Maxis promises it will fix SimCity's silly Sims and traffic

No word on an offline mode, though.

Maxis has promised to fix SimCity's silly Sims and traffic.

In a blog post lead designer Stone Librande confirmed what players have shown to be true with the raft of often hilarious gameplay videos recently brought to light: that SimCity's Sims and vehicles don't work quite as we hoped they would.

In SimCity, Sims do not live realistic persistent lives. In the morning they head to the nearest available job, whatever it may be. In the evening they head to the nearest available home. In this way, a Sim may start the day working in a building different to the one he worked in the day before, and end the day in a new home with a new family.

Another problem, also identified in gameplay videos, revolves around the traffic system. Vehicles will always attempt to take the shortest route to a destination, irrespective of better alternatives that would result in a quicker journey. This results in heavy traffic jams.

Services are also problematic. If there is a fire in a city, multiple fire trucks will attempt to make their way to it, ignoring other fires in the process. Once this fire is put out, the trucks then head to the second.

Librande, who said Maxis was putting a lot of attention on addressing player concerns now the servers have sorted themselves out, confirmed all these problems will be addressed in upcoming updates.

  • SimCity is built on GlassBox, which is an agent-based simulation engine. At the surface level, GlassBox is designed around the premise that "Agents" are created to carry data to various "Sinks" around the city.
  • In SimCity, you can think of the "Agents" as Sims and vehicles. The "Sinks" are the buildings that receive money, happiness and other resources from these Agents. During development we tested many cities in a variety of scenarios, but there are almost limitless permutations. Now that the game is in your hands we are seeing the emergence of many cities that test our systems in unique ways. It's great to watch this happen because at its core SimCity is a game about experimentation and exploration. (Of course, it's not so great when these experiments reveal bugs.)
  • We are constantly tuning the game and through the telemetry of our players we are shaping and evolving the experience to accommodate many different play styles. When bugs are discovered we will address them as quickly as possible, with updates such as the ones we've been rolling out over the past week. Our main focus right now is updating the pathing system that the Agents use to get to their Sinks. Running a successful city means keeping the traffic flowing and we are actively working to make this system better.
  • 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 per cent, 50 per cent and 75 per cent 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.
  • We are working on additional fixes with the pathing of our Agents and these changes will streamline the way that the simulation unfolds in your city. 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.

Guillaume Pierre, the lead gameplay scripter and a designer on SimCity, published a video on YouTube, below, that outlines his work on tuning congestion avoidance.

Game design is filled with tradeoffs and compromises like this and we are constantly evaluating these (and many other) decisions

SimCity lead designer Stone Librande

Now that the game has been out for over a week, players have dug deep into SimCity's systems. Many have been particularly disappointed by the way the Sims behave. In the run up to release, many believed the new GlassBox engine upon which the simulation runs meant Sims would lead realistic lives, going to work in the same job, going home to the same family, with desires and needs and happiness levels and behaviour patterns akin to those seen in Maxis' own The Sims series.

It turns out the simulation isn't quite as sophisticated as we thought. Librande attempted to explain what Maxis was trying to do in this regard.

  • SimCity is a simulation but it is also a game. We wanted to make managing the mundane day-to-day functionality of a city a fun experience. We wanted players to be invested in the lives of their individual Sims, which is why you can click on one and see a name and small story about what is happening to him or her at that moment.
  • On that note I wanted to take a moment to address a question that's been coming up: the persistence of our Sims. 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.

Maxis is yet to comment on the modder who accessed SimCity's debug mode, enabling indefinite offline play and editing outside of city boundaries.

Meanwhile, Maxis has enabled some of the features it switched off during the height of the game's server woes. Regional Achievements are now live on a select number of servers, with Leaderboards enabled on the Test Server. Librande called on players to help it test the Leaderboards to speed up their addition to the main game. Cheetah speed, however, remains unavailable.

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