SimCity Offline Mode Took More Than Six Months To Make

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SimCity Offline Mode Took More Than Six Months To Make

simcity amusment park dlc screenshot

The lead engineer on SimCity's single-player mode says Maxis has been working on it since August.

Maxis announced yesterday that nearly a year after it came out, SimCity will finally get a proper offline, single-player mode with the forthcoming release of Update 10. It's good news but also long overdue, which has led some people to wonder what took so long, especially since some random dude was able to get around the online requirements less than two weeks after the game was released.

But according to Lead Engineer Simon Fox, taking the game offline is a lot more complicated than just changing a couple lines of code. He acknowledged that a modder was able to defeat the time check in fairly short order but noted that much of the game's functionality, like communicating with other regions or saving the current state of cities, would be lost as a result.

"Lucy [Bradshaw] once said that offline wouldn't be possible 'without a significant amount of engineering work,' and she's right. By the time we're finished we will have spent over six and a half months working to write and rewrite core parts of the game to get this to work," Fox explained in a new SimCity blog post. "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."

Fox said he "rallied the team" to start working on a single-player mode "as soon as practical after launch," which turned out to be August, and it's taken this long to get it working properly. Everything had to change, from the reliance on external servers for regional simulations to removing specific pieces of multiplayer code without crippling the multiplayer game. "We have an obligation to make the game fun and functional on all specs of machines," he wrote. "We wouldn't want someone who was enjoying the multiplayer game to find the single player game crippled due to poor optimization."

The SimCity single-player update is currently in the final stages of testing and will be released in the near future as part of Update 10.

Source: SimCity

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This didn't have to be an issue needed to be fixed in the first place, they brought it to themselves by making the moronic decision of making it online only.

I mean, GREAT!, now I'm very tempted on finally buying the game!, but they sure took their sweet ass time to do what everyone and their dog wanted from this game from the start.

SupahGamuh:

I mean, GREAT!, now I'm very tempted on finally buying the game!

I would be if it didn't still require Origin. Hell, I'd consider ending my 6 year ban on EA products if they'd just release it on Steam.

And that's knowing the core game really isn't that good.

EA went to the levy, but the levy was dry.

IT'S TOO LATE! You missed it by a mile! Ya might recoop a bit of the loss, but you are HOSED!

MinionJoe:

And that's knowing the core game really isn't that good.

There is a fun game buried amidst the muck that is Sim City.

Don't get me wrong, the game was a major slap in the face of both fans and gamers at large. It's insulting and it should be criminal that all they lost was a bit of market share. Frankly, I'd have supported a lawsuit against that game when it first came out. And I'm not the litigious type. But you don't sell tickets to your movie while it's still being shot and you shouldn't be allowed to sell a broken game that is clearly incomplete. Not "in need of bug fixes", it was broken at it's core.

That said, I do still like the Sim City model, even if this game is clearly a badly designed mess. I wish Maxis were still a separate entity rather than the Sim branch of EA though. The patches over the months since launch have gone a long way to making it playable and far less of a busted mess like it was in March. Traffic fixes and tools to raise and lower the roads rather that just having a flat grid have all made it much better than it once was.

Not that I'm saying you should buy it of course. No one should. I'm just making conversation.

It was EA's last chance for me and I should have known better. As an informed gamer and knowledgeable consumer I was part of the problem. The writing was clearly on the wall, but I bought it anyway hoping for the best because I've been such a fan of the brand. But no more. The EA logo is the easiest way to put a game off my radar. Not even Star Wars will get me to break my "No EA" stance now. Not after Sim City. And I really hate feeling that way. It took a lot to push me to this point. I'm sure you know what I mean if you've had a 6 year long stretch of not buying the products. :)

ZZoMBiE13:
(Snip).

The funny thing is that they actually make it easier and easier not to buy their products, don't they? At this point you are assured an overpriced and sub-standard game. I always scan unfamiliar games for their label now.

The Maxis team just lost six months of their lives, but...well...it really seems like that was their fault.

ZZoMBiE13:

I'm sure you know what I mean if you've had a 6 year long stretch of not buying the products. :)

You can change every instance of "SimCity" in your post to "SPORE" and that'd be my story. Except I did contact one of the law firms that filed a class action lawsuit against EAxis regarding the non-disclosure of SecuROM in the core game and Creature Creator. Never did hear anything back from them though. :P

But yeah, I considered lifting the ban once before when SWTOR came out. Had some friends that started to play but they didn't stay with it very long. So I'm glad I didn't give in to hope.

They really should have just made a single-player KOTOR 3. Seems like they've made a habit of forcing well-established, single-player franchises into an MMO template.

good, now we can quit bitching about the always online aspect and start bitching about how they ruined the gameplay.

I call bullshit on that one.

Seriously, how difficult can it be to create a savestate?

So they spent 6 months fixing a problem they themselves created.

... Correct me if I'm wrong, but were hackers able to get this thing offline within a couple of weeks before the game outright booted them for not checking in with their servers?

MinionJoe:

ZZoMBiE13:

I'm sure you know what I mean if you've had a 6 year long stretch of not buying the products. :)

You can change every instance of "SimCity" in your post to "SPORE" and that'd be my story. Except I did contact one of the law firms that filed a class action lawsuit against EAxis regarding the non-disclosure of SecuROM in the core game and Creature Creator. Never did hear anything back from them though. :P

But yeah, I considered lifting the ban once before when SWTOR came out. Had some friends that started to play but they didn't stay with it very long. So I'm glad I didn't give in to hope.

They really should have just made a single-player KOTOR 3. Seems like they've made a habit of forcing well-established, single-player franchises into an MMO template.

Ugh. Spore. What a heap of crap.

I didn't play that one. But my kid wanted it, so I got her a copy. We couldn't even get it to install. And it's not like her PC was a mess or anything. It was relatively new at the time in fact. Easily should have handled the game given the spec sheet, but for whatever reason it would lock up during the install every time we tried.

The saddest part of all is that when EA were founded, they were a force for good in games. Trying to push the medium forward, their founders seemed to be among the first group of developers who really "got" games and what they could become. Their potential for not only amusement, but as a powerful medium for art and new experiences. And now, they are bottom rung copycats so focused on trying to steal focus from competitors, they water down every single thing they touch in a vain effort to get their own "Call of Duty".

I hate the way the term "Greed" gets used in gaming circles. There is a distinct difference in desiring profitability and greed. There's nothing wrong with wanting ample compensation for your work. I don't go to work and not expect to be paid. I don't expect game makers to do that either. But with EA, I see a greedy old miser slapping his bumbling clerk for using an extra piece of coal in the fire while shouting "Bah, Humbug".

Trishbot:
So they spent 6 months fixing a problem they themselves created.

... Correct me if I'm wrong, but were hackers able to get this thing offline within a couple of weeks before the game outright booted them for not checking in with their servers?

yeah that's what i thought too, they spent 6 months working on a problem that was solved by hackers in a few weeks, what does that say about the quality of talent at that studio...or of the people that made the work around

Didn't they claim that it will never go offline two months ago at most? So how do we know if they're telling the truth now? It just doesn't sound plausible. Why wouldn't they come out and say what everybody wanted to hear? It would make people happier. And a happy customer is a good thing for fuck sake.

luckshot:

Trishbot:
So they spent 6 months fixing a problem they themselves created.

... Correct me if I'm wrong, but were hackers able to get this thing offline within a couple of weeks before the game outright booted them for not checking in with their servers?

yeah that's what i thought too, they spent 6 months working on a problem that was solved by hackers in a few weeks, what does that say about the quality of talent at that studio...or of the people that made the work around

If you actually read the article it does explain why it took so much longer than the hacker that cracked the offline mode in two weeks.

Corralis:

luckshot:

Trishbot:
So they spent 6 months fixing a problem they themselves created.

... Correct me if I'm wrong, but were hackers able to get this thing offline within a couple of weeks before the game outright booted them for not checking in with their servers?

yeah that's what i thought too, they spent 6 months working on a problem that was solved by hackers in a few weeks, what does that say about the quality of talent at that studio...or of the people that made the work around

If you actually read the article it does explain why it took so much longer than the hacker that cracked the offline mode in two weeks.

ahhh thanks, i did skip some of the middle

Adam Jensen:
Didn't they claim that it will never go offline two months ago at most?

As far back as October they said they were "exploring the possibility," which I think was their way of saying "we're working on it, but we don't wanna formally announce it in case it falls through." That's three months right there. The Maxis blog also says they've been working on it "since August," which puts them at right about the five-month mark now. I'm assuming, then, that the update will be released next month.

As far as I can tell, last time they explicitly denied it was in March of 2013, just after the game was released. I would assume, then, that the decision to go offline was made later. No telling exactly when, but probably a month or two before work actually started on the offline mode in August.

tl;dr - The timeline adds up. It shouldn't have taken six months, but I think it's safe to blame that on incompetence, not dishonesty.

P.S. Thanks

Lets play 'Spot the Bullshit!' everyone.

We have an obligation to make the game fun and functional on all specs of machines

An obligation that they failed at with the initial launch of the game.

We wouldn't want someone who was enjoying the multiplayer game to find the single player game crippled due to poor optimization

But they give zero shits about someone who wants a single player experience that is crippled by unwanted multiplayer components.

And all of this was their own doing remember, because EA had nothing to do with the decision to be always online *wink* Just think what else they could have been doing in those months. Making more DLC. Making another game. Making money for their corporate overlords.

CriticalMiss:
And all of this was their own doing remember, because EA had nothing to do with the decision to be always online *wink* Just think what else they could have been doing in those months. Making more DLC. Making another game. Making money for their corporate overlords.

Well, if that's the accurate viewpoint, then it's mind-boggling beyond words that we got the patch at all.

That says something good.

OT: In This Thread: People who have never patched anything in their life saying "How hard could it be?"

Answer: Harder than you'd ever guess. Depending on how the save feature was incorporated, they could have had to rewrite everything up to the AI. It's like watching someone relocate a tree and saying "Sheesh, how hard can it be?" as they pull thirty feet of roots out of the hole... intact.

lacktheknack:
In This Thread: People who have never patched anything in their life saying "How hard could it be?"

Just imagine Jeremy Clarkson from Top Gear UK saying that and you get an idea of how hard it is

Due to the complexity of Object-oriented coding like Java (No wonder the engine was so crappy!) and C++ means that changing one value has a cascade effect which can lead to massive changes! Remember when Skyrim had a bug introduced which caused dragons to fly backwards due to the fixing of another bug? That's a perfect example of the cascading changes due to a small fix which ends up causing a big problem.

That is some impressive incompetence... This was moded in less than a few days. Do you really want to come out and declare that you are so incompetent you were unable to figure out how to make your game run without checking into servers?

You remove the line of code that requires it to check into a server. Done.

Either the laziest employee in existence got this job or they stretched it over 6 month to collect paychecks.

truckspond:

lacktheknack:
In This Thread: People who have never patched anything in their life saying "How hard could it be?"

Just imagine Jeremy Clarkson from Top Gear UK saying that and you get an idea of how hard it is

Due to the complexity of Object-oriented coding like Java (No wonder the engine was so crappy!) and C++ means that changing one value has a cascade effect which can lead to massive changes! Remember when Skyrim had a bug introduced which caused dragons to fly backwards due to the fixing of another bug? That's a perfect example of the cascading changes due to a small fix which ends up causing a big problem.

Except that it was Already done, within a few days, after release, to prove that EA was full of shit when it said the online component was 100% necessary, and the game suffered 0 stability issues after a modder did his job on it.

Your point being that it's so hard is kind of moot after the professionals are shown up by an amateur in about 1/100th the amount of time it took them.

1337mokro:
That is some impressive incompetence... This was moded in less than a few days. Do you really want to come out and declare that you are so incompetent you were unable to figure out how to make your game run without checking into servers?

You remove the line of code that requires it to check into a server. Done.

Either the laziest employee in existence got this job or they stretched it over 6 month to collect paychecks.

It's like you didn't read the source article. It says things like "So yes, while someone was able to remove the "time check" shortly after launch, they were unable to perform key actions like communicating with other cities that they had created locally, or with the rest of their region(s), or even saving the current state of their cities" and "And 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."

Yes, it ran, and didn't crash or anything. But you completely lose all region features. On top of that, they had to compensate for the absence of global market, redo a bunch of UI stuff, and generally make the single-player game not a completely gimped experience. The modder who only had to change a tiny bit didn't do any of that.

P.s. Thanks

Yeah, I can see how having to create a whole new save state mode and figure out regional trading and all that stuff would take 6 months of work.

They shouldn't get any flak for it taking 6 months to create, the point of order is still that it wasn't included as a mode in the original release. They royally screwed the pooch on this one, I just hope EA have learned some sort of lesson about always on DRM.

Covarr:

1337mokro:
That is some impressive incompetence... This was moded in less than a few days. Do you really want to come out and declare that you are so incompetent you were unable to figure out how to make your game run without checking into servers?

You remove the line of code that requires it to check into a server. Done.

Either the laziest employee in existence got this job or they stretched it over 6 month to collect paychecks.

It's like you didn't read the source article. It says things like "So yes, while someone was able to remove the "time check" shortly after launch, they were unable to perform key actions like communicating with other cities that they had created locally, or with the rest of their region(s), or even saving the current state of their cities" and "And 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."

Yes, it ran, and didn't crash or anything. But you completely lose all region features. On top of that, they had to compensate for the absence of global market, redo a bunch of UI stuff, and generally make the single-player game not a completely gimped experience. The modder who only had to change a tiny bit didn't do any of that.

P.s. Thanks

Soooooo your point is that regions didn't work.... did they before?

Have you actually played this game? Regions are a fucking mess! Yes I trivialized it to one line of code... but guess what. I tried the mod version of this... regions worked fine. Or as fine as they ever did, which is barely.

1337mokro:

Soooooo your point is that regions didn't work.... did they before?

Have you actually played this game? Regions are a fucking mess! Yes I trivialized it to one line of code... but guess what. I tried the mod version of this... regions worked fine. Or as fine as they ever did, which is barely.

My point is that every single feature which required online had to be removed or otherwise accounted for. Sure, regions never worked very well, but they did do things. Cities did affect each other, albeit often in stupid ways. What's more, a whole bunch of stuff central to the game's design needed to be rebalanced, because it was originally made on the assumption of being affected by the outside world.

Honestly, I don't think it should've taken six months. I think the changes necessary (and yes, it IS more than just disabling an online check), should've taken maybe a month or two, tops. But the idea that the mod version was even remotely enough for an official update is ridiculous.

P.S. Thanks

lacktheknack:

In This Thread: People who have never patched anything in their life saying "How hard could it be?"

I'm not a modder but considering that a modder did manage to make an (admittedly quick-and-dirty) offline mode of Simcity a couple weeks after its release then I think it's safe to say that EA's Maxis team is full of crap about this taking six months.

http://www.escapistmagazine.com/news/view/122702-Modder-Proves-That-SimCity-Works-Offline

"We have an obligation to make the game fun and functional on all specs of machines"

chances are a person would have a good computer than a reliable/stable internet connection, so that excuse is complete BS

Johnson McGee:

lacktheknack:

In This Thread: People who have never patched anything in their life saying "How hard could it be?"

I'm not a modder but considering that a modder did manage to make an (admittedly quick-and-dirty) offline mode of Simcity a couple weeks after its release then I think it's safe to say that EA's Maxis team is full of crap about this taking six months.

http://www.escapistmagazine.com/news/view/122702-Modder-Proves-That-SimCity-Works-Offline

This was addressed in the OP. -___-

Yeah, the modder "fixed" it, but doing so disabled a whole whackload of features. With my tree analogy, that's like cutting the damn thing down, sticking the cut-off end in the dirt and expecting it to live.

As I said: Proper implementation of offline mode is harder than you would ever guess. I don't say that lightly, and I say it as someone who's assisted in official (and time-sensitive) patchwork. It's hell.

Well, EA's got one up on Blizzard now. Time for them to make Diablo III work offline.

It took them long enough to fix a problem they themselves made with stupid design decisions, but I am glad they took the time to fix it.

They earned the money I will now spend on the product.

Unless they get around to fix that utterly broken agent system, I'd still say that the game is a lost cause.

Still, it is at least a step in the right direction regarding always-online systems.

How in the nine hells do you fuck up a save function so badly that you can't just change the destination of where the save file is placed?
HOW THE FUCK DO YOU DO THAT?! How shitty of a programmer do you have to be?

And how can you not just include the missing code that is located on the servers and just redirect all the usual outgoing data traffic to the users computer? Sure it would not be the optimal way to do it but you could at least play it off-line.

I knew this game was both shit and bugged up the ass, but apparently its also a horror show on the inside of the code as well.

But the real question is: is the AI finally fixed? Or are the inhabitants still retarded? How about getting bigger maps?

There's probably a dozen other things that are still terrible about this game, makes you wonder why they even made this attempt. Why would you say you're not going to make it single player while you've been trying to make it that way for the last 6 months? I really don't understand these people. You've continuously said that you where dedicated solely to a internet connected experience and that single player was not going to happen all the while you where actually working on it. Do these people just like to shoot themselves in the foot or what?

We just want to hear the truth, but all you do is lie.

And now what? Are we supposed to be happy now?

*looks at integrated graphics chip*

...screw the fire hazard I want this.

The headline of the article alone was enough to raise my eyebrow through the roof. I can't believe it's taken them this long to fix the problem that shouldn't have been there in the first place.

Glad they fixed the problem they created but oh well, too little too late. I'm not going to reward stupidity with my cash. I gave up on EA/Bio-ware with SWTOR, I refuse to buy anything from EA/anyone but they almost had me with SimCity ... almost. Like the raven said 'nevermore'.

Considering that someone disabled the Always Online check-in script with a sodding JAVA EDITOR after a couple of days of SimCity's launch I doubt it was as hard as Maxis claims.

And that workaround revealed that everything but the world market and city save data ran on the game client. So all they had to do to fix this was change a pointer and possibly provide whatever encryption model they used to deter hackers from reverse-engineering the save system so that the client can use the save data locally.

That's it.

So methinks what really happened over those 6 months, EA issued a mandate to Maxis to hold off on deploying the patch, see if the negative buzz would drop off and sales pick up. When sales didn't pick up, that's when they decided to do something drastic. I have no doubt that somewhere in EA's boardroom there was the rending of garments and gnashing of teeth over shooting their Always Online Baby.

...Either that, or Maxis's programmers are incompetent to an astonishing degree. Though, given how their pathfinding and AI systems were so badly borked on launch, maybe that was the case.

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