Shortly after SimCity‘s server problems were resolved, and customers were able to actually play the game they purchased, users started to discover that the AI used to control traffic and services in their cities was so poorly designed that it verged on being broken. After a short (but extremely frustrating) silence from Maxis, the developer has acknowledged the shortcomings and promised to fix them in a future patch.
“During development we tested many cities in a variety of scenarios, but there are almost limitless permutations,” SimCity’s lead designer Stone Librande wrote yesterday on the game’s official blog. “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.”
“When bugs are discovered we will address them as quickly as possible… 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.”
Librande added, “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. 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…”
“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,” Librande explained. “They don’t own a particular house or have permanent employment… 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.”
While it is certainly good news to hear that Maxis is planning to fix the problems related to SimCity‘s traffic AI, it is very troubling that the game was shipped in the current state that it is in. Post-release patches are common in the video game industry, however, these issues rise to the level of something that should have been seen during QA testing. The fact that they were not found (or worse, found and overlooked) is simply not excusable for a major player in the video game industry.
At any rate, there is no estimate as to when the patch will roll out to fix SimCity‘s traffic AI problems, however, Maxis noted that it should be soon. We can only hope that they are planning to follow up the patch by giving users an offline mode, or at least getting rid of the “artificially inflated” Sim populations.