EA Maxis: SimCity offline took six months to complete

Simon Fox describes complicated process in adding long awaited feature

The team at EA Maxis worked for more than six months to get SimCity working offline.

Simon Fox, the game's lead single-player engineer, published a blog post yesterday to illustrate the complex process required to implement the offline mode - a feature that many felt should have been in the game from the beginning, and one that Maxis initially claimed contradicted its vision.

"Lucy [Bradshaw, senior vice president of Maxis] once said that Offline wouldn't be possible, 'without a significant amount of engineering work', and she's right," Fox noted. "By the time we're finished we will have spent over 6-and-a-half 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."

For some, the arrival of an offline mode in SimCity will have felt like too little, too late, but Fox's post will go some way toward dispelling the notion that its delayed implementation was through a lack of will on the part of Maxis. Indeed, Fox claims he "rallied the team" to prepare for the feature, "as soon as practical after launch."

Fox added: "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.

"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."

Fox describes a litany of challenges and problems that his team faced, including but not limited to rewriting the entire system in C++, writing new code to provide crucial data the game would otherwise check the online servers to find, and extensively optimising all aspects of the game to run locally with no degradation from its live performance.

"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."

Maxis confirmed the arrival of SimCity's offline mode on Monday.

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Latest comments (9)

Dirk van Wijk Student - Computer Science (Master) 8 years ago
And before you start with the development of the game you don't think: "And what if people would want an offline mode, could we easily implement this with our current design?"...
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Greg Wilcox Creator, Destroy All Fanboys! 8 years ago
@Dirk: Tweaking your sentence a little: "And what if people would want an offline mode as found in previous Sim City games..." :^)
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Keldon Alleyne Strategic Keyboard Basher, Avasopht Development8 years ago
So what they're saying is that it took EA 6 months to make a change in their source code that *hackers did in considerably less time just by looking at the raw assembly!

*: Correct me if I'm wrong but according to a Forbes article, it was cracked within three months.
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Show all comments (9)
I was under the impression that ye olde hacking teams had done it in a couple of days, as usual
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Richard Browne Head of External Projects, Digital Extremes8 years ago
It functioned, it wasn't the game IIRC.
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Eric Leisy VR Production Designer, Nike8 years ago
What a waste of time, energy, and money on their part to not include this functionality in the initial game. I'm still holding off on my investment in the latest version of this franchise until they eliminate the small region sizes.
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Matthew Hardy Studying Multimedia/Game Design, ITT Technical Institute8 years ago
I would like to see the current sales figures. I bet this "offline" mode comes as sales have stalled and piracy fears are no longer warranted.
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Abraham Tatester Producer 8 years ago
I have to wonder how buggy this offline mode will be when it's released. If it's required as much rework as they say, seems there will be plenty of places for the code to go wrong. Right after Fox mentions hitting alpha, he talks about testing and release. So will the offline update be a beta?
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"Six months" sounds impressive but "six months of work" by whom? A team of 300 developers or an asthmatic mouse with a bucket and spade? Context would help. Having bought SC3 on release and played it a lot, it was the first time in 20 years of gaming that the thought entered my head "this is actually just a straight up scam. I have been conned and they are knowingly conning me and I am an idiot". An awful lot of trumped up bullshit is thrown around about EA and I find it annoying but on this one Lucy Bradshaw & Co. genuinely tried to fool the paying fans of their own game and continued to lie after the money was in the bank, which they refused to return even when the game was unplayable. EA's lowest point in a decade. Bradshaw was promoted of course. On the upside, chisellers like them ought inspire us to make better games.
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