Maxis Developer Denies Need For Single-Player SimCity Servers

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Maxis Developer Denies Need For Single-Player SimCity Servers

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A SimCity developer says the oft-heard claim that remote servers handle some of the game's computations, which makes true single-player gameplay impossible, is simply not true.

Maxis and Electronic Arts have repeatedly defended the need to be connected to remote SimCity servers even when playing alone by saying that those servers handle a significant portion of the game's calculations. "With the way that the game works, we offload a significant amount of the calculations to our servers so that the computations are off the local PCs and are moved into the cloud," Maxis General Manager Lucy Bradshaw told Polygon last week. "It wouldn't be possible to make the game offline without a significant amount of engineering work by our team."

But a developer who worked on the game has now told Rock, Paper, Shotgun - which verified his direct participation in the project - that the claim isn't actually true. "The servers are not handling any of the computation done to simulate the city you are playing. They are still acting as servers, doing some amount of computation to route messages of various types between both players and cities. As well, they're doing cloud storage of save games, interfacing with Origin, and all of that," the anonymous source said. "But for the game itself? No, they're not doing anything. I have no idea why they're claiming otherwise. It's possible that Bradshaw misunderstood or was misinformed, but otherwise I'm clueless."

He explained that the servers allow players to share maps and resources and ensure that nobody is cheating, but said none of that happens in real-time and it has no direct impact on individual games. That's why EA recently disabled Cheetah mode, he added: To reduce the number of updates coming into the server queue.

The bottom line is that the complexities of disconnecting SimCity from remote servers have been vastly overstated. "It wouldn't take very much engineering to give you a limited single-player game without all the nifty region stuff," the source said.

This, I think, qualifies as an interesting development. Even if it's true - and Kotaku tests suggest it may very well be - it's possible that this is all simply a result of a difference of opinion about what constitutes "a significant amount of engineering." It could be something a whole lot shadier too, but I have a hard time imagining a major game publisher - yes, even Electronic Arts - flat-out lying about this sort of thing. That's the sort of maneuver that's bound to be caught out, and to bring some mighty ugly fallout when it does.

Source: Rock, Paper, Shotgun

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I didn't like SimCity 4, it was buggy and crashed a lot. The best one IMO was SimCity 2000. Why should I NEED other people to make a city? I think I would turn to an alternative.

So, EA bullshits gamers and no-one is going to be the least bit surpised.

Thats pretty much my take on it

Here are two reasons it could use a Single player function.
1) Internet isn't always reliable, and if their service is interrupted or your own, you are unable to play the game.
2) 10 years or even 20 years down the line, will the servers on this game still be up? Will your copy now officially be dead? I'm sure there would be newer, better versions of the game out by then, but the one here would render the game obsolete. People can still play the original Sim City to this day. This one will only live so long as the servers are up.

Well, then, I guess we can expect to hear about the cracked, single-player pirate version within the week.

ADDENDUM: Don't buy it, and don't pirate it.

Makes sense. Even before release I heard some beta testers had already examined what all the network data from Simcity was. Their conclusion: not much, and certainly not enough to run a significant part of the game.

So yeah, pretty crazy EA and Maxis actually made those claims. As said, people would find out pretty soon. But, never attribute to malice what could easily be explained as stupidity. Maybe they just didn't know how their own game worked. ^^

sounds like that redit thread from the other day has some corroboration then.

They knew there would be fallout from the way they designed the game but maybe not as much as what they're actually getting. And like the short sighted, problematic solutions they crammed into the game that got it to where it is right now, they're lying through their teeth and hoping the lime light gets off of them before they get called out. Good luck to them lol

Andy Chalk:
"It wouldn't be possible to make the game offline without a significant amount of engineering work by our team."

Sounds a lot like designing a game feature. Shocking.

I don't condone piracy but I am interested to see what those dirty thieves put together, because it will confirm one side to this disagreement.

Speaking as a systems developer working with distributed computing, I can say it's impossible that a significant portion of computing be offloaded from the end user. That would mean that the provider would have to provide computing capacities that exceeded this significant portion of the user base hardware.

You know those @Home science programs that run in the background? They outperform supercomputers. That's the scale of investment such a design would actually require. EA doesn't have a petaflops cluster dedicated to SimCity. No way.

What the anonymous dev says sounds perfectly resonable. They designed the game so that all the regional stuff would be server side, not from any performance considerations but from a security point of view. Whatever twisted version of security they have in mind.

This has been floating around for a while. What is rather hilarious is that one out of every five or so posts on the SimCity facebook page is a link to the original article.

The fact of the matter is that the DRM is the sole reason for it getting the poor publicity. Had it had it, not only would people have been less likely to complain about the issues regarding the connectivity issues, but there would have been a good chance that those issues would have been unlikely to have come about to the same extent in any case. Let's face, most people like to get the hang of the game offline before heading online - a state of affairs that would have led to lower demand on the servers in the critical opening week.

The whole thing has been a classic case of stupidity. In order to do...something (maybe cut piracy, maybe shits and giggles, maybe steal our vital essence, whatever), they have rushed the game through testing (presumably to beef up their 2012-12 financial year - which ends at the beginning of April - revenue) increased their overall costs (servers aren't free, nor cheap), made the game worse through removing gameplay aspects, made themselves look foolish not just in games magazines, but also the mainstream papers. Even one financial advice website was saying that short selling EA stock was a sound investment idea.

Yea didn't some guys (I think it was a Reddit thread) find that once you start up the game and retrieve your city from the servers you can play without an internet connection for 10 minutes or something before the next server check caused the game to close?

I would imagine in that time all the calculations done would have to be on the client side.

Countdown to crisis.....

Seriously... people will make it their mission to produce a hack thats lets you play off line.

Credossuck:
Countdown to crisis.....

Seriously... people will make it their mission to produce a hack thats lets you play off line.

That's what I find funny about this ordeal, EA did the whole online DRM to stop piracy, but its just encouraged people to crack it so they can actually play the game they payed for.

People have confirmed that the amount of data being sent and received in an hour is not indicative of any kind of server calculations being handled. I read it was like 40MB down per hour and 36MB up. Those calculations must be insanely well optimized for such little data to be sent and received.

Like the article said, i highly doubt EA would even think about blatantly lying to us about something that has been so easy to disprove. What this does show is a large amount misscomunication between corporate and the people making the game, or the general incompetence of corporate to not do their homework.

The only thing more dangerous to the people around him than an evil genius with a master plan, is an idiot with a loaded gun.

We already knew this. I mean EA might not know this but PC guys. They are kinda PC savy. All you had to do was manage to track packages, you'd notice SimCity only sent out a tiny amount of packages, most of em in 10 minute intervals. You can also do a disconnect test, at which point you time the amount you can play the game for before it gets disconnected. With SimCity that is 10 minutes. A nice coincidence hu?

Basically ever 10 minutes the game authenticates itself. That is all that happens. If massive amounts of data were really being handled by the servers you would not even be able to play SimCity for 10 seconds without an internet connection let alone 10 minutes.

It's basically EA barging into your study every 10 minutes demanding to see your passport to check if you really for really reals paid for the game. What is even worse though is that EA managed to fuck up Authentication servers.... Authentication was to much to handle for their servers. They simply did not give A FUCK!

Sim City will now basically be a pirate magnet. Every cracker out there is working on this game for one of two reasons. They bought the game and are pissed at EA or they saw EA's bullshit justification for the DRM and want to crack down on them. Either way can't wait for the patch/crack.

Meanwhile I'll keep building my region of Twasbetteroffline.

DelinquentTurtle:
Yea didn't some guys (I think it was a Reddit thread) find that once you start up the game and retrieve your city from the servers you can play without an internet connection for 10 minutes or something before the next server check caused the game to close?

I would imagine in that time all the calculations done would have to be on the client side.

Aye, there are posts abound, both by that specific reddit thread and others experiences, that confirm this.

And Andy, you really have a hard time imagining EA lying to what it hopes is the completely ignorant fanbase? We've seen them do it multiple times by now, promising one thing for free then partitioning it off and then charging us for it, saying one thing then doing the exact opposite, and plenty more.

Its called EA doesn't give a rats ass about lying to us, all it cares about is ensuring stocks stay high. They hoped we'd believe them and assume its similar to Diablo 3's clusterfrack, when it quite obviously isn't. And this developer confirms it. Kudos to him on revealing Bradshaw (the EA shill/hand-puppet of Maxis) for being a liar as well.

cursedseishi:
Its called EA doesn't give a rats ass about lying to us, all it cares about is ensuring stocks stay high. They hoped we'd believe them and assume its similar to Diablo 3's clusterfrack, when it quite obviously isn't. And this developer confirms it. Kudos to him on revealing Bradshaw (the EA shill/hand-puppet of Maxis) for being a liar as well.

I find it funny to think that, if your theory is correct, that means their Best Case Scenario for this game was to mirror the absolute shit-storm of rage and hate that descended upon Blizzard for Diablo 3.

OT: Soooooo EA is still a giant bag of dicks and ass-hats, whether intentional or not? Got it. Just checking.

A quick google search reveals the game has (presumably, I'm not planning on testing it since I have no interest in playing the game) already been cracked. In the war between major entertainment companies and anonymous internet pirates, the pirates are winning. Nice work EA, that massive drop in sales due to the always online DRM? Clearly worth it.

I hope this convinces EA to cut it out with the shitty DRM, it would be nice for them to know that the consumers aren't willing to put up with their bullshit.

I think this is less to do with DRM and more to do with them wanting to test out how well they can integrate the social aspect into a typically single player game. That's been a thing they've wanted to do for a while now right? If this worked out well they'd have probably had the next Dragon Age with "keeps and holds controlled by your friends" or a Mass Effect spinoff with "every spacecraft in the fleet is captained by people you know!" Basically turning all future games into facebook-esque forced social aspects...

Someone's gonna lose their job over this........

Seriously, they're gonna find the guy who leaked this and there are going to ritually sacrifice him on a pagan altar with a stone dagger.

Also, I'm not surprised by this news in the SLIGHTEST. Not one bit.

I'm not surprised at all - when I first heard the comments about a bunch of the simulation stuff being done on the servers I thought it sounded ludicrous.

Now I don't work on games at all, but I am a software developer and the thought of actually running any significant part of the game on a server sounded like terrible design choice to me. For this kind of setup you'd really want to minimize the amount of data that has to be passed back and forth between the client and the server, and the amount of work that the server actually has to do.

Otherwise you're just over taxing your server - I mean that kind of design would violate pretty much every instinct I have as a developer. I mean you'd be using the server's processor to run the simulation of the city - then have to send back literally all of the data generated by the simulation in real time back to the client? That's completely ass-backwards!

You'd want to run the simulation on the client then just send whatever data is necessary for the region-based stuff as necessary, then have the server just dole that information out to other clients in the region as needed. I mean its not like this is an MMO where you have multiple players interacting with the same game-world in real time.

But is good to know just how honest we can expect Maxis/EA to be regarding the situation.

Two things to take from this:

Number one. They thought they could get away with straight up lying to people about something as easy to check as network traffic.

Number two. They will get away with it.

I might get the game and run some network scans and packet sniffing myself, see what I can turn up. But that means buying the game, and I have no intentions whatsoever to support shitty business practices. Shame really as I'd have bought it day-1 had it had no DRM. They CAN take it offline for those with computers that could take it, and they should give such an option to their customers.

This is starting to remind me of Bioware.

aegix drakan:
Someone's gonna lose their job over this........

Seriously, they're gonna find the guy who leaked this and there are going to ritually sacrifice him on a pagan altar with a stone dagger.

Also, I'm not surprised by this news in the SLIGHTEST. Not one bit.

Reading between the lines it sounds to me like he left the project before it was completed.

Maybe you shouldn't have built the game like that in the first place then.

If you ever hope to win back your fans, get started on that offline mode.

I can't wait for EA to crash and burn. It would teach other publishers not to fuck with their customers.

This claim was absurd from the start. For them to even allocate $20 worth of computer equipment per person for handling calculations would significantly eat into their bottom line. Even so, if EA can manage to buy enough computing power for less than $20 to crunch a 'significant portion' of the data that my $600 mid range pc can't do alone then I want to know what wizard / mobster they're buying their servers from.

I don't know what's more depressing, that EA might do this, or that very few people here would be genuinely shocked if these turn of events turned out to be true...

Man this is priceless, turns out Lucy Bradshaw is a lieing bitch, who woulda thunk it.

And I cant wait for Thrikeen to show up and try to justify EAs lying to people.

1337mokro:
We already knew this. I mean EA might not know this but PC guys. They are kinda PC savy. All you had to do was manage to track packages, you'd notice SimCity only sent out a tiny amount of packages, most of em in 10 minute intervals. You can also do a disconnect test, at which point you time the amount you can play the game for before it gets disconnected. With SimCity that is 10 minutes. A nice coincidence hu?

Basically ever 10 minutes the game authenticates itself. That is all that happens. If massive amounts of data were really being handled by the servers you would not even be able to play SimCity for 10 seconds without an internet connection let alone 10 minutes.

It's basically EA barging into your study every 10 minutes demanding to see your passport to check if you really for really reals paid for the game. What is even worse though is that EA managed to fuck up Authentication servers.... Authentication was to much to handle for their servers. They simply did not give A FUCK!

Sim City will now basically be a pirate magnet. Every cracker out there is working on this game for one of two reasons. They bought the game and are pissed at EA or they saw EA's bullshit justification for the DRM and want to crack down on them. Either way can't wait for the patch/crack.

Meanwhile I'll keep building my region of Twasbetteroffline.

I'm looking forward to the Spore-esque news report that Simcity was the most pirated game of all time, because its just proof that EA does not learn, they just keep their hand on the burner wondering why they smell cooked meat.

The tighter you squeeze, the more sand leaks out and its the same with DRM, the more crippling it is, the more people will fight against it, causing more piracy then they would of ever had to worry about and actually raising support for the piracy movement. Just so freaking stupid.

They basically confirmed what everyone else already knew; EA is full of shit.

"He explained that the servers allow players to share maps and resources and ensure that nobody is cheating"
It's the customer's game! They can cheat if they want.

"It could be something a whole lot shadier too, but I have a hard time imagining a major game publisher - yes, even Electronic Arts - flat-out lying about this sort of thing. That's the sort of maneuver that's bound to be caught out, and to bring some mighty ugly fallout when it does."
You give EA and all big publishers too much credit. Anyone who hasn't learned their lesson in the last 10 years not to give them money deserves a bit of frustration to help remind them

When are people going to decide enough is enough?
Oh right, never. Because every idiot is entitled to their opinion and standards

Andy Chalk:
It could be something a whole lot shadier too, but I have a hard time imagining a major game publisher - yes, even Electronic Arts - flat-out lying about this sort of thing.

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Joking Mods, Joking.

It'll never come back to bite them in the ass Andy, because they'll never realize that it did. They'll just blame pirates or say EA hate is in the minority because "obviously everyone can see how great our games are."

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