Yesterday EA announced the latest incarnation of Sim City would be patched to finally bring offline play to the controversial title. An online-only play requirement caused the game to be crippled from launch for many players, and left offline players locked out of the title completely. At the time the game was launched, EA simply told players adding an offline mode was impossible. Obviously yesterday's news proved that assertion was false.
In light of a wave of backlash and questions from fans, including the ever-important "Why did you tell us this was impossible?" EA has released a statement explaining what went into making the game playable offline. The main ingredient? Time -- six and a half months' worth.
Leader engineer Simon Fox offered the following explanation on the EA blog.
The original creative vision for SimCity was to make a game where every action had an effect on other cities in your region. As such, we engineered the game to meet this vision, setting up the player's PC (client) to communicate all of its information to the servers. That means that our entire architecture was written to support this, from the way that the simulation works to the way that you communicate across a region of cities. So yes, while someone was able to remove the "time check" shortly after launch, they were unable to perform key actions like communicating with other cities that they had created locally, or with the rest of their region(s), or even saving the current state of their cities.
My team did, however, see a path forward towards Offline, one that would maintain the integrity of the simulation. Lucy once said that Offline wouldn't be possible "without a significant amount of engineering work", and she's right. By the time we're finished we will have spent over 6 ½ months working to write and rewrite core parts of the game to get this to work. Even things that seem trivial, like the way that cities are saved and loaded, had to be completely reworked in order to make this feature function correctly.
Fair enough; it's understandable that meeting the expectations of fans for the game after the launch backlash took time. Sim City's connectivity was integrated into even the most basic features of the game, initially making an offline mode seem impossible. The developers didn't start working on the offline mode until August of 2013, the month the title launched for Mac. Sim City was released for the PC in March of 2013.
Thankfully, the wait will be over soon, and hopefully the next Sim City game will launch as a playable title.