Maxis‘ Lucy Bradshaw is a straight shooter. She’s also a very brave soul. Having to come out in front of millions of disgruntled SimCity fans and explain that their game is broken can’t have been easy.
That said, she’s also become our direct line of communication with Maxis — explaining the developer’s line of thinking as it concerns SimCity. Today, she talked a little more in detail about SimCity‘s always-online requirement. More importantly, she reported that the requirement was always part of SimCity‘s general design, that publisher Electronic Arts didn’t thrust it upon Maxis.
In a blog post on the official SimCity site, Bradshaw goes on to explain the many ways the game uses a constant Internet connection. She compares SimCity to an MMO; in that it’s community-based features are the most important part of the experience.
Here are the major points she shared in regards to the always-on requirement:
- We keep the simulation state of the region up to date for all players. Even when playing solo, this keeps the interactions between cities up to date in a shared view of the world.
- Players who want to reach the peak of each specialization can count on surrounding cities to provide services or resources, even workers. As other players build, your city can draw on their resources.
- Our Great Works rely on contributions from multiple cities in a region. Connected services keep each player’s contributions updated and the progression on Great Works moving ahead.
- All of our social world features – world challenges, world events, world leaderboards and world achievements – use our servers to update the status of all cities.
- Our servers handle gifts between players.
- We’ve created a dynamic supply and demand model for trading by keeping a Global Market updated with changing demands on key resources.
- We update each city’s visual representation as well. If you visit another player’s city, you’ll see the most up to date visual status.
- We even check to make sure that all the cities saved are legit, so that the region play, leaderboards, challenges and achievements rewards and status have integrity.
While the idea of sharing a region with a few friends, or strangers, is interesting, the fact that it doesn’t work 100% of the time makes it all the more frustrating. That said, from a personal standpoint the always-on requirement is just one of the many problems with SimCity, problems that make it feel a little less-than. And while some don’t overtly rely on the always-on Internet, many of the game’s little unfortunate quirks — specifically small city size — might have had something to do with bouncing information back and forth with a server.
Most of what Bradshaw explains in her post sounds more like exciting ancillary pieces, however, and not core to the basic SimCity experience. At this point it sounds like she, like many of the Maxis devs out there, are standing by their decision to require an Internet connection. Some even claim that the game needs an Internet connection simply to function and will never go offline.
As a matter of fact, many gamers have already discovered that SimCity can be played offline. Many of the features that require SimCity‘s servers are less important than we’d been led to believe.
Nonetheless, SimCity appears to be running much smoother now than it was a week ago. However, the damage is already done. A goodwill gesture of a free EA game might have smoothed things over, but the fact still remains that always-on is not a good idea.
The best thing that can come from a situation like this is that future developers either beta test their games more extensively than either SimCity or Diablo 3, or they think twice about the feature altogether.
Do you believe that SimCity‘s always-on requirement was Maxis’ decision? Would you sacrifice multiplayer for a larger city?