There is mounting evidence that, despite EA Maxis' claims to the contrary, SimCity is wholly capable of being played offline -- a capability that would have saved buyers a week of hassle and tons of creativity now lost to server issues.
Let's start with what the gamers have discovered. Lately, some modding has led to a fully playable offline debug version. Fancy that!
There's a snag, of course -- this bit of hackery is unable to save or load all your progress, since EA opted to control your data on its end. Still, the game is able to be taken fully offline for an indefinite period of time, putting paid to suggestions that online play was inseparably woven into the experience.
Interestingly, this "debug mode" of the game still syncs with EA Maxis' servers, and can at least save road placements made outside of the normal boundaries of the game.
This discovery follows reports by Rock, Paper, Shotgun that an anonymous insider is claiming SimCity never needed to remain online, and can actually go offline at any moment. While Maxis' Lucy Bradshaw claims offline play would require "a significant amount of engineering work from our team to rewrite the game," faceless informants cry foul.
"The servers are not handling any of the computation done to simulate the city you are playing," claims RPS' source. "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."
It's suggested the server doesn't even react to your gameplay in real-time, and that it can take a few minutes for it to check your session for hacks or cheats. The bottom line is that, according to those who aren't in Electronic Arts' thrall, it wouldn't take much effort at all to get your an offline version of SimCity -- barring, of course, the game's regional features.
But of course, Electronic Arts made a bold stand on this issue, and is expected to pridefully stick to its guns. All the while, its resolute determination to keep players online will continue to confirm something I think was obvious -- the always-online requirement was only ever a business decision, not one made to enhance the gameplay. The end goal was to keep tabs on players at all times, and control their behavior beyond the point of sale, because EA is terrified of its own audience.
It's DRM in sheep's clothing, and the longer EA decides to keep SimCity online, the clearer that becomes.