Maxis on the defensive as SimCity furore persists

Maxis on the defensive as SimCity furore persists
Craig Chapple

By Craig Chapple

March 18th 2013 at 11:00AM

But modder claims game can easily be run offline despite constant internet connection requirement

Always-online connectivity is a fundamental part of EA Maxis' vision for SimCity and the running of the game, the studio's GM has said.

In a blog post on the official EA website, Lucy Bradshaw defended decisions made during the development of SimCity, and highlighted the importance of keeping the title always connected.

Bradshaw said the game had been designed from the ground up with multiplayer and social features in mind, with users encouraged to work together to make a region flourish.

The Maxis GM also likened the title to an MMO, and claimed that the studio rejected the idea for offline gameplay because it didn’t fit in with its vision for the game.

“Always-Connected is a big change from SimCities of the past,” said Bradshaw.

“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 realise 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.”

She added: “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 recognise 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.”

Despite Bradshaw’s claims of how crucial always-online is for SimCity to function properly, last week a modder of the game named Azzer managed to alter the title for offline play. 

The modder later claimed to Rock Paper Shotgun that after analysing game data, he discovered that EA’s servers were only transferring basic data, and that it was not seemingly essential to the running of the title with the PC doing most of the hard work.

“I’ve analysed all of the data calls to and from EA servers – all of the APIs, every request for data, and all of the data that comes back,” said Azzer.

“The SimCity servers are not doing any calculations that could not be done on your PC, even for an entire region single player offline mode, let alone just the city you are in.”

He added: “All the server sends to your client, is some very basic data about each city – how much power they have available, how much spare fire trucks, you know – that sort of stuff. It’s minor, and it’s sent as raw numbers. Your client then just goes ‘oh there’s XXX power spare from city Z.’ It’s that simple.”