SimCity offline mode took more than six months

Maxis says that the upcoming offline mode for SimCity needed considerable reworking to the core structure, and that the studio required more than six months to complete the project.

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Despite fan requests, Maxis seemed hesitant to stick an offline mode in SimCity. Even with launch server troubles and mods fanning the flames, the most it had committed was to look into it. Now we know offline mode is coming in the next update, so what took so long? According to Maxis, actually building it accounted for more than half a year of the wait.

In a post on the game blog (via Polygon), Maxis lead engineer Simon Fox said the process took six-and-a-half months altogether. Fox says the primary problem was reworking how an offline mode would work with all of the core game architecture, like how the simulation checks in with servers and communicates the city status to others.

"We have an obligation to make the game fun and functional on all specs of machines," Fox said. "We wouldn't want someone who was enjoying the multiplayer game to find the single player game crippled due to poor optimization. And it's not just adding, 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."

Maxis had circulated a survey in July regarding an offline mode, so given the timing the team must have hit the ground running right afterwards. That would also explain why it said it was exploring the possibility in October, which would have been in the midst of the process.

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From The Chatty
  • reply
    January 14, 2014 12:00 PM

    Steve Watts posted a new article, SimCity offline mode took more than six months.

    Maxis says that the upcoming offline mode for SimCity needed considerable reworking to the core structure, and that the studio required more than six months to complete the project.

    • reply
      January 14, 2014 12:17 PM

      to be honest, I got over the always online DRM. It was simply a poorly made Sim City overall.

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        January 14, 2014 12:21 PM

        yup offline mode won't fix it... the game was broken in the design docs. It would need a full rewrite to fix it I'd bet.

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        January 15, 2014 8:34 AM

        Exactly, launch issues are understandable as everyone is connecting to the servers at the same time; but after the dust settled, the game was mediocre at best.

        Small cities that required you to either connect with others or manage multiple cities at once; and if you chose to play with others, you had to hope that they stayed with the game until you no longer wanted to play, otherwise you were stuck with no way to evict other players.

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      January 14, 2014 12:23 PM

      For the one guy working on it in his spare time sure.

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      January 14, 2014 12:23 PM

      [deleted]

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      January 14, 2014 12:59 PM

      Between this and C&C4, there was probably a corporate mandate at EA for PC-only games to somehow require online engagement, whether via MMO, always-on, microtransaction free-to-play, etc. As for how well it was implemented technically, that seemed secondary.

      This is different from Origin, which is something I don't want to use out of principle, but I've heard it's become far better of a marketplace and online experience in the past 2 years.

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      January 14, 2014 1:48 PM

      Offline mode wasn't the biggest issue for people. It was the city size. Have they even hinted at that being addressed?

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        January 14, 2014 2:06 PM

        Yeah, someone over there said a while back it's never going to happen. http://www.technobuffalo.com/2013/10/04/simcity-wont-get-bigger-city-sizes/

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          January 14, 2014 2:15 PM

          yikes. well shit, I guess I'll have to wait for bargain basement steam sale... OH WAIT I mean origin sale

          :D

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          January 14, 2014 2:21 PM

          well the fact it's offline now means it'll be easier to hack / mod so I wouldn't be surprised if something unofficial comes out to allow larger cities

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            January 14, 2014 2:40 PM

            this for sure! I know they are citing performance as the main issue with bigger cities. But is that the performance of our high end gaming rigs... or grandma's $400 laptop???

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              January 14, 2014 3:21 PM

              Cities XL dies when cities get pretty large for pretty much everyone. I'm sure it's a valid concern, but I'd rather be the judge of what I deem unplayable. In a game like SimCity, I don't exactly need 60fps if I can't get it.

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        January 14, 2014 2:10 PM

        This is exactly why I did not get the game. Always online is annoying, but wouldn't stop me from playing the game. Removing it does nothing for me to make me want to play it.

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        January 14, 2014 3:03 PM

        City size wasn't the only thing broken. The agent simulation/AI was horrible as well. Have they fixed that in all the patches?

        I really should go back and give this game a try again. I basically gave up on it after not being able to play for a month or however long it took for the servers to be stable.

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          January 14, 2014 3:08 PM

          They put out two patches that were supposed to be substantial reworks to improve traffic and agent routing behavior, but given that all their DLC since then has been flying cars and teleporters, I think it implies they never found the optimal solution and gave up. Last I played, it was better, but still lacked a sufficient amount of tools for the player to feel like they could improve their city. I feel like the real reason behind not making cities bigger is because of this. If you made cities bigger, you'd easily be able to add more residents that their agent model wouldn't be capable of coping with and you'd see everything basically turn into gridlock.

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            January 14, 2014 3:25 PM

            seemed like part of the problem was how agents just traveled to the nearest location for work/home until it was full, which caused agents already in route to find the next closest not-full location.

            Seems like it was a computationally inexpensive solution that lead to horrible traffic problems in the game.

            It's too bad that they took that approach. The agent simulation idea sounds really neat, but they would have needed to target higher end computers so that they could have spent more CPU time to do a better job with the agent simulation.

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              January 14, 2014 3:59 PM

              One patch attempted to address that by having agents recalculate where the nearest job was at every branch along their route, IIRC. Perhaps the best thing to come out of this whole mess is that their blog posts provided a lot of insight into how they wanted the simulation to work.

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              January 14, 2014 6:08 PM

              I'm not a developer of games, but is that not something that would be pretty obvious in testing?

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                January 14, 2014 11:55 PM

                It probably took most of the development to get it even functional at all. The decisions they made at the outset couldn't be reversed. Most importantly they either overlooked or decided against the unreserved destination for complexity/memory reasons? It is the wrong decision in hindsight, but the engineer testbeds with 10s or 100s probably worked well enough.

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      January 14, 2014 5:59 PM

      Well don't make it online-only in the first place then...

      Anyway it's the city size that is really holding back my buy. It's crazy how low it is.

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      January 15, 2014 4:31 AM

      I know Sim City is a bit of a special case, but it is funny how everyone complained about it being online only and now it's changed everyone saying they're not to bothered by it being online only anyway.

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        January 15, 2014 4:42 AM

        We yelled about it being online only before we realized it was a terrible game either way. Now no one gives a shit.

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          January 15, 2014 4:56 AM

          I think you might be right, I was being by polite by calling it a special case.

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          January 15, 2014 5:25 AM

          Yeah, if the game was good and I could not play it offline I would have been really pissed!!! As it stands its just another crap game I paid for : (

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