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SimCity team exploring the possibility of an offline mode, bigger city sizes not in the cards

Friday, 4th October 2013 15:32 GMT By Stephany Nunneley

An offline mode for SimCity is being explored by Maxis, the developer announced today on its blog.

According to general manager Patrick Buechner, a team was created to “specifically focus” on the feature.

“Right now we have a team specifically focused on exploring the possibility of an offline mode,” he said. “I can’t make any promises on when we will have more information, but we know this is something that many of our players have been asking for. While the server connectivity issues are behind us, we would like to give our players the ability to play even if they choose not to connect.

“An offline mode would have the additional benefit of providing room to the modding community to experiment without interfering or breaking the multiplayer experience.”

However, there is some bad news along with the potential good news: bigger cities are not in the cards.

“City sizes have been a constant point of conversation among our players since we released the game,” Buechner continued. “We’ve put months of investigation into making larger city sizes, reworking the terrain maps, changing the routing algorithms of our agent-based system and altering the way that GlassBox processes the data in a larger space.

“After months of testing, I confirm that we will not be providing bigger city sizes. The system performance challenges we encountered would mean that the vast majority of our players wouldn’t be able to load, much less play with bigger cities. We’ve tried a number of different approaches to bring performance into an acceptable range, but we just couldn’t achieve it within the confines of the engine.

“We’ve chosen to cease work on bigger city sizes and put that effort into continuing to evolve the core game and explore an offline mode.”

He went on to reiterate that SimCity’s launch “wasn’t what anyone on the team hoped for,” and that the firm thinks about it “every single day,” however the team is “passionate about SimCity and want to make it better.”

Full thing through the link.

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13 Comments

  1. yeoung

    So this is what happens when graphics overtake gameplay from a design perspective. How very sad.

    #1 1 year ago
  2. RefuseBunny

    Well, the city sizes might only be restricted by the online functionality.
    So, if they are able to make an offline experience with mod support (as hinted at above) then maybe modders could add bigger cities for the offline.

    If they do introduce an offline mode then I may actually buy the game. I’ve been avoiding it because of the only online features.

    #2 1 year ago
  3. TheWulf

    I’m not convinced by either of the above statements.

    See, what I think is going on here is that the AI is designed in such a way that if they were to make the cities significantly bigger, everything breaks. Yes, that can happen, especially if you’re working with significantly complex AI.

    So it may require a non-trivial amount of work to fix, including rewriting large portions of the engine code. I’m not excusing this, mind you, as they should have planned for this from the beginning, but they’re probably in panic mode right now about how they can deal with this seeing that the demand for bigger cities exists.

    And what might be happening is that they’d have to sacrifice other things in other areas to make it happen.

    I’m not sure if that’s right at all, but usually if a company says no in absolute terms, there’s money involved. Such as getting people working full time on solving a big problem. So I think that might be the case, consider that even modding is a more readily acceptable concept than bigger cities — I think that speaks volumes, because even modding requires a lot of work.

    All I can say is that I hope they’ve learned a lesson from this. People like big cities.

    #3 1 year ago
  4. DSB

    Power of the cloud, yo.

    Easily mistaken for the power of a self-inflicted gunshot wound.

    #4 1 year ago
  5. FatalTee

    #3

    You are correct. It was demonstrated that large amount of what they call agents, or running them at high speed (remember disabled cheetah), breaks the simulation. The problem is the core of this simulation.
    As a long time Sim City enthusiast, when Sim City 5 was announced I was so happy. Sim City was like driving to me, only for more complex ideas. But my happiness stopped after first (!) video I had seen about the game.

    It was first glass box presentation from 2011 or early 2012, not sure about the time. In this video you would see that every entity runs from a to b, and all there is visible. So you could actually track everything in the city. People, people in their jobs, economy of phÿsical goods. But even from this first video two major problems arisen and one problem mayhaps occured to some.

    Firstly, these are not people or goods, these are unified agents. Okay Sim City. But that means that one agent “lives” exactly for one route. Which basically means that there will be no long term effects. Think city desertion after super-inflation in Sim City 4, because you created new super-modern centre, and people who lived there remember the time, where little bought much. This scenario will never happen in Sim City 5. So, that was like — why would they do that?! This complexity is why I love Sim City 4!

    Secondly, after realizing what non-persitent existence of inhabitants would do the simulation, I thought that maybe this is only a temporary stuff (hint: later, still pre-launch, they were saying this was their intention. I fail to see why they wanted that.). So I was looking for other rational ideas behind the simulation that would sell me it. Has anyone thought about these “agents” in real life terms? Your electricity is delivered by car. By CAR! As is your water. It was there on the first video and I was shouting at the screen that they are not serious. So that basically told me (well before launch or pre-orders) that new Sim City would be everything BUT simulation.

    And the last thing, the creepy thing in behind. Maxis, or EA manager, or their manager, or anyone without any idea how city works greenlit this. You will be asking why. And there is this thing. The managers were sold this pitch — “You will see every actual point of simulation. In Sim city 2/3/4 what you see is representation of the Simulation which is calculated in behind in Engine. Now, you will see it all, because what you see is what is calculated.” It is cool, is it not? There is actual virtual reality down there and you interact with it in real-time (or cheetah or whatever).

    So, what basically was visibile in 2011 was this — Simulation is what we see. And what we see is mess of ilogical decisions, which has nothing to do with simulation of a city. It is obscure mathematic equation, where someone thought that it would be cool to make it more interacitive by binding the actual caluclation to a model. Which would be awesome, had it been done well. And all I believe now about the Sim City DRM and stuff, is that online only and lockdown of modding is just another sales pitch and marketing scheme to sell broken product, mystify customer with online component and say that most problems come from internet connection issues and ban modders from discovering it and spreading the truth about the model.

    I am sorry I was right back in 2011. I would really enjoy good successor to Sim City. Maybe one day there would be proper Sim City 5. :)

    Note – I am basing this on my observation, few things I noticed when I was reading about decompiling Sim City and from the research which made offline Sim City possible for warez. (Yeah, it somewhat works — it is still broken as official one.)

    #5 1 year ago
  6. NightCrawler1970

    I pass, maybe later when they down price to $9.- Origin focked up in the beginning and EA laugh about it… and even now bradshaw is promoted and work now for EA, thats mean she do just for the money only and the hell with anything else… she was a such a lying sack of shit…

    #6 1 year ago
  7. taternuggets

    This game was nothing but a disappointment. Larger cities was all that might have saved it. What a tragedy.

    #7 1 year ago
  8. MrWaffles

    They keep kicking these hope-filled press releases out the door, but you know it’s all full of shit.

    When you read what the team of Maxis devs thinks, it’s clear it was EA who twisted their arm into making the always-online DRM.

    Love maxis, if they released an ansyncronic online version of SimCity 2004 I’d buy it asap, not this $60 bug-riddden design-by-committee beta.

    #8 1 year ago
  9. TheWulf

    @5

    That was a really cool, informative post. I hope folks read that, because it was an interesting insight. It’s funny, because I could and do appreciate Sim City as a zany experiment. Yet not so much as a game.

    Your electricity is delivered by car. By CAR! As is your water.

    That’s exactly what I’m talking about. From a game perspective, that’s horrible. And people bought Sim City expecting a game, not an experiment, so that’s where things got screwy. The person buying it was expecting a city simulation similar to prior instalments, rather than an inexplicably odd project.

    If this were some alien world and it was sold to us as a zany project, I’d actually kind of dig this sort of thing. Especially if it was completely open source. I like seeing people do strange things, so… yeah.

    But I can empathise with people who wanted a new Sim City and got something entirely not that.

    #9 1 year ago
  10. The_Red

    Well, here’s the problem:

    Modders created the offline mode for test. They weren’t able to do something about city sizes. Maxis can only do what modders can do in a few hours (j/k)

    Seriously though, I respect the team because they created a game that I wanted to love but due to stupid and disgusting decisions that led to always-online thingy had to change my mind. The city size was just salt on the original, gaping wound of no-offline.

    The only good to come out of this is the assured existence of offline mode for Sims 4.

    #10 1 year ago
  11. unacomn

    You know, Tropico 4 looks kickass, and guess what, you can make a huge freegin city in that.
    Cities in Motion 2 as well, and there the traffic actually works.

    Now, I’m not saying I smell BS, but it sure as hell ain’t daisies.

    #11 1 year ago
  12. mistermogul

    I thought Maxis originally said an offline mode for this was “impossible”. Why are they then looking for a possibility?

    Oh yeah… as they were talking shit.

    #12 1 year ago
  13. FatalTee

    #9
    “I could and do appreciate Sim City as a zany experiment.”

    I could too. If it were sold like one. The reality of Sim Cities there is one of post apocalypse. It is probably an experiment where wiring was abolished as structural weakness. Power Plants thus serve as giant recharing stations and whole society lives from batteries.

    I can interpret it as far-right wing fantasy where every house is actually a shelter. But Sim City, to its credit, actually demonstrated foolishness of such society. When you have to deliver everything in form of a crate, traffic system collapses. Now, the argument might be that with some good logistics everything is possible. Yes. I agree. But this is far-right wing (call them republicans, they are extreme enough for this) fantasy, remember. You have dispensible dirvers that you shoot down every time they come to your place, because as proper right-wing nut, you are protecting your right to privacy. And they violated it, hence second amendment plus first amendment legality. So no one can know where you live. Downside is that skilled drivers which would made logistics possible (because we all know how dependable GPS is) are hard to come by (they are all dead after their first delivery). Hence the explanation for flawky AI pathfinding.

    Man, I love the craziness of the game for such hardcore interpretations, because it is awesome to search for a meaning where there is none. But as a game it just does not work.

    #12

    “Oh yeah… as they were talking shit.”

    Is it not called marketing nowadays?

    #13 1 year ago

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