My youtube videos I posted last night;
[url]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Bmce9oIxJag[/url] (edit freeway, debug mode)
[url]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ROy6VE5ZsZw[/url] (edit other player's cities)
Sparked a lot of interest - from players and reporters/gaming news alike. Over a hundred tech/gaming/news outlets reported on them. Hundreds of thousands of views, hundreds of emails, private messages, and requests for quotes from random reporters I've never heard of. Mis-understandings about what I did or did not do. And requests for the actual mod files from random players.
I wanted to clear some stuff up and tell you exactly what I HAVE been able to do, and HAVEN'T been able to do.
[u][size=18][color=darkred][b]Debug Mode/Highway Editing:[/b][/color][/size][/u]
Yes, this is as simple as changing a 1 to a 0 in a file, give or take - though there's a few ways you can unlock it, some more robust than others. This reveals insights that there is possibilities for live terrain tool editing, but these are NOT possible with the game client we have. What IS possible though is altering the highways/freeways - you can make a freeway run the length of your city and connect to the freeway anywhere in the region - and it works. Traffic uses it. No more "single chokepoint of traffic" caused by the stupid single intersections. These highway changes [b]save and sync to the server[/b], but only apply to the city you are in when you place them.
A lot of the debug features are disabled, and some others are very broken/can cause crashes.
I edited quite a few function calls to make this work reliably, including disabling UI elements so I had no disconnect warnings on my screen while I played. The simulation runs just fine. You can even trade with other cities in the region to an extent, and get service trucks from their cities, AS LONG AS you already had the region loaded in before disconnecting. The "20 minute kick-off" reported by Kotaku a few days ago was a variable limit of 20 minutes. There was no reason for it to be 20. It could have been any value.
It doesn't let you play DRM free - the city you want to play in still has to be loaded from the server. There is also no way of saving that city to hard-disk to load while still offline later. However, it does prove that EA's servers are [b]not[/b] processing the stuff in a city at all. Your PC can handle your entire city simulation without any help from the internet or EA's servers. Local saves will not be possible with simple editing, but may be possible with some serious work and ingenuity. Nobody has achieved this yet, and it may be some time away without help from Maxis/EA.
[u][size=18][color=darkred][b]So what do EA's servers process?:[/b][/color][/size][/u]
Achievements, friends, regions, chat, all the fluffy multiplayer stuff. It also accepts "city updates", so that it can update the values of other cities in the region you are playing in (so if we were in a region together, and I built a power plant - the EA server receives that update from me, then tells your client how much spare power is available from me).
All my client *NEEDS* from EA is a raw list of values about each city, updated whenever: Spare Power, Services, etc. - and of course if I want to visit another city, it has to load it up from their server. [b]FULL BLOWN offline mode should be very little work. Very, VERY little work.[/b]
Yes, population is artificially increased by the UI before being displayed to you. You can disable this with a single line of code in a single file, and you will only ever see your real population counts. Your 200k population city probably has 20k real population (not actual calculated figures).
[u][size=18][color=darkred][b]Editing Other Player's Regions/Cities:[/b][/color][/size][/u]
Not as dangerous/harmful as it sounds. I enabled all UI features for build mode, editing etc. while in "Observer mode", and tricked the client into thinking I wasn't really in observer mode while visiting other player's cities (even in a region that has nothing to do with me). I did not try to "spoof" the owner ID's when doing this , so while I *CAN* "Take over" any city I like and run the simulation as if it was my own, place buildings, change taxes, play for hours, or destroy it - It *WON'T* be synced to the server at all, so no permanent changes are ever made to another player's cities. It's good fun though, and you can make entertaining videos with it. Spoofing owner ID's may be a dangerous possibility to save the edits to server - but EA servers may have checks to prevent this already.
[u][size=18][color=darkred][b]Building Outside of City Limits:[/b][/color][/size][/u]
Modding (editing package files) will NOT let you do this, with anything other than the debug tool highway/freeway editors, as far as I have seen - and I did try quite a few things. Though I did manage - with modding alone - to get the game to unlock all disasters on any new city/new account, public or not, without needing sandbox mode.
HOWEVER - [b]you can build anything outside of the city boundaries with some memory editing[/b] - by finding the functions within memory that check if you are trying to place in the "boundary" or not and disabling them (a tool like CheatEngine can do this, there are advanced tutorials online). I am able to actually plop a building anywhere I can angle my camera towards, and they run/simulate just fine.
City size limits are artificially restricted, and can be increased by EA/Maxis with absolute ease. Obviously - the more your PC is processing, the slower it will get, but the current city sizes are far too small for anything other than extremely old, basic setups.
I have not yet been able to unlock the camera, to freely move all over the region while in city-build mode, but this again would be possible with memory editing.
[u][size=18][color=darkred][b]"Will you send me your mods/teach me?":[/b][/color][/size][/u]
No, I don't want to be responsible for passing EA's property (code-files) around, especially with how much "public eye" I had on me, and I just don't have time or motivation to send personal guides or tutorials out to people that ask, I'm sorry. However, I have passed a lot of what I discovered on to others. If you browse the SimCity Reddit pages, you will find easy to install downloads that do fun things, and guides by others on how to edit stuff.
Seriously, go visit the SimCity Reddit page, there is cool stuff to be found, and I predict a lot more cool stuff to come;
^^ Feel free to pass this around to anyone you think might be interested in what I have to say. The best way to contact me is a Reddit private message (I am "AzzerUK" on Reddit - www.reddit.com/user/AzzerUK/), or on Youtube private message where my name is reversed (I am "UKAzzer" on YouTube - www.youtube.com/user/UKAzzer).