To call the recent launch of SimCity a disaster would probably be an insult to actual disasters, since those can at the very least be interesting to watch. EA’s integration of always-online DRM for the game, which is required even during single-player, has led to a plethora of server issues due to the higher-than-expected userbase playing the game at launch, leaving the title unplayable for many.
Up until now, EA has remained confident in defending the practice, stating that it’s necessary from a gameplay/mechanical standpoint in order to send calculations, updates and other hooplah to the game’s servers and that working around such measures would be impossible. If these latest rumblings are correct, however, then creating a genuine offline mode for the game would in fact be very possible.
An anonymous source from developer Maxis has recently spoken to Rock, Paper, Shotgun and told them that the game’s servers are simply performing Origin and cloud save functionality, and aren’t really doing anything that is directly related to your actual city:
“The servers are not handling any of the computation done to simulate the city you are playing. They are still acting as servers, doing some amount of computation to route messages of various types between both players and cities. As well, they’re doing cloud storage of save games, interfacing with Origin, and all of that. But for the game itself? No, they’re not doing anything. I have no idea why they’re claiming otherwise. It’s possible that Bradshaw misunderstood or was misinformed, but otherwise I’m clueless.”
It would appear then, that the online functionality is solely for DRM purposes and to prevent users from hacking. Here’s the thing, though; the source stated that such checks are not continuous and in real-time, with the server’s only performing checks in an occasional, routine manner. Kotaku and Minecraft developer Notch recently found that they were able to play the game offline for a limited period of time. The source explains further:
“Because of the way Glassbox was designed, simulation data had to go through a different pathway. The game would regularly pass updates to the server, and then the server would stick those messages in a huge queue along with the messages from everyone else playing. The server pulls messages off the queue, farms them out to other servers to be processed and then those servers send you a package of updates back. The amount of time it could take for you to get a server update responding to something you’ve just done in the game could be as long as a few minutes. This is why they disabled Cheetah mode, by the way, to reduce by half the number of updates coming into the queue.”
The source finally went on to say that creating a true offline mode for the game would be relatively easy and hassle-free:
“It wouldn’t take very much engineering to give you a limited single-player game without all the nifty region stuff.”
In other words, EA is likely talking out of whatever hole occupies their southern territory when they claim that the online functionality is a complete and utter necessity. Nice of them to look out for single-players without internet access, eh?
Keep in mind that the anonymity of the source means that this information is not completely confirmed, though RPS claimed that they did an extensive check to make sure they were an actual developer, and they’re far from untrustworthy.
How do you feel about this info, single-players? Let us know, and stay tuned for more single-player content here at OnlySP.