Submitted by cyberfyter on Dec 20, 2012
United States

Hi everyone – I’m Lucy Bradshaw and I lead the Maxis Label here at EA. Last week, we held a Reddit Ask Me Almost Anything (AMAA) where we gave fans a chance to speak directly to the development team creating SimCity. First off, I want to personally thank everyone who asked us questions and participated in the event –the team really appreciates your feedback. We received some great questions on a range of topics, including the city size, the GlassBox engine powering SimCity, and even how many splines we’ve reticulated over the years (short answer: a lot).

One particular topic that was brought up during the chat was our decision to require an online connection to play the game. I’ve also been talking to fans directly on this subject and I wanted to put some of my thoughts on this here on our blog. I understand why this may be a concern for fans who have been playing SimCity for decades now. Like all of you, I’m a long-time SimCity fan. But it’s not just me – we have several veterans from previous versions of the game here at the Maxis studio, and we are all proud and excited about the game we’re making and we think you’ll really love it.

Creating a connected experience has always been a goal for SimCity, and this design decision has driven our development process for the game. This is easily the most ambitious game in the franchise and we’ve taken great care to make sure that every line of code embodies the spirit of the series. To do this, we knew we had to make sure we put our heart and souls into the simulation and the team created the most powerful simulation engine in its history, the GlassBox Engine. GlassBox is the engine that drives the entire game -- the buildings, the economics, trading, and also the overall simulation that can track data for up to 100,000 individual Sims inside each city. There is a massive amount of computing that goes into all of this, and GlassBox works by attributing portions of the computing to EA servers (the cloud) and some on the player's local computer.

Perhaps Ocean said it best when he said that real cities do not exist in a bubble; they share a region and affect one another. GlassBox does more than just segregate computing tasks, it also allows us to make it so that you can create specialized cities that are visually unique and personalized, and that can be economically integrated into a larger region. You’re always connected to the neighbors in your region so while you play, data from your city interacts with our servers, and we run the simulation at a regional scale. For example, trades between cities, simulation effects that cause change across the region like pollution or crime, as well as depletion of resources, are all processed on the servers and then data is sent back to your city on your PC. Every city in the region is updated every three minutes, which keeps the overall region in sync and makes your decisions in your city relevant to any changes that have taken place in the region.

Running the regional simulation on our servers is something we also use to support features that will make this SimCity even more fun. We use the Sim data to update worldwide leaderboards, where you get to see your city or mayoral standings as compared to the other cities in your region and between all of the regions in the world. And since SimCity is a live service, we're also using the data to create weekly global and local challenges for our players that keep the gameplay fresh and surprising.

We think this is the best SimCity ever and it wouldn’t be possible without the technology that powers our game. SimCity was designed to be connected from the ground up. We built the game around GlassBox, which takes the game to another level. And, we’ve given the player control over how to play. You can set your region to private and never interact with other people, or you can play exclusively with friends or join a public region.

We’re entering the final stages of development. We're still tuning and refining the game but already it has that special magic that sucked me into the franchise in the first place. We really look forward to seeing what you will create and how you will Mayor come March 5th.

Thanks,
Lucy

Author: 
Lucy Bradshaw, SVP Maxis
Date: 
Thursday, December 20, 2012 - 13:00
Category: 
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Comments

Thank you for taking your time and posting this, Lucy. I don't mind this, since there is rarely a time when I am offline when using a computer. The only time to become concerned is one day when EA pulls the plug on the game. I would love to be able to play this 10 years down the road, just as I still play SimCity 3000 and SimCity 4. If you do get modding in-game, I think that people will keep the game thriving for years, just as SimCity 4 is still alive due to modding.

I will be moving around March, so I will be one of the people to "suffer" from the always-online requirement. But overall, this looks like it will be amazing. I love the simulation and the fact that myself and a friend can play. And to all those that whine about the 2k x 2k cities.. you can control up to 16 regions and you need 4GB ram minimum to run this game... imagine what you'd need if it was simulating cities twice the size!!

- Spon1Player/Maxgotnotail
BeyondSims.com

Sim City Looks like it's going to be awesome! I do have one question, however. Why has Maxis forsaken Spore? One of my favorite art medium games of all time has been ignored at let go to the bottom of the pile. Can't it be fixed? We need Spore!

Here is a link to the SimCity Reddit AMA, the link is uncensored and unedited by the SimCity marketing department.
It is very important to note that without being constantly online you will not be able to play the game. The worst kind of DRM.
You would think EA would have learn't from Blizzard's experience with Diablo 3, apparently not though.
Don't support aggressive DRM. Don't buy this game.
http://www.reddit.com/r/IAmA/comments/14umm1/we_are_the_simcity_dev_team...

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    Lucy,

    Thank you for providing some insight into a question that a lot of people have been asking. For the record I love the ability of multi-city play and regional play with friends, I think this is a fantastic idea and will revolutionize this game genre. I have already taken time off of work and preordered the game for the week it comes out.

    However, I am concerned about a few things on the EA backend.
    1. With so much computational data being offloaded to EA servers would it even be possible to host games locally on one’s computer? I know that it is meant to be online only but it begs the question of if perhaps Glassbox is to resource intensive to be run on a local pc.

    2. What happens if SimCity is a flop and EA shuts the servers down? Am I now out of 60 dollars because Glassbox is not capable of being processed on my local machine, and would require a cluster to work properly?

    3. What happens if EA is having service problems in there data center? I am now at the mercy of EA when I can and cannot play, this is a real disappointment since I own the game but cannot play it when I want to.

    I want nothing more than SimCity to be successful but I feel like these are concerns by the community that are not being addressed.

    i agree there should be an offline mode. EA dint replay to me with you bull**** agrument that you can play singleplayer. YOU STILL HAVE TO CONNECT TO YOUR SERVER!!! i want an offline mode on my computer not your servers. Im plenty sure your servers are just as great as Valves servers. (being highly scarstic).

    "I feel like these are concerns by the community that are not being addressed."
    EA has stock investors so there more imopratant then the community ever will be. so we can forget that. we just have to live that EA will be greedy. Like this viedo: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=e-LE0ycgkBQ

    This is Kip Katsarelis, Senior Producer on SimCity. Clearly you're a huge fan of the franchise, as am I and the folks working on it everyday. You have some legitimate questions, let me see if I can answer them.

    1. Our servers are working hard and it would be too much for a single machine today. We have created a truly connected experience, which means we are not only processing individual city information, but we're stitching that data together for region play. We also store, access and pass a ton of data for Leaderrboards, Global Market, Challenges, and Achievements. This was all part of our original designs, to make this a truly connected experience. I hope you give it a chance.

    2. Assuming we all make it through 12/21/12, I can't guarantee anything about the future. What I can say is that successful games tend to stay active for a long time, our Spore servers for example are still very active. SimCity 4 is still very popular today, with new people picking it up everyday. My hope is that this SimCity has a similar life span, we shall see.

    3. We've been upfront about this game being online. It's really your choice to buy into the experience or not and I'm not here to sway you one way or the other. If you choose not to come along for the ride, I can respect that deicision, but I think you'll be missing out on something great.

    Kip,

    Thank you so much for taking the time out of your busy day to answer my questions. Let me tell you that I feel a lot better now, with more understanding of the back end of the game then I did before. I work in IT and am actually in the process of putting together a cluster for my company. I understand the architecture behind data-centers and simulations, as we do computational fluid dynamics (CFD) and Finite element analysis (FEA). I am not your average gamer ;).
    I appreciate your honesty and not trying to sell me on the “Live service” but honestly I am already hooked. I think it is going to work fantastically well and it’s apparent to me how hard the team has been working. I really do see the vision of Maxis and I really think the team is going in the right direction. I think you are putting together a beautiful game and I cannot wait to play it.

    I wish there was a way for offline gameplay but if that’s not possible, I respect that as well. I did take comfort in the fact that Spore servers are still online. My main concern in listing that is I want to ability to play SimCity 10 years from now.

    By the way: I would sell my kidney before I missed this game don’t worry :). Happy Holidays!

    Just wanted to say i completely agree with everything said above. I think the people who work in the computer field will all echo that it does make sense on why there is the online component thanks to the information released today.

    i completely agree. to everyone that is whining about the online-requirement i'd like to see their computers handle glassbox. i honestly think they are just trying to find a way to discredit a good game.

    Well i"m certain my can. 32 gb ram 2 (3 gb) video cards, 2 tb hard drive with 128gb sata, and i5 3570k :) bring it on lol.

    No, no one is purposely trying to discredit this game.. They have valid concerns over the design choice Maxis has made.

    I am currently playing Diablo 3, another game that requires an online connection to play, and although it works and is playable you are always at the mercy of the servers and your own connection. Lag issues are always apparent, and having your progress in the game lost due to a lost internet connection is a pain.. (Although its not that bad in D3 with checkpoints)

    Listen this design choice certainly has its advantages like this post stated, and its quite exciting to see how it will play out. I am really looking forward to playing. But I understand the concerns, and I too am a bit disapointed in this requirement, I just hope the game will save often and not lag up constantly. In terms of DRM, this is a publishers dream and it certainly helps the piracy of this game so that MUST of been a major deciding factor when choosing this path.

    Anyways it will be interesting and fun to play, I can't wait!!

    No, no one is purposely trying to discredit this game.. They have valid concerns over the design choice Maxis has made.

    I am currently playing Diablo 3, another game that requires an online connection to play, and although it works and is playable you are always at the mercy of the servers and your own connection. Lag issues are always apparent, and having your progress in the game lost due to a lost internet connection is a pain.. (Although its not that bad in D3 with checkpoints)

    Listen this design choice certainly has its advantages like this post stated, and its quite exciting to see how it will play out. I am really looking forward to playing. But I understand the concerns, and I too am a bit disapointed in this requirement, I just hope the game will save often and not lag up constantly. In terms of DRM, this is a publishers dream and it certainly helps the piracy of this game so that MUST of been a major deciding factor when choosing this path.

    Anyways it will be interesting and fun to play, I can't wait!!

    i completely agree. to everyone that is whining about the online-requirement i'd like to see their computers handle glassbox. i honestly think they are just trying to find a way to discredit a good game.

    i completely agree. to everyone that is whining about the online-requirement i'd like to see their computers handle glassbox. i honestly think they are just trying to find a way to discredit a good game.

    woops spamed the save button 3 tims ._.

    Ok, internet connectivity has nothing to do with the power of someones computer. And also, have you ever heard of proxies before? Many people who want this game go to universities now since a lot of them were probably fans of the old series as younger kids, and many people who go to these universities have proxies that block the origin servers and other games like this. I think everyone agrees that online play is a great idea and is a very cool thing, the only complaint from people is the requirement to be online. Most games have offline requirements so people in college, or who dont have internet access can still play them. Btw I have a 3200 dollar computer with high end graphics cards, 1 gb of vram, 16 gig or ram and a quad core processor, I think it will be able to handle the glassbox engine thank you very much.

    First 3200 for those specs you overpaid. 2nd You are the 1%. Games like this are not developed for 1% of the people who have specs like that.

    I'm just saying there should be at least an offline option. I am a huge fan of all the online features of this game, I mean if I really wanted to I guess I could walk over to the mcdonalds and play there but that would be a pain to always have to do and it would look pretty weird. But I can't use the cool features because I cannot get onto the origin servers at my school. They could develop the game with all the online interactive features, and still offer an offline option too. I'm only defending against the post someone made earlier saying that people like me (the "1 percent") should stop complaining, obviously we have reason to complain. Especially since I've been panting over this game since the day they announced it

    i think there should be an offline option because i travel a lot and i do not always have internet and to have a computer with good specs nowadays will cost at least 1200 dollars

    and if you could choose would be better so everyone will be happy

    Even if he is in the 1%, you can't expect that EA is going to devote a server to each player. We will get a fraction of each server's resources, which means we are being provided with FAR less computing power than we can get in our desktop machines or most modern laptops. The GB engine would run without issue on most any computer that runs a newer windows or Mac OS.

    you know, people do have good computers.

    i completely agree. to everyone that is whining about the online-requirement i'd like to see their computers handle glassbox. i honestly think they are just trying to find a way to discredit a good game.

    I'm pretty sure my i5 2500k at 4.5Ghz, Radeon HD6870 crossfire and 8GB of RAM will handle the glassbox engine fine.

    i completely agree. to everyone that is whining about the online-requirement i'd like to see their computers handle glassbox. i honestly think they are just trying to find a way to discredit a good game.

    i completely agree. to everyone that is whining about the online-requirement i'd like to see their computers handle glassbox. i honestly think they are just trying to find a way to discredit a good game.

    understandable, however does this mean if one's internet isn't fast or reliable, the simulation will act wonky or slow?

    There are many factors of course. However, we have built some protections in so that we handle temporary disconnects in service. This allows player's to experience the game uninterrupted. We know many people have wi-fi service that goes in and out.

    Thanks for weighing in, Kip.

    So, ultimately, we do not 'own' the software in the traditional sense. We are renting it for the duration of EA's support--as if it were an MMO (with no option for private serves post pulling-of-the-plug).

    I think this is something very important for players and fans of the series to know and understand before getting on-board. When (and it will happen eventually) EA decides to pull the plug on this great game, you will no longer be able to enjoy it; that box and the CD inside will sit on your shelf, unable to be utilized forever more. It's not even a matter of getting around system settings or firing up the old console--the game simply won't work without EA's hamsters doing the heavy lifting.

    It's extremely unfortunate, given that the series hasn't been done this way at all before; I can still enjoy my original copy of Sim City 2000 (with some legwork), but that won't be the case when SimCity (5) is 19 years old. It's very disheartening and disappointing.

    Agreed

    Leaderboards, Global Market/Challenges/Achievements in no way require (nor really benefit from) real-time interaction with the central server. Those operations are, at the end of the day, computed in huge parallel batch operations on a large dataset. Lazy/eventual consistency between the server and game would be more than fine.

    Region play, however, does make more sense. But I'm having a hard time imagining how your region simulation is so amazingly complex and real-time that EA has to dedicate significant resources far beyond what my computer has just for my private region. Even if this was true, again, planning for eventual consistency and local files would still work and be far more user friendly.

    There are many ways of making a "truly connected experience" beyond always online. EA chose a method that primarily benefits EA and disadvantages the player. And that's the problem.

    Dear Kip Katsarelis,

    As others have done, I would like to thank you for having taken the time to answer this question of weather or not to include an offline mode for gameplay, and I would like to say that there are a few concerns that I have, having played numerous games on "opening game day", with particular interest in MMORPG's. The Massive Multiplayer Online Role Playing Game hits like Star Wars: The Old Republic, StarTrek Online, and World of Warcraft just to mention a few favorites of mine, have all been plagued by the same problems when a specific server for a game gets full and there has to be a wait queue before people can get into playing the game.

    I know that this is not simply a MMORPG with a little information being computed by the client with the majority of the game experience dictated by the server, this is something different where there's much less information being sent back and forth at three minute intervals.

    My question is this, in the event of a server going down for maintenance, and the service being unavailable, either through technical difficulties at EA - Maxis, or with the individual's computer (construction in the neighborhood interrupting cable service for example);

    Is there an option to allow the player to continue with the game so the information is saved locally? I don't like the idea of having my enjoyment of the game interrupted because someone learning how to drive backed into a light-pole at the end of their driveway. I'd hope no-one would be injured, but their wrecking the street learning how to drive shouldn't keep me from enjoying years worth of talent spent on making a beautifully interactive and entertaining work of art.

    DRM I can understand, you want to keep making games and not having them stolen out from under you, but I also don't want to lose a game because of an authentication server error either.

    Thank you for your time and consideration.

    EA's promotional materials are not "upfront" about the need for an Internet connection to play the game even in single-player mode. Equally worrisome, is your high-handed take it our leave it attitude about the game's restrictive Internet requirements. As you have admitted, there is no guarantee that we will be able to play this game even a year from now because it requires EA's servers to function. If I am going to pay $60+ for a game, I should be able to play that game whenever I want - and not have to hope that greedy EA will keep the servers up.

    Although the game's aforementioned Internet restrictions and your tone are offensive, they are not as offensive as the facade EA seemingly is trying to create. It seems to me that all of these hyped online community features are a distraction from EA's real motive for the Internet connectivity requirement. Why don't you just admit that the connectivity requirement is mostly about DRM and is a futile, customer-punishing effort that will fail to prevent piracy from effective EA's already enormous bottom line. Although I have purchased several Sim City titles and was planning to buy this game, now I am going to "leave it" and everything it entails - EA's arrogant attitude and it's stupid DRM.

    Our servers are working hard and it would be too much for a single machine today. We have created a truly connected experience, which means we are not only processing individual city information, but we're stitching that data together for region play. We also store, access and pass a ton of data for Leaderrboards, Global Market, Challenges, and Achievements. This was all part of our original designs, to make this a truly connected experience. I hope you give it a chance. hermes outlet

    I've played Diablo 3 and, even with a good internet connection, it drove me nuts when I would click and nothing would happen. Worse, I would click, nothing would happen, and then the game would back-up to a prior state from a few second earlier. I do not look forward to this experience in all of my games.

    Playing and sharing the online experience with my friends is a fine idea. A fine *mode* for the game. I do not want it to be the only mode.

    Making online a requirement has tempered my interest in this game.

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