In real life, you want your cities to have a strong internet pipe plugged into their veins. Anyone who lives in, or even occasionally visits, the arse-end of nowhere - or "the countryside", as it's officially called - will be aware of the frequent frustration of attempting to massage a game update into their computers just a few stray kilobytes at a time. For fictional cities, it can be less desirable - which is something Maxis found out when they released the online-only SimCity last year. But after denials, equivocation, and light teasers, they've finally confirmed that an offline singleplayer mode will be available with the release of the game's next update.
"Offline is coming as a free download with Update 10 to all SimCity players," states Patrick Buechner, the general manager of the Maxis Emeryville studio. "When we launch it, all of your previously downloaded content will be available to you anytime, anywhere, without the need for an internet connection. We are in the late phases of wrapping up its development and while we want to get it into your hands as soon as possible, our priority is to make sure that it's as polished as possible before we release it. So, until then… testing, testing and more testing."
Currently, there's no date for the update's release. Buechner reveals that, as part of its testing phase, it will be trialled by the DevTesters - a collection of volunteer "hardcore players", who will be making sure it works before the general release.
"In Update 10, you can still play solo in Regions on your own, or in Multiplayer with people from around the world, Buechner continues. "What's new is the Single Player Mode, which allows you to play the game Offline by yourself. And because your saved games in this mode are stored locally, you can save and load to your heart's content."
Aside from the obvious changes, an offline mode will also go a long way towards relaxing the restrictions placed on the recently introduced modding support . "[Modders] can now make modifications to the game and its components without compromising the integrity of the Online game," writes Buechner. With any luck, this will mean a collection of mods more significant than the palette swaps enabled through the current restrictive system.
While Maxis had previously hinted at the possibility of offline support, it's still something of a surprise to see it happen. In part, that's because of the studio's own statements, like an infamous tweet explaining how, thanks to the game supposedly simulating an entire region, offline was "just not possible".
@Azbiker72 The game was designed for MP, we sim the entire region on the server so this is just not possible— SimCity (@simcity) March 9, 2013
We've contacted EA for clarification as to what's changed between then and now. We'll bring you their response as soon as it arrives.