Maxis Factor: A SimCity Interview

By Alec Meer on April 27th, 2012 at 5:00 pm.

PLEASE RELEASE SOME ACTUAL SCREENSHOTS NOW OK PLEASE AAARGH
Shortly after seeing the new SimCity in its full bendy-road glory, I had a quick chat with one of its architects, EA Maxis’ producer Jason Haber. Tackled – its lengthy development, why we’ve waited so long for a sequel, why it’s a ‘real’ Sim City, difficulty, whether important content is being sectioned off for pre-order bonuses and DLC, and how a traffic jam could make your whole city burn down.

RPS: Because it’s not out until 2013 so you’ve announced it fairly early, how far into the design of it are you? It looked quite finished and polished.

Jason Haber: It’s still pre-alpha, so we still have a lot of work to go, but I think part of our development philosophy is trying to keep the game always playable, so that we can get a good sense of what it’s like at any one point in time.

RPS: Could you play it as though it was complete now, finished art and sound assets aside, or is it only fragments of it?

Jason Haber: We’re pretty close… it’s hard to say, it’s like any game development. You can play it at different times but it’s not finished, that’s for sure. There’s still a lot of tuning and tweaking to do to the game, there’s a lot of content to create. I think we’re getting a good sense of the game. We understand what the gameplay is and we’re very excited about it, we’re very excited to be able to show it.

RPS: When did you start on the design document stuff, how long’s it been in the making already?

Jason Haber: It’s been a looooong time (laughs).

RPS: That was a very faraway look there…

Jason Haber: Yes, I’m thinking, I don’t know… it’s been in development for quite a while, that’s the best I can say. I know that Ocean Quigley and Andrew Willmott, so Ocean’s our creative director, and Andrew’s the lead architect, they’ve been working on it for a really long time. They both came from Sim City 4 long ago, so ever since then they’ve wanted to make this game.

RPS: So did development starting predate Sim City Societies even?

Jason Haber: Depends what you mean by development; the idea’s been around for a long time, they had to wait for the technology to catch up, so…

RPS: Oh really? Was that genuinely a thing that ‘we want to wait until we can present it as we want’?

Jason Haber: They’ll have to answer that question. I would say probably, but I don’t want to put words in their mouths.

RPS: And you feel it’s at the point it needs to be now, you’re not hitting stuff where you’re like ‘eurgh, the skyscraper doesn’t gleam in the right way’?

Jason Haber: (laughs) well it depends on who you ask that, if you ask the creative art director they always would be like ‘no, it will never be perfect’, but I think really it’s about the simulation engine right, GlassBbx, and making sure we can really run that, and the internet connection, the fact that the world’s so connected now, I think we’ve really reached the point now where those came together. It’s interesting because I really feel now actually the gaming community is really ready for a new Sim City and I think it’s definitely hitting that at the right time and it’s sort of everything coming together. Really exciting and it’s great to come to an event like this, see a bunch of people, get their reaction, hear what they have to say and hear how positive they are about it, because I really think it is the right time for it.

RPS: Do you know, I guess you may not as you came to it a bit later, how much does it resemble the original brief, how much has shifted over time?

Jason Haber: From the original design do you mean? It’s really hard to say, it really started as the idea of Glassbox and this idea of a simulation engine that simulates these agents. Then that was sort of shifted into becoming SimCity. SimCity was built on top of this engine we were building, so it’s really hard to say. We like to look at it as like ‘there’s the engine itself, and then there’s the game on top of the engine, and there’s the game design on top of the game on the engine’ so I think if you could ask them, whisper it in their ear when they started it, they probably were like ‘yeah, we want to make Sim City with this engine’. But as for how it resembles the original concept, I don’t know. I think a lot of it is watching the engine, watching it work and how we use it.

RPS: I suppose game design wouldn’t be game design if you just had an idea and you just made it perfectly first time.

Jason Haber: Exactly, and we definitely have a very agile approach of ‘try things, see how they work, if they don’t work, it’s fine; try something else’. And I think that’s really where you get some of the best behaviour, and to me a good game is a game where you really nail that core gameplay, you really get that core piece first, and you understand that, and I feel like this has been there for a long time, and it’s truly setting up to be a fantastic game.

RPS: How much have 2000, 3000 and the original been watermarks that there’s been enough willingness to depart from, has there been ‘no we can’t do that because it needs to be like this’ or was it free rein almost?

Jason Haber: Well you say that as if there’s somebody up there who’s like ‘No, you have to do this’ and I think there’re certain things you have to have to be Sim City, and it doesn’t feel like a heavy hand, it feels like it’s exciting to be able to put that sort of stuff in. There’s a lot of pieces but like a gardening aspect, the idea that you zone an area and you watch it develop, that’s obviously something that’s very Sim City and we knew we had to have that and we wanted to have that. So I think more than anything that we felt like we had to put in, it was like mark setting to look at what we could put in, what we could re-imagine in some ways and still represent the real Sim City.

RPS: Is there anything specific you did decide ‘we want to leave that behind, it didn’t work, or we need a completely new pass on this’?

Jason Haber: If you look at the way the simulation works, and this is one of the reasons that we’re calling it SimCity, Sim City 5, it’s really a bottom-up simulation with integrity, so everything you see is actually simulated. I know you’ve heard that line many times but it’s true and it’s something we really believe in, and I think that’s a fundamental change in the way that the game works, and so it’s interesting because that’s the game and it’s a very different approach, it’s no longer saying ‘ok, there’s a statistical simulation running in the background and we’re going to represent it with this effect of a crowd’, it’s an actual crowd of people running around, so that’s a fundamental shift in the way that it works but yet it still really is true to the original itself. That’s not really a yes/no answer…

RPS: (laughs) Most answers are. I like the way with that that even the electricity is an agent, it’s not just like some graph paper you look at underneath and see it working…

Jason Haber: It’s great. It’s fun because once you sort of understand that aspect it really gives you an entirely new perspective on the game and how it works. It really helps you play the game as well, I would say.

RPS: Can you turn on all the layers of that, so the civilian movement, the water, the electricity, and have a sort of ‘I am seeing the matrix’ view?

Jason Haber: (laughs) We’ve talked about it actually, because we know that there’s people out there who love to see all that stuff, we’re actually having that debate now about that balance of like ‘how much do you see at once?’

RPS: It can be an option surely?

Jason Haber: Right, how much can we show you at once without it being a miserable mess, it’s such a new area, we have to figure out how we want to use it and how we want to show it, but I think there’s some other really cool data layer that we didn’t even show today but you’ll be seeing at E3 that’s really cool, so…. I’ll just tease it some more [laughs].

RPS: What about the difficulty, because in the earlier games it’s actually quite easy to really get things horribly, horribly wrong, even to the point that you almost had to start over – are you going to allow that in this?

Jason Haber: There’s always fun fail states, I think that’s any part of a Maxis game, so we definitely want to have those in there. I think the difficulty will all be about the tuning, and it’s definitely going to be a challenge for tuning this game, and we’ve got some really, really good guys on it so I feel like we’ll be able to do it, but there’s interesting things like the importance of traffic is so important in this game now, because if your fire truck gets stuck in traffic, you can’t get to the fire, so you have to be really smart about things like that.

RPS: That’s an interesting concept. Thinking of the demo, the moving truck was there parked up on the road and blocking traffic…

Jason Haber: Right, imagine if you fire truck was stuck in the middle of that, right? So I mean even if they pulled over you’re still going to slow them down or something when you’re trying to get there.

RPS: And that might be enough for another building to catch alight in the meantime…

Jason Haber: Exactly, so I think that’s the sort of challenges that are going to be really interesting and really emerging. A nice thing is that we can always play with the tuning as needed to see how things go, and once we have the game out there they’ll give us commentary on what people are doing, if they want us to, we’ll be able to look at that and see what’s happening in the game, and keep it as well balanced as we can.

RPS: Presumably for the first time in a Sim City you could potentially have a closed Beta mass online and work that stuff out before you ship the new thing?

Jason Haber: We certainly could do that (laughs).

RPS: Heh. I’m not trying to weasel a beta date out of you, it’s more thinking about the difference between how Sim City used to be made where it was a pure developer design, but this time you could go in with potentially the input of hundreds of thousands of people and it becomes a different sort of development.

Jason Haber: We’re already listening to the community out there, we already look at what people say on the forums, not just our forums either, all forums out there.

RPS: I see that you can already pre-order it, and it’s already announced a few, it’s a loaded phrase but I’ll say it, nickel and dimey add-ons and preorder bonsues. Does there need to be any concern that we’re going to get the game and loads of it is going to be sectioned off from us despite having bought it, because it’s been chopped up in the way the game hasn’t been in the past?

Jason Haber: First of all you should do your research into Sim City 2000, all sorts of editions came out, I just throw that one out there, but I would say, it’s a difficult question to answer…

RPS: It’s a thorny topic for sure.

Jason Haber: I’m just trying to figure out how to best put it. You will get the full game no matter what gig you buy, I think that the additional content you get with the digital deluxe edition, there are city packs and so if you want to make your game look different, it won’t play any different, I don’t know how else to describe it…

RPS:…so there’ll be no mechanics…

Jason Haber: We’re not cutting anything out of the core game so it’ll be like ‘oh, we need to put this into those city packs’. They’re more something special for people that love Sim City and want to spend extra to get the deluxe edition. It’s interesting because I know it’s a hot topic now across the whole industry and I think if we look at the history actually it’s not that unusual to have.

RPS: I think expansion packs were easy to quantify, you know you’ve spent this much, you get this extra stuff; the microtransactions become harder to know what you’re eventually going to spend and how much of the game you’re going to get for it.

Jason Haber: And I think people will be satisfied, I would hope people are satisfied that they’re getting the full game because they are. You certainly get extra packs with that digital deluxe edition, but it’s nothing that’s adding new gameplay or cutting out of the game.

RPS: Your city can’t have water unless you spring an extra $10…

Jason Haber: (laughs) Exactly, if you could see how hard we’re working at getting everything into the game that we want to get into the game, I would hope that you’re satisfied that we’re doing everything that we can to put everything in the game for everyone.

RPS: Thanks for your time.

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72 Comments »

  1. Big Murray says:

    Do they actually have a game, or have all the development team been working on trailers so far?

    • TechnicalBen says:

      The game seems to be getting a massive push in the blogoshpere. I’m kinda concerned with that. Why? Because of the existence of C&C4 and C&C Alliances. I’m afraid this will turn out the same. :(

  2. Bishop149 says:

    Hmmmm in SimCity4 there were plenty of options to “make your game look different” all available free through an excellent and hard working modding community.
    I modded the absolute hell out of it . . . to the point where keeping track of the various incompatibilities became quite hard work!

    It worries me that if they want to sell this stuff they’ll do their absolute best to kill off any such modding, the community often comes up with better stuff (for free) than the Devs do.

    • GamerOS says:

      ((edit: I have no idea how this became a reply on someone’s post instead of it’s own separate post)

      Why do I have the uneasy feeling this game will be a showcase for the glassbox engine and will thus include some features that highlight the engines capability that are detrimental to the game as a whole?

      Ah well, that’s probably not going to happen.

      DLC by the truckload like the Sims and such, yeah, that’s gonna happen.
      And I bet there will be no Mod tools because they would be to ‘complicated’ for the users.

  3. Vraptor117 says:

    After seeing how the The Sims ended up, and how this game will have an online requirement that will be eventually used to pester you with DLC, I have lost any initial enthusiasm for this game.

    • P34nk says:

      Same thing with me, unfortunately :(
      I wish I can play this game solo with me managing my own city empires, deciding what kind of city it will be and which other cities (that I own) the city will depend on or upon.

      It’s good with the features they have so far and of course the graphical update, but everything else about forced multiplayer, DRM, DLC (and no mod possibilities?), and possibly no singleplayer feeling to the game totally lost my interest.

    • Joshua Northey says:

      I would love to see some developer someday scrap the DLC “nickle and diming” and just come out with a $200 initial price point but a polished and complete product with great mod support. If any game had the audience demographics to pull that off it is this one.

      Of course then you make piracy even more attractive, and you lose a lot of discretionary pricing ability and discretionary pricing really helps you make a profit.

      A man can dream though…

  4. Lord Custard Smingleigh says:

    They still have time to scrap their work and “reimagine” it as a FPS.

    • TechnicalBen says:

      It’s received a fate worse than death FPS treatment. Facebook treatment!

  5. Drinking with Skeletons says:

    I want to hear about their SimOcean trademark.

    Managing a marine ecosystem? HELL YES.

    • Neurotic says:

      Yeah, I could finally put my marine biology degree to use! :D

    • TechnicalBen says:

      I dreamt of this back in school, a whole 16 years ago! :O

  6. Cameron says:

    Had to do a bit of a double take here

    “Jason Haber: (laughs) Exactly, if you could see how hard we’re working at getting everything into the game that we want to get into the game, I would hope that you’re satisfied that we’re doing everything that we can to put everything in the game for everyone.”

    Sir Humphrey Appleby would be proud :P

  7. JonClaw says:

    “but I would say, it’s a difficult question to answer…”

    …without getting fired?

  8. S Jay says:

    No question about DRM? Oh man…

    • Joshua Northey says:

      Who cares about the stupid DRM, grow up and act like an adult. Not every product is going to be exactly what you want. You can take it or leave it, but the makers don’t “owe” you anything.

      DRM is a way companies are able to monetize games like this so they can actually get made. Yes it would be better if there was no stealing, and if customers actually saved their money responsibly so $00 price points were not so scary, but that isn’t the world we live in.

      So we have DRM to help them fight piracy and help them pay for the extra development people want and expect that cannot be covered by a $50 price point.

      • StingingVelvet says:

        None of that is really wrong but the problem is that access to the game will depend on EA, who like to shut down servers and end support. Games should be preserved, not put in a position to die eventually.

        Of course on the PC right now this is unlikely due to pirates, who actually foster game preservation. On closed systems though, hoo-boy…

        • Joshua Northey says:

          All sorts of products have a limited shelf life. If someone had told me before I bought Mass Effect 2 I could never play it again after the year 2020 I still would have bought it.

          Hell the old 90s system of disks and code books even had a practical shelf life. Within a decade many of the games were unplayable without significant efforts due to OS changes, and frequently before that they were unplayable due to people losing disks or the codes.

          People just like to complain, and DRM is an easy thing to complain about because the idea of owning something a physical copy is very appealing even if it is pretty much obsolete and archaic when it comes to IP.

          • InternetBatman says:

            If the idea of ownership is archaic, IP in general is in trouble. Respect for ownership is a two way street.

          • Cooper says:

            What?

            SimCity 4 can still be played today. I still do. A decade after it was released.

            Are you saying that somehow it’s a ‘good’ thing that SimCity 5 may not be playable in ten years time?

          • hamburger_cheesedoodle says:

            I played Mechwarrior 2 last month. Yeah, it took a little finagling to get it to work, but I did it. Guess what? It’s still a fun game. I still enjoyed it, and am glad I bought it. It’d be nice to think that games released in 2012 will be fun a decade and a half on as well, and can be played without the publisher’s say-so.

      • Brun says:

        Games cost too much money to make if they can’t be covered by a $60 price point. There have been multiple articles from industry experts explaining this – budgets have increased astronomically since 2006 – more sharply than in any other period in gaming’s history. We do not need a price point increase right now because that will cause budgets to inflate even faster, which will compound the problem.

        If EA or whoever really feels like $60 can’t cover the cost of making a game, maybe they should step back and think about their process – how are they making games? Why does making a good game cost so much money?

        My point is that publishers seem to be focused almost exclusively on wringing more and more revenue out of their customers. More revenue = more profit, obviously. But there are two ways to increase profit – one is to generate more revenue, and one is to reduce cost. I see plenty of publishers focusing on the former, and almost none of them making a respectable effort at the latter.

        But hey, what do I know? I’m a PC gamer – just a criminal from the 14-25 age bracket that doesn’t have a job and isn’t a responsible adult that saves his money and is afraid of $00 price points, right?

      • InternetBatman says:

        DRM is a concern for everyone, and you do yourself a grave disservice by dismissing it as something only children care about. Just because it is one way of monetization does not mean that it is the best or only way. Nor does it mean that it is particularly effective. DRM can and frequently does lead to a shoddy product, and that by itself should be a concern.

      • Answermancer says:

        So many times this.

      • beekay says:

        Yeah! Shut up Jay, you’re not allowed to have any objections about this game, because if you say anything other than “this is perfect and lovely” it’s just you being a MASSIVE ENTITLED TWAT.

        Personally I hope they disregard every customer they have and make a shitty bug-filled mess that downloads potent malware on to your computer. This is an outcome which is personally desirable to me, because I understand that saying “I don’t like this” is just meaningless vitriolic filth.

      • Harvey says:

        Listen pal, the DRM matters. It is not childish to want to know how the game you plan on spending money on will work, but namecalling absolutely is. We can debate about the relative worth of DRM in general all damn day, but I’m about as interested in revisiting that conversation as I am banging my head against a tree, so instead I’d like to talk about entitlement.

        Not the entitlement of companies that want to sell licenses they can revoke games for ever-higher prices while working their employees ever-longer hours whilst paying them as little as they can get away with. Not the entitlement of shitting out releasing a samey manshoot expansion pack yearly for the cost of a brand new game. Not even the entitlement of putting DRM on a game that makes a game more difficult for the customer to use.

        The entitlement I speak of is the hubris involved, the mental gymnastics it must take, to do these things and then be fucking surprised when people react. We live in an age of unprecedented communication, between people, and between businesses. That means the same venue that allows a company to release a game, and its bugfixes, and its requisite DLC, very easily also means that developers now have the ability to provide more to the customer after their purchase.

        You want the ability to add advertising in a game? You got it. You want to be able to sell me an expansion pack at the click of a button? Done. Well that shit works both ways pal, and now because a customer knows you can, they’re gonna want continuing service after they’ve made their purchase. The company that can provide that to their customers will make more money.

        To have publishers cry and moan and call people “entitled” because they want more for their money? Absolute hypocrisy. We’re your customers. Deal with it.

        Edit: WOT

        • Joshua Northey says:

          You do at least understand that this is the way 99% of the global economy works right? Businesses trying to make as much money as possible. It nice to have your little utopian dreams, but frnakly those dreams if realized would lead to a very small and rather unimpressive video game industry. If you want good games you need tens of thousands of programmers and artists making them, and if you want that you need system for putting food on their table.

          The rest is just details.

  9. nimzy says:

    I wonder what Wright has to say about this: what influence he has on this one, what he thinks about their approach, whether or not they’re considering what he was trying to accomplish with the earlier games in the series, etc.

    • Joshua Northey says:

      I think he would really like the idea behind the engine. The difficulty of approximation actual agents with functions really hampered the series as it got better and people expected more realism from it. The traffic/commuting/housing/working simulation in Sim City 4 (which I love) was frankly atrocious. And it was only worse in the earlier games.

      So that element of it I bet he would be super excited about (if they pull it off). The rest, who knows? But I hope they stay true to that vision because it is still a good one.

      The main things I want are:
      Simulation of actual agents
      Curved Roads
      Non square zones
      A growth mechanic more focused on resources a-la CityXL (you just end up with better functioning and looking cities than 4 and its “mystery growth”.

    • InternetBatman says:

      I think his was moving in this direction. Sim Ant and the Sims were much about how individual agents react to each other, and this is that on an explosion in scale.

  10. Ministry says:

    I’m finding it hard to get excited about this game due to the “mmo-like citybuilder” setup it has going on. It also sounded like he was hesitant to answer the question about the DLC preorder situation to avoid more bad press, considering it already has received quite a bit of backlash on gaming sites around the internet.

    He tried referencing Sim City 2000 from the start to try to “justify” what they are doing to the game, DLC wise. He couldn’t even answer the damn question. I see it now, they are going to have 1000 different DLC packs for different styled buildings, etc, instead of including them in the game when you purchase it.

    • P34nk says:

      Yeap, this is what worries me and he totally avoided the question. If they so want to sell different building styles, I’d be totally okay with expansion style DLC, BUT with a lot new features. I dont want Asian themed cities DLC, European city pack DLC, etc. I want all of them plus new features as a DLC. None of the ‘The Sims’ expansions either.

      I know that’s asking a lot, and might not happen. We will have to see. I’m totally against ‘mmo-like-citybuilder’ design that they currently have too.

  11. Struckd says:

    sigh…

    “I see that you can already pre-order it…” got me quite excited…once i finished reading the article, thought to myself, huh wonder where i can? so i went to the most logical place, the simcity website, and to my bitter disappointment…a big red button…PRE ORDER with ORIGIN…

    hahaha…no, ill wait for a boxed copy please :)

    • Shooop says:

      You’ll still have to use Origin – it’s like Valve games and Steam.

    • kaffis says:

      If only “waiting for a boxed copy” could get me out of Origin.

      When/if they release a boxed copy, it’ll still just install Origin for you.

      Which, as I’ve said elsewhere, means it’s a no-sell for me.

      Because I don’t trust EA with the information needed to make an account. Period. And their behavior surrounding Origin is just more ammunition against my trust than they had already built up with years of business practices and attitudes towards gamers.

      By forcing their digital distribution platform upon me as a requirement to play (so they can avoid paying shares to other distribution houses for their focus on the big DLC $$$$), they’ve lost their sales to me completely. Because this is 2012, when hackers are targetting *everything* online, so I think long and hard about creating accounts *anywhere*; and I simply don’t trust them with my personal information in the first place.

      Which is an utter shame, in this case.

      • Cameron says:

        I have to agree. As much as I love civilization and city sim games Origin is a step too far for my liking. If it’s mandatory I wont be buying it.

        • Capt. Eduardo del Mango says:

          Sim City’s a sandbox – it’s yours, your little playset to fiddle with, tweak, break, do what you want with. Having to rent a sandbox over the internet and pay for new coloured buckets and spades isn’t going to feel right. I’ve also just had my first bit of direct personal experience as to just how bad EA is at user databases and that sort of shit after myself and three friends took a week of faffing through EA’s systems (in my case, three separate but apparently indistinguishable systems – I think I now have an EA Account, an EA Membership Account, and an EA User Login) to try and get copies of CnC3 working online.

          Might look like cutting off my nose to spite my face, but there are enough other things I want to buy that I’m not going to feel too much of a loss when I don’t get this.

      • StingingVelvet says:

        A lot of that can be said about Valve too, who certainly don’t sell their games outside of Steam. Of course the difference is that a lot of people seem to distrust and dislike EA more than other companies, but honestly I never “got” that, so… I dunno.

        Origin bugs me, but no more than GFWL and Steam do. It’s all about putting more power in the company’s hands and less in mine.

        • Joshua Northey says:

          Alternatively people could all pay $5 or $10 dollars more for their games and ostracize their friends who pirate games the same way they would a friend who shoplifted so piracy became socially unacceptable and less prevalent. But I suspect people are not actually interested in that deal.

          People always want something for nothing.

        • LostViking says:

          Valve provided something new with Steam, and suddenly made the process of buying and playing PC games much easier. Not only that, but with all their weekend sales and whatnot they often offer very competitive prices.

          Origins come in late to the party, improve on absolutely nothing compared to Steam, prices are similar or higher, and they rely solely on exclusive games and EA’s power in the industry to force people to use it.

          The end result is that a game has to be really flippin good for me to buy it if it’s an EA game, while a lot of good but not stellar games will never get my dollar.

        • hamburger_cheesedoodle says:

          The Steam v. Origin thing comes down to who you can trust. I get people who are mistrustful of both companies, I don’t understand but won’t complain about people who trust both, but honestly I feel like Valve have shown themselves to be a much more trustworthy company than EA for digital distribution. Valve’s not perfect, and their mistakes always get a lot of press- but they always try to rectify them, make things right with their consumers. EA is still snatching away entire libraries of games that have been legitimately purchased because someone said something they didn’t like on their forums. A lot of people see this going on, which is why you find so many people who are willing to back Steam over Origin.

    • Commisar says:

      you have to use Origin, and if you can’t handle that, then you can’t handle the Half Life series, as it requires Steam.

  12. Sic says:

    … and it’s Origin, so who cares?

  13. Amun says:

    I just want Maxis back. EA is like a parasite.

    No, EA *IS* a parasite.

    • Hematite says:

      Your metaphor is like a simile.

    • Joshua Northey says:

      EA puts food on a lot of people’s tables. That is for better or worse how the world works.

      • LostViking says:

        So just because they employ people we shouldn’t care what they do?

      • TechnicalBen says:

        By what means though? Soylent green?

      • f1x says:

        Actually, is customers that put food on those tables

      • InternetBatman says:

        So EA is moral in all their decisions because they employ people?

      • PhoenixTank says:

        I wasn’t going to comment on your posts until I got to this point. Are you a shill? I’m sorry but I haven’t seen this much blind defence for a while (at least in the parts of the internet I frequent). EA are not angels or saints… and they really aren’t the worst company in the world either.
        While people love to complain (especially online) it shouldn’t be hard to see why many don’t like the road they are going down, especially with what has always been a single player franchise. I am psyched for the gameplay they will have on offer but I really don’t like the online restriction. I prefer to not have my purchasing decisions clouded with unnecessary factors.

        To continue the terrible road metaphor: It is of no compensation to me to hear someone say “Hey guys! Enjoying the trip? Oh you aren’t? Don’t worry – it’ll be fine when we get there. Just you wait and see. Those pesky pirates won’t end up with the best product yet again – oh ho ho! Not this time. Oh and did you know EA feeds people! How cool are they!?”
        DRM is largely ineffective, fella. I can live with Origin (and I do for BF3 and ME3) but an online check on launch is not a strong type of DRM either and will certainly be broken quickly. It just seems so utterly pointless – especially as drm “solutions” usually cost money to implement, taking away from the development budget.

        • Joshua Northey says:

          I am hardly a piad shill, I am just someone who is an adult who has actually worked in the business world and held a real job and managed projects on the scale of big budget video games. I also happen to have worked on a few small games myself back in the day.

          Anyway the point is that most people complaining about the business of videogames frankly don’t know much of anything about the business of video games so they just come off as whiny children.

          People love to complain about DRM, DLC, ^0 and 70$ price points games made for a mass audience instead of the hardcore. But that is how everything works. Where there is a market for more hardcore games one develops, where there is a market for DRM free games one develops. Pissing into the wind with rage because you cannot get your Mass Effect 3 without DRM is just childish.

          I cannot get a home loan that comes without the bank selling my personal information here there and everywhere.

          That is life. That is how our economy works. It would be nice if there were a better way, and maybe someday their will be, but so far other models have proven to be quite inferior and the video game space isn’t really doing much innovation other than “make me what I want for the price I want and then maybe I won’t think you are the devil.”

          • Gira says:

            Sorry, why is it “childish” for a customer to demand something that improves their user experience? And does a large number of buyers demanding this thing not constitute a legitimate business concern? You’re not being an “adult” about this; you’re being a mindless apologist. Citing “that is how our economy” works comes off as a pathetic, almost masochistic grasp of high school-level explanations of laissez-faire capitalism. Customers have every right to demand a better product, and abstain from purchasing a product if it’s unsatisfactory. Demonising companies for pursuing undesirable products and product strategies is certainly a little over-the-top, but to suggest that people should just cough up and accept intrusive DRM, for instance, because “that is life”, is ridiculous.

          • Commisar says:

            good for you. It seems that many RPS commentors get on the EA Hatetrain every morning. They keep making up more and more inane excuses to pirate EA games, like “Origin is bad, totally NOT like Steam” or “EA IS EVIL, the FORCED Maxis to change SimCity”. Good for you for trying to stop the mindless hate.

  14. Pugiron says:

    No questions about the always-on bullshit? Well, my doubts about the integrity of RPS are all settled. There is no integrity. They are just another “kiss ass for advertising” site. Sad.

  15. Jimbo says:

    The complete version is £65 on Origin – that’s kinda a lot. Almost 3x what I typically pay for a retail copy of a new pc game. Even the incomplete version is £45.

    The example of the removal van blocking the fire truck and etc. etc. sounds like an unintuitive mess from a gameplay perspective once you extrapolate it across the whole game. Based on that there could be a hundred reasons why your city just burned to the ground. That ‘simulated’ style sounds cool, but it is still a game, and the last thing you want is for the player to see something happening and have no idea why, or not even know if it was just some freak occurance that might never happen again. Not saying it can’t work, but the necessary information will need to be presented to the player extremely well.

  16. Leaufai says:

    “If you look at the way the simulation works, and this is one of the reasons that we’re calling it SimCity [and not SC5]”

    No, that’s never a good reason. I’m sick of this trend of reusing a name to relaunch a franchise. People will still refer to this as SC5 and in the mean time, not calling it that officially, is confusing to a lot of people. Luckily screenshots and descriptions of the original SimCity and the new one will quickly point out which it is, but with other franchises this isn’t always the case. An example of this would be the new Star Trek movie (which have the same characters). Now when you want to refer to this movie you can easily confuse people because what are you referring too. The Original Series, this movie or Star Trek as a whole?

  17. sharkh20 says:

    I could have sworn that the original Sims had purchasable addons from some little online store.

  18. LostViking says:

    Damn you to heck EA, signing up Maxis. This might be the game that will break my strict Origins boycott ;)

    That said I will delete it the day I’m tired of Sim City, format my drive and sprinkle holy water over my PC internals…

  19. MeestaNob says:

    “First of all you should do your research…”

    What an asshole response.

  20. indexrps says:

    Meh, I’m NOT excited…

    I’m SO excited!

  21. levictus says:

    Why were there no questions about support for modding and the nature of the online component?

    These are by far the most important questions about the new simcity .

    • indexrps says:

      Maybe because that had already been discussed before??
      While you’re at it, why can’t they talk about expansions?

      • levictus says:

        Where have they described the nature of the online component and how it relates to modding?

  22. Josh W says:

    I’m a little surprised they are using agents for water and power supply, considering this is something that actually suites a simple set of network nodes pretty easily (rolls up sleeves):

    Substations put down an area that gets new houses added to it’s list, (an area that shrinks dirchlet style if new substations are added nearby), and so you can automatically generate an efficiently subdivided network from the spatial relationships.

    This network then transmits changes in demand, (multiplied by a “transport loss” factor based on it’s current coverage area) from each building to the local substation, and then on, so that you don’t constantly keep recalculating the power levels, unless something actually changes.

    Same approach to main grid nodes, that send demand to local power stations, which switches them on, or you could do it differently and compare demand to current supply (generated separately via the existing process for industry), and sets prices depending on how much you buy from other cities.

    You can also have brownouts by keeping track of the current demand at each node and capping it, leading to a ring like that heat agent, except that it starts at maximum radius and works inwards, until it has cut off enough houses/substations from power.

    It might be that discrete agent swarms handle these kinds of quirks automatically, in which case I can see why they use them, (don’t hardcode what you can solve in a single principle) but my suspicion is that they will be more processor intensive than this approach, or other network/node focused ones.

    They’ll probably eventually move from using roads for everything to having separate power and water paths, sending demand agents along the paths, then sending power or water back etc, to handle all that stuff, but it seems like two trips when one will do, and could lead to weird rhythms if demand changes quickly in houses, leading to lost wandering power agents, or strange things like that. If you do it the other way, you immediately know if there’s enough power, because brownouts due to bottlenecks can be calculated really early on, before you even leave the substation.