method told Consumerist. “Any other dissatisfied gamers attempting to get a refund might attempt the EECB themselves and see if they get better results than normal Origin support.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.