Modder Runs SimCity Offline, Maxis Remains Silent

Two days ago, RPS published an article in which a Maxis insider revealed to us that SimCity does not, in fact, require the servers to run its non-regional game. Maxis reps had repeatedly insisted to the press that the game had to be online as it ran local computations on their own servers – a feature our source told us doesn’t exist at all. Extraordinarily, we’ve still yet to receive a statement from Maxis on the matter. Nor indeed have any of the rest of the games media who contacted EA for comments at the time of our story.

And now, if any further proof were needed, a modder has hacked the game to run entirely offline, and even play outside of the game’s ridiculously small borders.

Here it is:

Obviously this hack doesn’t allow saving, loading or regional features when playing offline, but he has found a way to have unlimited offline play. However, when connected to the servers, it still remembers the road placement outside of the boundaries. This all amply demonstrates that the game can very easily be modded to run offline, rather than the “significant amount of engineering” Maxis repeatedly claimed. A local save is now all that’s required.

This whole affair feels like a clumsily written morality tale, where someone’s unrealistic hubris gets them into trouble. “Sure, like anyone would be that brazen!” you’d say as you watched. We are still waiting for a response from EA/Maxis, to our queries as to why they were claiming the game was dependent on the servers to run.

Cheers, Reddit.


  1. ts061282 says:

    Everyone buy Simcity to join the class action suit!

    Gross negligence and fraud are your friend!

  2. Redd says:

    As a suggestion, if you run it in a virtual machine you should have a ghetto ‘save’ by writing the entire state of the VM to disk. Not that anyone should be buying this shit in the first place.

  3. Yglorba says:

    So, wait.

    Someone is going to take this further and produce a version with offline saving and loading.

    This version will be pirated, not just because everything that can possibly be pirated gets pirated.

    As a result of their ridiculous DRM, EA and Maxis have guaranteed that the pirated version will be an overwhelmingly better product to anyone who wants to play offline — not only not dependent on servers, but offering a much wider area to build on and so forth.

    This is stupid, especially since optional online functionality is an excellent way to fight piracy.

    • Deadfast says:

      You say that as if it was a new thing. Point me to a single DRM-protected game that treats its customers better than the Swedish version.

      • solidsquid says:

        When you take into consideration the easier installation, I’d say Portal 2 was a better experience than a pirate version would have been, and that’s covered by Steam’s DRM

        • Deadfast says:

          True, Steam is an example of DRM done mostly* right. It actually is a service rather than just pretending to be one.

          * offline mode is still extremely moody

  4. Giuseppe says:

    This is absolutely delicious news!

  5. shutter says:

    How does it count as running ‘entirely offline’ without region features? As much as RPS seems to have this weird irrational hatred of the region stuff, it’s pretty obviously an intentional design choice to be a core part of gameplay. It’s like saying you got Tribes running, except for the multiplayer.

    • Brun says:

      “Except it wasn’t core to the experience in SimCity 4, so it shouldn’t be core here!”

      I think that gets it pretty close to the mark, how’d I do hivemind?

    • Tridus says:

      And someone’s PC couldn’t handle doing the region sync… why? It’s not that much extra work. EA does not have a supercomputer cluster running for every single region out there.

      It’d work easily if they wanted to. They don’t want it to because it’s DRM, not because it’s actually required for any technical reason.

    • Ich Will says:

      The regions don’t seem to actually do anything to need any server usage. If a region isn’t actively being played, it is effectively paused – all your region needs to know is how much electricity et al each town has made available, a simple integer in your towns save file achieves that.

      Do you remember in the sims 2 where when you weren’t playing a household, they didn’t age or progress with their lives, just existed in limbo. It’s doing exactly that. Remember how if you played the same household, the people would age and die, but their friends would not. Your toddlers best friend would always remain a toddler, so you would have this situation where your sim dies of old age, his best friend is still preschool!

      That’s the source of the irrational hate, a city needs to grow in parallel, your own town is held back if the others aren’t progressing. It’s not so irrational, it’s frustration that we seem to be playing a game making mistakes that the developer realised was a mistake years ago.

  6. Tridus says:

    They won’t respond, because they’ve been lying all along and they’ve been caught red handed. What is there to say other then “no refunds, suckers!”

    Besides, given how busted the simulation engine is, this is no longer their #1 problem.

    • Deadfast says:

      Probably for the best they keep quiet. Every time they do open their mouth they’re lying anyway.

  7. BinaryFu says:

    Yeah, I agree with the bad reviews, it’s safe to say they really botched SimCity. I feel like a blue eyed sucker that voluntarily handed the conman his wallet. :)

    I’m guessing SimCity doesn’t have a bright future ahead, given that the running costs for the server park required to keep us playing are roughly 3-4 times more than they anticipated. The cut off point where SimCity is no longer profitable for EA will be a lot sooner than they calculated and they’ll somehow have to convince everyone to keep buying even more DLCs to keep it floating. If others share my boredom with the game after only a few days of playing it, that can be rather soon.

    Maybe that’s fine though. At least I was beaten thoroughly enough with a thorny whip to not to give into the temptation of handing EA 60€ again anytime soon, no matter how sweet the title seems to be…

  8. Jimbo says:

    Back to not making PC exclusives for EA then I guess. High-fives everyone.

  9. Bill_Wiskins says:

    Dear RPS: thank you for continuing to make a fuss. Don’t let it go.

    • valz says:

      I suspect you’re being sarcastic, but stupidly so if you are. RPS isn’t making the fuss. They’re just explaining the fuss which is already here. Check the Amazon reviews for this game if you want anecdotal evidence that they aren’t creating the fuss.

      If you’re not being sarcastic, I heartily agree. Please keep covering major issues like this one, RPS!

  10. lorderrr says:

    Why put a crap DRM??
    If it doesn’t get cracked in a day or two, you are lucky, and costumers hate it!

  11. valz says:

    Obviously? Why would that be obvious? Silly John Walker.

  12. Iliya Moroumetz says:

    So, while I’m waiting for this nonsense to come to some sort of pro-consumer satisfying conclusion, which one do you well-informed, well-spoken, and well-traveled recommend individuals recommend: Simcity 4 or Simcity 2000? I can get the former on Steam and the latter on GoG.

    • Chris D says:

      As a third option, have you considered Tropico 4 which is at 75% off on Steam right now?

      • Iliya Moroumetz says:

        I have, actually. I also have both Anno games (1404 and 2070). I tried the demo a while ago for Tropico and for some reason…. I can’t really explain, but there’s something about the game that doesn’t grab me. Nothing against the game itself. I’m sure plenty of people enjoy it and it’s a good game on its own merits, but it just doesn’t seem like the kind of game for me. >.>

        Sorry if that sounds pretentious and all.

        • Chris D says:

          Fair enough. You like what you like. Not sure I can be a lot more help then. I played Simcity 2000 back in the day and really enjoyed it, but that was a loooong time ago. Don’t know how it would hold up if you come to it fresh now.

  13. Pirate_Captain says: