• Moose
  • SimCity 2013's creative director explains what we could have got without EA pestering


    Haljackey

    Maxis' 2013 reboot of the SimCity franchise will always be remembered for its disastrous launch more than anything else. But now, more than three years removed from that debacle, SimCity creative director Ocean Quigley told Game Informer that he's still proud of the game itself — even if publisher Electronic Arts' decision to require an internet connection ruined everything.

    Like the SimCity titles before it, SimCity was a single-player game, but it was designed as an always-online experience. At the launch of the game in early March 2013, hundreds of thousands of people flooded the servers, and severe connectivity issues created a mountain of problems. Players had to wait in hourslong queues to access SimCity, and Maxis tried everything to rectify the issues, even disabling certain "non-critical" elements of the game in an effort to relieve the load on the servers.

    SimCity originated with Maxis' desire to make a SimCity game in full 3D, and the studio's belief that the technology had finally gotten to a point that would support that, Quigley recalled on this week's edition of The Game Informer Show. EA greenlit the project, with a caveat: It had to be an always-online title, because that's the future that EA believed the gaming industry was heading toward. (Microtransactions were a part of EA's reasoning, said Quigley, but not the main impetus behind the decision.)

    "EA wanted to make it more of a platform, an ongoing platform, that they'd sort of build and develop on," Quigley explained. "And so that [...] mandated, kind of, the server and online stuff. Which, in retrospect — I mean, obviously — was the fatal flaw in it."

    Maxis had to figure out how to turn that onerous requirement into a feature that would deliver something useful to SimCity players. Networking allowed for elements like leaderboards, and opened up "interesting design-space possibilities" such as players being able to connect their cities with their friends' cities in a region. But Quigley wished those features had been optional, considering how SimCity's launch turned out.

    "The tech got ahead of itself," said Quigley, describing a server "meltdown" when a million players attempted to play at once. "We didn't have the back-end infrastructure to actually pull that off, obviously."

    Quigley told Game Informer that as SimCity's creative director, he and the design team were "pretty happy" with the game itself. The developers' pride in the product made the server issues that much more frustrating.

    "The back end of it all, sort of, collapsing in flaming server rooms was, well — it feels a little bit like being somebody on a sinking ship, and you've done a really nice job on your part of it, but it doesn't matter," said Quigley. "It doesn't matter if you've made all these beautiful things, because the rest of the ship is exploding."

    The failed launch became the storyline surrounding SimCity, and even worse, Maxis had to spend so much time fixing the server issues that the design team never got the chance to improve or expand upon the game. One of the major criticisms of SimCity was its limitation on city size, which was much smaller than in previous SimCity titles. Quigley told Game Informer that before launch, Maxis had big ideas for those land plots.

    "The eventual vision was that the whole region — the whole vast, 32-kilometer by 32-kilometer region — would be one potential city, and you could build anywhere in it," said Quigley. He added that while SimCity's simulation engine "would have let us scale, eventually, to larger and larger cities," the back-end server infrastructure was the bottleneck in the system that prevented that grand plan from coming to fruition.

    "I'd say that was pretty much the hardest part of my career, yeah," Quigley said of the SimCity launch. In March 2014, just over a year after SimCity's release, EA added an offline mode to the game.

    Quigley left EA in July 2013 after 18 years at Maxis. He later returned to the company to do consulting work, and departed in October 2015 for an indie studio called No, You Shut Up Games. Quigley is the creative director at the Berkeley, California-based company, which is making a space combat game called Atomic Space Command. He is also an accomplished oil painter, with works that have been showcased in galleries and museums.

    For much more on Quigley and his career, check out the lengthy interview that he did with The Game Informer Show. The full interview begins at 1:13:20, while the SimCity portion starts at 1:56:18.

     

     

    http://www.polygon.com/2016/5/20/11722342/simcity-launch-ea-maxis-ocean-quigley

    Visit Source




    User Feedback




    gviper

    Posted

    Remember playing that horrid game. As I recall the server issues and online-only requirement were not merely the only issues. Profound routing bugs in that "agent" setup among others really damaged the launch as well. Personally, while I like some of the features, the constrained city size would have been a killer regardless.

    Share this comment


    Link to comment
    Share on other sites
    Spamoidutout

    Posted

    On 27/06/2016 at 1:45 AM, KillrChicken said:

    Well how do you know it is a lie? Did you help develop the engine? Maxis would know what the limits are because they engineered the engine. How would you know something that you did not engineer? Unless you reverse-engineered the game engine itself, I highly doubt you would know this.

    Well then what limits a city size ?
    Explain me how bright of a decision it was to use their engine for poo, water and electricity ?????
    Remove those 3 and you suddenly need much less of the computing power you needed before (and therefore much larger cities). I doubt this "genius" idea was forced by EA because it does not collide with their online ideas...
    I remember the devs presenting the fantastic glassbox engine at the time, oh they were so proud of the "limitless" things it was able to achieve... "look, we see poo moving". HAHAHAHAHA.

    Share this comment


    Link to comment
    Share on other sites
    elavery

    Posted

    The developers came up with a terrible game. They should move on and stop blaming EA for everything. 

    Spamoidutout likes this

    Share this comment


    Link to comment
    Share on other sites
    fredinno

    Posted

    15 hours ago, elavery said:

    The developers came up with a terrible game. They should move on and stop blaming EA for everything. 

    EA caused most of the issues. We would be probably playing both 2013 and Skylines if it wasn't for that.

    Share this comment


    Link to comment
    Share on other sites
    Tricontinental

    Posted

    On 2016-12-27 at 3:28 PM, gviper said:

    Remember playing that horrid game. As I recall the server issues and online-only requirement were not merely the only issues. Profound routing bugs in that "agent" setup among others really damaged the launch as well. Personally, while I like some of the features, the constrained city size would have been a killer regardless.

    Spot on. I tried my hand at this game again and again after they allowed offline-only play and after modders figured out how to build bigger cities, but every city always ended up as an irredeemable mess because of how poorly designed the Glassbox engine is. Agent routing, supply, and demand always forced you to fix those artificial problems and took away from your ability to design a city as you want it to be. Why they even felt the need to actually use agents is beyond me. The Glassbox engine sounds cool on paper but it was really the last nail in SimCity's coffin. What a shame, for such a great franchise to be run to the ground by greedy publishers and clueless developers.

    Share this comment


    Link to comment
    Share on other sites
    fredinno

    Posted

    2 hours ago, Tricontinental said:

    Spot on. I tried my hand at this game again and again after they allowed offline-only play and after modders figured out how to build bigger cities, but every city always ended up as an irredeemable mess because of how poorly designed the Glassbox engine is. Agent routing, supply, and demand always forced you to fix those artificial problems and took away from your ability to design a city as you want it to be. Why they even felt the need to actually use agents is beyond me. The Glassbox engine sounds cool on paper but it was really the last nail in SimCity's coffin. What a shame, for such a great franchise to be run to the ground by greedy publishers and clueless developers.

    agents? ???

    Share this comment


    Link to comment
    Share on other sites
    Tricontinental

    Posted

    "Agents", as in all the individual sims, goods, resources, etc. that are carried around via roads to simulate the city. The city`s capacity to transmit power, water, sewage, goods, sims (i.e. people) and many other things are directly tied to road capacity and traffic routines, which causes huge problems as your city grows. As far as I know, older SimCity games did not try to directly simulate every single person moving around the city, which made traffic management, industrial supply/demand, transit capacity, etc. easier and more robust. It was also more realistic because you could actually build power lines, water pipes, subway lines, etc. independent of roads.

    Share this comment


    Link to comment
    Share on other sites
    Romaq

    Posted

    After a very long hiatus from Simtropolis, I decided to purchase SimCity with my wife so we could do "co-op". I thought of trying to do it with SC4, but for my wife and I to do "co-op" it seemed we would be looking for trouble, even with a shared hard-drive or using Dropbox.

    I think what so many of us were looking for... I know what *I* was looking for: SimCity4, only 64 bit, 3d, curved roads. Let us have mods. My wife and I played Civilization for a while. Do you want offline? Sure! How about setting up a quick game online through their servers, picking and choosing what DLCs everyone agrees to? Ok! Would you like to play private LAN? No problem! Civ didn't care. Just have fun!

    Sweet plumbob... I would so love to have SimCity4 baked in new 64 bit 3d tech with co-op/ competitive modes like Civ or Minecraft offers.

    Anyway, my wife and I are playing SimCity, and it's "ok". A decent break from our Minecraft server. But I sure wish EA had gotten out of Quigley's way.

    Share this comment


    Link to comment
    Share on other sites
    Maxlmantis

    Posted

    EA is such a terrible company, twice worst US company in a row, they killed Battlefield Series too, shame on EA

    Share this comment


    Link to comment
    Share on other sites
    Trylk255

    Posted

    To be honest, the game engine they uses (Glassbox) is really bad.

    It haves tons of performances issuesm

    Share this comment


    Link to comment
    Share on other sites
    sffc

    Posted

    The year 2013 was at the dawn of the era of scaleable cloud infrastructure and serverless application framework.  Just in the last few years, the big tech companies have all jumped onboard and brought cloud computing to a new level with Amazon Web Services, Google Cloud Platform, Microsoft Azure, and many others.  Pokemon Go was hosted in GCP and is a great example of how these new platforms help online games scale rapidly.  If Maxis had a second chance, I think they could make the online backend of their game work great with all this new technology.

    Share this comment


    Link to comment
    Share on other sites



    Create an account or sign in to comment

    You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

    Create an Account  

    Sign up to join our friendly community. It's easy!  :thumb:


    Register a New Account

    Sign In  

    Already have an account? Sign in here.


    Sign In Now