When SimCity launched earlier this year, it became the best example yet of why always-online DRM doesn't work. The game suffered from inconsistent performance and random log outs as a result of the game's requirement to always be online. At the time, EA insisted that the always online requirement was part of the game's design, but the now the developers at Maxis are backing away from that claim.
In an update on the official SimCity blog, Maxis General Manager Patrick Buechner provided players with an update on the game. He first thanks the players and assures them that the team is listening to their complaints and suggestions. That statement would seem rather superfluous if it wasn't for Buechner noting that Maxis is finally looking into adding an offline mode:
Right now we have a team specifically focused on exploring the possibility of an offline mode. 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.
Speaking of mods, Maxis announced that mod support is on the way. Unfortunately, the only kind of modding support Maxis is adding at the moment is the ability to swap colors. Anything else would "jeopardize the integrity of the gameplay or harm the experience of others." That's perfectly reasonable as mods do have the potential to break an online game like SimCity. If an offline mode is offered, however, EA should open the floodgates on modding to let players do whatever they want.
Oh, and for those that want bigger cities - it's not happening. The team at Maxis says that increasing the size of cities anymore would negatively impact performance for everybody. That doesn't mean their experiments with larger cities is going to waste though. The developers say that the results of their work will be put into future performance improvement updates.
So, there you have it. SimCity might finally give players what they've been asking for since launch. It certainly took them long enough, but it's definitely appreciated. Now if only we could get another game to drop its asinine always online DRM.[Image: SimCity Blog]