Throughout the SimCity launch fiasco, one assertion has remained as the staunch justification for SimCity’s always-online nature: the game uses EA’s servers for cloud computing, to track over 100,000 individual Sims at one time as they go about their days. The GlassBox system has supposedly been put in place so that the city will be simulated down to the level of its individual citizens.
It appears, though, that the AI governing these citizens is woefully simplistic. So much so, in fact, that there is question as to whether any computing is being done cloud-side at all.
Sims don’t seem to have a concept of ownership. They’ll go to whatever job is closest and unfilled, return to whatever open house they first stumble upon on their drive back home. They eschew longer, higher-capacity routes in favor of waiting in congested traffic on more direct, lower-capacity thoroughfares. The simplistic AI behavior creates issues when it comes to creating functioning utilities, placing entertainment businesses, and designing roadways.
Further, Stephen Totilo, at Kotaku, managed to play the game for almost twenty minutes offline, with no apparent change in the game’s function.
What, then, is the purpose of the always online requirement, beyond the optional ability to link one’s city with those of other players in the same region? Why are the cities so cripplingly small if the vaunted simulation aspects of the populace are so poorly implemented?