Just when users thought the debacle of both failing server support and outright lies might finally be out of the spotlight for EA, it looks like SimCity fans are in for more disaster. Hackers have discovered that it’s possible to completely destroy players’ cities on public regions, and as a result overwhelmed SimCity support staff have begun censoring the customer support hotline number on the EA Forums — meaning gamers in need of help will face an uphill battle to get it.
As Maxis VIP Lucy Bradshaw explained, the servers handle all region status updates for players around the world. A few days ago, modders made the discovery that a few changes client-side would allow them to edit areas past their own city boundaries, which would then sync on the server-side over at Maxis. As innocent as this discovery was, it paved the way to much more sinister findings – that gamers could go into any neighbor’s region and effectively bulldoze their entire city. The hackers in the video below disabled server-side syncing for the purpose of demonstration, but stated that City Owner IDs could be spoofed to allow truly malicious hackers to actually perform these acts online.
Obviously, paying customers are more than a little offended after all their server woes, and now the city they painstakingly created on a public region can now be completely destroyed by any random Internet troll. SimCity hasn’t posted any official response to this hack, and hopefully their server-side securities and updates will actively prevent less-than-upstanding citizens from being able to do this.
Those looking to get in touch with customer support over the phone are also running into problems, as the customer service support hotline (866-543-5435) is being censored on the official SimCity forums. Whenever any user goes to enter the number, it is replaced by an asterisk; a common form of auto-censoring usually implemented for swear words and offensive content. Forum users tested other phone numbers on the boards and found that the official support hotline was the only number being censored, likely because EA is having problems dealing with the massive amount of calls.
Valve has a similar practice on their own forums, replacing the phone number with a support email to prevent a volume of calls from building up. Still, this practice is much better than simply preventing customers from getting any kind of support at all, leaving confused users high and dry. Countless posts have appeared online from frustrated customers, most saying something among the lines of ‘SimCity‘s Titanic of a launch has hit another iceberg on its way down’, and it doesn’t take a genius to get the general tone of most consumers.
Amazon had previously halted sales of the game due to server issues, and EA is due to announce a free Origin-based game as a peace offering to disappointed customers. Most likely, the inclusion of an offline mode sounds like the only way Maxis can possibly make amends at this point. With customer trust and horrible public relations moves being highlighted on a seemingly daily basis, offline is one game mode that just can’t come soon enough. Of course, that’s assuming Maxis actually decides to do it.
What do you think, Ranters? Are you frustrated by the plethora of problems in SimCity? Would you purchase another online-only game by Maxis?
Follow me on Twitter @Makelevi.