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Let's have a throwback to early 2013.
In March 2013, SimCity is released by EA. it's an online game that requires constant wifi connection and is designed around players building cities together in smaller spaces.
A fiasco happens around SimCity. Firstly the servers don't even work and the game is filled with bugs. The Fans start to demand an offline mode for the game so that they can still play while the online servers are down (and they were down for most of the time to fix the bugs and connection issues).
EA states that adding an offline mode is impossible since the engine isn't designed for it. A Modder finds out that it is impossible for there to be an offline mode provided a mechanism is added to make saves on the drive rather than saving on the cloud. So EAxis, under all the pressure, releases Update 10 which adds an offline mode to the game.
The Fiasco didn't end there. The area available to build was too limited for offline play, and multiple bugs hadn't been fixed. EAxis made an expansion pack to the game in late November to help with the limited building area but it didn't help that much.
All of this ultimately resulted in SimCity falling behind every other game in the franchise in reviews and scores. The game's market performance was awful. And EA closed Maxis Emeryville, the studio that built the game. Ending the SimCity franchise. Its place was soon to be filled with Cities: Skyline.
Later that year SimsVIP received an anonymous e-mail that included a site made by a Maxis employee Patrick Kelly. It featured flash mockups that explored mostly UI design, including chatboxes. It also explored some gameplay mechanics such as a Romance skill and a new system of interactions that replaced the typical TS1-2-3 Interaction system. It was based on individual social skills that you could level up to unlock more interactions for that skill. There were some screenshots too. One of them included two Plumbobs together. One was Green and Bigger. While the other was Smaller and Blue. In TS3, TS2, and TS1 the blue plumbob would appear on top of the sim(s) you made a group with so it's a sign of social gathering.
SimsVIP shared the screenshots
stating that the mockups and the screenshots were from the pre-production of two games Maxis was exploring ideas about. The Sims Olympus and The Sims Icarus. They also said that EA had the website deleted after finding out about the "leak".
After the SimsVIP article went up one fan with the name of Siminati found out that Patrick has made a new website and distributed the mockups (in video format
) and the screenshots to other places.
At the same time, Patrick began interacting with the community
and sharing behind the scenes details about Project Olympus and the sims 4. He even started a QnA thread over at ModThesims where he answered questions about both of the projects.
Most notably, he talked about Olympus's development. Maxis began developing the game as an MMORPG in 2008 (shortly after the closure of The Sims Online, and even before TS3 was released). It was built on the same game engine TS3 used. Maxis scrapped the game in 2012 because of poor playtesting performance, connections issues, and overall low quality. And began working on TS4 using the GlassBox engine (with which they made SimCity). However, CAS, Build/Buy, the network functionality, and the UI were transferred to it from Olympus. In other words, The game's engine was changed and it was no longer a spin-off but a main entry.
Shortly after, Patrick removed his website, his thread at MTS, and his LinkedIn profile where he said that he worked for Olympus before it was scrapped.
At that time TS4 was still going to be an MMORPG. But EA scrapped the online part after the SimCity's scandal. As Frank Gibeau, President of EA Labels at the time said in an interview (in August 2013) that Olympus was scrapped after the SimCity scandal warned EA about the idea of an MMORPG Sims game.
There is even more evidence of this:
- In The Sims 3 University Life, if you go to the campus you can find a statue near one of the Uni centers that has a blue plumbob (hinting to the Online Sims 4) on top of some kind of glass shards (hinting to the game being made with the GlassBox engine). The name of the Statue is Into the future (hinting to TS3's Last Expansion pack) and its description is also too specific to not be a hint.
- In SimCity's downloadable content there are some amusement park buildings. One of them is a Merry-go-round with a Blue Plumbob on top.
- You can see in TS4's Promotional Pics how EAxis has been slowly changing the UI from a Blue color to a White color. Making TS4's UI looking like SimCity's. Starting with This Live mode and Leak going on to Gamescom's CAS Demo (Notice how it has 5 trait slots meaning that they just began to work on the traits, and the only life stage you can see looks like YA) to no Blue UI in CAS Demo a year later. we also have Build/Buy. They had Blue Arrows in the Gamescom Announcement video but then in the build/Buy trailer a year later, they didn't but you can still see some blue stuff if you zoom in. And now we don't have any Blue colored UI in the game other than notifications.
- The game's code is divided into two parts: a Server-side that handles very core stuff and mechanisms and is written in C++. And a Client-side that handles everything else. We were supposed to buy the client-side and connect to the server-side that was hosted.
- The Resumes of two EA employees confirm this.
- The Artstyle of the sims in TS4 (especially the hair) has changed dramatically from the day it was launched. Compare this promotional render for the Base game to this Pic for Get Together. The original Artstyle was low-poly and designed for an MMO but the current art style genuinely looks like a style planned for a main entry.
- In early 2015 Chi Chan, Studio Art Director for Maxis (Electronic Arts Divison), posted up some Concepts and Designs he made for The Sims 4 that he was working on for 4 months. They don't exactly showcase an online feature but the UI does match up with this Leaked UI where you can see a chat icon on the top right.
- In 2016 there was a video leaked out to SimsVIP which was a prototype trailer for the online sims 4 as well as one of the early TS4 promotional trailers made by the same company. you can see two of the animations that exist in the game in the video, one is from 00:05 to 00:07 and the other is from 00:09 to 00:11
- You can find Screenshots from two Neighborhoods in the game files. One is what looks like to be the prototype for Willow creek, the other seems to be the Prototype for Windenburg (called Windenbourg in the game code)
- Most of the Objects you see in the concept mock-ups for both Olympus and TS4 Online exist in the game.
What's with EA wanting to make every damn game online? Well, it gives them more money! See this link
for more info.
Well, what does that have to do with TS4's issues and flaws?
In May 2013 EA, in reaction to SimCity's Awful performance, EA released a statement
. They Officially Announced TS4 and claimed it to be a singleplayer and offline experience.
You have to note that making a game as complex as The Sims is difficult and time-consuming. Especially when using an engine that wasn't designed for it. Time is an important factor as well.
Maxis worked on TS3 for at least 3 years, with a larger team than TS4, and they made the engine with the game in mind. Yet EA only gave them 2 years to make TS4 on an engine designed for online play, and with a smaller team.
It explains a lot about TS4's issues and why it missed a lot of features at launch:
- Why did EAxis only focus on CAS, Emotions and Build/Buy when marketing TS4 Base game? Because they were the most fleshed out features of the game. And were probably for Olympus but transferred to TS4 after it was scrapped.
- Why do all sims act the same? The game was designed with emotions in mind. And EAxis had too little time to flesh out the Traits and interactions they made. Thus they always fight with the emotions system rather than causing moodlets that enhance emotions for each sim. Making them unique.
- Why were toddlers missing at launch? The Online Sims 4 wasn't even supposed to have lifestages as each sim was going to be a Young Adult. So Maxis had to add them as soon as possible in the shortest amount of time. This also explains why Teens and Adults are the same as YAs, Why elders are YAs with cosmetic differences, why children don't have much gameplay, why there was no family tree feature at launch, and why Babies are objects.
- Why doesn't TS4 have Create-A-Style and Open world? Why doesn't Maxis add them back? The engine wasn't designed to handle Open World so they can't add it back. Adding create-a-style to CAS and Build/Buy is time-consuming as hell (it would mean at least a year with no packs) so EAxis won't add that. Pets only have the color wheel because CAP was made with them in mind.
- Why was absent at launch/ Why doesn't Maxis add back? Same as above, They simply didn't have enough time and budget. They may or may not add it in a future pack/update when they have time, and they may not. I'm pretty neutral on that.
- Why is lackluster? None of the Pre-IL Packs are that lackluster, they are self-contained and passive. Meaning that you won't have a good experience with them unless you actively look for their features and integrate them with your sims' lives. Post-IL packs (especially IL itself) are smaller because EA took some devs from TS4 teams in late 2018/early 2019 to form a TS5 team. This means we'll have to expect smaller packs from now on. The fact that they have to port ts4 packs to console plays a role too because there's an item limitation for console packs.
- Why is Simulation Lag rampant in my game? The "Bridge" that transfers data between the client-side and the server-side probably is trying to handle too much data at the same time but fails at it. This is why simulation lag happens with particularly complex worlds, households, and interactions. And the bridge isn't designed for that.
- How do I make my playing experience better? Either pretend your playing with dolls instead of sims, play other games like TS3 and TS2, or use mods that add activity to your game like MCCC for Story Progression, Meaningful Stories for enhancing the emotions system, Have more Personality Please! for better personalities, and Slice of Life for more polish.