Midweek Madness!


Around midweek and on weekends, Valve have these cunning plans to pry your hard earned cash from your sweaty hands with offers on videogames. Most of these offers are good value, and a few even tempt me to try something new.

Sometimes though, it goes a bit wrong. I’m not complaining about discount map packs or the occasional 10p off offers, but rather this:

Cities XL
Click to make it bigger to see wtf I am on about

I hear the distant cries of “75% off seems like a pretty good deal to me!” And in most cases you’d be right, but not today.

Cities XL is what I’ll refer to as a ‘potential vacuum’, which is not to say it potentially is one, but rather that it is a vacuum of potential.

The game was in development for a long time by Monte Cristo, a French games developer with a string of lesser-known management-sim titles under their belt from the last decade or so. Initially touted as a spiritual successor to Sim City 4 with online functionality to interact in real-time with other players’ cities around the world, Cities XL seemed like a city-builder’s dream come true.

Anyone who has played and enjoyed Sim City 4 will know that’s a bold claim to make. At a basic lever the games are quite similar, though Cities focuses on trade and balancing of resources more than SC4, especially with the online mode. But I digress. This is not a review.

When Cities launched in the last quarter of 2009, it came in two flavours – single player and multiplayer. The latter consisted of a (nominal) monthly subscription and allowed you to build up to five cities on a choice of virtual planets. This was the stage for everyone else to do the same. You could visit their cities, and more importantly trade with them. It is because of this essential trading interaction that the offline version of the game was utterly pointless. You would find yourself needing to build up several cities in unison in order to trade with yourself for the resources needed for your super-duper main city.

“That’s okay, if the monthly fee is low I’ll give it a trial and if its good I’ll pay up. The game is cheap anyway!” Yup, dirt cheap. Though you might want to consider that there is no online mode. It got pulled by Monte Cristo earlier this year. So all you have is a really crap-to-play single-player mode.

And that’s not all!

When the game went live last year, there were many bugs. This is to be expected in any new game these days given their complexity. It even had some memory leaks, which are frustrating and sometimes very difficult to deal with, but they get ironed out. Unless its Cities XL, where some of these game-breaking memory leaks are still out in the wild.

Yes, there has been patches. No, there won’t be any more. You see, a short while after turning off the online functionality of Cities, Monte Cristo folded. The game is no longer supported – there are no forthcoming patches and all the bugs are here to stay.

If you visit the Steam forums for the game you’ll find a fair number of folks asking about the game right now, only to be told why they shouldn’t bother buying it. Now consider all the people who didn’t go to find out more and bought the game on impulse after seeing all the cool features of the game on the game’s store page. That’s probably a lot of people that are ultimately going to be disappointed and/or angry at not only being allowed to buy a broken game but having it marketed to them.

Bad Steam, no cookies for you this week!

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