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Apparently SimCity Doesn't Need Online Only Servers

By Leigh Cobb13-03-2013

In the latest events of the long running SimCity Server debacle, a Maxis insider has contacted Rock Paper Shotgun, apparently claiming that the online only servers are in fact, not necessary. Contradicting claims made by EA and Maxis, including studio head Lucy Bradshaw, thus far.

Reacting to fan outrage at the disastrous SimCity launch, which saw people who had spent quite a hefty amount on the game (blame EA's pricing policy), not actually able to play the game, representatives from both EA and Maxis claimed that it would be impossible to make the game single player at this point. They pointed to the supposed fact that too many calculations and interactions were needed to be handled server side by EA, for the online aspects of this primarily social game to work.

However, a Maxis studio insider recently contacted gaming site Rock Paper Shotgun, and said pretty clearly, that all the bluster surrounding the possibility of making the game single player, was a lie. They state:

"The servers are not handling any of the computation done to simulate the city you are playing. They are still acting as servers, doing some amount of computation to route messages of various types between both players and cities. As well, they're doing cloud storage of save games, interfacing with Origin, and all of that. But for the game itself? No, they're not doing anything. I have no idea why they're claiming otherwise. It's possible that Bradshaw misunderstood or was misinformed, but otherwise I'm clueless."

The line of thinking from the anonymous tipster also runs parallel to recent thoughts that being connected isn't as important to the game experience as EA and Maxis originally made out. It is perfectly possible, as shown in tests conducted by Kotaku, to play the game in offline mode for a significant amount of time, with no issues. In fact, all that complex simulation interaction and region play which needed to be online to work seems to function fine when playing with no internet access at all. The RPS informant goes on to explain some of the mechanics of the server interaction in the game: "... the game would regularly pass updates to the server, and then the server would stick those messages in a huge queue along with the messages from everyone else playing. The server pulls messages off the queue, farms them out to other servers to be processed and then those servers send you a package of updates back. The amount of time it could take for you to get a server update responding to something you've just done in the game could be as long as a few minutes.

The unfolding saga of incompetence of blatant lies is making for quite the drama, but let's just hope that EA can either come clean or respond to these concerns with action, by implementing a single player mode. DRM like this wrapped up in a lie about server connections is just wrong for the player, however you look at it. The insider also said "it wouldn't take very much engineering to give you a limited single-player game without all the nifty region stuff".

I'll be bringing you my thoughts on SimCity in our Pixel Judge review, which will be featured soon.

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Posts: 1548

Until we have an offline City I'm not going to buy this. Same goes for Diablo 3!