Looks like EA has spared no effort ensuring that Sim City would be remembered as 2013’s landmark of failure.
The game was released last week with always-on internet requirement that made the game unplayable for several days due to server issues. Players quickly got angry at the fact that EA’s servers couldn’t handle most players at launch and the fact that there is really no reason for the always-on internet connection requirement. The game’s score on metacritics and Amazon plumped quickly to the one star zone, forcing Amazon to remove Sim City from its online store.
And EA took its time resolving the issues. The game was not playable for nearly a week. At which time, an anonymous Maxis developer spilled the beans that the mandatory internet connection is meant only as a form of DRM and that the servers do nothing beyond cheat detection and storing save files.
Needless to say, EA maintained a position that the servers handle a large chunk of the game’s logic and provide social features that are integral to the game’s core gameplay.
But then one game modder came along and proved that EA is simply bullshitting.
The modder, UKAzzer, simply switched a flag in the Sim City’s code to enable debug mode which is used by the game’s developers for testing purposes. In debug mode, the game is fully functional and playable offline with the caveat that saving and loading are then only features that require internet connection since the game’s save files are stored on EA’s servers. As a bonus, you get more accurate city population calculations and you are able to edit beyond your city’s boundaries in debug mode. And those edits are saved normally when you connect.
Maxis/EA general manager Lucy Bradshaw acknowledged the mode, but insisted that Sim City was designed as an online game and that the mandatory internet connection is not meant as "a clandestine strategy to control players".
"So, could we have built a subset offline mode? Yes," she admitted. "But we rejected that idea because it didn't fit with our vision. We did not focus on the 'single city in isolation' that we have delivered in past SimCities. We recognize that there are fans – people who love the original SimCity – who want that."
"But we’re also hearing from thousands of people who are playing across regions, trading, communicating and loving the Always-Connected functionality," she added. "The SimCity we delivered captures the magic of its heritage but catches up with ever-improving technology."