The Top 10 Most Disappointing Video Games of 2013
In the world of Top 10 articles there are certain topics that tend to come up every year -- the Top 10 Best Games of (Name a Genre) and the Top 10 Hottest Video Game Babes just to name two -- in fact there is never a shortage of subjects for Top 10 list-type articles because the video games beat is a rich with fodder of that sort.
Still there is one subject that we don't want to write about -- but we have to -- because really if you think about it, it has to be done...
I am not going to deny that this subject is lathered in schadenfreude -- I won't apologize for that because hey, it is part of the fun and an inescapable element of judgment mates.
Another factor that goes into this is the sympathy that games journos feel for their kind in building the experiences that lead to the creation of this list -- it's a different matter entirely because where gamers have the option to just pull the game out of their system and walk away, when a games journo gets assigned a game to review they have to play it.What I am saying is that no matter how bad a game really is, if you get assigned to review it you have to play it. All of it. The entire game. Every aspect of the game. Because it's your job.
That being the case, you can probably imagine that in addition to maintaining a list of the games we love -- we also keep a list of the games we don't..
The fact that all but one of the games that made this list were actually good games -- but good games that were marred by issues that also made them a disappointment -- makes it very difficult to finalize, but in the end the simple process of translating the disappointment that we felt into a number -- a 'Disappointment Score' if you will -- finally helped to bridge that gap.
And when you consider that a lot of these games were actually good enough to make it onto our top ten lists for good games in their genres? Well that certainly helps to explain why games journos are obsessive note-takers and note-makers!
So here, with no further setup, is our Unofficial and Unjustified Top 10 Most Disappointing Games of 2013. Enjoy!
It is very difficult to know where to begin with SimCity. Put another way, there are so many issues and factors that are disappointing it is very difficult to figure out where to begin. Then there is the fear that, once we get started, we won't be able to stop!
Before we get to that though I should probably confess here and now that THIS is the one game that we qualified above in the intro about not being good. The other nine are good, but SimCity is so flawed that it ends up being bad.
Considering just how bad a year EA had in 2013 you would think that they would go out of their way to fix game-breaking issues as fast and discretely as they could, right? Well here is the thing -- and it is one of the things that caused the game to make this list -- both game studio Maxis and game publisher EA not only did not quickly move to fix the problems -- the game-breaking problems -- they each appear to have gone out of their way to deny that the problems were THEIR problems!
Even worse we are not talking about a flagship title or a game with wide platform presence -- SimCity (2013) only appears on Windows PC and Mac!
The first nail in the coffin that is SimCity is the insane decision on the part of the publisher to require an online presence in order to load and play the game. You read that right - you cannot play SimCity if your computer is not connected to the Internet!
That decision was part of the DRM solution that EA went with for SimCity, largely we are told because among the games in the EA stable the games from the Sim series' are the most pirated games that they have ever published.
Requiring a permanent Internet connection may not sound like that big a deal to the uninformed, but the thing is, it is.
Under normal computer use -- web surfing, checking email, even logging into a game server so that it can 'verify' your copy of a game -- chances are you don't notice when your connection resets, or a route changes and the get request has to be resent, but here is the thing -- the game DOES notice that sort of thing.
So it probably will not surprise you to learn that a large percentage of gamers were not actually able to play SimCity (2013) for months after its release -- and the only reason that they were able to play it after those months was that EA backed off on the permanent connection issue, allowing for a five minute grace period before it shut the game down due to being flagged offline.
What was even more disappointing was not the wacky approach to DRM but rather the massive and far-reaching impact that that DRM decision had on the game itself!
Basically in addition to making your 'net connection status an issue, having to be able to exchange the game data files online between client and server ended up limiting the maximum size a city could be, and THAT impacted what buildings you could build to the point where you literally do not have a sufficiently large enough building area in the game to properly structure a city!
When you simulate a city you are simulating its entire economy and infrastructure, which means in addition to creating industry you also need to create and maintain the suburbs and urban housing that the workers who work in those industries -- as well as the city government -- need to live in.
Then there is the onus of needing to maintain all of the public services that a large city of workers requires, from clean water and reliable power to public transportation and everything else -- a challenge made all the more challenging by the mercurial impact that economic changes actually have on the different industries in the game!
When the game was being touted and its features shared in the months leading up to its release the player base was already growing worried because the developers were talking about the wonder of cloud-based shared processing and how The Cloud would allow every game to be played evenly no matter what the tech level of the PC...
Artificial intelligence was a major element in the game and its decision engine, and it quickly became evident that the Cloud-based AI system was, in fact, broken!
All of the artificial limitations and bugs that gamers feared would make themselves felt back when Microsoft began to daydream about how the Cloud would change its console gaming experience began to pop-up not as worse-case-scenario but as the actual game play reality!
There are a lot more reasons for our disappointment -- a LOT more -- but you will be pleased to know that the sacrificial slaughter of SimCity has, it turns out, resulted in some good over evil. Both EA and Microsoft are taking it as an object lesson and now understand that diving head-first and willy-nilly into too far a reliance on new and unproven tech like the Cloud may in fact not be a good idea in terms of system architecture.
Who knows, the disaster that is SimCity (2013) may very well have saved us all from having to endure an experimental Cloud-based games in the future -- it remains to be seen though whether EA will take this example to heart?