Maxis and Electronic Arts are considering making the always-online SimCity playable offline, according to the game’s blog. Maxis is also discussing the possibility of user-generated content, and has ruled out the possibility of bigger cities.
When Maxis’ SimCity launched in March 2013, it wasn’t the 3D visuals, the addicting nature of the game, or the user interface that grabbed headlines. The game launched requiring a persistent Internet connection that not only annoyed many fans, it became a serious technological roadblock as servers continued to crash. The game was often unplayable, and even when players could access it, there could be crippling limitations due to a lock of stability. It was a problem that went beyond a simple fix, and that led many to see it as a fundamental flaw in the very nature of the game and in EA’s business practices. Seven months later, Maxis may finally be reconsidering.
“Right now we have a team specifically focused on exploring the possibility of an offline mode,” Patrick Buechner, general manager for Maxis wrote. “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.”
Buechner went on to say that by taking the game offline, it would create more opportunities for the modding community to experiment without “breaking the multiplayer experience.”
“We have begun a discussion with our players with the ultimate goal of giving you space to mod while assuring all our players that the multiplayer gameplay experience is safe and has integrity,” Buechner claimed.
He also put to rest the question of having bigger cities in the game. SimCity is meant to be played by developing smaller, multiple cities that interact with each other. Many fans have requested a larger, single city option instead, but Buechner has confirmed that bigger cities won’t be coming to the game due to performance issues.
“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,” he wrote. “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’ve chosen to cease work on bigger city sizes and put that effort into continuing to evolve the core game and explore an offline mode.”
While it is encouraging that Maxis is “listening to your feedback” as Buchner states, this is by no means confirmation of an offline mode. A new expansion pack for SimCity titled Cities of Tomorrow is due out on November 12, but any changes as major as an offline mode likely wouldn’t be ready by then, even if it was certain.