Azzer then addressed how easy it would be to move all of SimCity’s region features over to the client side, and provide a full single-player experience.
“They could make an entire region single player offline with absolute ease. It would be as simple as coding in a switch saying, ‘Is this person playing single player? Take the power values of each city from local memory instead of ask for it from the server instead.’ The only thing missing is saving to local hard drive – but let’s be real, the code for saving your city already exists, I can’t imagine even that would take more than an hour to put into the client (and it probably already exists in the client for development builds), plus a little bit of time for the UI elements for Save/Load.”
“For an offline mode,” Azzer added, “instead of asking EA servers how much power is available from a fellow city in the region, it will simply have it in memory, as a small handful of values from another city. No live calculations done on them. Just raw values, all the EA servers send anyway. And as you’ll only be playing/simulating one city at a time in offline mode (cities you don’t play are “frozen in time”) – those values of how much spare power, resources, etc. other cities have won’t even need updating, until you change cities.”
According to Azzer this type of offline setup would work exactly like the current online-only mode does when there is only one active player in a region.
“You build a town that has lots of power and water and spare fire trucks. I build a big casino city with lots of criminals. You go offline and don’t play for a whole week, but I keep playing for an entire week. During that week, my client will keep telling me stories about fire trucks coming to help me from your city, I’ll keep getting water from you, I’ll keep getting power from you – of a ‘set amount’ dictated by how much you had spare when you last logged off. This is all processed by my client, not by the server… processing is done on the cities you aren’t currently playing on – they simply freeze in time and provide a fixed set of values of ‘resources’ that the currently played city simulates.”
Azzer had a lot more to say about how SimCity could easily be made into an offline game, which you should check out at Rock Paper Shotgun if you are frustrated by EA and Maxis’ apparent lack of honesty.
It is unlikely that EA or Maxis will ever honestly (and fully) address Azzer’s claims, so we can only speculate on what their true intentions are in regards to SimCity‘s online-only status. My guess is that it was done as a way to make the game a service they can control through DRM, as opposed to a product that provides certain rights to those who purchase it.
If that is indeed the case, they are well within their rights, because it is their game to produce and sell as they please. However, they should have been upfront and honest about those intentions with the people who purchased a license to play it (remember, you never truly own your digitally purchased games).
As it stands now, SimCity is not anything I can support with my wallet, which is a shame because I’ve been a big fan of the franchise in the past. I believe this type of DRM is harmful to consumers and ultimately it will do a great deal of damage to the video game industry. After all, there is only so much that honest paying consumers will take before they walk away.