Maxis GM Lucy Bradshaw has tried to diffuse some of the anger being thrown at SimCity, but fresh claims from the modding community have cast doubt on the studio's defence.
I'd like to offer some straight answers on the topic: Always-Connected and why SimCity is not an offline experience, Bradshaw wrote on the SimCity blog. The game we launched is only the beginning for us – it's not final and it never will be. In many ways, we built an MMO.
Always-Connected is a big change from SimCities of the past. 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.
Could we have built a subset offline mode? Yes. 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. We recognize that there are fans – people who love the original SimCity – who want that.
But we're also hearing from thousands of people who are playing across regions, trading, communicating and loving the Always-Connected functionality.”
Bradshaw also countered those who have challenged her claims regarding the computational need for servers, listing a number of ways in which they are vital.
None of which has deterred the PC gaming community, which continues to dig deep into the game's innards to try and disprove Maxis' assertions.
The latest comes from modder Azzer who grabbed the limelight last week after successfully modding the game to run offline – without any noticeable complications.
I've analysed all of the data calls to and from EA servers – all of the APIs, every request for data, and all of the data that comes back,” they told Rock Paper Shotgun. The SimCity servers are not doing any calculations that could not be done on your PC, even for an entire region single player offline mode, let alone just the city you are in.”
This, of course, directly contradicts Bradshaw's claims, putting further pressure on the studio.
All the server sends to your client, is some very basic data about each city – how much power they have available, how much spare fire trucks, you know – that sort of stuff,” Azzer added. It's minor, and it's sent as raw numbers. They could make an entire region single player offline with absolute ease.
It would be as simple as coding in a switch saying, ‘Is this person playing single player? Take the power values of each city from local memory instead of ask for it from the server instead'.
For an offline mode instead of asking EA servers how much power is available from a fellow city in the region, it will simply have it in memory, as a small handful of values from another city. No live calculations done on them. Just raw values, all the EA servers send anyway. And as you'll only be playing/simulating one city at a time in offline mode (cities you don't play are ‘frozen in time') – those values of how much spare power, resources, etc. other cities have won't even need updating, until you change cities.”