Ever since the first server problems with Maxis’ SimCity popped up on launch day many frustrated customers have wondered exactly why it was that Electronic Arts would not let them play the traditionally single-player only game offline. EA has plainly stated that it is impossible for SimCity to run in an offline mode because the game was built as “an online interconnected world”. Maxis general manager Lucy Bradshaw even went on record stating that the “way the game works… it wouldn’t be possible to make the game offline without a significant amount of engineering work by our team.” Despite those claims, we are now hearing reports that SimCity‘s servers actually don’t do many calculations, and the game is playable up until the DRM requests a server connection.
Initial reports of SimCity’s offline capabilities came from Kotaku’s Stephen Totilo, who conducted a test on his copy of the game by booting it up and then turning off his internet connection. As it turns out, a game that was supposed to “offload a significant amount of the calculations to [its] servers”, managed to run for another 19 minutes before the DRM kicked in and asked for a connection to the server. This result was later backed up by Markus “Notch” Persson, who tweeted that he was also able to keep playing SimCity in an offline mode.
Furthermore, RockPaperShotgun has received word from a “verified” (but anonymous) Maxi employee, who backed up the results, saying:
“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.”
The source then went on to explain that it “wouldn’t take very much engineering to give [players] a limited single-player game without all the nifty region stuff.”
While we have to consider the source’s information a rumor, the fact that people are playing SimCity offline speaks for itself. EA’s servers are not doing anywhere near the amount of computation that Maxis claims, and it appears that they are mostly there for intrusive DRM purposes.
Electronic Arts has not yet commented on any aspect of these reports on SimCity‘s offline capabilities, if they do we will make sure to update this post with the information.