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: 
Friendly id: 
The-Benefits-of-Live-Service
thumbnail: 
Weight: 
0

Comments

As I'm sure is true of many users, I have a somewhat temperamental internet connection, it's prone to dropping out for days at a time. I don't see the point in buying a game if 10% of the time I won’t be able to play it because I can't connect to a server.
Anyway, I'd rather play with no influence from other humans, why are you forcing society upon us isolationists? (Joke.)

Don't get me wrong, I'm still going to buy it (loyalty to the franchise and all that), but I'll complain about it requiring internet a lot. :P

From one old school fan to another, I appreciate the loyalty. We are well aware of connectivity issues many of our customers experience. We're building our game to handle short burst of outages so player's can have an uninterrupted experience. And for you isolationists, you can set your regions to "private" and play all alone to your hearts content.

Except when there's no internet.
Here's hoping your little experiment in trying to sweet-talk people into online-only DRM crashes and burns.

yeah, yeah, yeah..."cities in a bubble"...blah, blah, blah. The fact is that you've sacrificed WAY too much for your micro-simulation. And when your spokespeople come out and say "but you can play your OWN region without anyone else" it completely shoots down your argument that the required internet connection was done for the sake of "compelling" multiplayer gameplay. Fix it and give people the choice they want.

Why do you keep insisting? The things will be the way it will be. I've seen you a lot of times before, always negative.
You should read carefully and learn to interpret and comprehend. From what I've read, I understood that online connection will also work for the Leaderboard, and for the Global Market. You don't have to play with anyone else. Your 'score' will go to the Leaderboard, but you don't have to directly interact with anyone.

I personally find the Global Market exciting. I can't wait to see all that people from around the world moving with the economy. Just as in real life, the economy of a country can affect the economy of a whole continent. I just hope that my cities don't end up like Greece (no offense).

I don't care that I don't have to play with anyone else or not. I don't want to play ONLINE if I don't want to and apparently neither do many other people.

Play SimCity 4. GlassBox require a server to simulate sims decisions and cannot be done locally. It won't be change; stop whining about it.

That's sad that we're forced to play a game that's a decade old because they refuse to make glass box computer friendly. I foresee cities xl fiasco all over again. Definitely not buying the game on day one.

I think like you, I do not care about leadership boards, I like to play alone, with nothing to stop me, not worrying about whether I have internet connection at the time I want to play, I agree that should have an offline mode, like Starcraft 2, do not understand why they can not put it here too

Actually, cirugo is quite right.

Quoted from the developer : "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."

If we, set the regions to "private". essentially those calculations, the "region play" is not there. Tons of data for leaderboards, global markets, will also be rendered null, because the person in question wishes to play alone, apart from the rest of the world. Even if he expand "his own" region, the computation scale will be much minimized.

From an IT standpoint of view, because I am also a database engineer, that love to play with immense amounts of data, I am also curious on how SC 5 use vast computation algorithms. Most algorithms are now can be done in a personal PC, but SC 5 are willing to take it further, by introducing cloud-computing-calculation. Whether it is for the gamer's good (very detailed simulation) or for company's good, I don't know. Honestly I am leaning to that this "persistent connection" is for the good of the company.

Prove me wrong, EA.

Of course it is good for the company. There is no simulation that they are going to run on their servers that host several hundred or thousand people each that cannot be run on a PC that is hosting a single individual.

In the blog, it said that there would be global leader boards. What about a global economy? will it just be regional or would it be World Wide. I personally think that world wide economy would be neat. I hope this is the case.

Yes, we have a Global Market that will be affected by what our player's buy and sell. You'll have the ability to move markets up and down. Cities will be able to specialize and introduce businesses into their city that harvest resources and make goods. Those goods are bought and sold on the Global Market. We track all of this activity on our servers. It's one connected world. We thought it would be neat as well.

Lucy - Thanks for commenting. It's nice to see your team acknowledging the elephant in the room.

The new game looks gorgeous. You and your team have obviously worked hard to make the new Simcity special.

That said, the DRM is still a big effing problem for me. I travel for work and play on the airplane a lot. If the game was $15, okay - no biggie. But if for $80 I'd like to have an awesome offline experience.

Thanks for listening to us.

We all understand what Maxis believes are the benefits of an "always on" requirement, so, why no address some of the concerns people are bring up, instead of continuing with the same answer over and over.

We are listening to the concerns, we do hear you. We have made some design decisions that we're standing behind. We are reaching out and trying to answer the tough questions. Sometimes those answers may not satisfy everyone. What I can say is that we do value our fans and the team here at Maxis is dedicated to making a great game.

Hey, Kip, answer this one: if cities do not exist in a bubble, as Lucy suggests, then what the hell is up with this image? http://eaassets-a.akamaihd.net/www.simcity.com/sites/default/files/Regio...

Thanks for the blog. I understand that the scope and scale of the game cannot be supported without regular access to the servers. I have no problem with being online when playing. I'll involve myself in real life experiences when I'm traveling away from home (though I'll follow the forums every night, of course!)

Would those who want an offline game accept a reduced version, perhaps only 2 km2 in size and holding only perhaps 50k Sims, which runs solely offline? A SimCity mobile version, like the SimCity iPad app? Lesser and limited? I see potential for a such a product. Or perhaps an app that allows us to get a snapshot of how our shared regions are doing while we are away from home. DLC to keep us happy!

I think you should redesign the whole game for the ONE guy who plays on a train (and the thousands who want to pirate it).

Basically everything Vendetta_1337x said:
"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."

In my opinion, not allowing any type of offline play is a TERRIBLE mistake. Also, 2km x 2km cities is extremely small.

Other than these major issues, the game is looking swell and that the Maxis team has put a lot of work into it. I just can't get over some of these nagging problems

Check out my reply to Vendetta_1337x's post up top and thanks for the kind words!

I'm quite glad to see that Maxis and EA aren't giving in to the whiny fans and Simtropolis...

In my honest opinion, the online aspect of the game is what I look forward to the most because it will make Sim City feel less like a "time waster" and more like I'm actually playing a game with other people. No longer am I just building random anytowns that get mocked by people who don't respect the franchise; now I can build fully functional regions that help contribute to a virtual economy to help (or hinder in a villainous way) other players. And then there's the teamwork aspect, which at the end of the day, always makes me feel like I've accomplished something in some way.

What I personally hope for this Sim City is that we won't get another sequel but rather, get DLC packs, special promotions, and add-ons to the game. I'm tired of having to pay some $60-70 on a game along with some $400 on a console that only leaves me half-satisfied and feeling that I've been playing the exact same game over and over again all these years (looking at you, Nintendo!). Heck, with modding and building creation, maybe Maxis can do like Valve does with Team Fortress 2 content (Users who contribute custom content can get a split of the profit). I want this game to last.

Yeah, it's got flaws, but all great games usually have them in some way or another. Sometimes is just too long of cutscenes, and other times it's just absence of something minor... But in the end, a good game remains accessible and appealing to everyone and not just one or two groups of people...

I probably said too much...

Thank you very much Lucy for making a blog about this. Interesting (new) information!

The always online idea seems nice, but I'm a bit concerned about not being able to play SimCity when, for example, travelling without internet. Or what about people with a slow internet connection? I'd like to play SimCity everywhere I can.

Besides that I'm really excited! Keep up the good work!

- SimCityNet
http://www.simcitynet.nl

We will, thanks! As far as the slow connections, we're looking at putting some settings that allow player's to set their upload speeds. There are many countries with caps and cost associated with uploading. As I mentioned in a previous reply, we're also looking to support intermittent interruptions in internet service for short bursts.

Oh and nice marketing doublespeak by the way...you haven't given players control over how to play. Shackling them to the internet for a game that's not an MMO is REMOVING their control.

I'm very happy that Maxis is so involved with the fans, addressing concerns instead of ignoring them. I ca'n't wait to play this game.

Can't wait .... just take my money already

Thanks, Lucy. I'm not concerned and this is, quite frankly, the way of the future. More and more massively multiplayer online role-playing game's (MMORPG) have risen - one only need to think of World of Warcraft or, my favorite, EVE, to understand this. EVE, for instance, averages 30,000 players online and deals with the infinite concept of space, fighting, and intensive 3D graphics (although even a simple computer can play it). It too requires us to be online all the time (and we can play both by ourselves or with other folks) relying on a unified market system.

As you know, you're not going to make everybody happy. It isn't what it used to be but neither are newspapers, cars, computers, or anything else that evolves. There are plenty of people who are looking forward to this version... you just usually hear the complainers a little louder.

If anything, put out a 30 minute teaser/instructional video! I love those things and they are WAY to short! ;-)

CJA

Except SimCity is not, and has never been, a MMORPG. The last gaming company that tried to force the city building genre into that gameplay model went bankrupt doing so.

For crying out loud "cirugo" - put a fork in it! Your comments are getting less and less relevant, bud!

you have a strange definition of "relevant" I guess...personally I think that responding to someone who is trying to compare MMOs to a game that has always been single-player is pretty relevant...

You’ll never hear the end of it…

So far, I’ve seen this person on 4 other different gaming websites fighting against this game any way he can; what a waste of a life.

trust me it's more than 4

I'm sure you've seen our gameplay trailers. Good suggestion on the tutorial videos!

I'm fine with the game having an online option, but if the game is for online only I won't be buying it. A globel economy option can easily be incorporated into the game via the computer; it doesn't have to force players, their children and grandchildren into chat rooms. Not everyone is comfortable with this becoming the gaming trend and the creators of our games understand why yet insist that if we don't join in the big social media experience then our business isn't wanted. There are too many lurkers online. I love Simcity, but we do have a choice; my family will stay with Simcity 4.

I get where you're coming from, I have kids myself and you need to be careful. Origin does have privacy settings where you can disable many of the social features. You'll also be able to disable CityLog from within game. Our goal was not meant to alienate a portion of our audience. We took this audience into account when we designed the game and tried to come up with ways for all player types to coexist. Allowing Private regions, disabling CityLog, and Sandbox "Cheat" mode, were all done for the old school fans.

Got super excited when i saw the Gameplay demo. But sadley i will not be buying this, since it will be allways online. Hopefully the next one wont be like this, best of luck to who ever buys it.

Respectfully, this sounds an awful lot like Diablo 3's justification.. And frankly, it's a bit silly. The majority will play single player regardless of what you do, forcing it all through your servers, while great from a DRM angle, is simply bad news for customers.

As someone who plays MMOs, I'm very excited as to what the "cloud" can bring us. But as someone who also enjoys solitude and offline simpler games, I hope a version is launched for laptops/travel/no internet connection. I would buy both.

Thanks for sharing Lucy. Makes no sense all the complaints for the sake of complaining. I for one am thankful that Maxis is making a new SimCity as they do not certainly have to do anything at all.

Make that two, I agree 100% with ya CWlGamer. It'll be years before EA shuts the servers down which leaves time to figure out a solution or something. Now who wants to make a region with me? 8^)

Let me know the time and place - I will there with my Deluxe Edition!

Let me know too CWLGamer. I can't wait for beta to come out and hope to see you there:)

I'll help ya out... About time I actually put my building skills to the test against people to see what the results are...

Awesome! Hopefully March 5th and all day, Sim willing.

I like the multiplayer aspect but I do not like that we will not be able to game without the internet. I live in the middle of nowhere where that stuff goes down all the time.

Why can't an offline OPTION simply be added? It would make this game not a good game, but a great one, just like all the previous titles.

See, I get it, the regional play is awesome. No one is upset for adding these features into the game, they're upset because it's required. If it was designed with that in mind from the ground up, I strongly question that decision. I'm doing my best to keep an open mind, but you guys are really making it hard :/

>real cities do not exist in a bubble

This is a game. Your potential customers want the choice of being able to play offline. Why are you giving people a reason to not buy your product? Sounds like a bad business move to me.

I have a game that is solely internet based. It has more than 6,000 people playing it in different parts of the world, It isn't bad at all to be honest. There is no lagging, when they do maintenance, they shut the server down for an hour and all you do is download the update. The server is usually updated every 13 weeks. I wouldn't let the game being online be a decision breaker. I hope the game isn't a flop though.

Pages

More

ADD NEW COMMENT

You must be logged in to leave a comment.

Register