Maxis admits SimCity could have had an offline mode, but here’s why it doesn’t

Could Maxis have built a subset offline mode for the always-connected SimCity? In short answer, yes. However, it's much more complicated than that. Well, not really complicated, but more of a blatant design choice.

In recent days we've seen PC experts modding SimCity's files to allow for lengthy offline play, raising the much debated question: Can SimCity be played and enjoyed as an offline experience? And if yes, why not allow it?

Here's the thing, SimCity could have been designed to support offline play, but that's not the vision Maxis had in mind when creating the game. And Maxis General Manager Lucy Bradshaw has updated the EA blog to set the record straight, hopefully once and for all. Before you complain, just know they have no intention of offering an offline mode either.

"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. 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," Lucy explained. 

"We also made innovative use of servers to move aspects of the simulation into the cloud to support region play and social features," she said, while listing just a few:

  • We keep the simulation state of the region up to date for all players.  Even when playing solo, this keeps the interactions between cities up to date in a shared view of the world.
  • Players who want to reach the peak of each specialization can count on surrounding cities to provide services or resources, even workers.  As other players build, your city can draw on their resources.
  • Our Great Works rely on contributions from multiple cities in a region.  Connected services keep each player’s contributions updated and the progression on Great Works moving ahead.
  • All of our social world features – world challenges, world events, world leaderboards and world achievements – use our servers to update the status of all cities.
  • Our servers handle gifts between players.
  • We’ve created a dynamic supply and demand model for trading by keeping a Global Market updated with changing demands on key resources.
  • We update each city’s visual representation as well.  If you visit another player’s city, you’ll see the most up to date visual status.
  • We even check to make sure that all the cities saved are legit, so that the region play, leaderboards, challenges and achievements rewards and status have integrity.

Saving to the cloud also means you can pick and continue playing your city from where you left off — anywhere, on any computer. So you see, SimCity could have had an offline mode built in. "But we rejected that idea because it didn’t fit with our vision," she admitted. "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," Lucy acknowledged, adding: "But we’re also hearing from thousands of people who are playing across regions, trading, communicating and loving the Always-Connected functionality. The SimCity we delivered captures the magic of its heritage but catches up with ever-improving technology."

Personally, I don't mind having to be connected to EA's servers. Was it annoying at launch? Absolutely. But now that the servers are stable, I hardly notice it. What I do notice are the glaring bugs — like traffic logic and actual region trading — that need to be sorted out. Once those are fixed, I have no doubt SimCity will live up to its promised potential.