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Maxis "Rejected" Offline Mode For SimCity

Maxis general manager Lucy Bradshaw explained in a blog post why the SimCity developer felt that offline play "didn't fit in with [their] vision."

In an effort to explain why SimCity is what it is, Bradshaw listed off what the "significant calculations" your SimCity game offloads to Maxis' servers when you're playing, since the game seems to work in offline mode when hacked to not require server-side authentication. To wit:

  • Simulation data for the region
  • World features like world challenges and events
  • Gifts between players
  • Global Market trading data that sets the price for resources based on supply and demand
  • Allows players to view each other's cities
  • Checking savegames to make sure that leaderboards and such are free of cheaters

In conclusion, Bradshaw writes:

"So, could we have built a subset offline mode? Yes. But we rejected that idea because it didn't fit with our vision. 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. 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."

It's difficult to disprove Bradshaw's claims about the wondrous benefits of having to always be connected to Maxis' servers in order to play SimCity, but my personal experience with the game leads me to cast a critical eye at the gameplay-relevant claims about regional simulation. Since SimCity's multiplayer is asynchronous, Sims and service vehicles aren't actually traveling from one player's city to another – they're being generated locally in the active city as workers/shoppers/students/services coming in through the highway connection if the region has another city that can provide the demanded commodity. Setting aside the gameplay desirability of such a system, I find it hard to believe that the design wouldn't work in a traditional offline or optional-multiplayer experience.

What's your take on Bradshaw's arguments?

It's been a while coming, but look for the full Game Informer SimCity review later this afternoon.

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