For the swarms of angry EA customers ticked off at the company for forcing players to play the new SimCity in an always online mode, the slow, problem-riddled servers have been a huge annoyance. Calls for EA (our Worst Company In America 2012) and Maxis to allow gamers to play in offline mode have been dismissed by the company as not possible, but lo and behold, one game modder is claiming it is quite possible.
A Maxis exec had insisted previously that SimCity has to use those lumbering servers (I imagine them as actual dinosaurs, perhaps the fictional Brontosaurus) because they “offload a significant amount of the calculations to our servers,” and trying to move the game to a single-player system would take “a significant amount of engineering work from our team to rewrite the game.”
But then an inside source who claims to have worked on the game told RockPaperShotgun.com that the exec is either mistaken or just doesn’t understand:
“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.”
To that end, one gamer claims to have modified the game so that it can be played offline, indefinitely, reports Geek.com. While it won’t save offline without the use of the cloud, reconnecting to the online version of the game will allow gamers to save their progress at the end of a long offline session.
This modification puts quite a hole in EA’s previous arguments, and likely means it’ll have to scramble to prevent the game from hitting the high seas in pirate form. And by high seas of course I mean, the Internet.
Consumerist reader M. wrote in duly ticked off at EA and Maxis from the point of view of a developer. He casts further aspersions on EA’s reasoning that “our puny computers could not possible handle the massive calculations needed to have fire trucks roaming the virtual streets in circles.”
These functions are supposedly offloaded to EA’s servers and then the result returned to your computer real-time to show you how things turned out, real-time. As a developer, let me assure you that this is complete hogwash. It would take considerably longer to offload the hundreds of artificial intelligent decisions to a remote server and then get them back in time to draw your results on the screen than if your machine just did them itself.
EA wants you to be constantly connected for two reasons and two reasons only. First they want to keep you from pirating the game. Although this is a legitimate desire, their approach is neither smart nor fair to customers. It is not smart because, well you saw what happened and it is not fair because when the cracked version surfaces in a couple of days the people who paid will actually have less of a product than the pirates.
The second reason is to keep those who paid for the game from selling the game to someone else when they are done. This is the most egregious ploy as it completely violates the concept of ownership and first sale doctrine. It is like Ford telling you that you can’t sell your used F150 because you don’t actually own the software that runs its ignition system, you only have a non transferable license to it.
Now that someone has taken a crack at figuring out how to enable offline mode, it’ll be interesting to see what EA comes up with next to soothe all those disgruntled customers still wandering the streets of SimCity online, all the time.
Maxis Insider Tells RPS: SimCity Servers Not Necessary [RockPaperShotgun.com]
Modder proves SimCity can run offline indefinitely [Geek.com]