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More on Offline SimCity

A few details have come to light in the question of how difficult it would be to make the new SimCity playable offline, a conundrum that confuses even EA, as they have indicated this would be both possible and impossible. Kotaku writes of pulling the plug on the game and having it play on for about 19 minutes before crapping out, seeming to contradict the notion that a significant portion of the game's calculations are taking place on the server side. Likewise, Notch tweets: "I like how you can keep playing Sim City even when it notifies you that the servers are down. (But I thought it REALLY needed them?)." This plays into a report on Rock, Paper, Shotgun talking with an anonymous engineer the site says they've confirmed worked on the game. He discusses the most difficult part of playing SimCity offline would be how gameplay is based on interactions between regions, but the source says: "It wouldn’t take very much engineering to give you a limited single-player game without all the nifty region stuff." As for the server being required to play the game, he tells them SimCity does no significant game simulation on the server side:

The servers are not handling any of the computation done to simulate the city you are playing. 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. I have no idea why they’re claiming otherwise. It’s possible that Bradshaw misunderstood or was misinformed, but otherwise I’m clueless.

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86 Replies. 5 pages. Viewing page 1.
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86. Re: More on Offline SimCity Mar 14, 2013, 10:47 JohnnyRotten
 
Dev wrote on Mar 14, 2013, 01:40:
ViRGE wrote on Mar 13, 2013, 22:10:
All I'm really saying is that it's not so lightweight that it's 100K people spread over 23 CPUs. It has to be at least a bit heavier weight than that.
Why?
It wouldn't surprise me if that was the case, if they are doing a minimal amount on the server, just enough to get away with saying they have to have it always online.

The cluster of nodes vs individual servers debate is all supposition at this point - we don't have any hard evidence either way. It does make sense from the design standpoint for the system to be used in a cluster (redundancy, scalability, etc.), but more difficult to do from a financial standpoint.

I wouldn't be surprised to find either.

This comment was edited on Mar 14, 2013, 17:03.
 
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85. Re: More on Offline SimCity Mar 14, 2013, 01:40 Dev
 
ViRGE wrote on Mar 13, 2013, 22:10:
All I'm really saying is that it's not so lightweight that it's 100K people spread over 23 CPUs. It has to be at least a bit heavier weight than that.
Why?
It wouldn't surprise me if that was the case, if they are doing a minimal amount on the server, just enough to get away with saying they have to have it always online.
 
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84. Re: More on Offline SimCity Mar 13, 2013, 22:10 ViRGE
 
JohnnyRotten wrote on Mar 13, 2013, 17:54:
So at the end of the day, it doesn't change the basic problem - there isn't a lot of CPU/RAM to go around per player at any given point. The server nodes in a cluster model here would have to be cost effective at some fraction (after the re-seller cut, EA cut, the Maxis cut, etc) of a single $60 per player purchase.
Correct. SimCity isn't a game with a recurring subscription (or any significant microtransactions) so on the server side it clearly can't require too much in the way of resources, as EA wouldn't be bringing in money on a regular basis for frequent server upgrades and maintenance. So your basic supposition is correct. All I'm really saying is that it's not so lightweight that it's 100K people spread over 23 CPUs. It has to be at least a bit heavier weight than that.
 
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83. Re: More on Offline SimCity Mar 13, 2013, 19:40 JohnnyRotten
 
Crustacean Soup wrote on Mar 13, 2013, 17:21:
This speaks to how difficult it would be to pull the regional stuff off of the servers and put it in an offline version. The server environment is entirely different from what an individual with a single computer has. There's a lot intercommunication that would have to be simulated/changed, there's database servers, it's all probably running in a (/ many) different OSs and software environment(s) that consumers wouldn't be running the game on. Getting this stuff all on the client is not the flip of a switch that some people are characterizing it as.

Agree completely - the back end DB could be something godawful expensive like Oracle and you're just not going to throw that to a million client machines. If the cluster scenario is true, then multiple services are all talking to each other across the network, and it may be a bit more of a challenge to separate the unneeded/unwanted aspects of that from a more purpose built single machine client.

This is an argument that they may have programmed themselves into a corner here - and that the solution would need some rework before you could move it to a client machine. This is most likely where they are at, and why the anonymous RPS source said it would be difficult, but not impossible.

However, this wasn't a case of the issue justifying in and of itself of having to program it twice for a server and client implementation being the only option (as was previously claimed in another post). They had the choice to let the game run locally, but decided not to. This was a case of them painting themselves into a corner for no other reason than control (IMHO).
 
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82. Re: More on Offline SimCity Mar 13, 2013, 18:32 FloorPie
 
Kajetan wrote on Mar 13, 2013, 16:48:
JohnnyRotten wrote on Mar 13, 2013, 16:45:
Kajetan wrote on Mar 13, 2013, 15:57:
Sim Shitty

Nice! Brings back memories of City Wok from South Park.
Credit goes to someone else here on Bluesnews

"Herro, Sim Shitty, takea yer DLC order prease. Upgraded AI on sale today, tree-fiddy."

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=A-7-5f3DwmY

"we know you had a choice in airlines sim city games and it looks like you made the wrong one".
 
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81. Re: More on Offline SimCity Mar 13, 2013, 17:54 JohnnyRotten
 
ViRGE wrote on Mar 13, 2013, 16:52:
You're being too literal. A "server" in this case would be a server cluster composed of an unknown number of nodes. There's at least one beefy machine doing all of the database work, they may have a proxy layer, nodes doing the regional simulation, etc. We have no way of knowing precisely how many individual drive a server cluster, but I'd expect there to be a lot of them handling the regional sim.

Good point - they are using Amazon's EC2 service here. There may well be a cluster of EC2 nodes with a single exposure point (EU West #4 for example). However, outside of some speculation, I can't find any evidence either way.

It's certainly possible that the PR types are saying "server" because they don't know any better.

The cluster proposition just makes it more expensive to implement with the additional items that control and centralize data for the servers (Amazon load balancing services, centralized database nodes, etc). Which leaves you with even less money for the server nodes themselves.

So at the end of the day, it doesn't change the basic problem - there isn't a lot of CPU/RAM to go around per player at any given point. The server nodes in a cluster model here would have to be cost effective at some fraction (after the re-seller cut, EA cut, the Maxis cut, etc) of a single $60 per player purchase.

I still don't see a scenario that validates the servers are doing "uber things" that can't be done locally. (A fraction of) $60 isn't a price point that makes players monopolizing consider CPU and/or RAM assets that doable - leveraging Amazon's EC2 service is not cheap at this scale.

I don't think there is a ton of assets running for this game, not unless EA wants to take a loss on it.
 
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80. Re: More on Offline SimCity Mar 13, 2013, 17:21 Crustacean Soup
 
ViRGE wrote on Mar 13, 2013, 16:52:
JohnnyRotten wrote on Mar 13, 2013, 13:16:
The region processing cannot be very CPU and/or RAM intensive at all. How could it be? 23 servers CPU's and RAM for tens of thousands (at least) of players at once. The amount of CPU/RAM slice per player must be very thin indeed for this to work at all.
You're being too literal. A "server" in this case would be a server cluster composed of an unknown number of nodes. There's at least one beefy machine doing all of the database work, they may have a proxy layer, nodes doing the regional simulation, etc. We have no way of knowing precisely how many individual drive a server cluster, but I'd expect there to be a lot of them handling the regional sim.
This speaks to how difficult it would be to pull the regional stuff off of the servers and put it in an offline version. The server environment is entirely different from what an individual with a single computer has. There's a lot intercommunication that would have to be simulated/changed, there's database servers, it's all probably running in a (/ many) different OSs and software environment(s) that consumers wouldn't be running the game on. Getting this stuff all on the client is not the flip of a switch that some people are characterizing it as.

But it still can't be extremely computationally expensive. It wouldn't be economically-feasible if running a single region consumed more (or anywhere near as much) resources than a gamer has available on their home computer, and I doubt that the added efficiency of running many regions simultaneously shaves off enough compute power to make it necessary that it run on a server / cluster of servers.
 
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79. Re: More on Offline SimCity Mar 13, 2013, 16:52 ViRGE
 
JohnnyRotten wrote on Mar 13, 2013, 13:16:
The region processing cannot be very CPU and/or RAM intensive at all. How could it be? 23 servers CPU's and RAM for tens of thousands (at least) of players at once. The amount of CPU/RAM slice per player must be very thin indeed for this to work at all.
You're being too literal. A "server" in this case would be a server cluster composed of an unknown number of nodes. There's at least one beefy machine doing all of the database work, they may have a proxy layer, nodes doing the regional simulation, etc. We have no way of knowing precisely how many individual drive a server cluster, but I'd expect there to be a lot of them handling the regional sim.
 
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78. Re: More on Offline SimCity Mar 13, 2013, 16:48 Kajetan
 
JohnnyRotten wrote on Mar 13, 2013, 16:45:
Kajetan wrote on Mar 13, 2013, 15:57:
Sim Shitty

Nice! Brings back memories of City Wok from South Park.
Credit goes to someone else here on Bluesnews
 
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77. Re: More on Offline SimCity Mar 13, 2013, 16:45 JohnnyRotten
 
Kajetan wrote on Mar 13, 2013, 15:57:
Sim Shitty

Nice! Brings back memories of City Wok from South Park.
 
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76. Re: More on Offline SimCity Mar 13, 2013, 16:43 ASeven
 
RollinThundr wrote on Mar 13, 2013, 15:41:
...

Another day, another TrollingThunder useless post whining about people treating his darling EA fairly.

 
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75. Re: More on Offline SimCity Mar 13, 2013, 15:57 Kajetan
 
Creston wrote on Mar 13, 2013, 15:11:
It's sad that Sim City 4 is actually a better sim than this.
Sad? SC4 is an excellent game. There is no shame in being a worse sim than this game. The thing is though ... Sim Shitty isnt a sim. It is designed to be a money accumulation service, targeted at people who have more money than brains.
 
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74. Re: More on Offline SimCity Mar 13, 2013, 15:41 RollinThundr
 
Ahh another day, another 30 posts from Creston and company repeating the same EA sucks dance. Simple solution don't buy EA games. Loss of massive amounts of sales will tell EA one thing, stop being assholes to your customers or go under. Betting Creston still preorders DA3 day 1.  
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73. Re: More on Offline SimCity Mar 13, 2013, 15:31 wtf_man
 
Verno wrote on Mar 13, 2013, 13:39:
He ended up charging back his credit card yesterday when Origin refused to refund him. I feel bad, he'll probably get that account banned and he had like 10 games on there but oh well, they lose a customer for life if they go that route.

Let us know if he gets banned.
 
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72. Re: More on Offline SimCity Mar 13, 2013, 15:11 Creston
 
OpticNerve wrote on Mar 13, 2013, 02:32:
A youtube video example of the broken and lazily programmed traffic AI system. It also shows the glaring issue with how the simple Sims AI is causing big traffic jams:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fDeSRdHvefw&feature=youtu.be

That's just hilarious. That's not even worthy of SIM moniker.

OpticNerve wrote on Mar 13, 2013, 07:10:
The AI doing it's magic.

The pedestrian itself was funny enough, but that first row of cars is stuck at that light for like an hour. No wonder the traffic can't go anywhere either.

Yeah, this is the deep kind of simulation that mandates a 2x2km city size, alright. NO PC could run this in bigger city sizes! Rolleyes

It's sad that Sim City 4 is actually a better sim than this.

Creston
 
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71. Re: More on Offline SimCity Mar 13, 2013, 15:06 Creston
 
Verno wrote on Mar 13, 2013, 14:05:
Now they build them for the next fiscal quarter and could care less about customer service.

It keeps making me giggle that EA has "THINK CONSUMERS FIRST!" in their fucking company values.

EA knows it can reach a certain volume of consumer through marketing and can ignore the rest.

Well, amount of paper losses put aside, that theory hasn't been working so well for the last 20-odd quarters. But I'm sure ricieielteleltlto figures that if he just keeps slamming his head into that same wall, over and over and over again, eventually candy will come out. (Either out of the wall or his head.)

There will always be lemmings who will ignore all bullshit and keep licking EA's asstaint, after all we have two of them right here, but eventually they have to burn through the majority of goodwill left in the majority of the gaming population, right?

When they first announced a PC-only new SimCity, I was pretty excited. Sadly, that excitement quickly went away as EA corporate began its typical "let's make sure this turns into absolute shit" M.O.

Maybe we can convince Bill Gates to buy them and just immediately discard the entire company.

Creston
 
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70. Re: More on Offline SimCity Mar 13, 2013, 14:48 gunnergoz
 
I was played like the sucker I am for old-line titles but what I got was a mere shadow of the SimCity I used to love to play. This SimCity is apparently designed by a team of marketers who once saw a Youtube video of an earlier SimCity game being played. Otherwise I cannot account for why it is so poorly thought through and badly implemented. It just goes to show that "greed is good" for profits, but adds little to gaming quality.  
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69. Re: More on Offline SimCity Mar 13, 2013, 14:05 Verno
 
JohnnyRotten wrote on Mar 13, 2013, 13:45:
Poor beloved Simcity franchise, shot in the head, kicked to pieces, set on fire, and than launched into the sun by EA for a quick buck. /hyperbole off.

It's amusing how much times have changed, people used to build companies for a lifetime. They would try to keep it in the family and build a reputation. Now they build them for the next fiscal quarter and could care less about customer service. I do honestly think that marketing is partially to blame, I see a lot of people buying things based solely on marketing and brand identity. EA knows it can reach a certain volume of consumer through marketing and can ignore the rest.
 
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Playing: South Park, Dark Souls 2
Watching: Enemy, Network, Wer
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68. Re: More on Offline SimCity Mar 13, 2013, 13:45 JohnnyRotten
 
Quboid wrote on Mar 13, 2013, 13:27:
I wonder if the Spore effect has come in to play here - the DRM is so bad, it's distracted from the actual game's failings. If SimSeveralSmallTowns had launched in the condition it is now, I'd have been pleasantly surprised but there'd probably be far more discussion about the actual simulation's failings.

Good lord, you're probably right - the dust hasn't even settled on the DRM required BS, and people are just now finding out that when they can play the game, it looks like the simulation part is busted.

If you're into schadenfreude, this is the gift that keeps on giving.

Poor beloved Simcity franchise, shot in the head, kicked to pieces, set on fire, and than launched into the sun by EA for a quick buck. /hyperbole off.
 
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67. Re: More on Offline SimCity Mar 13, 2013, 13:39 Verno
 
I've only played about 4 hours total with a friend at his place but his comments were basically that its streamlined in places it needed more depth. He told me you basically have to keep making new cities because you bump up against the limits so often and because the games mechanics break down when you get to that point. My impressions were that outside of the visual upgrade and some quality of life UI improvements, it is a step back in many ways. It seems like EA corporate had their grubby mitts all over it, you can already see the monetization chain starting - bigger cities, transport upgrade pack with subways, etc.

He ended up charging back his credit card yesterday when Origin refused to refund him. I feel bad, he'll probably get that account banned and he had like 10 games on there but oh well, they lose a customer for life if they go that route.
 
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Playing: South Park, Dark Souls 2
Watching: Enemy, Network, Wer
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