SimCity

SimCity: Maxis "exploring the possibility" of offline mode, confirm city size won't increase

Phil Savage at

It's been seven months since the launch of SimCity, which means it's been slightly under seven months since players of SimCity could consistently connect to the always-online city building sim's servers. In an address to the community, Patrick Buechner, the general manager of the Maxis Emeryville studio, wrote about this and other controversial elements that have followed the game since launch. He reveals that the team are "exploring the possibility" of an offline mode for the game, touches upon potential mod support, and admits that, despite their efforts, SimCities won't be getting any bigger.

"Right now we have a team specifically focused on exploring the possibility of an offline mode," Buechner writes, "I can’t make any promises on when we will have more information, but we know this is something that many of our players have been asking for. While the server connectivity issues are behind us, we would like to give our players the ability to play even if they choose not to connect. An offline mode would have the additional benefit of providing room to the modding community to experiment without interfering or breaking the multiplayer experience."

That's one of SimCity's major criticisms at least partially, somewhat, theoretically addressed. What about the other? Here's what Buechner had to say about city sizes:

"We’ve put months of investigation into making larger city sizes, reworking the terrain maps, changing the routing algorithms of our agent-based system and altering the way that GlassBox processes the data in a larger space.

"After months of testing, I confirm that we will not be providing bigger city sizes. The system performance challenges we encountered would mean that the vast majority of our players wouldn’t be able to load, much less play with bigger cities. We’ve tried a number of different approaches to bring performance into an acceptable range, but we just couldn’t achieve it within the confines of the engine. We’ve chosen to cease work on bigger city sizes and put that effort into continuing to evolve the core game and explore an offline mode. Some of the experiments we conducted to improve performance on bigger cities will be rolled into future updates to improve overall game performance."

Elsewhere in the post, Buechner clarifies Maxis's position of DLC, saying that they "do not force players to purchase game elements that are essentially helping to tune the simulation or fix specific issues". He also goes over some of the game-fixing updates from the last seven months, including improvements to the traffic system.

Mod support is also being explored. "We have begun a discussion with our players with the ultimate goal of giving you space to mod while assuring all our players that the multiplayer gameplay experience is safe and has integrity. It’s difficult to determine what makes a 'good' or safe mod and what mods cross the line. Clarifying guidelines for [user generated content] will help players understand where that line is." That does sound like a problem that could be largely fixed with that aforementioned offline mode.