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Modder Makes SimCity Mostly Work Offline, Kind Of

The DRM is very easy to bypass.

SimCity’s need for an internet connection, at least every 20 minutes or so, frustrated many early players. The compulsory connection to servers that were massively under-supplied in the game’s first week, along with the problems caused by disconnects and a game save that’s stored in the cloud have been a massive issue since the game’s launch, with many that could get connected to a server to start playing finding disconnects or failure to save progress a recurring problem.

I’ll hold my hands up here and say that I don’t have the first clue about coding but that necessary connection has always felt like an early design choice that wasn’t fully thought out before it had made itself integral to the way SimCity works. I get the impression that city size was restricted in an attempt to hit a certain system requirement level and then the cooperative region of cities, all saving to the cloud and asynchronously assisting each other by providing different resources and services, was a way to cover for that restrictive city size. But I could be wrong.

Maxis sources have previously claimed that an internet connection was necessary because of the complex simulations being run on the server side. Multiple forum rantings have claimed that that’s a load of old rubbish and the offline mode is simply disabled to make way for draconian DRM measures. The truth will probably arrive as a point somewhere between these two polar positions.

Now a thread has gone up on Reddit in which, with an air of inevitability, users claim to have modded the game so that much of it works without ever needing to see an internet connection. Many are claiming that this proves the game is functional entirely offline but I’d urge caution on that front: much of what makes SimCity the game it is still doesn’t work in the offline modded version. You’re restricted to one city which, as previously mentioned, is a small area that can’t contain all that the game has to offer. There’s no regional play and your game save isn’t handled at all without going online, although it’s early days for these mods.

Interestingly, the modders say that much of the requirement for “always online” is coded in with what appear to be javascript rush-jobs – perhaps indicating that the requirement was a last minute decision?

They’ve also managed to make the game allow manipulation of highways outside of city limits. That, and the appearance of references to “big maps” in the game’s code, indicate that the hard lines restricting city borders are perhaps not the final word on city size – that’s something I’d be much more keen to see rather than an offline mode. It’s postulated that “big maps” might be some form of planned future DLC, which would fit the Sims’ recent business style but be slightly annoying for veteran Sim City fans.

They also found remnants of a game feature that I miss from previous iterations of Sim City: terraforming. Apparently, there’s a UI there that’s just been disabled outside of developer builds so it might simply be a tool for future DLC building but there’s hope that it was just lacking in polish in time for release and could be patched in as a region editor later.

Source: Reddit

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10 Comments
  1. Alex C
    One for all.
    Since: Forever

    https://twitter.com/aegies/status/310282795564015616

    You literally don’t know what you’re talking about.

    Oh.

    Wait.

    Comment posted on 14/03/2013 at 14:57.
    • Peter Chapman
      Team TSA: Editor
      Since: Forever

      When I read arrogant crap like that it always looks like “stop having opinions and discussing possibilities, wait for the official press release to be spoonfed to you and then accept it as the only possible truth, you blinkered, stupid sheep.”

      But then, I don’t work for Polygon so I’m part of the problem, I guess.

      Comment posted on 14/03/2013 at 15:08.
    • KeRaSh
      Member
      Since: Nov 2009

      That comment really got me riled up.
      It’s not that uncommon that we get lied to by PR people who want to spin something to their favor and it is very likely that this is the case with what Bradshaw told us. Do we know for certain? No. At least not yet but we’ve seen enough evidence to at least be doubtful.
      From an editor of a high profile site like Polygon I’d expect a little more openess to the possibility that Maxis’ PR people might not be telling us the complete truth.

      Comment posted on 15/03/2013 at 08:23.
  2. cc_star
    Team TSA: Writer
    Since: Forever

    Highlights some pretty flat out lies by EA/Maxis too, particularly about local machines offloading processing to the server, hence it would be an almost impossible engineering tasa to make it playable offline.

    Comment posted on 14/03/2013 at 14:58.
    • Peter Chapman
      Team TSA: Editor
      Since: Forever

      I think that might be true though – so even if you claim every city in a region, and only want to play locally, the game still handles each city’s interaction with another (and the simulations involved) through an online connection. Maybe?
      The game is designed to almost necessitate use of all the cities in a region, working cooperatively, rather than having the ability to do everything in one sprawling metropolis like you could with previous Sim City games.
      It all comes back down to the small city size restrictions and I can’t see any reason for that other than designing to a system requirement that allows for the massive user base that loves The Sims 3.

      Comment posted on 14/03/2013 at 15:06.
      • teflon
        Community Team
        Since: May 2009

        From what I’ve read, when your game syncs to the server every 20 minutes (more often for cheetah speed), it pulls down the latest updates for the other cities in your region, and then your game acts upon that with regional trade, etc. etc.

        There’s absolutely no reason why that couldn’t be done by an AI city manager offline. No, it wouldn’t match a human player, but faking it so that it can pseudo react to what you’re doing is far from an insurmountable problem.

        Then again, the method by which the game handles people going to and coming home from work is really, really pants.

        Comment posted on 14/03/2013 at 19:00.
  3. Michael
    Team TSA: Development
    Since: Forever

    It’s impossible to modify software. This is why the PS3 never has day one patches, for example.

    Comment posted on 14/03/2013 at 15:27.
    • freezebug2
      Member
      Since: Dec 2008

      That’ll never catch on…..oh wait {:’o

      Comment posted on 14/03/2013 at 16:23.
  4. hazelam
    Member
    Since: Feb 2009

    this is what i said would happen.
    and i quote.
    “when there’s a hack that allows the game to be run totally offline, and i expect there will be one sooner or later, it’ll be proven that ea were definitely lying.”

    now where’s my Jaffa cakes? ^_^

    and the complex simulations they allegedly had to run on the server?
    would that include the AI?
    though after watching the video i think it should be called AS, Actual Stupidity.
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=g418BSF6XBQ

    Comment posted on 15/03/2013 at 08:25.
    • Pete_UK
      Member
      Since: Mar 2010

      That’s bloody hilarious; it seems EA have managed to beat Molyneux at his own game.

      Comment posted on 15/03/2013 at 09:30.

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