SimCity could easily work offline, claims anonymous developer

An anonymous SimCity developer says the game does not do most of its calculations 'in the cloud', so an offline version should be possible.

Nick Hide Managing copy editor
Nick manages CNET's advice copy desk from Springfield, Virginia. He's worked at CNET since 2005.
Expertise Copy editing, football, Civilization and other old-man games, West Wing trivia
Nick Hide
2 min read

An anonymous developer who worked on the new SimCity has revealed the game does not do most of its calculations 'in the cloud', directly contradicting what developer Maxis and publisher EA have repeatedly claimed.

In defending the troubled game's always-online requirement, the game's makers have said an offline mode would not be possible, due to "a significant amount of calculations" being done in their servers. Not true, the source told respected PC blog RockPaperShotgun.

"The servers are not handling any of the computation done to simulate the city you are playing," the developer says. "I have no idea why they're claiming otherwise."

As RPS notes, many players (including Minecraft developer and strident EA critic Marcus 'Notch' Persson) have discovered that the simulation will run for some time if your Internet connection drops. That wouldn't be possible if the cloud was really running your game.

"It wouldn't take very much engineering," the source adds, "to give you a limited single-player game without all the nifty region stuff."

The key word there is limited. As the game stands, each city is very small -- the vast majority of gameplay is in managing relationships between your cities and those of other players. If a huge monster stomps all over the city you're buying power from, you've got a brownout to deal with. It's the Maxis servers that regulate all those messages.

While EA and Maxis certainly have questions to answer -- they've yet to make any comment -- the offline mode you would get would hardly be worth playing. Nevertheless, it's Maxis' decision to make its cities so tiny. Sim City 4, released 10 years ago, had vast regions, with room for several enormous cities, running on a single laptop in my bedroom.

SimCity suffered one of the worst launches in video game history when players were unable to play it at all for several days, due to its servers being completely overwhelmed. Many players saw the game's always-online requirement as an unwanted burden, added only to prevent piracy, and penalising people who bought the game at its steep £45 full price.

EA added servers in the week following the game's launch, which has largely alleviated players' inability to actually play the game, although some features (such as speeded-up Cheetah mode) are yet to return. The publisher has promised players a free game from its much-despised Origin store by way of apology.

How are you finding SimCity? Is it working for you now? Would you still like an offline mode? Construct your towering thoughts in the comments zone below, or over on our always-online Facebook page.