Future simcity

Earlier this week, GamesBeat posted about a Reddit user who discovered that you can play offline in publisher Electronic Arts’ city-building game SimCity. This is counter to many claims developer Maxis made that the servers, to which players must connect to access the game, perform many necessary calculations in the simulation.

Maxis general manager Lucy Bradshaw just posted a blog post where she responds to the now widely held belief that the game works offline and that the always-online requirement is nothing but an EA-mandated attempt at digital-rights management.

“Always-connected is a big change from SimCities of the past,” wrote Bradshaw. “It didn’t come down as an order from corporate, and it isn’t a clandestine strategy to control players. It’s fundamental to the vision we had for this SimCity. From the ground up, we designed this game with multiplayer in mind — using new technology to realize a vision of players connected in regions to create a SimCity that captured the dynamism of the world we live in; a global, ever-changing, social world.”

Bradshaw then provided a list of “a few” specific functions that the SimCity servers perform:

  • The servers keep the simulation state of the region up to date for all players.
  • They allow for trade between different specialized cities.
  • The only way to maximize a city’s efficiency is to connect with other cities over the servers.
  • Great Works, like international airports, rely on contributions from multiple cities in a region. The servers enable those contributions to work together.
  • The social features — like world challenges, world events, world leaderboards, and world achievements — update using the servers.
  • The servers handle gifts between players.
  • The Global Market changes depending on data coming in from the servers.
  • You can visit other players’ cities.
  • Leaderboards and achievements only work with the servers.

Many of these features fit with the concept of a multiplayer version of SimCity, but none seem like the so-called “calculations” that would make any difference to a person in a private,single-player world.

But Bradshaw goes on to flat-out answer the question that everyone has been asking: Could they have made an offline mode for this SimCity?

“Yes,” she wrote. “But we rejected that idea because it didn’t fit with our vision. We did not focus on the single city in isolation that we have delivered in past SimCities.”

The developer says she recognizes that some people want that, but she also says thousands of players are happy with the connected game that Maxis built.

The issue for many fans is that Bradshaw has publicly stated that a single-player subset would pose significant engineering challenges because the servers are performing calculations for the actual simulation. That doesn’t seem to be the case.

Instead, Maxis based its choice to exclude a legitimate offline mode on a desire to funnel every player into the multiplayer game.