SimCity Finally Getting Offline Consideration

SimCity Finally Getting Offline Consideration

posted Saturday Oct 5, 2013 by Scott Ertz

<i>SimCity</i> Finally Getting Offline Consideration

Ever since the initial launch disaster, Maxis has been trying to show that it cares about players. At first, they offered free games to those who were affected by the server shutdown, but have recently taken to the SimCity forums to talk with the community.

This week, Patrick Buechner, General Manager of the Maxis Emeryville studio, posted an article on the forum talking about their internal commitment to feedback.

First, I want you to know that we are listening to your feedback. We dig deep into the forums, Facebook posts, and Twitter feeds every day to see what players are talking about. There is a lot of feedback and there is a clear passion for SimCity. That's great to see. And while we appreciate positive feedback, we take very seriously the players who have criticisms. Players have high expectations of what goes into our games and we have an obligation to deliver.

We continuously review this feedback alongside in-game telemetry to help us decide where to focus our game tuning and development efforts. We've formed dedicated teams to explore specific features. Some player requests, such as a tool to raise and lower roads, were straightforward challenges. Some of the larger asks, such as bigger city maps and an offline mode, have required more thought and exploratory work.

There are two very important issues raised here: offline mode and larger maps, both of which are topics which have been a primary point of contention for most players.

Offline Mode

Buechner claims that it is being considered.

Right now we have a team specifically focused on exploring the possibility of an offline mode. I can't make any promises on when we will have more information, but we know this is something that many of our players have been asking for. While the server connectivity issues are behind us, we would like to give our players the ability to play even if they choose not to connect. An offline mode would have the additional benefit of providing room to the modding community to experiment without interfering or breaking the multiplayer experience.

In the past, Maxis has confirmed that offline was an option, but they decided not to pursue it. Instead, they implemented a required "always on" system because of global economy and other major calculations that just could not run locally.

The only problem with that theory is that offline mode is an option right now with a "very minor and easy" tweak. So, what could possibly be taking so long? EA's concern over piracy is my guess. So, while it is "being considered" publicly, my guess is we won't be seeing it any time soon.

Bigger Cities

Every person I know that did purchase the game outgrew their city plots within days. This left them wondering what to do? Maxis' official position is to play multiple cities side-by-side and explore the interconnection between communities. The problem with that, of course, is that once you leave one city and enter another, time stops for the first. That means no material collection, making it damn near impossible to explore those capabilities.

Buechner has news for those of you wanting to expand your maps, though.

After months of testing, I confirm that we will not be providing bigger city sizes. The system performance challenges we encountered would mean that the vast majority of our players wouldn't be able to load, much less play with bigger cities. We've tried a number of different approaches to bring performance into an acceptable range, but we just couldn't achieve it within the confines of the engine. We've chosen to cease work on bigger city sizes and put that effort into continuing to evolve the core game and explore an offline mode. Some of the experiments we conducted to improve performance on bigger cities will be rolled into future updates to improve overall game performance.

I know, that was misleading, but I just couldn't resist. Maxis claims that it is physically impossible to expand the cities. If they were to do it, your computer would explode. I have no idea if that reasoning is some sort of a prank being played by the development team or if they actually believe that expanding the cities would truly over run your computer's processing capabilities; either way, wow.

Good news, though: their experiments have led to a slight performance improvement in the game core. Now you can outgrow your cities slightly faster than before!

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