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SimCity offline mode has been in the works for six-and-a-half months, says lead engineer

Tuesday, 14th January 2014 20:11 GMT By Stephany Nunneley

SimCity’s lead engineer, Simon Fox, has explained in a new blog post how the team at Maxis is going about bringing the game offline.

According to Fox, his team’s been working on clearing a path to offline mode while working to maintain the “integrity of the simulation” at the same time.

“Lucy Bradshaw once said that offline wouldn’t be possible ‘without a significant amount of engineering work’, and she was right,” said Fox. “By the time we’re finished we will have spent over 6 ½ months working to write and rewrite core parts of the game to get this to work. Even things that seem trivial, like the way that cities are saved and loaded, had to be completely reworked in order to make this feature function correctly.

“I wish it were as simple as flipping a switch and telling the game to communicate with a dummy client rather than our server, but it’s more than that. Entire calculations had to be rewritten in order to make the game function correctly.”

Fox said SimCity was originally written to rely on the servers and will routinely ping said servers for critical pieces of data which it relies on to keep the simulation moving.

“This meant rewriting the entire system, which previously existed in Java, and putting it into C++,” he further explained. “We’ve had to knock out the internet pipe stuff. There’s lots of code that hits the servers looking for information. We’ve had to write a lot of code to produce that data locally, specifically for region information.

“Now, all of the regional simulation needs to be done locally. The algorithms governing trading between cities needed to be retuned in order to make the behavior between cities more responsive for this type of play. This in itself required major optimizations in order to run the simulation locally. We have an obligation to make the game fun and functional on all specs of machines. We wouldn’t want someone who was enjoying the Multiplayer game to find the Single Player game crippled due to poor optimization.

“We had to remove parts of the game for it to function properly as well. This means removing lots of code integral to Multiplayer include code and UI supporting Trading, Social Features, Global Market, Leaderboards and Achievements. And, all without crippling the Multiplayer game.”

Fox went on to say the offline mode is currently in Alpha and in the final stages of testing before it’s released as part of Update 10 in the future.

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10 Comments

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  1. Francis O

    building a game that can be played offline takes six months?

    EA is a trash company, why do people keep buying their DRM laced, broken trash.

    #1 6 months ago
  2. Droid

    Yet it took one hacker two months to do and release it on the web. Sounds like they need to employ the hacker.

    #2 6 months ago
  3. laxan96

    @Francis O
    You don’t know anything about coding do you? If you just had a little insight into it you would probably give game devs a brake more often.

    @Droid
    Yes your right I sawnthat too and also how he was.able to build outside the perimeters. Did you also see how screwed.up the.traffic was, and how everything else was out of function. He also said in the video that he wasn’t able to save.

    #3 6 months ago
  4. YoungZer0

    @3: If I’m not mistaken crackers found a way to play the game offline after 2 weeks of the games release.

    #4 6 months ago
  5. Lapalk

    I’m not defending Maxis by any means, but what’s to say the offline mode shown by this said moder was able to play a functional game the way it was intended?

    Maxis had a vision and ran with it. In the end, it wasn’t received as they had hoped and the gaming community cried. They’ve completely re-written the game in an effort to produce what the community wants and probably realize it won’t be enoough.

    I applaud Maxis for trying to push the game forward. As a diehard SC fan, I thought this version was too simplistic and lacking a lot of what the series has always offered. It could be the end of the series, but it could also be the first step into a greater version down the road.

    #5 6 months ago
  6. rockman29

    @5:

    That is a perfectly logical thought, and completely valid.

    However, there is one extra thing you are missing:

    From an engineering/computer science frame of mind, what is the purpose of engineering a system in a game with a certain set of goals in mind, only to have to spend 6 months of time redoing the same system with different goals so shortly after the game is released?

    Regardless of what is happening or how long it must take to reverse the thing, the plain fact is it happening and is happening for no good reason.

    They had ample time to recognize what a bad decision they were making from during development, and the error and extra time wasted on this issue is completely of their own doing.

    #6 6 months ago
  7. Lapalk

    @6 I can’t argue that fact and in many respects, you are correct.

    Like I mentioned earlier, they had a vision and ran with it regardless. I honestly believe they either didn’t realize or didn’t care how many SC gamers played and enjoyed the game as a single player game. I also believe a large percentage of SC players felt the biggest challenge was building a “Functional” city that filled the great size of the map. This has been part of the SC DNA since the beginning and they went away from that.

    All-in-all, this version of SC feels so different from what was so good about the series and in the end, that is what has turned me away from it. Bring back the good of what this series has to offer and I’ll possibly return. Otherwise I’m moving on.

    #7 6 months ago
  8. MrWaffles

    Maxis, please… Stop the fake PR and focus on making a good game instead.

    It’s clear they went the DRM way for (almost) the first year to grow a big playerbase, but that backfired (obviously).

    Now tey are finally releasing the original version of the game (without all the always-online-DRM) and hoping to attract new players.

    I miss the Maxis that made good games first instead of looking at players’ wallets.

    P.S: Hire more hackers

    #8 6 months ago
  9. Stardog

    I’ll wait until it’s $10 on Steam, which will be never.

    City-builders are my favourite genre and I won’t even buy this.

    #9 6 months ago
  10. Fin

    Reading the blog post, I believe that it was indeed designed to be online only, and that getting it to run offline did require rework – though 6 months of dev time seems like a lot, I assume there were <5 programmers on it in that case.

    Enabling the game to run temporarily offline (getting rid of the countdown timer) matches up with what the blogpost (implicitly) says – the game used cached data when disconnected. Removing the online check obviously required all the data to be calculated and stored locally.

    I'm not justifying the decision at all, but I don’t think he’s lying about the work required.

    Also, Java, wtf? Who writes a game in Java?

    @9

    Origin only bro.

    #10 6 months ago