Maxis has been around for the better part of 30 years, during which time it's developed an awful lot of Sim-stuff, from SimCity to The Sims. Now it's working in something new, which based on a recently-posted job listing may be a free-to-play MMO.
Damn, The Sims got dark. It's always been a playground for the sadistic, of course—for those who like to torment their digital charges with inescapable rooms of terror. But now, it seems, the game takes place in a Twilight Zone episode where excess emotions are punishable by death. In this 20 minute walkthrough of The Sims 4's E3 build, characters once again chuckle themselves to an early expiration. And to think, they say laughter is the best medicine.
The Sims 2 has lived a long and productive life. It was born, it made lots of friends, it worked at H&M for a period, and now it's ready to retire. In an email sent out to Sims 2 owners, EA claim that the game will "lose technical support" next week, on 22 July. As a concession to the game's owners, all copies registered digitally through Origin will be upgraded to the Ultimate Collection—a complete edition containing every expansion pack and "stuff pack" released for almost 10-year-old game.
Sims fans are a bit miffed that The Sims 4 won't feature pools or toddlers, two seemingly small details that have nonetheless caused a fair bit of outrage over the last couple of weeks. I imagine much of the anger is less about which features are missing in 4, and more about why features present in previous entries haven't been included in this latest version—the worry being that EA might be holding them back for one of The Sims' many, many, many expansion packs. That worry probably won't be mollified by EA's latest blog post addressing the matter, but it does explain the reasons behind the decision not to include those two features. Essentially, it was a trade-off with the game's new AI, animation system, build mode, Create a Sim etc.
Despite including a revolutionary feature EA and Maxis are calling an 'offline mode', The Sims 4 won't manage to include all the stuff you might have liked about the previous games - namely Create a Style, pool-building, and spawnable toddlers, features that have been left on the cutting room floor and oh god that didn't sound right at all. The bad news was rather skillfully buried in a super-upbeat blog post outlining the game's included features, but if you peer closely (or scroll down to the comments thread beneath it) it soon becomes clear that something's amiss.
How do you beat a game about life, romance and ambition in three-and-a-half minutes? If you're thinking "well just create a charming character, pick the gold digger lifetime wish, marry a rich sim, then lock her in a tiny box and burn it down to secure her inheritance" then firstly, what is wrong with you, and secondly, yes, absolutely that.
After many months of hinting, promises, and—apparently—a substantial amount of work, the offline version of SimCity arrives today. In an update posted to the EA forums, a Maxis developer writes that the latest patch is almost entirely focused on bringing the world of SimCity offline.
The impossible will soon come to pass: SimCity's offline mode is "almost there Mayors" and will arrive as part of Update 10, which is now in "final testing", according to the offical SimCity twitter account. The long, arduous journey of SimCity's offline mode (it's like The Hobbit but with DRM) will soon be over. With Blizzard finally ditching Diablo 3's stupid real-world auction house on March 18th, this is shaping up to be a particularly good week.
SimCity is gaining an offline mode. That's pretty good news, eh? It'll allow people without access to a stable internet connection to enjoy the game, give modders significantly more freedom in what they can edit and create, and let anti-social old me sulk off to my own private toybox of industrial mismanagement. In fact, there are so many positives, you'd almost wonder why Maxis didn't give SimCity the option to work offline at launch.
Two reasons, it was revealed at the time. The first: a conceptual attitude. "We rejected [a subset offline mode] because it didn't fit with our vision," said Lucy Bradshaw in March last year, back when she was the general manager of Maxis. The second reason was a technical one, as Bradshaw revealed in a more infamous quote. "It wouldn't be possible to make the game offline without a significant amount of engineering work by our team," she said. So what's changed in the interim? According to a new post on the SimCity blog, the answer is a significant amount of engineering work.
In real life, you want your cities to have a strong internet pipe plugged into their veins. Anyone who lives in, or even occasionally visits, the arse-end of nowhere - or "the countryside", as it's officially called - will be aware of the frequent frustration of attempting to massage a game update into their computers just a few stray kilobytes at a time. For fictional cities, it can be less desirable - which is something Maxis found out when they released the online-only SimCity last year. But after denials, equivocation, and light teasers, they've finally confirmed that an offline singleplayer mode will be available with the release of the game's next update.
Before it was released, SimCity Creative Director Ocean Quigley (who has since left Maxis to form an independent studio) said that SimCity's GlassBox engine was "built to be moddable." That may be true, but SimCity the game is a curated always-online ecosystem, not a fertile, offline ground for experiments which would otherwise interfere with the official multiplayer experience. The two seem at odds with each other, but yesterday, Maxis wrote that it encourages us to "create, redistribute, and consume Mods for SimCity." How does that work?
"Welcome...to the world of tomorrow!" is not how SimCity lead designer Stone Librande begins this narrated look at the game's sci-fi expansion Cities of Tomorrow, and I think we can all agree that's a bit of a shame. At least the new content itself looks pretty damned nifty, evoking the shiny utopias of Minority Report or Mirror's Edge, which are both lovely places if you stick your fingers in your ears and obey the rules. The video also shows off a neon-tinged industrial city, surrogate-like drones and much more.
It's been seven months since the launch of SimCity, which means it's been slightly under seven months since players of SimCity could consistently connect to the always-online city building sim's servers. In an address to the community, Patrick Buechner, the general manager of the Maxis Emeryville studio, wrote about this and other controversial elements that have followed the game since launch. He reveals that the team are "exploring the possibility" of an offline mode for the game, touches upon potential mod support, and admits that, despite their efforts, SimCities won't be getting any bigger.
SimCity's upcoming expansion should give you the chance to create a utopian paradise, or maybe a dystopian nightmare, if that's more in line with how you see the world. Cities of Tomorrow launches November 12, according to a new blog post by developer Maxis.
The Sims 4 was just shown off at EA's Gamescom presentation by Maxis' Rachel Franklin, and emotions appear to be the order of the day. "From angry to flirty, from sad to happy, you can now explore the gamut of human emotions all within The Sims 4," Franklin said, showing a scene in which two sims competed for the affections of another. There was flirting, jealousy, anger - the only vital expression missing was 'Delight At Seeing An Amusing Cat GIF', but that can always be added in a patch. The Sims 4 is out in 2014 - stick around for a gameplay trailer.
It's time for mayors of SimCities the world over to start thinking green. Last week, update 7 was announced as an effort to get motorists to stop driving so haphazardly, minimizing the deaths of hapless students. Now the well-meaning municipal government representative manning the SimCity Twitter account is revealing further changes coming later this month: we'll get to place trees on our streets, and we can finally bury those traffic-clogged eyesore-roads beneath ground.
The residents of SimCity have been in a traffic jam several months long, making our real-world cities' rush-hour gridlocks seem breezy. After that last traffic update—which sought to minimize the number of tragic disappearances of students journeying bravely across streets—we saw some improvement, but Maxis acknowledges it's still got a way to go. So what's next on its plan?
One of the advantages of being old is that you have plenty of stories to share. When we arrive at the PC Gamer word mines each day, a wall of our 243 US issues towers over us. Having that long library close at hand to flip through is a serious benefit to being here, and instead of keeping it all to ourselves, we thought it'd be nice to share some of these clippings with you each week.
Former SimCity Creative Directer Ocean Quigley, Gameplay Lead Dan Moskowitz, and Lead Architect Andrew Willmott have left EA to form an indie studio, Jellygrade, calling themselves "recovering ex-AAA game developers." The trio is now working on "a simulation about the dawn of life on earth; about lava, water, rock and the emergence of the first primordial creatures," according to a tweet from Quigley.
Get a grain of salt ready. This leaked SimCity survey has some pretty exciting items on it—from offline mode to the ability to build mega skyscrapers that contain multiple zoning types—but it's hard to verify that it's actually from EA. And even if it is, these are all simply pitched features that the devs and publishers are trying to gauge our interest in. There's no guarantee that any of this will ever make it into the game... but it's interesting to look over in any case.