We’ve gone, what, two days without any SimCity scandal? Well, this is about to make up for that hiatus I assure you. Since the game came out last week, it’s been the topic of much debate regarding always-online DRM and unprepared game launches. Bottom line: the SimCity launch has been an utter disaster and ever since the server issues began (which was the moment the game released) people have been begging for an offline mode.
To that request, Maxis studio boss lady Lucy Bradshaw has stated (repeatedly): “with the way that the game works, we offload a significant amount of the calculations to our servers so that the computations are off the local PCs and are moved into the cloud. It wouldn’t be possible to make the game offline without a significant amount of engineering work by our team.”
RockPaperShotgun, however, has a Maxis insider. This insider worked on the game, and he/she has said that the whole “calculations to our servers” thing is a load of rubbish. Everything happens on your PC and the only things the servers do is make sure you’re not cheating and, obviously, run the social aspects of the game.
“The servers are not handling any of the computation done to simulate the city you are playing. They are still acting as servers, doing some amount of computation to route messages of various types between both players and cities. As well, they’re doing cloud storage of save games, interfacing with Origin, and all of that. But for the game itself? No, they’re not doing anything. I have no idea why they’re claiming otherwise. It’s possible that Bradshaw misunderstood or was misinformed, but otherwise I’m clueless.”
So then, would it be possible for Maxis to put together an offline mode? According to Bradshaw it wouldn’t be possible and even if it was it was it would take a “significant amount of engineering work”. According to the Maxis insider, “it wouldn’t take very much engineering to give you a limited single-player game without all the nifty region stuff.”
This all comes in the wake of Kotaku publishing an article in which they discuss how they were able to play the game for nearly 20 minutes before SimCity realised it wasn’t connected to the Internet.
The Maxis insider provided a little more information on how the server architecture functions within the Glassbox engine:
“Because of the way Glassbox was designed, simulation data had to go through a different pathway. The game would regularly pass updates to the server, and then the server would stick those messages in a huge queue along with the messages from everyone else playing. The server pulls messages off the queue, farms them out to other servers to be processed and then those servers send you a package of updates back. The amount of time it could take for you to get a server update responding to something you’ve just done in the game could be as long as a few minutes. This is why they disabled Cheetah mode, by the way, to reduce by half the number of updates coming into the queue.”
Well then, it looks like somebody just turned the PR Disaster dial up to “We Have Serious Explaining To Do”.