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Taking SimCity Offline Took Over Six Months

By - Source: Electronic Arts | B 39 comments

A lot of code was rewritten to get that game playable offline.

Simon Fox, lead engineer on the Single Player Mode for SimCity, jumped on the SimCity website and explained why the impossible was made possible -- allowing gamers to play SimCity offline. Believe it or not, he claims that the SimCity team began working on the offline mode effort soon after fans began requesting the feature. Unfortunately, the move wasn't as simple as flipping a switch.

"The original creative vision for SimCity was to make a game where every action had an effect on other cities in your region," Fox writes. "As such, we engineered the game to meet this vision, setting up the player's PC (client) to communicate all of its information to the servers. That means that our entire architecture was written to support this, from the way that the simulation works to the way that you communicate across a region of cities."

"So yes, while someone was able to remove the 'time check' shortly after launch, they were unable to perform key actions like communicating with other cities that they had created locally, or with the rest of their region(s), or even saving the current state of their cities," he adds. "My team did, however, see a path forward towards Offline, one that would maintain the integrity of the simulation."

He writes that SimCity was written to rely on servers. The game pings these servers for critical pieces of data, and relies on that information to keep the simulation moving. To get the game to function offline, the team had to rewrite the entire system -- which was written in Java -- in C++. The team also "knocked out the Internet pipe stuff," meaning there's lots of code that hits the servers looking for information, and a lot of code was written to produce that information locally.

"Our game routes pieces of data from one city to another as data flows through the regions," he writes. "All of that code exists on the server, and now we've brought all of that down into the client. The client processes the region box, which is what all of the cities pushes their data into. We've brought that down into the client as well."

By the time the team was finished, they spent over six and a half months working to write and rewrite core parts of the game to get the offline mode to work. The blog entry goes on, which can be read in full here.

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Top Comments
  • 14 Hide
    skit75 , January 20, 2014 12:24 PM
    Hopefully, other developers and publishers are watching.
  • 14 Hide
    ddpruitt , January 20, 2014 12:50 PM
    Quote:
    the team had to rewrite the entire system -- which was written in Java
    Be afraid, be very afraid....
  • 11 Hide
    Stimpack , January 20, 2014 12:37 PM
    Wow, they must be REALLY good to do the impossible!
Other Comments
  • 14 Hide
    skit75 , January 20, 2014 12:24 PM
    Hopefully, other developers and publishers are watching.
  • -1 Hide
    Jerky_san , January 20, 2014 12:25 PM
    Wouldn't of took 6 months after the original release day if they'd of simply listened to the community and did it in the first place.. CitiesXL failed online as well.. Course its engine sucked as well which made it where you couldn't get past a certain pop cap but thats a different story..
  • 5 Hide
    Murissokah , January 20, 2014 12:27 PM
    I like how developers talk about their "vision" for online gaming as if it had nothing to do with trying to force everyone to depend on their online services.
  • 11 Hide
    Stimpack , January 20, 2014 12:37 PM
    Wow, they must be REALLY good to do the impossible!
  • 14 Hide
    ddpruitt , January 20, 2014 12:50 PM
    Quote:
    the team had to rewrite the entire system -- which was written in Java
    Be afraid, be very afraid....
  • 6 Hide
    Grzegorz Wereszko , January 20, 2014 12:54 PM
    It is funny, for one part, some hacker was able to activate a switch and make the game fully offline. Only issue was that the game didn't save or something like that.To me this is just a bit of, "yeah we messed up, so lets make up some excuse why it took long to activate an option so people can play offline"
  • 4 Hide
    bemused_fred , January 20, 2014 12:56 PM
    Quote:
    Wow, they must be REALLY good to do the impossible!
    You. I like you. :D 
  • 4 Hide
    dusty13 , January 20, 2014 12:59 PM
    Quote:
    Quote:
    the team had to rewrite the entire system -- which was written in Java
    Be afraid, be very afraid....
    my thought exactly
  • -1 Hide
    fleeb , January 20, 2014 12:59 PM
    Quote:
    It is funny, for one part, some hacker was able to activate a switch and make the game fully offline. Only issue was that the game didn't save or something like that.To me this is just a bit of, "yeah we messed up, so lets make up some excuse why it took long to activate an option so people can play offline"
    Yes, because it should only take a day or two to do this:
    Quote:
    "Our game routes pieces of data from one city to another as data flows through the regions," he writes. "All of that code exists on the server, and now we've brought all of that down into the client. The client processes the region box, which is what all of the cities pushes their data into. We've brought that down into the client as well."
  • 2 Hide
    razor512 , January 20, 2014 1:03 PM
    If it really took that much work, then how did the cracking groups make a cracked version of the game with offline play after just a few days of the games release?
  • 3 Hide
    Avus , January 20, 2014 1:27 PM
    Too late, I don't play this sh**ty game anymore... Another sh**ty EA game i also stopped playing is BF4....
  • 1 Hide
    glasssplinter , January 20, 2014 1:29 PM
    I'm not a developer or programmer but seeing the amount of talent that goes into a game like this (regardless of bugs) tells me that something as simple as fetching data from surrounding regions online could easily be routed to the local game. Surely Simon doesn't expect us to blindly believe that they started working on the fix "soon after." If they listened to the fans in the first place this would have never been included!
  • 0 Hide
    qlum , January 20, 2014 1:36 PM
    and yet it took (probably a single cracker) less time then that to take the game offline. I really think its a matter of only putting one or two guys on it and not wanting to emulate the server that took them so long.
  • 0 Hide
    capt_taco , January 20, 2014 1:39 PM
    Wow, talk about too little, too late. It's too bad publishers of series like SimCity and Diablo can put out a crap game and still make a profit off of name recognition alone. Which sucks for all the people who were excited for a real SimCity game, not crappy SimCity Social.
  • 0 Hide
    Ragnar-Kon , January 20, 2014 1:51 PM
    Great news, but unfortunately this won't change much for me. The online-only aspect was annoying, yes, but wasn't a deal killer for me.The tiny city squares, however, are a deal killer. And I probably won't get back into SimCity until that issue is fixed.
  • 0 Hide
    vmem , January 20, 2014 1:57 PM
    Good job, us gamers have to feed the EA team for 6 months while they work on something that would've came with the base game. I feel SOOOO much better now about what EA is doing :sarcasm:
  • -3 Hide
    rantoc , January 20, 2014 2:15 PM
    Yeah right!! I bet the line below took them 6 months if you type about two letters per month!#define OfflineMode 1And done if it was coded properly from the start...
  • 6 Hide
    oxiide , January 20, 2014 2:32 PM
    Quote:
    Great news, but unfortunately this won't change much for me. The online-only aspect was annoying, yes, but wasn't a deal killer for me.The tiny city squares, however, are a deal killer. And I probably won't get back into SimCity until that issue is fixed.


    The other half of the offline announcement was that this will open up the game to modding support. City size has been a huge complaint with the game, so I imagine that'll be one of the first and most obvious things to mod into the game if it proves possible.

    I have a wait-and-see attitude, but I may actually give the game a try. Voting with our feet is powerful, and when a developer reverses a bad decision they should be rewarded. That sends an important message, I think.

    Quote:
    Good job, us gamers have to feed the EA team for 6 months while they work on something that would've came with the base game. I feel SOOOO much better now about what EA is doing :sarcasm:


    EA has always maintained it was Maxis that was so committed to the online-only requirement. Maxis' statements seem to back that up, or at least not disprove it.
  • -2 Hide
    Darkerson , January 20, 2014 3:50 PM
    * cough * BULLSHIT * cough *
  • 1 Hide
    Cons29 , January 20, 2014 6:49 PM
    if they are gunning for another year of worst company in the world, i think they are in the right path
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