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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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66. Re: More on Offline SimCity Mar 13, 2013, 13:27 Quboid
 
Having played it a lot since release...

There's nothing in the region simulation that couldn't be done on our own computers, and our own computers would barely notice the extra load. I don't believe they could just flick a switch and give us offline regions but for it wouldn't be particularly difficult for them to do it - and it would be a better game for it. Multiplayer regions would be more complex but for single player, yes it needs an Internet connection - but because EA designed it to.

I was impressed by the city simulation but it seems that the more is learnt about it, the worse it is. No proper home ownership. No sims ageing. No education detail above yes/no - you only need the highest level education building you can afford, without ageing you don't need separate schools for different ages (this is the impression I get, unconfirmed). At first I thought they might patch out problems like the population:worker ratio getting worse as pop goes up but it seems that's the tip of the iceberg.

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.
 
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65. Re: More on Offline SimCity Mar 13, 2013, 13:16 JohnnyRotten
 
Requires large amounts of server resources? Nope. From a Simcity web site blog post, posted by the Assistant Producer Kyle Dunham:

...we’ve begun upgrading several of our servers to both increase their capacity and mitigate connection issues. This process has been going well and we successfully upgraded 10 servers yesterday: NA West 2, EU West 1-4, EU East 2-3, and Oceanic 1-2. Today we’re working on upgrading our remaining servers, so bear with us as we take them offline one-by-one to perform these upgrades. While this is going on, we also released the new server South America today, bringing our total server count up to 24, including our Test server.

24 servers (NOW), including a test, so 23 production. It's hard to tell what they started with, but digging through the 5 updates, I get:

Update 1 - Added 4 new servers (EU West 3/4, EU East 3, Oceanic 2)
Update 2 - No mention of new servers
Update 3 - 1 new server (Antarctica)
Update 4 - No mention of new servers
Update 5 - 1 new server (South America)

So it sounds like they started with no more than 17 production servers, and added 6 over the last few weeks.

So 23 servers are running everything (registration, authentication, cross player interactions, region stuff, etc) but the item that interests me the most is the region work. Which, even given the most beneficial "looking through a glass darkly" interpretation of EA's claims, must be done server side. It requires to many horses or something.

Taking away the overseas servers that I know about (EU East 1-3, EU West 1-4, Oceanic 1-2, Antarctica 1, and South America 1), that leaves 12 US servers.

I'm having a hard time running a solid number to ground, but update 3 mentions "Tens of thousands of new players are logging in every day", and update 4 says "...8 million hours of gameplay time". Both updates may include all players (US, Europe, etc).

But these numbers seem to indicate hundreds of thousands of players, and potentially tens of thousands playing at once.

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.

And if the thin slice theory - (TM) is correct, than once again, I circle back to how come this couldn't have been done on the client? The client whose available resources in CPU and RAM are almost certainly going to exceed the very small amount available per player on the server?

Again, I come to the conclusion that the server component is completely about control, and not in the least about offloading processing power.


Like everything I post, everything above is my opinion, and not a statement of fact.
 
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64. Re: More on Offline SimCity Mar 13, 2013, 12:41 JohnnyRotten
 
Quboid wrote on Mar 13, 2013, 11:04:
Here's how I see the situation (assuming I speak for everyone!):

- We don't want cities simulated on EA's servers.
- AFAIK, EA never said they were.
- Cities aren't simulated on EA's servers.

- We don't want regions simulated on EA's servers.
- EA have said that they are simulated on their servers.
- Regions are simulated on EA's servers.

- EA have said that a connection is required.
- Region play is an essential part (IMHO) of SimSeveralSmallTowns
- Ergo, a connection is required.

I think EA have been honest in this regard. The thing that we should be angry about is that the regions are server side, not that the cities are client side. Where I think EA have been dishonest is by implying that the regions _need_ to be done server side. Sure, they do when the game is designed that way but they could have designed a better game by making it all client side. That's the problem. That's what we should be pissed about.

One might point out that if it had been made clear by EA, they would have released some information akin to yours *making* it clear. If that had happened, we wouldn't be having this discussion. The waters here have been very heavily muddied by EA, and the attempts to disseminate information to clarify the issue seem to be slow in coming. Certainly they are aware of what has been said in the games media, and they've had more than enough time to respond accordingly. So, I disagree with your honesty conclusion.

Even giving you that EA has acting in good faith, I think 95% of the people don't know about the alleged difference in city vs region processing (it certainly hasn't been made clear to them by EA, only by outsiders), and I don't think that most of them care about the semantics of it.

The reality is that the always on part has broken the game for them, and I'm reasonably sure that most everyone trying to play the game cares about that single fact, not subdividing it up into parcels, and trying to play semantic games with what was said about those parcels.

But again, giving you the EA and good faith argument, regardless of what part is offloaded to the server, it still has to be reasonably trivial to process. As I keep pointing out, there is no financial model that would support the near monopoly of a modern server's CPU + RAM for a one time $60 purchase.

If that assumption is correct, there isn't a single legitimate consumer reason to do so, and there is no reason that it could not be retro-fitted to a client architecture. Yes, the latter would take time and effort, but it's not impossible*, nor financially crippling. I honestly can't see any scenario where it would cost more to rebox this to the client than to host the servers over the long haul.

* As per the RPS article, "Clearly an offline game that included a single-player simulation of the region system derived from multiplayer would be more challenging to develop, but our source assured us that it was far from impossible." This comes from an unnamed source, and isn't a direct quote, so you'll have to take the statement with a grain of salt.

* Edited "food faith" to "good faith". "Food faith" is pretty fun though...
 
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63. Re: More on Offline SimCity Mar 13, 2013, 12:31 ASeven
 
Beamer wrote on Mar 13, 2013, 12:26:
ASeven wrote on Mar 13, 2013, 12:07:
Creston wrote on Mar 13, 2013, 11:48:
Verno wrote on Mar 13, 2013, 09:14:
EA has gone above and beyond in this latest round, they have earned every iota of condemnation from the mainstream press, people on forums and their own customers. Any suggestion otherwise is an obvious attempt to troll or shill at this point, it went well beyond that like 4 stories ago with the refund crap. EA gets treated different because they act different, bottom line is that someone just wants an attention fix and it's time for us to stop giving it to him.

I wonder why the asstard keeps quoting me, even though I've already told him half a dozen times he's on ignore. Maybe it makes him feel better to helplessly flail his little fists against an uncaring wall?

Even if you have him on the killfile it's pretty easy to guess what he writes. It's always him whining about people here rightfully hating on EA, always. And it's sad that even with a killfile you know what he wrote.

Broken record taken to the extreme.

Even if you think people are unfair to EA, this is a fairly epic meltdown/backfire.

That keeps getting worse for EA with each day. There's really no way to defend EA on this and as Verno said one has to be either a troll or a shill to even think of defending EA at this point.

It's a clusterfuck the likes we might not see repeated this year and EA only has themselves to blame.
 
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62. Re: More on Offline SimCity Mar 13, 2013, 12:26 Beamer
 
ASeven wrote on Mar 13, 2013, 12:07:
Creston wrote on Mar 13, 2013, 11:48:
Verno wrote on Mar 13, 2013, 09:14:
EA has gone above and beyond in this latest round, they have earned every iota of condemnation from the mainstream press, people on forums and their own customers. Any suggestion otherwise is an obvious attempt to troll or shill at this point, it went well beyond that like 4 stories ago with the refund crap. EA gets treated different because they act different, bottom line is that someone just wants an attention fix and it's time for us to stop giving it to him.

I wonder why the asstard keeps quoting me, even though I've already told him half a dozen times he's on ignore. Maybe it makes him feel better to helplessly flail his little fists against an uncaring wall?

Even if you have him on the killfile it's pretty easy to guess what he writes. It's always him whining about people here rightfully hating on EA, always. And it's sad that even with a killfile you know what he wrote.

Broken record taken to the extreme.

Even if you think people are unfair to EA, this is a fairly epic meltdown/backfire.
 
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61. Re: More on Offline SimCity Mar 13, 2013, 12:19 JohnnyRotten
 
OpticNerve wrote on Mar 13, 2013, 00:58:
Gonna post this here but apparently the game itself is pretty broken in terms of some gameplay mechanics:

I was going to post that yesterday, but didn't have a second source, so I held off. However, other people are reporting the same thing and their are videos now demonstrating this issue.

The simulation part of this game is looking more and more compromised, and that is (IMHO) "SIM"City's selling point. I wonder how much of this is due to compromises made during development due to budget, time, or the silly always on requirement (playing the concern troll of course).


 
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60. Re: More on Offline SimCity Mar 13, 2013, 12:07 ASeven
 
Creston wrote on Mar 13, 2013, 11:48:
Verno wrote on Mar 13, 2013, 09:14:
EA has gone above and beyond in this latest round, they have earned every iota of condemnation from the mainstream press, people on forums and their own customers. Any suggestion otherwise is an obvious attempt to troll or shill at this point, it went well beyond that like 4 stories ago with the refund crap. EA gets treated different because they act different, bottom line is that someone just wants an attention fix and it's time for us to stop giving it to him.

I wonder why the asstard keeps quoting me, even though I've already told him half a dozen times he's on ignore. Maybe it makes him feel better to helplessly flail his little fists against an uncaring wall?

Even if you have him on the killfile it's pretty easy to guess what he writes. It's always him whining about people here rightfully hating on EA, always. And it's sad that even with a killfile you know what he wrote.

Broken record taken to the extreme.
 
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59. Re: More on Offline SimCity Mar 13, 2013, 11:59 Creston
 
Quboid wrote on Mar 13, 2013, 11:25:
I absolutely agree. EA tried to shaft us but royally fucked it up and it's hilariously bad PR.

It's just on that one point about how 'EA lied about the city simulation being server side' I don't agree. I don't think EA have ever claimed this and I don't see why they would - but then, EA's actions don't always make sense!

I think it's pretty easy to see Lucy Bradshaw's comments as indicating that she believes that large portions of the simulation run on their server. There have also been previews where it was said (perhaps incorrectly) that the large majority of all these "thousands of simulations in cities" had to be done by EA's cloud. Ocean Quigley even said that that's why they had to keep the city sizes so small.

That statement always seemed odd to me, because if those simulations are run in your cloud, you should be able to have 400 by 400 km cities. After all, isn't that the whole point of the cloud? That it can handle virtually anything? So why would city sizes be limited?

So it's possible that previews misunderstood what he was talking about, and I think EA has never said straight-out "the city runs in the cloud." But it's easy to see why people get confused on this issue.

They HAVE said that "it's impossible to run this game offline", even though if all it's doing is a region simulation, then making it offline should be easy as shit.

Finally, as I was reading some forums, I saw a forumite somewhere (didn't bookmark it, argh) say that he'd been able to run the game offline for 90+ minutes with some creative hacks, but several options were disabled as were a number of buildings. So that does seem to imply certain things even within the city itself run on the cloud side.

Creston
 
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58. removed Mar 13, 2013, 11:50 RollinThundr
 
* REMOVED *
This comment was deleted on Mar 13, 2013, 13:04.
 
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57. Re: More on Offline SimCity Mar 13, 2013, 11:48 Creston
 
Verno wrote on Mar 13, 2013, 09:14:
EA has gone above and beyond in this latest round, they have earned every iota of condemnation from the mainstream press, people on forums and their own customers. Any suggestion otherwise is an obvious attempt to troll or shill at this point, it went well beyond that like 4 stories ago with the refund crap. EA gets treated different because they act different, bottom line is that someone just wants an attention fix and it's time for us to stop giving it to him.

I wonder why the asstard keeps quoting me, even though I've already told him half a dozen times he's on ignore. Maybe it makes him feel better to helplessly flail his little fists against an uncaring wall?

Creston

 
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56. Re: More on Offline SimCity Mar 13, 2013, 11:25 Quboid
 
I absolutely agree. EA tried to shaft us but royally fucked it up and it's hilariously bad PR.

It's just on that one point about how 'EA lied about the city simulation being server side' I don't agree. I don't think EA have ever claimed this and I don't see why they would - but then, EA's actions don't always make sense!
 
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55. Re: More Big Picture Details Mar 13, 2013, 11:23 HorrorScope
 
Creston wrote on Mar 13, 2013, 01:22:
EA. We say it's in the game, but it really isn't.

Creston


Going along those lines:

EA: It's in the game and if you can find it, please let us know.

EA: It's in the game and if you find it, we'll take it out.

EA: It's in the game and we'll unlock it for you for $14.99!
 
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54. Re: More on Offline SimCity Mar 13, 2013, 11:07 Verno
 
Of course it's detrimental, one of the devs explained that the reason we can't have larger city sizes is due to vague simulation occurring server side and how "Dads PC" can't handle it. I don't agree with your conclusion that EA has been honest but either way I don't think it matters because in the end the product suffered for it, the launch was atrocious and it's a solution in search of a problem to justify their an overall corporate strategy, not satisfy gameplay concerns.

The idea that people are only angry about one thing and not several others is inherently flawed too. I think the whole thing is pretty much a train wreck. I don't want regions at all considering how much they limit other important aspects of the game.
 
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53. Re: More on Offline SimCity Mar 13, 2013, 11:04 Quboid
 
Verno wrote on Mar 13, 2013, 10:50:
Quboid wrote on Mar 13, 2013, 10:35:
There's so many legitimate complaints about SimSeveralSmallTowns, it's odd that people are sticking to a false one.

I don't even take it for certain that it's "false", for all we know it's been mis-communicated in one of their many press events and reddit question sessions, I just don't feel like digging through old shit to find it for a forum argument that couldn't matter less. Even if I accepted what you're saying, in the end it is detrimental to the product and unnecessary which is what is important, they don't skate because they added an asterisk or something.

Is it detrimental? Is it a footnote? Here's how I see the situation (assuming I speak for everyone!):

- We don't want cities simulated on EA's servers.
- AFAIK, EA never said they were.
- Cities aren't simulated on EA's servers.

- We don't want regions simulated on EA's servers.
- EA have said that they are simulated on their servers.
- Regions are simulated on EA's servers.

- EA have said that a connection is required.
- Region play is an essential part (IMHO) of SimSeveralSmallTowns
- Ergo, a connection is required.

I think EA have been honest in this regard. The thing that we should be angry about is that the regions are server side, not that the cities are client side. Where I think EA have been dishonest is by implying that the regions _need_ to be done server side. Sure, they do when the game is designed that way but they could have designed a better game by making it all client side. That's the problem. That's what we should be pissed about.
 
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52. Re: More on Offline SimCity Mar 13, 2013, 10:50 Verno
 
Quboid wrote on Mar 13, 2013, 10:35:
There's so many legitimate complaints about SimSeveralSmallTowns, it's odd that people are sticking to a false one.

I don't even take it for certain that it's "false", for all we know it's been mis-communicated in one of their many press events and reddit question sessions, I just don't feel like digging through old shit to find it for a forum argument that couldn't matter less. Even if I accepted what you're saying, in the end it is detrimental to the product and unnecessary which is what is important, they don't skate because they added an asterisk or something.
 
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51. Re: More on Offline SimCity Mar 13, 2013, 10:42 DeadlyAccurate
 
Sempai wrote on Mar 13, 2013, 06:38:
Ea should be sued into the ground. For the love of God! there surely must be some firm out there with a set of balls who will sue these liars.[

I had an impossible idea last night. Someone with money to burn who can weather a lawsuit makes this awesome game trailer (of "in-game footage") of the most amazing game you can imagine. Give it a great feature list, then market the hell out of it. But come release, what you get is Pong.

Refuse refunds, set the money you made from the "game" aside, and wait for the lawsuit. Make it clear your sole purpose of doing it is to force the lawsuit and lose. Once you've lost, now there's precedent for losing a suit when you sell a game that doesn't work as intended.

Pipe dream, obviously. (Even more obviously, I'm not an attorney).

And if you purchased this broken scam of a product from these douche bags, you are part of the problem.

There's no one to protect us in this industry but ourselves. Software isn't bound by the same consumer protection laws in the US as other products. Publishers want us to see software as a service, so they claim they have the right to limit our access, to refuse refunds on a non-working game, and to prevent us from reselling and loaning them out.

But then they want the benefits of treating it as a product, too, telling us we have to buy one copy per person in the household. They get the benefits of both but none of the downsides.

Since publishers can do whatever the hell they want, the only recourse we have to protect ourselves is to vote with our wallets.
 
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50. Re: More on Offline SimCity Mar 13, 2013, 10:35 Quboid
 
Verno wrote on Mar 13, 2013, 10:22:
That's a chicken and egg problem though and EA doesn't get any trust from me. Did they design the game around those multiplayer aspects or are the small city limitations a result of applying a DRM first approach which resulted in putting some things on the server? I'm leaning toward the latter and regardless of what lawyerly weaseling they will try to do about the language (we never claimed that specifically!) it doesn't make the game, it's launch or their lies about other things like refunds and potential offline functionality more palatable to me.

I think we could have a more traditional SimCity game with larger cities while still having a multiplayer component, there's really no valid reason to force people into these bizarre design choices they made for no ones benefit but their own. I don't remember anyone begging for the SimTown Connected Social Media Experience to be rammed down their throat, at the expense of the overall product and the ability to play it without EA servers.

Yes, I agree almost entirely. However, I don't think it's lawyerly weaselling. They simulate the region server-side and the region is essential to the overall product, therefore a connection is needed and while it's not quite always-on, it's bloody close.

Close enough that I think EA were right to describe it as always needing an internet connection. Can you imagine the fuss if they had said "no it's not always-online, you only need to be online every 20 minutes"? Everyone - you and me included - would be up in arms at the weaselly way they were pretending it's not always-online.

To be clear: I don't think there's any technical reason why it would need to be online at all and it is ultimately online for DRM, control and DLC. It would take a fair bit of work, but they could release a stand-alone town simulator fairly easily and a standalone region simulator eventually (at which point, I might actually advise people to buy it). That's what people should be mad about, the region being simulated server side. Not the city being simulated client side because EA never claimed otherwise and this is a good thing anyway.

There's so many legitimate complaints about SimSeveralSmallTowns, it's odd that people are sticking to a false one.

This comment was edited on Mar 13, 2013, 10:50.
 
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49. Re: More on Offline SimCity Mar 13, 2013, 10:33 RollinThundr
 
wtf_man wrote on Mar 13, 2013, 09:09:
RollinThundr wrote on Mar 13, 2013, 08:56:
That's not hurt feelings, it's disgust at how whiny half the people here are.

Let me put it this way...

I didn't buy Sim City, but I am outraged because I wanted to buy a new Sim City.

I didn't buy several UBI games when they had always online DRM, and was outraged, because I wanted to buy Driver San Francisco, and a couple of others. (Now I can, since they reveresed it with just one time activation with UPlay)

I didn't buy Diablo III, and actually had no interest, but I'm still outraged about the always online DRM and Pay to Win Auction House. Why? Because it sets precedence... which is why EA tried this crap with Sim City.

And yes, I'm really irritated with everyone that bought these games and supported always-online-DRM. They are the reason these publishers keep trying this shit.

Eh if it isn't online DRM they'll try something else. At this point in life I have more important things to rant about than how evil EA is. Really it should be how evil their CEO is.

I think a lot of people forget back in the Trip Hawkins days, EA was a completely different company, they valued the people working on their games, it's where they got their name from.

That being said I get what you're saying WTF, and I can't say I disagree, to me it just gets tiring to see the same couple posters, essentially say the same exact thing 50 times in the same thread. Like really? You have nothing better to do than whine and complain about a company who's titles you're not buying anyway, yet feel the need to repeat yourself 30 times on the same thread.
 
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48. Re: More on Offline SimCity Mar 13, 2013, 10:22 Verno
 
That's a chicken and egg problem though and EA doesn't get any trust from me. Did they design the game around those multiplayer aspects or are the small city limitations a result of applying a DRM first approach which resulted in putting some things on the server? I'm leaning toward the latter and regardless of what lawyerly weaseling they will try to do about the language (we never claimed that specifically!) it doesn't make the game, it's launch or their lies about other things like refunds and potential offline functionality more palatable to me.

I think we could have a more traditional SimCity game with larger cities while still having a multiplayer component, there's really no valid reason to force people into these bizarre design choices they made for no ones benefit but their own. I don't remember anyone begging for the SimTown Connected Social Media Experience to be rammed down their throat, at the expense of the overall product and the ability to play it without EA servers.
 
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47. Re: More on Offline SimCity Mar 13, 2013, 10:14 Quboid
 
ViRGE wrote on Mar 13, 2013, 05:44:
mag wrote on Mar 12, 2013, 21:41:
As for the server being required to play the game, he tells them SimCity does no significant game simulation on the server side:

I was pretty skeptical of that claim. It would be absolutely ridiculous for them to take on that amount of processing power themselves. Extremely expensive.
You have to differentiate between the city sim and the region sim. It's clear the city sim (the most CPU intensive part of this) is taking place on the client. However the region sim is currently taking place on the server, which is consistent with what EA has said before. This is what allows them to do the kind of drop-in/drop-out multiplayer that the game uses.

Ultimately with enough time and enough effort all of that could be moved offline, but the mere idea of a regional sim has been made a core component of the game (the endgame is effectively managing several cities). So merely running the city sim on its own is not especially useful.

Thank you.

EA have deserved massive, massive amounts of criticism over this, but people are focussed on something EA have, to the best of my knowledge, never claimed: that the city simulation runs even partially on the server. I don't believe it does. I don't see any evidence that it does. I've never seen EA claim it does. They've said the "entire region" is simulated server side, but that doesn't mean the cities are - in the context of the game, that's clearly a very different, region simulation and city simulation, while interconnected, are different things.

Criticise EA for the many things they deserve criticism for, not for things people seem to have assumed they said when as far as I can see, they haven't.

Someone with the influence of Notch should know better.
 
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