News came out that the upcoming Sim City successor will be required to have an always-on internet connection to play and save the game. Some people have worried that this could be a problem if your internet drops out while you're playing. What exactly happens to your city? The answers aren't clear, but Lucy Bradshaw, lead for the Maxis lablel at EA, would like to defend the DRM scheme.
Creating a connected experience has always been a goal for SimCity, and this design decision has driven our development process for the game. This is easily the most ambitious game in the franchise and we've taken great care to make sure that every line of code embodies the spirit of the series. To do this, we knew we had to make sure we put our heart and souls into the simulation and the team created the most powerful simulation engine in its history, the GlassBox Engine. GlassBox is the engine that drives the entire game -- the buildings, the economics, trading, and also the overall simulation that can track data for up to 100,000 individual Sims inside each city. There is a massive amount of computing that goes into all of this, and GlassBox works by attributing portions of the computing to EA servers (the cloud) and some on the player's local computer.
Perhaps Ocean said it best when he said that real cities do not exist in a bubble; they share a region and affect one another. GlassBox does more than just segregate computing tasks, it also allows us to make it so that you can create specialized cities that are visually unique and personalized, and that can be economically integrated into a larger region. You're always connected to the neighbors in your region so while you play, data from your city interacts with our servers, and we run the simulation at a regional scale. For example, trades between cities, simulation effects that cause change across the region like pollution or crime, as well as depletion of resources, are all processed on the servers and then data is sent back to your city on your PC. Every city in the region is updated every three minutes, which keeps the overall region in sync and makes your decisions in your city relevant to any changes that have taken place in the region.
Running the regional simulation on our servers is something we also use to support features that will make this SimCity even more fun. We use the Sim data to update worldwide leaderboards, where you get to see your city or mayoral standings as compared to the other cities in your region and between all of the regions in the world. And since SimCity is a live service, we're also using the data to create weekly global and local challenges for our players that keep the gameplay fresh and surprising.
I'll leave it up to you to decide whether or not you believe or agree with Bradshaw. Of course, once the game comes out in March 2013, we, along with other sites, will be able to give you a better idea of how the game plays.