Offline mode 'being explored' for SimCity, but no guarantees

By Luke Caulfield , Updated Oct 04, 2013 01:07 PM EDT
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Don't get your hopes up, but keep your fingers crossed, because it looks like Maxis just might finally be giving in on requiring server access to play SimCity.

According to a new blog post from Patrick Buechner, the company's General Manager, "Right now we have a team specifically focused on exploring the possibility of an offline mode," he said. "I can't make any promises on when we will have more information, but we know this is something that many of our players have been asking for. While the server connectivity issues are behind us, we would like to give our players the ability to play even if they choose not to connect."

Better late than never, right? You may remember back when SimCity first arrived, it came saddled with the now dreaded "always online DRM," meaning that gamers had to play online, or not at all. Here's the problem; SimCity was a Ron Burgundy sort of thing when it came out, i.e., "kind of a big deal." Servers were packed to the gills with would be mayors eager to build their own virtual city, meaning that only a few were able to squeeze in, and thousands more were bottle necked out.

Without servers to play on, combined with the always-online DRM, rendered the game virtually unplayable, and even caused several outlets to drop rating scores for the game in light of the policy. The launch was a PR nightmare for both Maxis and EA, and started the big campaign against "always online," something which Microsoft even felt the sting of, doing an about face on its own policies for the company's next-gen Xbox One. Maxis tried to offer a free game as an apology, but the damage was already done.

It's been enough to keep many players from buying the game now that it's made it's way over to Mac, despite players' affinities for controlling cities like virtual megalomaniacs. An offline mode could help expand SimCity's player base, and maybe even encourage a bigger online community now that the problems seem to be out of the way.

"An offline mode would have the additional benefit of providing room to the modding community to experiment without interfering or breaking the multiplayer experience," wrote Buechner.

But with the good news comes some bad news, in that there are no plans to increase city sizes.

"City sizes have been a constant point of conversation among our players since we released the game," Buechner continued. "We've put months of investigation into making larger city sizes, reworking the terrain maps, changing the routing algorithms of our agent-based system and altering the way that GlassBox processes the data in a larger space.

"After months of testing, I confirm that we will not be providing bigger city sizes. The system performance challenges we encountered would mean that the vast majority of our players wouldn't be able to load, much less play with bigger cities. We've tried a number of different approaches to bring performance into an acceptable range, but we just couldn't achieve it within the confines of the engine."

We'll keep you posted once that team's done "exploring" that offline mode, and if it ever comes to fruition.

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