Schrödinger’s SimCity: EA On Hacks vs Mods, Fixing Traffic

By Cara Ellison on March 15th, 2013 at 4:00 pm.

Global meltdown
In this, our ELEVENTH DAY of the equivalent of PC gaming’s Leveson Inquiry, Senior Director of worldwide communications at EA Maxis Erik Reynolds has written a series of ‘transparent tweets’. These tweets indicate that a post on the Simcity forum about a hack for offline mode violated their Terms of Service, and the discussion would have to be moved elsewhere.

As RPS broke on the 12th of March, it wouldn’t take a “significant amount of engineering work” to make the game offline, and modders have already got on the case. The discussion on the official forums has now been removed as this Reddit thread shows. Maybe it’s just because the Simcity forum Terms of Service are ‘oh holy god what have we got ourselves into let’s pretend it’s not happening LALALALALA CANT HEAR YOU’. But mostly it is because Reynolds says ‘hacks are not mods’. As the dudebros at CVG have also reported, pertinent tweets:

Reynolds remarked to a question asking who sets the terms of service that “Policy is set by legal, but enforced by us”.

Meanwhile, rockily-named Lead Designer of SimCity Stone Librande slated on Simcity Update 8 “I wanted to take a moment to address some of the questions that I’ve been hearing about our game. Now that we’re getting close to resolving our server issues, we’re putting a lot of attention on improving the simulation based on the community’s feedback.” Here is a summary of that community feedback from John.

In reply, Stone Librande, who really should be a luchador, rumbled, “Our main focus right now is updating the pathing system that the Agents use to get to their Sinks,” which is not some sort of CIA-based hygiene initiative, but a fix for cars going stark raving mental.

END OF THE WORLD

“We understand that when cars always take the shortest route between point A and point B there will be unavoidable (and illogical) traffic jams, so we are retuning these values to make the traffic flow more realistically. Guillaume Pierre (our lead scripter) talked a bit about the improvements that we are making to the traffic system in the game here. To dig a little deeper our roads will have a weighting system based on 25%, 50% and 75% capacity. As a road hits those marks it will become less and less appealing for other cars, increasing the likelihood of them taking an alternate path if one exists.”

In addition, Stone also said they were looking into fixing how emergency vehicles are more erratic than a cat on Berocca. Which is sadly not a thing I google searched.

Stone also took the time to address another of John’s favourite issues, the persistence of Sims in SimCity.

“The Sims in the game are persistent in many respects. They go from a home to a workplace or to a shop and back each day. Their happiness, money, sickness, education level, etc. are also persistent and are carried around the city with each Sim as the simulation unfolds. But many aspects of the Sims are not persistent. They don’t own a particular house or have permanent employment. We also don’t track their names, their clothing, gender, or skin color. We did this as in attempt to increase performance so that we could have more Sims in the city. Ultimately we didn’t feel that the cost of adding in that extra layer of micro detail made the macro game play richer. Game design is filled with tradeoffs and compromises like this and we are constantly evaluating these (and many other) decisions.”

But, if a Sim dies in an offline SimCity does it make a noise?

In any case what I like to imagine now is not that I specifically am Malcolm Tucker but that the media is Malcolm Tucker freeroaming the leafy corridors of EA giving every slightly carefree exec a bollocking. “YOU SHOULD HAVE HAD A DISCUSSION WITH ME ABOUT THAT,” Malcolm flanked by fans rages, veins popping out of his head. Other studios observe from afar. “It’s his dream,” they whisper to each other. “A non-stop bollock shop.” Says the other to the first: “Trouble is that we’ll be getting some of that in about an hour.” The first nods. “Yeah. I don’t know which is worse, watching him slowly rumble toward you like prostate cancer, or, him appearing suddenly out of nowhere like a severe stroke.”

Edit by John: It’s also worth nothing that despite repeated requests, and even at one point a promise of a reply “shortly”, we’ve been entirely ignored by Maxis. Now we’re not even getting replies from EA’s UK PRs.

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240 Comments »

  1. MuscleHorse says:

    Great. Thanks. Now I’m going to spend my weekend watching The Thick Of It again.

    On topic: Well, there goes EA’s chance of me actually buying this thing. I really do want to play it; I really don’t want to piss about with their DRM.

    • Teovald says:

      I just bought Anno 2070 as a reaction to SimCity. It is on sale on steam right now, making it go for a reasonable price even with all its DLCs.
      It seems a bit similar to SimCity and I have never played either an Anno or a SimCity anyway.

      • RedViv says:

        Ha, I’m fairly certain that the current sales are somewhat inspired by the inevitable reaction to the SC release. Anno and Tropico are both up, and both great. Two different styles of city sims, and both different from SimCity. The more the merrier, I suppose.

        • Teovald says:

          It seems like the smart thing to do.
          All these articles on SimCity made me want to play to a city building game but I don’t want to give money to EA, especially after this disastrous launch.
          A nifty steam sale is the obvious thing to do here :)

      • StranaMente says:

        Isn’t Anno still plagued by Tages drm? And isn’t Tages drm the one that lets you have only 3 installs?
        Also: am I right to say that certain (non critical) parts of the game works only when you’re on-line?
        Are you required to access to the Ubi client?
        Serious questions, because I’m interested in the game.

        • caddyB says:

          Anno has Uplay as DRM, which you need to login to play. You can play without a connection to the server but you’ll lose out on your Ark (basically allows you to carry stuff from a mission to another).

        • Stromko says:

          So essentially, yes to all. You need to be online to enjoy the full game of ANNO 2070.

          Also, it is an inferior sequel to Dawn of Discovery/ANNO 1400 in every way, including the massive online integration/DRM.

          Buying ANNO 2070 to spite SimCity 2013 would be like buying Everquest to spite World of Warcraft. The first one might be less popular, but Sony Online is just as bad as Blizzactivision, and you’re wasting your time with an arguably inferior game to boot.

          • StranaMente says:

            Well, I wasn’t going to buy it to “spite” a company. Corporations are not people and have no feelings.
            I usually buy games because they entertain me, and the only reason I usually not buy some game I like these days is because it has some form of DRM I’m not comfortable with.
            I am mildly interested in the game though, but not sure about the Drm that may or may not in various forms still haunt this game, since it seems that the steam page is not actually representative of the actual situation.

        • Brise Bonbons says:

          I just installed Anno 2070 (got it on Gamers Gate a while back when it was so cheap I just didn’t care about DRM anymore), and it does seem to require logging into the UPlay client. Also the autopatcher is a hateful piece of shit that kept hanging mid-update, and the process of activating a game you own on UPlay is just about as unintuitive as possible.

          That said, IIRC the always-on DRM proper was removed, wasn’t it? That’s my recollection at least. I didn’t try unplugging my modem while playing, so I can’t say from personal experience.

          I also demo’d and purchased Tropico 4, and thought it was a fine game with (seemingly) much less baggage than Anno is carrying around. That said, Tropico feels more like an alternative to Dwarf Fortress than Sim City, and Anno feels like a different kettle of fish entirely.

          • Hahaha says:

            “you can play without a connection to the server but you’ll lose out on your Ark”

            If you can play offline with all the game features the DRM will have been removed.

          • StranaMente says:

            I already bought Tropico 4, but it has a really annoying glitch on my pc showing the low detail lods almost all the time. So I can’t play that, and won’t buy/play the new sim city. I’ll probably end up waiting for the next sale.

        • Thirst says:

          Yes Anno 2070 and Ubisoft drm is just as bad, you can only activate this game 3 times, meaning if you change significant hardware like the motherboard, that’s one activation gone. If you put the game on your laptop, that’s another activation gone. Also if you don’t play online you lose access to certain key features.

          • kael13 says:

            The 3 activation limit has been removed.

          • Martel says:

            Pretty sure they patched that out, at least the forums for that game suggest they removed the activation limits with a patch.

      • Giuseppe says:

        Buying Anno 2070 as a reaction to SimCityTown doesn’t make that much sense to me. Anno 2070 had it’s own major issues on release and it still is a pain in the ass compared to other games in the series. It’s also a very different type of city-builder.

        Why not play a proper SimCity?

        • The Random One says:

          Because some people might find it illogical to reward a company that just put out a bad game in a series they enjoy by buying a previous game on that series?

          Anyway, the logical choice is to buy Tropico 4. I know this because I asked a Vulcan and he told me the logical choice was to buy Cities XL Platinum, so logic knows nothing about city builders.

          • Giuseppe says:

            The guy I replied to just said that he has never played a SimCity game, so I suspect it’s not a “series he enjoys”. I simply recommended him an excellent title in that series that costs 6 times less than what EA just put out. I also said that the Anno game he bought is a different type of city builder, with it’s own DRM issues.

    • lofaszjoska says:

      Wait, In the Loop has a series spin-off and no one told me?

    • valz says:

      Anno 1404 is a much better game. Play it instead.

  2. Prime-Mover says:

    So there’s a forum section for Simcity Mods… why?

  3. Lokik says:

    So, I’ve heard that SimCity 4 is a good game and has some nice mods for it as well…

    • RobinOttens says:

      But it doesn’t have the shiny 3D graphics! I want the shiny 3D graphics!!

      .. well, yeah, sure ok, sim city 4 looks like a superior alternative at this point I agree.

      • Mctittles says:

        Actually SC4 does have 3d graphics, but renders them to an orthographic view on a scrollable area in real time.

        I would argue in a lot of ways SC4 has better graphics than 2013. While 2013 has multiple viewing angles, SC4 has much higher detail on it’s textures with more variation and richness in it’s buildings and plant life. Plus all the detail that happens on buildings when they become run-down over time.

        Here is a link to some Steam Screenshots to give you an idea:
        http://steamcommunity.com/app/24780/screenshots/?p=1&browsefilter=toprated

        • RobinOttens says:

          Wow, didn’t know that. Those screenshots look 2D at first glance, but now that you mention it, it is sorta noticeable that there’s polygons going on there. Cool.

    • P34nk says:

      You heard that right. Head to simtropolis.com and find out the many many good mods of SimCity 4.

    • Tacroy says:

      Plus Tropico 4 and Anno 2070 are both on sale right now.

      • aldo_14 says:

        Does Anno 2700 still have the horrible DRM? Because I’ve been tempted for a while by that, but never went the whole hog of actually buying it.

        SimCity has had an interesting effect of A) getting me wanting to play the genre and b) wanting to avoid SimCity like the plague.

        • caddyB says:

          As I said above, Anno has Uplay as DRM, which is pretty much steam for ubisoft games. You can play offline ( although you probably need to login at the start ) and you’ll only lose out on carrying stuff from one mission to another and some ark upgrades.

          • GamerOS says:

            The Ark thing doesn’t even matter as only continuous games and a handful of missions actually allow access to your online Ark

          • Hahaha says:

            Whoa slow down, it removes a feature from the game to force you to play it online if you want the full thing and it doesn’t even matter

  4. Discopanda says:

    So what is the difference between “hacking” and “modding” that they’re pointing out in this case? Because at this rate, there’s not going to be a “modding” community for EA/Maxis games in the foreseeable future, if they keep up with this always-online hogwash.

    • Hahaha says:

      It removes the ‘Connected check’ hence crack the good thing to come out of this is I guess RPS will be reporting on cracks in the future? I hope they do an article on the D3 game hacks.

      • Faxmachinen says:

        Terminology:
        * Hacking: Modifying stuff.
        * Modding: Modifying stuff.
        * Cracking: Illegitimately obtaining access (usually by modifying stuff).

        A poem I wrote to help you remember:

        Modding is hacking
        and a mod is a hack.
        Cracking is hacking
        but with hats that are black.
        Thus
        A hack is a modification
        by frob or by swivel,
        Magically disappearing
        corporate drivel.
        But
        A crack is a modification
        with nefarious intent;
        The corporation is robbed
        from money unspent.

    • Chris D says:

      I think it’s the same as the difference between a freedom fighter and a terrorist.

    • RedViv says:

      In its current state, the offline plus debug mode mod allows you to totally mess up other people’s games. That’s probably the difference.

      • Brun says:

        This. The crack in its current form has the potential to screw up online play for other people – anything built outside your city’s boundaries will end up in someone else’s when you reconnect. It can be abused as a griefing tool for malicious users.

        • Hahaha says:

          Well the easiest way to see why they deleted the thread is to reup the mod but remove one bit of functionality at a time, I would start with the ‘connected check’

          “In the past we’ve supported the modding community and in the future we are committed to supporting. Hacks are not mods.”

        • Vorphalack says:

          From what i’ve seen you can do that perfectly well without mods. Just build Thugville, Backwoods County and flood your region with home made criminal tourists.

          • Brun says:

            There are plenty of games in which you can grief people both by using in-game mechanics and by hacking.

            Does that make hacking OK in all of those games? Remove the blinders man.

          • Vorphalack says:

            Most games that allow mods in online space will neatly solve the problem by segregating the servers into ”classic” and ”mod enabled”. Thus the two never clash, and everyone is happy. Banning mods because it could have some negative impact for online play is the lazy way out and should not be condoned.

          • Brun says:

            If you consider this a mod it’s an unsupported one. SimCity does not yet officially support mods, so there can be no “mod-enabled” and “mod-free” servers.

          • darkChozo says:

            And just to note, in recent years, multiplayer games that allow mods have become the exception, not the norm. The fact that that’s true is a shame, as is the fact that this game is multiplayer to begin with, but SimCity isn’t some crazy outlier for not having mod support. BF3 is a rather relevant example here (oh hi there, EA!).

          • Vorphalack says:

            That is, however, the elegant and consumer friendly solution to online modding if they plan to allow any mods which change the core game. Considering that this mod isn’t even a concern for anyone playing online, they really have no good reason to shut down discussion about it other than embarrassment.

          • Brun says:

            So what if people who use this crack decide they want to play online one day? You know. CHOOSE to play online? Like in the old days? If their actions while offline can have an adverse and unintended effect on other online players, then online players could be affected by this crack whether they themselves use it or not.

          • Kamos says:

            Well, maybe EA should have thought of that. Offline cities stay offline, online cities stay online. Instead, since they haven’t handled the issue, they have invited everyone to use a potentially game breaking mod.

          • Brun says:

            What? That makes no sense at all. So hacking a game is acceptable if you don’t like how it’s designed now, other players be damned? Guess you should go tell all those DayZ hackers to keep at it!

          • Kamos says:

            Single player cities – stay single player, always
            Multi player cities – stay multiplayer, always

            I don’t know how you’ve managed to translate that into “hacking an online game is acceptable”.

          • Brun says:

            That’s not how it works though. The current SimCity doesn’t do that, it doesn’t accommodate offline games in any way.

            You’re basically trying to wave my argument aside by saying “well, EA should have done it this way, so any damage caused by people trying to make the game that the way it should be is EA’s fault.” By that logic, I can say that Sony should have made me invincible in PlanetSide 2, so I’m allowed to hack the game to make myself invincible, and all of the damage done to the gameplay as a result are Sony’s fault, because they should have known better in the first place.

            Point is, what EA should have done is irrelevant. I’m not saying you aren’t allowed to crack the game, but EA is perfectly within its rights to squelch discussion of it on their own forums if they believe it may have an adverse effect on legitimate online players (and there has already been some evidence that cracking can enable people to create such adverse effects).

          • Kamos says:

            I did not say EA should have done anything. What I’ve said is that they have effectively invited this situation to happen, since they have failed to handle it beforehand.

            Also, the game makes absolutely no attempt to prevent such meddling. Considering it is an online game, designed to be an online game, you’d expect they would pay at least some attention to the online part of the online game.

            For instance. They could have made it so modifications made outside the city boundary never get synced. Or, even more effective, they could use timestamps and the frequent server DRM checks to see if a city has been modified while the game was offline, and discard those changes made while the game wasn’t phoning home – a rollback.

        • JohnnyMaverik says:

          Ok, can be used as a griefing tool in a game which is already really, really easy to grief in. However, on the other side of the table, exposes that a piece of functionality that could have been included and many, many people wanted to be included, offline play, as being very possible, even though consumers were told it was impossible. Exposes the online only as DRM only, not something vital to functionality as we were told.

          Now it’s your turn to take the blinkers off man, yes this mod/hack can be abused, but if I want to grief your game I can do it other ways too, loads and loads of others ways, lots of people have bought this game and don’t like it or worse simply can’t play it due to the online only, this mod/hack makes that better for them (I presume).

          Oh P.S. what piece of functionality would let you avoid griefing? Yea…

          • Hahaha says:

            crack

            http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Software_cracking

            your removing ‘drm checks’ it’s a crack

          • Brun says:

            This hack/mod/whatever allows you to grief in ways that are impossible in the base game (i.e. directly destroying other people’s buildings/infrastructure. The potential for abuse is much greater here, but people are just unwilling to see that because they’re so busy wanting EA to be evil.

          • SanguineAngel says:

            Hahaha, I don’t think anyone is claiming it’s a crack – it doesn’t circumvent the initial DRM check so does not ‘crack’ the game in that respect. I do believe it is a hack though – it allows you to interfere with other players experience in a direct way (although that was not the intention of it).

          • JohnnyMaverik says:

            EA aren’t evil, they are a massive, slow, dumb corporation and like most massive, slow, dumb corporations they make stupid mistakes and then won’t fix them because they don’t want to take responsibility because they don’t want to deal with the external i told you so’s and to an even greater extent the internal well who’s stupid idea was this anyway. They have also been this way for… well bloody ages.

            Yes, I agree, this can be abused quite badly, it can also fix problems for people, 50/50. You know what would have been better? If you could just play offline single player legitimately. All this stuff, all this animosity, all this bitterness, this hack, future hacks, people who will undoubtedly try and disrupt the experience for others through griefing in the game, comes back to EA, their decision, their fault, easily fixed of course but I wouldn’t hold your breathe because that would involve admitting they made a mistake.

          • Hahaha says:

            “Hahaha, I don’t think anyone is claiming it’s a crack”

            “Software cracking is the modification of software to remove or disable features which are considered undesirable by the person cracking the software, usually related to protection methods: (copy protection, protection against the manipulation of software), trial/demo version, serial number, hardware key, date checks, CD check or software annoyances like nag screens and adware.”

            Removing the server check is a crack……

          • Brun says:

            I’m not absolving EA of their poor design decisions. However, that’s not a justification for griefing or hacking.

            It’s standard practice in almost every online game community forum for discussions of any cracks, hacks, or mods that can be abused (i.e. merely having the potential is a sufficient condition) to grief or hack, intentionally or unintentionally, to be removed. They can’t stop people from using those things (they can try with things like VAC and other cheat-detection) but they can stop discussion of it on the forums on which they dictate policy.

          • Kamos says:

            Using that definition, removing a default character model and replacing it with something else is also a crack.

            It is understandable that online games do not want mods in them (unless they are mods accepted by all participants). However, I fail to see the difference between a mod and a crack.

      • Discopanda says:

        But… isn’t it fairly easy to torpedo other player’s cities legitimately? Like, by building a totally residential city with parks and housing, which spawns thousands of criminals to infest neighboring towns?

        • Hahaha says:

          From what I read the guy thinks it’s possible to make it so you can build/demolish on other peoples regions. A bit more malicious than using in game means.

          • Brun says:

            Apparently it happens when you build outside the 2km x 2km city limit. If anything you place out there happens to fall within someone else’s 2km x 2km plot when you reconnect, it will overwrite/demolish whatever was there.

          • Hahaha says:

            Interesting, surely it would be easy to rollback though?

        • Brun says:

          “Isn’t it possible to get perfect headshots every time in Counter-Strike without using an aimbot? So that makes aimbots OK.”

          • Kamos says:

            Well, if EA had provided the ability to play offline in the first place, this probably wouldn’t be happening. At least, not so soon.

          • Brun says:

            “If Valve made aiming easier we wouldn’t need aimbots.”

          • Kamos says:

            What is the problem if someone wants to use an aimbot in an offline game? Your example is skewed and makes no sense.

          • Brun says:

            SimCity is both online and (post-crack) offline. Having the ability to play offline does not exclude you from playing online, and doing so may have the potential (as discussed below) of breaking the game for other people.

          • Kamos says:

            May potentially break the game, but as a collateral effect of both: 1) the “mod”/”crack” and 2) the game itself making effectively no attempt to prevent such meddling on the server side.

            And now I come back to my original point: if offline play was a feature, people wouldn’t be using a mod/crack for offline play, and the potential hack wouldn’t have been found. At least not so soon. I’m not saying hacking an online game and breaking it for other people is a good thing.

          • Brun says:

            If ifs and buts were candy and nuts we’d all have a Merry Christmas. Sure, if EA had included offline play as a feature, we wouldn’t be having this conversation. I’m not talking about what things would be like if they had done that. I’m talking about things as they are now.

            Look, I get that you don’t like the DRM, but it’s not really relevant to what I’m talking about here. We’re talking about EA deleting forum posts with instructions about the crack. EA, as would any other publisher of online games, be expected to limit the amount of damage to the experience of their online players – you know, the ones that actually want to be playing online. And just because their poor design decisions enabled this situation doesn’t mean they’re going to just sit back and let it happen.

        • SkittleDiddler says:

          Good call. EA aren’t removing any mention of the offline modification because they consider it a hack that could pose a threat to the stability and integrity of the game. Any mention of “mods” or “hacks” only means less attention will be paid to the inevitable DLC deluge; that’s what they’re scared of here.

          • Hahaha says:

            Or they don’t want the removal of DRM to become something they endorse.

          • SkittleDiddler says:

            Then why are they bothering to draw unnecessary attention to the controversy by tweeting about it? SimCity forum users are already well aware of EA’s stance on the subject of DRM. Hell, they drive the point home in the EA Forums ToS and every time they censor for offensive content.

            This isn’t about DRM. It’s about customers crossing over EA’s “gaming as a service” chalk line. They want consumers to accept the fact that EA controls every single aspect of the SimCity gaming experience.

          • Hahaha says:

            Maybe because everyone is writing articles on it?
            Maybe because if they just delete it people will throw an even bigger fit.

            “In the past we’ve supported the modding community and in the future we are committed to supporting. Hacks are not mods.”

          • SkittleDiddler says:

            If EA were simply deleting the offensive content instead of deleting and then blabbing about it in a very public tweet, those deletions wouldn’t be getting any more attention than they normally do.

            Hey, at least EA are being consistently foot-in-mouth with their public relations so far — makes it much easier to gauge how toxic their next press release is going to be.

          • Hahaha says:

            Just deleting that thread would of created lots and lots of reups (will happen anyway) and also headlines along the lines of “EA censors mod maker”, “EA deletes thread silences mod maker” etc

            At least this way they get some “good” publicity.

      • UberMonkey says:

        Only problem with that perspective is that it’s not true. The guy who created the “hack” said that the changes you make to highways only appear when you load the city you had open when you made the change, and that the changes he was able to make in the cities of other players were on his client-side only and did not save to the server.

    • Vorphalack says:

      It’s pretty simple. Any mod which exposes EAs marketing hype as total bollox is a ”hack” and therefore the spawn of evil incarnate, which is against the ToS. Any hack which is quietly compliant and doesn’t embarrass the money men is a mod.

    • Lemming says:

      As far as EA is concerned, any mod that they don’t like or makes them look bad is a ‘hack’. A hack, having negative perceptions they’ll be keen to encourage. This is despite the fact that the ‘hack’ in question does nothing but allows the user to play their game.

    • Mr. Mister says:

      Hey, if Just Cause 2 Multiplayer is called a mod even by the developers, why shyouldn’t a Sim-City 2013 True Singleplayer be?

    • benkc says:

      OK, this thread has me pretty confused.

      1) I thought I read elsewhere that the mod allows you to build outside the city limits, but those changes are only saved to your city — eg, if you build roads all over someone else’s city in the same region, you see those roads when looking at your city, but they don’t when looking at their city. There was some speculation that it might be possible to spoof it into letting you actually edit another person’s city wholesale, but the modder wasn’t planning to make that work.

      Is all of that bollocks, or are a bunch of the claims above ill-informed?

      2) A bunch of people are also saying that it lets you bypass the DRM entirely. Is that actually true? I thought it only removed the 20 minute time limit after the connection went down — meaning that it was still “online required at launch” DRM. Which is it?

      • Hahaha says:

        1) The modder chose not to allow it to sync in the “other player town editing” vid also the roads outside of the playable area are synced.

        “IMPORTANT NOTE: I have NOT enabled syncing of data for this. All cities you see in this video remain UNHARMED – nothing got synced to server. I would not condone any action which could actually harm another player’s city without permission!”

        “Not only that – but you can edit the highways ANYWHERE – even outside of your city boundary… and even if you quit the game and log back in later, it’s all saved safely on the server.”

        2) It removes a DRM check it’s a crack

        http://www.youtube.com/user/UKAzzer/videos?flow=grid&view=0

  5. Low Life says:

    This is a silly article, and you should feel proud for posting it.

  6. Brun says:

    It’s understandable that they remove threads about the sort of hacks that are happening currently – it is a multiplayer game. Plenty of other multiplayer games – even ones with offline single player – will ban discussion of any hacks and unofficial mods from their forums as they can contribute to cheating. The moderators policing the forums are not likely to have time to review each thread and post rigorously, nor are they likely to be fully qualified to judge whether a hack or mod is benign.

    We get that you’re trying to drive the boot heel through EA’s windpipe here, Cara, but they’ve given you plenty of material with which to do so already, you don’t need to need to use their fairly standard forum policy.

    EDIT: Much to my surprise, today’s EA article was not written by John. Apologies all around.

    • Bluerps says:

      Whoa. I didn’t know that John Walker was scottish and female and named Cara Ellison!

      • Brun says:

        Yes I caught that a few seconds ago. I thought the tone of the article was a little sillier than most John Walker fare when I read it, but it still didn’t register until I saw Cara’s name at the top.

        • Bluerps says:

          She’s also referring to “John’s favourite issues” and a summary of community feedback “from John”. But to be honest, I was a bit surprised too, so I understand how you made that mistake.

    • Vorphalack says:

      I’m not really sure how a simple mod that allows you to play offline is relevant to cheating online.

      • Brun says:

        Only because you’re so busy grasping at every little straw to hate EA that you haven’t read the rest of the comments.

        • Vorphalack says:

          I read your entire post and i’d like my point addressed.

          • Brun says:

            I’ve already done that, in several posts in this thread. If you still can’t see why it is relevant (HINT: some people like playing both offline and online), you’re even more blinded than I thought.

          • Vorphalack says:

            You have absolutely not explained why a mod that allows offline play is relevant to your argument that mods should be banned because they can interfere with online play.

          • darkChozo says:

            Didn’t he say that this mod can affect other players’ cities? Like five times?

          • Brun says:

            Your rage has clearly limited your capacity for rational thought, so I’ll walk you through it nice and slow.

            1) A person enables the debug mode (“the crack”). In addition to allowing you to play offline, this mode supposedly allows you to place roads and highways outside your city’s 2km x 2km boundary.

            2) This person loads up a city he made online in a public region, and switches to debug mode. He then pulls the plug on his router, disconnecting him from the server (but since debug mode is on, there is no 20 minute offline timeout, hence he is now in “offline mode”).

            3) He fills the area around his city with roads.

            4) He then plugs his router back in and disables debug mode. His city is then synced with the server, and his changes are applied to his region.

            5) Some of the roads he added outside of the 2km x 2km square fall within the borders of someone else’s city in the same region. They therefore irreparably destroy anything occupying the same space.

            When done intentionally, this is a textbook definition of griefing, and it’s done in a way that is impossible with an unmodified game.

            You either assumed that everyone using this hack/crack/mod intends to use it to play offline forever, or that people would only use it for its original, benign purpose. This is the internet – it’s full of malicious people who are willing to screw with others for no reason beyond their own enjoyment. Even if the hack/crack/mod is intended to be used for benign purposes, if it can be used maliciously it will have a detrimental impact on legitimate players.

          • Vorphalack says:

            Have you actually got any evidence that this is possible or is this just hypothesis? Because i’ve not seen any evidence that the debug mode allows you to place highways inside another city boundary, only outside a boundary. Also the server will have two conflicting cities being uploaded which is more likely to cause a crash when conflicting data is encountered. The cloud save would almost certainly restore the city of the player being griefed if this could occur. So yeah, i’d like some proof of this or i’m going to assume it’s an unproven hypothesis.

          • Brun says:

            http://arstechnica.com/gaming/2013/03/hackers-open-up-offline-play-modding-tools-for-simcity/

            There’s a video in that article demonstrating the concept. The person filming it decided to do it without server synching to avoid griefing someone else, but his method proves it is possible.

            Also, John Walker’s own article from the other day mentions that it allows you to edit outside city borders:

            http://www.rockpapershotgun.com/2013/03/14/modder-runs-simcity-offline-maxis-remains-silent/

          • Hahaha says:

            “The cloud save would almost certainly restore the city of the player being griefed if this could occur. So yeah, i’d like some proof of this or i’m going to assume it’s an unproven hypothesis.”

            You would hope.

          • Vorphalack says:

            I also found some evidence that you can over write other players cities in offline debug mode. I have not been able to find any evidence that they will sync and over write a city online. Anywhere. I don’t want to imply that this is proof, because it isn’t, but I suspect that if it could have been done then someone would have done it by now.

          • Hahaha says:

            I thought people would of done basic CPU tests the day the game came out XD

            I would hope they would have checks in place, but then they are syncing roads outside the playing area so…

          • Brun says:

            If that’s the case then neither one of us can say for sure what would happen. It’s possible that EA itself doesn’t know what will happen. They didn’t design the game to play this way so they may not have checks in place to account for it.

            It poses a potential risk to the integrity of the game for online players, so they may just be playing it safe. It’s not like the guys moderating the forums know what’s harmless and what’s not – they didn’t design the game and don’t know its inner workings. Doing so is hardly unusual behavior, as I said before plenty of other online games do the exact same thing – even legitimately modifiable online games will sometimes ban or remove mods that have undesirable effects (see WoW and the AVR interface mod).

          • Vorphalack says:

            I’ve just realised that this thread has been getting a little bit off track as we seem to be talking about different ”hacks”. The hack that allows permanent offline play is a code change which stops the game from calling the back end servers every 20 mins, stops the client from closing, and isn’t related to the debug mode. It was first proven that you could play offline for about 20 mins when using the debug mode, which is what I think has caused this confusion. I still maintain that the permanent offline hack is harmless as it doesn’t affect anything other than the local client. It may be possible to abuse the debug mode in some way, but that is a different issue.

          • Blackseraph says:

            Brun:

            “Your rage has clearly limited your capacity for rational thought, so I’ll walk you through it nice and slow.”

            Your being insanely condescending yet again.

          • Hahaha says:

            Vorphalack I thought it was all rolled out together?

  7. gritz says:

    So, to state the obvious I guess: if Offline SimCity is a “hack” and not a “mod”, that makes this a tacit admission that the game’s “online features” really are just DRM, right?

    • RobinOttens says:

      How so?

      All it means it they allow people to mess with some parts of the game, and not others. And the Offline mod was messing with the wrong parts. There’s other reasons I can think of why they’d disallow it. (I’m not saying you’re wrong about the online mostly just being DRM though).

      • Haplo says:

        How so in the same way that a no-CD crack is a crack, not a mod.

        • Brun says:

          The crack can screw up other players’ games when and if the person using it disables it and reconnects. So it’s far from 100% benign, even to other players.

          • Kamos says:

            Seriously. This hack is a joke. All EA needs to do is prevent updating changes outside city boundaries.

          • khulat says:

            I have seen exactly zero proof of this hypothesis. The author of the hack tried to load other peoples cities and could demolish them with the debug mode while being offline. All the changes were rolled back upon connecting because there are checks that prevent syncing of cities that are not yours.
            He speculated that it could be possible to spoof the checks, but it seems he didn’t try it.
            Building outside of the city borders is another thing, but i would guess that the same thing would apply.

          • Hahaha says:

            “IMPORTANT NOTE: I have NOT enabled syncing of data for this. All cities you see in this video remain UNHARMED – nothing got synced to server. I would not condone any action which could actually harm another player’s city without permission!”

            “I am worried about people that go deeper into the code and start spoofing the owner ID’s of cities and start doing this maliciously though. Hopefully there are server side safeties on this… hmmm”

          • aepervius says:

            Only if you modify the connection off the map. Brun I get the feeling you are jumping up and down on that issue as if it was the main point of the “offline mod”. In fact you are harping on the issue so much I get the feeling you are pretty much emotionally involved here.

  8. Seiniyta says:

    Um, what’s the difference between a hack and a mod in this case? The game has been MODified to allow the debugtool etc.

    • MeestaNob says:

      In EA’s mind, the difference being that a hack makes it harder for them to sell DLC trinkets, horse armour, and horse shit in a few weeks time when they believe this has all blown over, whereas a mod has no affect on the earning potential from unobservant idiots who shouldn’t possess a credit card.

    • Hahaha says:

      Will just paste this here

      “It removes the ‘Connected check’ hence crack”

      • Kamos says:

        Again, by your definition (pasted in a previous thread) any modification that removes a feature is a crack.

        • Hahaha says:

          http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Software_cracking

          The connected check is a DRM check this removes the DRM check hence it’s a crack. You aren’t saying the removal of cd checks are classed as mods now are you?

          • Kamos says:

            Actually, yes, I am.

            Your definition:

            “Software cracking is the modification of software to remove or disable features which are considered undesirable by the person cracking the software, usually related to protection methods: (copy protection, protection against the manipulation of software), trial/demo version, serial number, hardware key, date checks, CD check or software annoyances like nag screens and adware.”

            Software cracking is a modification to remove or disable features, usually (but not necessarily) related to protection methods.

            If I have paid for a piece of software, what difference does it make if I’m modding it to remove a 3D model I don’t like or if I’m modding it to remove an absolutely retarded piece of code that makes my game crash?

          • darkChozo says:

            By a loose enough definition of “software” and “feature” (as compared to a loose enough definition of “usually”), using any software is software cracking via changing of the program state in memory and modification of key software files (sometimes known as save files).

            Semantic wrangling is fun and all, but the difference between modding and cracking is defined somewhere between common sense, relevant laws, and whatever ridiculous thing the company writing the software is saying. This is kinda sotra borderline, but if one were to define the mod (truthfully but lacking full disclosure) as “a software modification that removes a form of DRM and has the potential to negatively affect multiplayer peers outside of the game’s rules”, I think most people would call it a crack/hack.

          • Kamos says:

            First, your idea that “using software is software cracking” is wrong. Software (that people use) is deterministic. Any state reachable by an user is a state intended by the software maker and, thus, not a “crack” in OP’s definition.

            There is no semantic wrangling here, except perhaps where you have put “crack/hack” together, since those are different things. Edit: though I agree that most people would see it as a “crack” or “hack”, precisely for not giving two fucks what those things actually are.

            As for the mod being a “hack”. The mod itself makes the game playable offline and reveals editing tools that were indeed never intended for the player to use. The “hack”, however, is not an effect of the mod itself, it is a collateral effect of lazy coding server-side, since the server makes no attempt to prevent such meddling.

          • benkc says:

            Software is deterministic? Any state reachable by an user is a state intended by the software maker?

            Allow me to introduce you to threads. And also, bugs.

          • darkChozo says:

            Ah, but the OP’s definition doesn’t mention the software maker’s intent, nor does it mention that the software is deterministic! By your own definition, any time my games crashes or glitches out, I’ve broken the law! And random.org is just another version of the pirate bay!

            …Okay, I’m done. But I’m not sure how taking a sentence with “usually” in it and, well, pretty much ignoring after that point is anything but semantic wrangling. The OP’s definition is pretty clearly suggesting that a software crack is a software modification that does things that include a number of moderately related things, and while that technically does leave everything else under the sun open, English language conventions would suggest that other examples would be rather similar.

            I’d argue that saying that the removal of DRM and making a cosmetic alteration to a game are similar enough to warrant the “software crack” tag is a bit farfetched, unless you were changing freeware that drew dicks all over your screen or something.

            As for my crack/hack stumble, half of my definition (the DRM bit) would be something typically referred to as a “crack” in gamer parlance, while the second half would typically be referred to as a “hack”. If it’s clearer, I could limit it to the fact that I would think that your average gamer would call “a software modification that removes a form of DRM” a “crack”.

          • Kamos says:

            @benkc

            “allow me to introduce”

            If only I had a penny for each time someone is condescending in the RPS comments.

            Yes, race condition in threads may cause different results. However, that is due to the software maker either 1) being inept or 2) considering that the thread doesn’t need synchronization. How is either of those a fault of the user?

            Further, threads may be called in a different order, due to randomness created by another, higher-level deterministic program; however, the code itself (inside a thread) is deterministic. Given the same input, it will always generate the same output.

            As for bugs. Yes you can have “non-deterministic” results if you read uninitialized variables, if you run into bizarre variable naming problems across different compilers, if your floating point numbers round differently, and probably many other things. Again, the results may be random, but the software itself is deterministic. And how is the user at fault for “cracking” the system due to bugs the software maker inserted in it? Surely, if bugs were left, it is because the software maker intended them to be there, or didn’t care enough to fix them.

          • Kamos says:

            @darkChozo

            I understand your point, and I agree that in essence it is a crack, if for no other reason than that people usually call something that removes DRM a “crack”.

            My point is just that whether something gets to be called a “crack” or a “mod” is probably due to the software owner’s interpretation. If people modify something and EA doesn’t care, then it is a mod. If people modify something and EA cares (i.e., removing DRM), then it is a crack. Even though, technically, both are modifications.

            I mean, I never read legalese, but I doubt people would be allowed to create mods unless there was a paragraph in the EULA specifically saying those modifications are “ok”. If there is someone who actually reads EULAs reading this, please correct me if I’m wrong.

          • Hahaha says:

            Do you agree with RPS that the always online aspect was for DRM reasons?

            What does a crack do?

            Go by the tried and tested definition of a word, if needed check what the word means then see if it applies to the situation at hand.

          • Kamos says:

            @Hahaha

            No, I don’t agree with RPS. I think the game was designed with online features that are at the same time features of a multiplayer experience and anti-features of a single-player experience.

            For instance. If I have a city being simulated locally in my computer, the easy, logical thing to do is saving it locally. Saving it online is the extra-mile. Making it impossible to save locally requires active effort to cripple your game.

            The single-player mode, which EA itself advertised, basically enjoys features which are meant solely to cripple it.

            A “crack” in popular use is a program that removes DRM. Are you abandoning your previous definition, then?

          • Hahaha says:

            A check to see if your connected is DRM the same as games locking features if your not online is DRM

          • Kamos says:

            @Hahaha

            A multiplayer game needs to be online, a single-player game does not. Thus, if you’re not online while playing a single-player game and a basic feature does not work (i.e., saving your game), then the game has been crippled.

            I do not need to consider “whether the game was conceived as a pure online experience”. The anti-feature is there. Whether the anti-feature was added as DRM or because EA manages to put DRM in its games even when it doesn’t mean to is moot.

            I suspect that in the future, publishers will simply avoid a blunder like this by making every game unequivocally online. I honestly wouldn’t care about this if EA hadn’t been lying about so many things and if they hadn’t tried to advertise the product as something that it is not (a single-player experience and a direct spiritual successor of the previous games in the series).

  9. phelix says:

    If they fully “understand” the issues regarding the abysmal AI (Oh my! Short alliterations!) then why are those issues present in the first place?

    • RobinOttens says:

      Because of what he said. To increase performance.

    • Baines says:

      I’m not sure, but I don’t think he said that they are going to fix the fundamental flaws in the AI.

      He only mentions making changes that cause agents to take different paths to their goals. He didn’t say that they were changing the goals themselves. If they don’t change the way that they handle destinations, then you will still have all your firetrucks all heading to the same fire, they just won’t do it in a conga line.

      Even the streetcar bit, while mentioning implementing better weighting for destination choice, doesn’t actually say that they will have multiple cars simultaneously going to different destinations. It just says that they are going to spread out the travel itself, not necessary the final destinations.

      • darkChozo says:

        “Another problem is that, well, all the vehicles that are in the same area and want to go to the same destination type will all follow the same path, resulting in clumping and general traffic problems. We’re looking into various ways to improve the situation so traffic will spread out better.”

        It sounds like they’re aware of it and are looking into it, but that’s awfully light on anything resembling details.

      • Joof says:

        On the service vehicles, this was from a Kotaku article published earlier:

        For instance, emergency vehicles will not get blocked in their garages and will move into empty lanes to get around traffic jams. We’re also working on preventing service vehicles from clumping up (for instance, only one fire truck will respond to a fire instead of two) and improving the way that Public Transportation operates in the city. We are currently testing a patch internally and hope to have it out to you soon.

  10. Gap Gen says:

    I hear the devs overhauled the sound engine in the latest version too, and the game now features surround bollocking.

  11. djbriandamage says:

    So is this game worth owning today? Is it fun and playable?

    • sharkh20 says:

      If you are a SimCity fan, no. If you are just looking for a few hours of diversion while not looking into it very much, it’s average. Not at all worth 60 dollars in my opinion though.

    • Joshua Northey says:

      Waiting isn’t going to hurt anything and will likely get you a much better experience.

    • wccrawford says:

      I would recommend waiting. I was having fun (despite server issues) back when Cheetah mode was available. Now that it’s not, the game is just really slow. Everything takes forever.

    • Seiniyta says:

      Despite the issues I really am still enjoying the game. I think a lot of people are just looking at the issues and are ignoring that it’s still a darn fun game, although plagued with issues.

  12. Surlywombat says:

    Well stone me.

  13. MeestaNob says:

    Every single fix they are intending to do in the ‘post-server issues’ era of Sim City are for things that would have been picked up in beta testing if they’d bothered to do a beta period that wasn’t actually just a sneak peak weekend for pre-orders. Hell, the traffic bugs alone MUST have come up as far back as alpha.

    What a bunch of money grubbing arse clowns. Please continue to go and fuck yourselves EA.

    • RobinOttens says:

      A lot of what’s happening with this game and how it turned out is reminding me of Spore for some reason.

    • Baines says:

      Some of it doesn’t even need beta testing to pick up on. You just sit down and think about their agent behavior, their pathfinding choice, and their destination picking and tell that it would undermine the whole game.

    • Hahaha says:

      All mainstream games seem to use brain dead Q&A or they just don’t get listened to.

      • caddyB says:

        Some issues get ignored because of the release date stuff and expenses.

      • Joshua Northey says:

        They might not use brain-dead Q&A if most customers didn’t buy games within a week of release and mainly decide their purchase based on box art and cinematic trailers.

      • benkc says:

        To be fair, a lot of the bugs probably were reported by QA, but management wouldn’t allow schedule to fix them.

        (And not just in this game, but in most AAA titles.)

  14. Hoaxfish says:

    Hacks are not mods in the same way that lies are not PR.

  15. Culby says:

    The micro-level stuff is hilariously stupid. “Your sims (well, the ones that aren’t fudged) have individual money and health and happiness! They just don’t have names and permanent homes.”

  16. Napalm Sushi says:

    Their “Senior Director of Worldwide Communications” publicly goes by the nickname of Buzzspinner.

    You couldn’t make this shit up.

  17. DrStrangeLug says:

    What’s the betting that this upcoming bug-fix will remove the debug mode ?

    And by the way, the gap between mod and hack is much much smaller than “requires always on connection” and “always-on requirement shoehorned in unnecessarily”. Which itself is much smaller than the gap between what EA says and the truth.

  18. sharkh20 says:

    This guy is more of a hack than the mod is

  19. JabbleWok says:

    It looks like EA’s integrity is now stuck on “always off”.

  20. ResonanceCascade says:

    Yes, pay attention everyone. Because EA has really set the “pay attention” bar so incredibly high.

  21. Llewyn says:

    It’s becoming increasingly transparent that Maxis’ biggest problem has been that their developer recruitment is 1000% based on how awesome the applicant’s name is, rather than on any relevant ability.

    I thought the disappointingly-named Erik Reynolds’ second tweet was interesting though, encouraging as it did users to actively continue elsewhere the discussions on how to make SimCity work offline.

  22. TwwIX says:

    They’re labeling mods as hacks now? Why? For adding more replay value to your games? Keep digging that hole deeper, EA. I am getting more entertainment out of this than i am out of your overpriced and broken shit that you label as “AAA” products.

    • darkChozo says:

      …how does playing offline add replay value to your game?

      • Kamos says:

        Out of the top of my head, saving games locally would allow experimentation.

        • darkChozo says:

          True-ish? But that’s not really tied to playing offline, that’s tied to being able to have arbitrary saves (re: Dark Souls). Besides, modding in general adds replay value to a game because it either adds content or changes the gameplay in such the way that a replay seems different, which offline play (while a great thing to have) doesn’t really do.

          Also, I don’t think this mod lets you save. <_<

      • TechnicalBen says:

        Wow. Just wow. How does “playing” the game add value to the product? You know, being able to play it even if the net goes down. Like most games that have 1 time DRM checks?

  23. xcession says:

    Googled “cat on Berocca”: nothing. Sadface.

  24. xfstef says:

    I had to make an account and comment here, just because I wanted to give a piece of advice to Maxis regarding update 6 but I couldn’t. The page just says that I need to be logged in to comment but I can’t seem to find any means of lgging in. Anyway here’s hoping that someone with some brain in their heads from Maxis is going to read this:

    Don’t implement the 75%, 50%, 25% percent bs. That won’t help and will be generally quite buggy to handle.
    Listen to me, I’m giving you this advice for free ! Instead of that, a much easier to implement and nicer to see option would be to set half the cars on route to the CLOSEST house/job just like you did until now, and the other half on route towards the FARTHEST one … believe me, you’ll need to implement minimal code while if done mathematically correct, streets and intersections will start working closer to real life examples. And the rule doesn’t even have to be put in place for every sim/car staying the same. You can alternate between the same sim wanting initially to go the the closest house/job and when that house/job gets occupied switching towards wanting the farthest and thus you’ll get a nice traffic simulation.

    Maxim do something good for a change and listen to your potential customers… potential because I didn’t buy your game. I’m waiting for the offline server to test it first, and then maybe I’ll buy it, if I feel like it’s worth my money. Sorry guys, but it’s a hard world and life for all of us and 60euros is not easy to come by.

    • Hahaha says:

      I doubt maxis are going to read RPS comment section for game making tips

    • pilouuuu says:

      Maxim is a magazine. And besides Maxis exists mostly in name nowadays. It’s EA. It stands for Electronic Ass-holes.

    • darkChozo says:

      Wouldn’t that just result in two lines of cars all going in the same direction instead of just one? I mean, that’s an improvement, and it would be nice to not have everyone “live” closer to their work in direct proportion to how early they leave, but it’d still seem rather artificial.

      • xfstef says:

        Already covered the problem you suggested:
        “You can alternate between the same sim wanting initially to go the the closest house/job and when that house/job gets occupied switching towards wanting the farthest and thus you’ll get a nice traffic simulation.”

        • darkChozo says:

          I think that this issue with that is that it would lead to a lot of unnecessarily back-and-forth sloshing of traffic that isn’t really representative of anything, particularly if pathfinding is recalculated every time someone reaches a house. Imagine a street like the following for an extreme example:

          W—HHHHH———-====————HHHH

          You’d get a lot of cars going back and forth on the equals, which would look rather silly (expanded to a proper road system, replace the single road with a tangled mess; you’d get a lot of sloshing in the middle). Besides, that wouldn’t fix the issue of cars getting stuck on congested roads.

          I do like the idea of having a sink for cars somewhere further out in order to spread traffic a bit more though. Ideally, you’d want to just assign each Sim to an individual house, but if that’s not possible, at least having each sim go somewhere besides the first house is a bit less ugly.

          • xfstef says:

            Well the routing is recalculated every time a house/job fills anyway as it is. My algorithm would just divide between nearest and farthest objective every second car so the amount of calculations needed would only rise by n (where n is the total amount of cars on the road).
            Their algorithm of street weight rises the number of calculations by m * n (m being the number of roads and n the number of cars).

            Also if my algorithm would be implemented there would be less blocked roads to begin with, since even from the start the sims would presumably try to take separate paths towards their houses/jobs.

            As I’ve mentioned before, there are ofcourse worst and best case scenarios and the one that you posted is one of the worst, not THE MOST worst (that would be if someone were to build a whole city in a straight line, just one road).

            But taking into consideration how people generally play the game and build their cities, I’m confident in saying my answer would constantly be within the better if not best case scenarios.

          • darkChozo says:

            Oh, I know it’s an edge case, therefore the “extreme example” in my post. But take a the same street, expand it to a proper grid-based city (replacing houses with residential zone, work with commercial/industrial, and in-between space with either undeveloped regions or something irrelevant) and I think you’ll see similar bad behavior for a very realistic situation.

            When I said “recalculated every time”, I meant that they recalculate for each car every time, so the cars might change direction midroute (sorry, wasn’t very clear about that). That would lead to cars going back and forth in a silly way in my edge case. Right now they don’t do that, they seem to only recalculate when a car reaches a destination (which is a fancy way of saying they probably only pathfind between locations, not cars and locations).

            I also think your cost analysis is a bit off. First off, they’re apparently already calculating traffic density (they highlight high-traffic roads in red). Second, algorithm efficiency is all about context. In this case, I’m guessing that the actual pathfinding (as in finding a path from the source to destination) is by far the most expensive thing in the equation, which is why they don’t seem to pathfind per car but per destination.

            Calculation of traffic density would be done when you’re building the route graph, and I doubt it would be particularly expensive (despite your statement, I’m fairly certain a good estimate of density would be # of cars/road length, which is O(1). At worst, it would be O(c) if you had to count cars for some reason (it wouldn’t be hard to have a data model that didn’t require you to), and considering we’re talking graph building, it may change a O(ne) to a O(nec), which is less than terrible, particularly considering that pathfinding is probably O(x^n).

            That being said, your solution is probably still more efficient than traffic density calculation (assuming that’s not precalculated), it’s just that traffic density calculation is also fairly cheap.

          • xfstef says:

            Your points are very valid and I appreciate the time you’ve taken into making some calculations. Yes my solution would certainly be faster than calculating densities but I can’t agree that there wouldn’t be much difference when in comes to gamer experience and in-game traffic fluidization. Here is why:
            ————————————-HHHHHH
            |……………………|
            |……………………|
            |……………………|
            ————————————-HHHHHH
            |……………………|
            |……………………|
            |……………………|
            W………………….W
            (dots don’t represent anything)
            If say workers start moving up to go home, according to how the game works now, they would all just take a hard right and move towards the bottom right housing block, thus creating an endless stream of cars towards that direction. If the implement the traffic weight thing, all the cars will do is just go around in a circle, on the top left, until all the houses on the bottom right would get filled.
            My solution would make cars start heading towards both bottom right and top right housing blocks at the same time which should decrease the amount of time needed for them to get to their homes and also make traffic a bit more manageable.

            Now it is obvious to me that a traffic weight system should also be implemented since in that small example even my solution wouldn’t work perfectly, but I can’t help but feel that their method of worrying about the roads in between the intersections and not about the intersections them selves is still wrong. I would just focus on the intersections. Implement an algorithm that checks for how long has an intersection been constantly full of cars, and if that were the case then I’d reroute some of those cars towards other intersections which are a bit more free.

            All of this being said, I can’t help but notice a major flaw (another one) in the road system. Why aren’t there any one way roads !?!?!? The answer in reality to traffic problems are one way roads and go arounds. Why haven’t they even tried to implement such elements as well ?

            Think about it, players could build super highways above the clutter of the city roads that would use one way roads for people to shuttle on and off of them. Traffic would benefit greatly in my opinion.

            This all just brings another thing to mind. It’s an unfinished product. It’s really not done, not tested, and so besides the server problems, I’m really considering to NEVER buy it.

    • Simes says:

      If the shortest route to the jobs, whether closest or farthest, is along the same road, exactly the same problems will occur. That’s why they’re weighting the routing based on current traffic density now.

      • xfstef says:

        Just like with every algorithm there are best and worst case scenarios. That would be the worst case scenario and it would mean that the player was dumb enough to just build everything in a straight line.

        Ok so what I’m saying is yes, that could happen and you would be right to bring it up as a problem, but in my opinion the probability of that happening is smaller than that of them fucking up the street weight code. Just saying…

        • Simes says:

          I’d rather they at least made an attempt at something half-decent than just throw in something else for which there will be worst-case videos all over the internet within a day.

          • xfstef says:

            Anyone that knows anything about programming will agree that there are ALWAYS worst and best case scenarios. No matter what you are programming and how many people are working on it, there will always be a way to break the algorithm.

            The solution I proposed although could spawn worst case videos like you mention would actually be more than half-decent, since let’s face some facts here: Who the hell plays this game by only building ONE road and having all his buildings on that ONE single road ?!?! How would that be considered a city ?!?! That would be just non-sense and 99,99% of players would never consider the game as being flawed because of a bug that only hits 0.01% of the bone heads demanding one road city efficiency.

          • Simes says:

            It doesn’t need to just be one road, there just needs to be one road among the many which is the shortest path and that’s the one which will be full while the rest are empty, just as it is now. I don’t consider that to be a particularly unlikely scenario.

          • xfstef says:

            Well that’s already what’s happening right now. But what you mean would be that we’d potentially have this “bone” city which has all it’s housing on one side and all the jobs on the other, and only one road between them. Well I’m sorry to say, but that would be literally THE ONLY ROAD between them. Like even in real life that would be a horribly designed city.

          • Simes says:

            I already said that’s what’s happening right now, in the comment you replied to. But no, I’m not talking about a single road connecting two sets of stuff, as I also already said. There just needs to be one *piece* of road which lies on the shortest path between housing and jobs and that one will be full. I grant you that it is less likely to happen than now, but it could definitely still happen.

            Plus it doesn’t fix the other problem with the existing brain-dead implementation, where educated Sims who had previously worked at the nuclear power plant suddenly take jobs elsewhere just because a new industrial zone got put in between the plant and where they lived (or, in your scenario, anywhere else).

            Edit: I say “the other problem”, there are definitely more than two.

          • WrenBoy says:

            “Anyone who knows anything about programming …” knows that you need an account in order to log in?

            Kidding aside though, a traffic simulator which only needs to give an illusion of being realistic is an undergraduate programming task. There are endless uncomplicated solutions which would improve on what they have implemented.

    • JabbleWok says:

      Wouldn’t a better solution be to assign a capacity to each road? Once it’s saturated all extra traffic has to find the shortest route via other (unsaturated) roads. If all roads are at capacity, then that means there’s more trafiic than the network can handle.

      • xfstef says:

        Yes, that would also work … BUT ONLY if they manage to implement a good code.

        My option is way easier to implement and it could also be used to address services not working right, they could use the same algorithm for sewage, waste, power, water, fire departments, police or ambulances.

    • TechnicalBen says:

      Problem here is that they don’t appear to actually note where any sim is going. So your solution would not work. :(

      All packets go to the closest house/job/shop. All packets. Only once that house/job/shop is full do they then go to the next one. This means there is 1 route for all traffic at each moment (for each type of traffic, 1 for houses, 1 for jobs, 1 for fire etc).

      This is incredibly low on CPU use, but completely useless IMO. Adding additional checks and routes is the best thing to do. I’ve no idea why they made it so dumb to begin with. They could have at least allowed 2 or more “houses” to be targets at a time. :/

      • xfstef says:

        Well that is the whole point of my solution, for everything to STOP going only to the closest objective. You haven’t understood the point I was trying to get across, please read the post again.

        I am perfectly aware of how things are working at the moment and my solution would just expand on the same mechanics, without having them implement totally new ones like street traffic weight or worse memorizing each sim to it’s house/work.

  25. pilouuuu says:

    Hacks are not mods as well as Simcity IS NOT an MMO game.

  26. darkChozo says:

    That blog on the streetcar decision making is… interesting. It seems like the kind of thing that would get caught in like a half hour of dev testing, or, you know, thinking about it for a second. It’s odd that they didn’t introduce a random factor into where to go initially, considering that they already do it in a later scenario. That would help to scatter traffic a bit.

    At least they’re implementing traffic density weighting. So that’s good.

    • Brun says:

      A tremendous amount of research has gone into solving these kinds of routing and scheduling problems – they even teach classes on them, my college had one (“Linear Programming”). The first case study was on airline scheduling and routing optimization. It’s more surprising that they didn’t just pull some of that research to use on their public transportation models.

      • Kamos says:

        Considering everything they do, from failing the game launch to crippling their game, are things sane IT people would have handled more gracefully, I’m not at all surprised they haven’t done any research on how these things are done in serious simulations.

  27. InternetBatman says:

    Explicitly saying that they don’t track their clothing, names, gender, or race seems like an intentional attempt to divert discussion down the normal internet sewers, especially when equated to housing and employment. There’s a large difference between a city of androgynous clear people that go to work every day and then go back home and a city of that is populated by a roving mob playing musical chairs with all their possessions. That’s a very strange bit of false-equivalency to make if it was unintentional.

    • Brise Bonbons says:

      That’s an interesting point, though I’m not convinced there’s a conscious attempt at misdirection here.

      What’s really puzzling to me is that the developers see no problem with agents who carry persistent health and happiness around, but do not have a persistent home or job. How exactly can an agent have health or happiness in a meaningful way if their home and work conditions potentially fluctuate from day to day? Maybe I’m just not getting it, but it makes little sense from an engineering standpoint, and even less as a game abstraction/metaphor.

    • benkc says:

      Yeah, I caught that too.

    • MentatYP says:

      Well, subtle untruths to outright lies have made up their M.O. so far. Why stop now?

  28. rado_viden says:

    Peter Capaldi was the lead singer of a punk band called Bastards from Hell and Craig Ferguson (late late show host) was the drummer.
    That is all.

  29. rockman29 says:

    “But, if a Sim dies in an offline SimCity does it make a noise?”

    Lmao!

  30. Etnos says:

    EA PR department = Quite possibly the worst in the business, not even kidding.

    • TillEulenspiegel says:

      oh god remember that adolescent sex obsession in their E3 presentation of Dragon Age: Origins? I think you’re right. They even managed to ruin the marketing of a decent game.

  31. Hahaha says:

    Didn’t simtower have “sims” going to the same places each day/night?

  32. Kamos says:

    “Now we’re not even getting replies from EA’s UK PRs.”

    That is what you get for not bending over.

  33. mrmalodor says:

    Looks like EA blacklisted you.

  34. aircool says:

    Hurrah for RPS. Boooo for EA. No doubt there’s a clause in the EULA that can get RPS shut down for having an opinion.

  35. Autisticus says:

    Sims don’t need jobs to gain money, don’t have loyalty to any job/business beyond a day.

    Sims have no sense of ownership or property.

    Sims don’t breed or form families (nonhetero?).

    Sims don’t maintain a single, tracked gender or skin color.

    Clearly this is all by design, EA’s master coders have perfected the Progressive Sim™, modeled after a Liberal Arts / Social Studies graduate.

  36. Jimbo says:

    The only way they can make up for all of this is to have Stone Librande fight Ocean Quigley to the death.

  37. D3xter says:

    Brun and Hahaha remind me of this lady here: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/technology-21367852

    Legal questions

    Cheats have long been a feature of video games.

    Magazines such as Zap Attack used to publish pages of tricks in the 1980s to help gamers boost ammunition or health points. Websites offering walkthroughs and other cheat sheets now continue that tradition.

    However, one solicitor told the BBC that the practice became “legally grey” once micro-transactions were involved.

    “If you go into a baker’s to buy a bun and they give you the wrong change and you walk away knowing you have been given more change than you handed over in the first place, that’s theft,” Sara Ludlam, an intellectual property expert at Lupton, Fawcett, Lee & Priestley told the BBC.

    “So, arguably if you go into this game knowing you are supposed to be paying for these weapons and you notice a glitch allows you to accumulate them without paying, that’s theft as well.”

    • Brun says:

      I’d argue that circumvention of microtransactions is more akin to piracy, which does indeed put it into a greyer legal area.

      I was simply pointing out that there’s nothing wrong with EA trying to make their online experience as smooth as possible by limiting exposure to something that could cause bugs or facilitate griefing. At least then users might be able to have what little fun they can with this game in peace.

      But it appears taking anything other than a militant, radical stance against EA automatically makes you a shill. RPS: Your home for Informed, Intellectual Dialogue since 2012!

      • D3xter says:

        And I’d argue that you are full of all sorts of shit. Even more full of shit than a renowned IP “expert”. That’s probably worth a medal or something.

    • Hahaha says:

      lol

      I’m not buying this game in fact I brought simcity 4 and I just think something that removes forms of DRM is a crack like I will continue to do.

  38. Arkh says:

    Well, RPS, it seems you can no longer excuse the developers. They assumed the responsibility for the always on DRM:

    http://www.ea.com/news/simcity-update-straight-answers-from-lucy

    Always-Connected is a big change from SimCities of the past. It didn’t come down as an order from corporate and it isn’t a clandestine strategy to control players. It’s fundamental to the vision we had for this SimCity. From the ground up, we designed this game with multiplayer in mind – using new technology to realize a vision of players connected in regions to create a SimCity that captured the dynamism of the world we live in; a global, ever-changing, social world.
    [...]
    The game we launched is only the beginning for us – it’s not final and it never will be. In many ways, we built an MMO.
    [...]
    So, could we have built a subset offline mode? Yes. But we rejected that idea because it didn’t fit with our vision. We did not focus on the “single city in isolation” that we have delivered in past SimCities. We recognize that there are fans – people who love the original SimCity – who want that. But we’re also hearing from thousands of people who are playing across regions, trading, communicating and loving the Always-Connected functionality. The SimCity we delivered captures the magic of its heritage but catches up with ever-improving technology

  39. 22raoulduke says:

    Edit by John : It’s also worth nothing that despite repeated requests, and even at one point a promise of a reply “shortly”, we’ve been entirely ignored by Maxis. Now we’re not even getting replies from EA’s UK PRs.

    So the dinosaurs are ignoring the asteroid’s shadow, all over again :-)

    • LTK says:

      I think they just decided to stop providing RPS with ammo with which to shoot them down. Or with shovels with which to dig their grave. Or… you get the idea.

  40. Captain Joyless says:

    Reading Cara’s words is such a pleasure.

    “In any case what I like to imagine now is not that I specifically am Malcolm Tucker but that the media is Malcolm Tucker freeroaming the leafy corridors of EA giving every slightly carefree exec a bollocking. “YOU SHOULD HAVE HAD A DISCUSSION WITH ME ABOUT THAT,” Malcolm flanked by fans rages, veins popping out of his head. Other studios observe from afar. “It’s his dream,” they whisper to each other. “A non-stop bollock shop.” Says the other to the first: “Trouble is that we’ll be getting some of that in about an hour.” The first nods. “Yeah. I don’t know which is worse, watching him slowly rumble toward you like prostate cancer, or, him appearing suddenly out of nowhere like a severe stroke.””

    Sigh. Well played.

  41. Rapzid says:

    “To dig a little deeper our roads will have a weighting system…” WILL have? WTF guys, you never thought your city simulation/city planning game should feature simulations and city planning?!

  42. krait says:

    What he’s basically saying is “I determine which mods are good mods, and which mods are hacks.”

    This is incredibly arrogant. A mod is not a hack just because he doesn’t like it. A mod typically requires a copy of the game to be of any use, so the developer/publisher still get their money. A hack either has malicious/illegal intent, or is a shoddy piece of code. Hmm…

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