Now that we know for sure that Maxis is making with an offline mode for SimCity, a lot of players are asking why it took so long considering that there was outcry over the online-only approach well before the March 2013 launch. Patrick Buechner, the studio’s general manager, had promised more details in a forthcoming blog post, and that blog post is live. The short version: it wasn’t easy.
“The original creative vision for SimCity was to make a game where every action had an effect on other cities in your region. As such, we engineered the game to meet this vision, setting up the player’s PC (client) to communicate all of its information to the servers,” lead engineer Simon Fox writes. “That means that our entire architecture was written to support this, from the way that the simulation works to the way that you communicate across a region of cities.”
Fox also addresses the fact that someone was able to remove SimCity‘s the time check shortly after launch, thus getting around the restriction that causes the game to automatically shut down after a few minutes when access to the Internet is severed. Fox notes that without the time check constraint, the game was “unable to perform key actions like communicating with other cities that they had created locally, or with the rest of their region(s), or even saving the current state of their cities.”
The post goes on to describe some of the process of allowing SimCity to function offline. You should go ahead and read the whole thing if you’re curious, but here’s the most telling bit: “By the time we’re finished we will have spent over 6 ½ months working to write and rewrite core parts of the game to get this to work. Even things that seem trivial, like the way that cities are saved and loaded, had to be completely reworked in order to make this feature function correctly.”
Some people are going to say this is all a bunch of lies. Others are going to wonder aloud why this wasn’t considered and worked on when the outcry over always-online requirements first sprung up prior to SimCity‘s release. It doesn’t really matter at this point though, does it? SimCity will be playable offline soon. That’s a good thing. Funnel your energy into rejoicing, and hoping that Electronic Arts and Maxis learned a lesson about what’s important to their players from this whole affair.