Anonymous Maxis Insider Says SimCity Server Dependence Exaggerated

Remember when EA and Maxis said that being connected to its servers was important because it handled a "significant amount of the calculations" for SimCity? Well it turns out that that might not be true if you believe the Maxis insider who offered some details on how the game really works. Speaking to Rock, Paper, Shotgun, an unnamed Maxis employee said that Maxis isn't being entirely truthful.

"The servers are not handling any of the computation done to simulate the city you are playing," the source told RPS. "They are still acting as servers, doing some amount of computation to route messages of various types between both players and cities. As well, they're doing cloud storage of save games, interfacing with Origin, and all of that. But for the game itself? No, they're not doing anything."

The source goes on to say that the servers take several minutes to transfer data around, which means it isn't influencing the game's performance "on the fly. " The source finally concludes that it is theoretically possible to have a single player mode (without the regional stuff):

"It wouldn't take very much engineering to give you a limited single-player game without all the nifty region stuff," the Maxis insider said.

On a related note, both Kotaku and Mojang co-founder Markus "Notch" Persson found that the game can be played after several minutes of being disconnected from the Internet. Kotaku played the game for 19 minutes.

You can find the whole RPS report, which offers a lot more details on the how the game works, right here.


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  1. 0
    hellfire7885 says:

    I wouldn't fault Maxis for this, as they develop the game and Maxis at least used to do nothing more than a CD key for authentication.

    I lay the blame for this squarely on EA.

  2. 0
    Craig R. says:

    Not only that, but the more people dig into the game, the more it seems like Maxis/EA has been lying about how much computation is actually going on with regards to the number of "sims" running around the city. And how those "sims" actually "live" their lives in the game.

    It's sounding more and more like the entire game is just a series of smoke & mirrors.

  3. 0
    Conster says:

    Towns is a little bit like Dwarf Fortress meets Minecraft, I guess – you've got a map with different terrain types and wild animals, some of them hostile, and at every even negative floor, there's monsters, which grow stronger the deeper you get. You 'control' a bunch of villagers (in that you can say things like "build wooden walls here", "make 5 sets of wooden armor" or "I want you to always have 20 Breads in stock", and adjust their priorities, with categories like "build items", "build walls", "harvest and gather", "cook and bake", and the all-important "put stuff in their proper containers so they don't lie all over the floor") – they need sleep and food, and if they're happy and you have enough personal rooms available, you'll randomly get new immigrants. There's also heroes, which show up once you get a tavern – you have 0 control over them (except they respect locked doors as long as you don't trap them), they're replaced if they die or leave, and how many you can have is based on the root of your amount of villagers. Random events include merchants dropping by (each type sells and buys different things, and they sometimes have things you can't craft on your own), and sieges (monsters showing up at the edge of the map, who wander around a bit, then charge towards your town – there's some randomness in how strong the sieges are, but the more villagers you have and the deeper you dig, the stronger they can be). Development is still ongoing – they recently added fluid-blocking walls and doors, as well as fluid elevators, but water and lava still don't seem to hurt anyone, only destroy anything that isn't fluid-blocking (unless you count trapping villagers who'll then eventually starve to death). The only way you can directly steer villagers is to convert them to soldiers (they can be converted back at any time), set them in patrol mode, and manually specify where to patrol – particularly helpful to deal with sieges. The pathfinding is still a bit iffy sometimes, though.

  4. 0
    Cecil475 says:

    Towns? I haven't heard of it.

    I bought SimCity 4 a few days ago on for three dollars and some change (and was met with a shipping charge of a similar price) and I am really enjoying it All the fancy-smancy redon crap and no always on DRM. From the moment I installed I was able to play without problem. And to think this game is ten years old. :p 

     – W

  5. 0

    Anyone who has played it should know this without some other source's observation, we've all seen the sever is down message while it tries to reconnect, if their servers were doing what they claimed almost everything would stop working at the very least.. I got it for $40 but I kinda sorta regret it with all the problems, from the server DRM BS to the non-existant AI leading to every agent/sim/whatever horrible traffic problems that's nearly game breaking unless you make a city with a ridiculously bogus design and other issues/bugs.

  6. 0
    hellfire7885 says:

    After I was booted out of my SINGLE PLAYER Diablo 3 session due to my internet acting up, I've been avoiding Always Online games like an infectious plague.

  7. 0
    MrKlorox says:

    I could see them doing the major calculations serverside if the actual city borders weren't so tiny. If the game was just the entire 16 city region area as one open "city" and it allowed multiple people to build on it at the same time, requiring serverside calculations to offload the client would actually make sense. It's like they made two major compromises to solve the same issue, when they could have just made one.

  8. 0
    Conster says:

    I've been playing SimCity 4 since this whole thing brought it back to my attention (bought it in a Steam Sale a while back), but after 2 silent crashes to desktop, I decided to play Towns instead.

    Edit: Man, people must really hate Towns, huh? That's two downvotes already.

  9. 0
    Imautobot says:

    This whole debacle has piqued my interest in Sim City again, but I'm thinking I'll just get Sim City 4 instead of dealing with this authoritarian crap.

  10. 0
    ChuckLez says:

    Pretty much.  when I first saw that reasoning for always online, my jaw just kinda dropped.  So what they are saying, is my, at least, dedicated dual core processor (I say dual core for more mainstream PCs) can't handle individual sim computations….so you are just going to offload all that onto your server…….and do this for thousands of players at launch……

    I never called bullshit louder.

  11. 0
    axiomatic says:

    I don't think anyone seriously thought that assets were computing on the server side. This whole thing reeks of a manager trying to defend his vision of "always online" to satisfy his misconception that having strict DRM will make them more money n in the long run…. Look at you now EA/Maxis… one star reviews and all…. they will never learn.

  12. 0
    hellfire7885 says:

    Damn right. I wanted to play this one, but, well, thanks to this I'll be skipping it. My internet connection can and does go out, so I've been kicked out of online games more times than I can to remember.

  13. 0
    DorkmasterFlek says:

    Speaking as a software developer by trade, well duh.  There is no way the servers are doing significant computational modelling for the city you're playing.  If that was the case, they would need farms of servers to handle all the players.  That would necessitate a monthly subscription at that point.

    It makes perfect sense that only the region stuff is done by the server.  However, that means the client is communicating with the server through an API.  An API that could easily be implemented by a client-side server process running on your PC.  That is a balls-simple way I can think of to have an offline mode easily.  And that's assuming you have to hack it into this existing stupid design, instead of designing it from the start to support an offline mode.  Which is what you bloody well should have done in the first place, you assholes.

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