After months upon months of sidestepping the issue, EA and Maxis have finally seen fit to give SimCity an offline option. Victory! At least, for folks still soldiering on with the beleaguered and – to be perfectly honest – not terribly interesting city builder. But while we wait for modders to laugh off Maxis’ suffocatingly stringent guidelines and finally make the game great, some questions still need answering. Foremost among them, why the not-so-sudden about-face when the company once claimed that separating SimCity from its precious servers would be nearly impossible? According to the developer, it’s because rewriting the simulation to function offline took nearly six-and-a-half months of hard work.
Maxis addressed concerns that it could’ve turned SimCity from a connection-dropping dystopia into an always-offline paradise at the drop of a hat in a blog post:
“By the time we’re finished we will have spent over 6 ½ months working to write and rewrite core parts of the game to get this to work. Even things that seem trivial, like the way that cities are saved and loaded, had to be completely reworked in order to make this feature function correctly.”
“SimCity was written to rely on the servers. The game routinely pings the servers for critical pieces of data (region status, workers, trading etc.) and it relies on that information to keep the simulation moving. This meant rewriting the entire system, which previously existed in Java, and putting it into C++. We’ve had to knock out the internet pipe stuff. There’s lots of code that hits the servers looking for information. We’ve had to write a lot of code to produce that data locally, specifically for region information.”
Servers apparently functioned as the vital pulse for everything from regions to trading to UI elements, and snipping the connective tissues resulted in a mess of optimization issues, which Maxis is still working to correct. The developer also had to remove multiplayer code integral to elements like social features, the global market, and leaderboards, all without turning the soon-to-be separate multiplayer mode into a malfunctioning heap. So basically, they played a months-long game of Operation with a PC game. Apparently. Apparently.
I say this because multiple reports and some quickly mocked-up mods made the whole process sound like it’d be significantly less time/effort-intensive. Seeing as I’m no expert, however, I can’t say for sure one way or another.
But there you have it: Maxis addressed the issue on a nitty-gritty-ish level, as opposed to just saying, “Welp, here you go” and clamming up forever. Now then, while we’re being all open and communicative finally after enraged eons, could we maybe get a side helping of larger cities? Please?