‘SimCity’: Maxis VP Explains Internet Connectivity Not EA’s Idea

Mar 16, 2013 by  

SimCity Online Requirements Not EA Fault

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?

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Source: Maxis

17 Comments

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  1. Just Once I would love to read an article here where one of the staff doesn’t hold anything back and just lays it down hard. I understand the big dogs(IE IGN, Gameinformer, Gamespot..)for not telling it how it really is but Gamerant? You guys should be telling it how it is straight from the gamers mouths. Still love ya’ll though..

    Maxis and EA F’ed up at gamers expense. Maxis is just plain trying to cover up for the publisher after they(Bradshaw in fact) lied in the first place that the game could not be played offline.

    The guy that hacked the game is a hero and I hope that method spreads so the people that bought the game will be able to fully enjoy it any time and anywhere. How it should’ve been..

    • Even if EA did “thrust” this always online requirement onto Maxis, there is no way any of their staff would say anything to bash their publisher’s decision or it would land their job in hot water. After reading the report about the hacker making the game playable offline, I just don’t see why there couldn’t have been two modes. One being the standard offline and the other online with all the social features listed (the latter of which doesn’t even seem enticing to me when it comes to a Simcity game).

  2. Yes everyone knows ea is led by a bunch of reptilian shapeshifters planning world domination. I think its time this ea hate bandwagon just stopped

    • I don’t trust anyone who doesn’t hate EA. To me, if EA’s business practices haven’t affected you in a negative way at some point, then you’re either too blind to see it, or you haven’t been gaming long enough for it to happen yet. This is not irrational distaste, it’s a reaction to repeated bad experiences from a company that doesn’t even care to keep up a good public image anymore.

      • Their are some reasons to hate ea just like any company but for everyone to consider it the #1 worst company is just crazy. P.s. i never said i loved ea they get under my skin too

      • I’ll take the third option of it doesn’t affect me since I don’t buy games.

        • And you’re on GameRant why?

          • I meant to say EA games but fraking keyboard didn’t put the EA part.

  3. Guys, EA is not Maxis’ publisher. EA owns Maxis outright. They’re one of EA’s development studio, so EA actually has quite a bit more pull than you would think.

    • EAWare (BioWare), EAxis (Maxis). Same thing really, both EA.

  4. First: they should have called it “sim city online.”
    second: I don’t care who made the decision. I’m sick of the fad. I’m sick of the always online mentality. I’m not buying the game. I won’t buy diablo 3. This internet requirement for games needs to go away.

    • Sim City? More like Sin City!

  5. “Sim City” = “Epic Farmville”

  6. given the fact that this was a entirely new engine built from ground up, and that it is said to take advantage of modern day CPU in an efficient way (multi-threading and utilizing advance instruction sets) i can’t understand why the cities are so SMALL!!

    my biggest gripe is with the size rather than this DRM business, in time this DRM situation will pass (it already is) and people will get over it, but the design aspect of city size will not, and i am very disappointed just how small the cities are, in fact it feels more like simtown rather than a CITY.

    hopefully more intel will come about why the city landscapes regions are so small, i don’t think this has anything todo with DRM server communication what so ever, more like a engine limitation, or perhaps a scale choice set by designers to accommodate those people with hardware that is a couple of generations old already, but whatever the reason i wish this would get discussed, because i am very curious why the game is so SMALL, given all the hype and the new advances in the engine being developed i really was expecting this game would at least match it’s predecessor in size (simcity 4) yet what we have is a region size cut in chunks that would barely pass as a small town that just behave like a city….

    very disappointed in the scale of the game!

  7. 2 words, one huge lie…..non-disclosure agreement. I would rather they abstain than look the boot of the beast that is EA. This is the same reason the 2 founders of Bioware and the lead writer of ME never explained the negative changes the EA merger brought to the company.

  8. So glad I kept Sim City4…there is not much good coming out in the way of new games these days. It would change if 2 major launch titles were totally ignored by the public. Regardless of the quality of the games. If a dev and a publisher spend untold amounts of money and then get next to zero sales the industry would recognise the fact that this little relationship is symbiotic, not the elite feeding the masses. Remember guys that they throw massive amounts of money into making these titles, and to see a massive loss like that would hurt the bottom line enough to take notice.

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