In light of recent developments (and by recent developments, I mean the discovery of the game being playable offline), Maxis GM Lucy Bradshaw decided to shed some more light on why the development team decided to make SimCity online only.
Bradshaw reiterated the decision to go in this direction was not an effort on EA’s part to control players, rather it was a design choice the developers thought was the best fit for their creative vision.
She then provided the following list of ways the online servers have benefited the game:
We keep the simulation state of the region up to date for all players. Even when playing solo, this keeps the interactions between cities up to date in a shared view of the world.
Players who want to reach the peak of each specialization can count on surrounding cities to provide services or resources, even workers. As other players build, your city can draw on their resources.
Our Great Works rely on contributions from multiple cities in a region. Connected services keep each player’s contributions updated and the progression on Great Works moving ahead.
All of our social world features - world challenges, world events, world leaderboards and world achievements - use our servers to update the status of all cities.
Our servers handle gifts between players.
We’ve created a dynamic supply and demand model for trading by keeping a Global Market updated with changing demands on key resources.
We update each city’s visual representation as well. If you visit another player’s city, you’ll see the most up to date visual status.
We even check to make sure that all the cities saved are legit, so that the region play, leaderboards, challenges and achievements rewards and status have integrity.
While the rampant speculation (and outrage) caused by the offline hack was obviously the reason why Bradshaw decided to provide these “straight answers”, she didn’t address it directly. However, she did admit it was entirely possible for the developers to build an offline mode into the game.
“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.”
I know a lot of people think Bradshaw is lying but I don’t necessarily see it that way. Do I think she’s spin doctoring around a lot of the negativity? Yes I do, because it’s obvious. I also feel EA’s previous DRM policies have played a role in Maxis’ design choice (even if Maxis won’t admit to it).
However, I do think Bradshaw’s belief in SimCity’s multiplayer model is genuine and I also admit this structure has some good and innovative ideas. But ignoring the long-time fans who wanted the option to play the game solo without being constantly connected was the wrong way to go, especially now that we know the game can run just fine without being online.
Given the sheer number of dissatisfied fans (who appear to be even angry after being given these “straight answers”), it seems the only way EA and Maxis can (100%) make things right is to give in and eventually patch offline play into the game.