Maxis defends / modders defeat SimCity online

Just as the dust was starting to settle on SimCity‘s tumultuous launch, with gamers finally able to log in and play the game without any major difficulties, Maxis General Manager Lucy Bradshaw has stepped up and made a startling admission regarding the game’s always-on DRM/multiplayer system. And it’s not something you’re going to want to hear.


From the ground up, we designed this game with multiplayer in mind – using new technology to realize a vision of players connected in regions to create a SimCity that captured the dynamism of the world we live in; a global, ever-changing, social world.

On paper, it sounds like a grand idea. Maxis envisioned a game that was always-connected, a persistent world, a sort of city-building MMO. All cities would be constantly up to date, with players able to help each other with supplies and services, trading in the Global Marketplace, and connecting to each other in a number of ways. Even if gamers thought they were primarily single-player, the multiplayer elements were beign developed to be so enticing that everyone eventually would want to jump into the connected waters.

The developers had a very clear vision of what they wanted, and they weren’t going to add anything to the game that didn’t align properly. As Bradshaw says:

Could we have built a subset offline mode? Yes. But we rejected that idea because it didn’t fit with our vision.

The vision was, essentially, to stay far away from the “single city in isolation” model used in past SimCity releases – despite the fact that there are many, many fans who want just that. Their voices don’t matter, compared to the “thousands” of new fans who love the always-online version.

The SimCity we delivered captures the magic of its heritage but catches up with ever-improving technology.

Predictably, the comments on Bradshaw’s post are, at times, less than civil. Many fans and gamers are focussing on the fact that EA and Maxis told us all that SimCity required an always-on internet connection due to the high levels of computations required by the program and the GlassBox engine.

This has now been proven to be false – even before Bradshaw’s revelation that it was a design choice, avid modders had discovered ways to disable the two lines of code that forced the game to check for an online connection every twenty minutes.

kNoRepeatNetworkAlertSeconds : 15,
kNetDownForceQuitAfterMinutes : 20,

Want to know more? Head to NeoGAF and follow the instructions. At this point, it is impossible to save your game while in offline mode, but coders are, of course, hard at work on a fix.

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