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EA claims it took over 6 months to make SimCity work offline

by on January 14, 2014
 
SimCity Offline mode took over 6 months.

SimCity Offline mode took over 6 months.

Yesterday Ramon let us know that SimCity has officially been made to work offline. Today Simon Fox, the lead engineer for the single player mode of the game, released a blog post claiming that it took over six months to make the game work offline.

Said Mr. Fox, “When the game released, our fans were calling for Offline. I rallied the team to start making that happen as soon as practical after launch.” Some were wondering why, exactly, the game was made online in the first place. He explains, “The original creative vision for SimCity was to make a game where every action had an effect on other cities in your region. 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.”

This is an interesting idea, however it was the reason that the team had such difficulties in creating the offline mode that was recently released. As he explains, even though people were able to remove the “Time check” shortly after the game launched, they weren’t able to communicate with other cities saved locally, other cities in the region, or even save the current state of cities.

Some may recall that the team had stated in the past that Offline “wouldn’t be possible without a significant amount of engineering work”. The claim was true, Mr. Fox explains, stating, “By the time we’re finished we will have spent over 6 ½ months working to write and rewrite core parts of the game to get this to work. Even things that seem trivial, like the way that cities are saved and loaded, had to be completely reworked in order to make this feature function correctly.”

He goes on to state, “I wish it were as simple as flipping a switch and telling the game to communicate with a dummy client rather than our server, but it’s more than that. Entire calculations had to be rewritten in order to make the game function correctly.”

In other words, since the game’s code was written to rely on the servers, the game regularly pings said servers in order to obtain critical pieces of data such as region status, workers, and trading. It proceeds to utilize that information in order to keep the simulation moving, which, unfortunately, is what forced the team to rewrite the entire system.

He wraps up the blog by saying, “So where are we at right now? We’ve been working on this since August and now, we’ve hit Alpha and are in the final stages of testing before we release it as part of Update 10 in the future. On behalf of the engineering team, thank you for your patience on this one. We know you want Offline play in SimCity and we are really happy that we are finally getting ready to deliver it to you.”

What are your thoughts on this explanation?

Here’s the full blog.

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