The internet is buzzing with reports that people have been able to play SimCity, however briefly, offline. I myself experienced this very thing last night while playing the game. Right in the middle of laying down a few roads, I got a notification at the top of my screen telling me that the servers were down and that the game was trying to “reconnect”. Naturally, I assumed that I was about to be booted from the game very shortly. You know, because I apparently need to be on the internet to be able to play. I was surprised when I was able to continue playing for about an additional 12 minutes or so before I was finally forced back to the main menu. Initially I wrote this off as fluke and didn’t think much about it until it happened again about an hour later. Then I thought that maybe it was just a bug in the game and my WiFi hadn’t actually failed as the game was just PMSing.
Today, however, I have seen dozens of reports from people claiming that they have actually tested the “You HAVE to be connected to the internet” claim that EA has made over and over when asked about an offline mode. Folks have actually unplugged their internet connection and have been able to play the game. Some of the guys at Kotaku have been able to play for up to 20 minutes without running into issues!
This has left many people to wonder why EA is saying that the internet is required for this game to work properly when that clearly does not seem to be the case. The folks over at Rock, Paper, Shotgun were able to talk to an anonymous source that claims to have been directly involved in the development of SimCity. This is what he had to say to them:
“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.”
“It wouldn’t take very much engineering to give you a limited single-player game without all the nifty region stuff.”
This goes against the claim that studio head Lucy Bradshaw made saying that the servers are needed to make a large amount of calculations which would make the highly demanded offline mode impossible.
This leaves players wondering what the real issue is behind SimCity needing to be online only. If making a limited, single-player experience isn’t going to be rocket science after all, then why not give the players what they want? Could EA really be that worried about cheating, hacking, and/or piracy? Or could the reasoning for this be something else entirely?
Either way, it looks like Maxis and EA are going to have a lot of explaining to do!
A video has surfaced on YouTube that shows a modder, going by the YouTube alias UKAzzer, that was able to enable debug mode. While in this mode of the game players would be able to place roads and zones outside of the limited area allowed to build cities. This would make it possible to build the big cities that we loved from SimCity 4. You could also exit the game and have it safely saved to the server. However the best part of debug mode is that you would also be able to to play the game, offline for an unlimited amount of time! Here is the description of what UKAzzer did from their YouTube video.
So with a little bit of package editing within SimCity, and a little playing about in the code, it’s possible to enable debug mode. I linked the activation to the “Help Center” button in the main menu for ease. Most debug features are disabled without having an actual developer’s build (they have terraforming tools etc. available in the full developer build!), but a few things do still work – including editing the main highways.
Not only that – but you can edit the highways ANYWHERE – even outside of your city boundary… and even if you quit the game and log back in later, it’s all saved safely on the server.
This shows that highway editing will be easily possible, AND that editing outside of the artificially small city boundaries should be very viable too.
Other things I have modded out with a quick change: Unlimited time to remain disconnected (won’t get booted at 20 minutes, can now be disconnected “forever”). Population count now shows REAL figure, not the “artificially inflated” figure. My large cities have a population of about 15k now, not 100k