A version of SimCity could have been built to offer offline play, but this didn't fit in with the vision Maxis had for the game, general manager Lucy Bradshaw has explained.
"I hate to disturb you when you're playing SimCity, but I'd like to offer some straight answers on the topic: Always-Connected and why SimCity is not an offline experience," wrote Bradshaw in a post titled Straight answers from Lucy.
Bradshaw continued: "Always-Connected is a big change from SimCities of the past. It didn't come down as an order from corporate and it isn't a clandestine strategy to control players. It's fundamental to the vision we had for this SimCity. From the ground up, we designed this game with multiplayer in mind – using new technology to realise a vision of players connected in regions to create a SimCity that captured the dynamism of the world we live in; a global, ever-changing, social world.
"We put a ton of effort into making our simulation and graphics engines more detailed than ever and to give players lively and responsive cities. We also made innovative use of servers to move aspects of the simulation into the cloud to support region play and social features."
Bradshaw then listed some of the game's features possible because of always connected gameplay:
- We keep the simulation state of the region up to date for all players. Even when playing solo, this keeps the interactions between cities up to date in a shared view of the world.
- Players who want to reach the peak of each specialization can count on surrounding cities to provide services or resources, even workers. As other players build, your city can draw on their resources.
- Our Great Works rely on contributions from multiple cities in a region. Connected services keep each player's contributions updated and the progression on Great Works moving ahead.
- All of our social world features - world challenges, world events, world leaderboards and world achievements - use our servers to update the status of all cities.
- Our servers handle gifts between players.
- We've created a dynamic supply and demand model for trading by keeping a Global Market updated with changing demands on key resources.
- We update each city's visual representation as well. If you visit another player's city, you'll see the most up to date visual status.
- We even check to make sure that all the cities saved are legit, so that the region play, leaderboards, challenges and achievements rewards and status have integrity.
The Maxis general manager continued: "Cloud-based saves and easy access from any computer are another advantage of our connected features. You can pop from work to home, play the game and have your cities available to you anywhere.
"Almost all of our players play with connected cities. But some chose to play alone – running the cities themselves. But whether they play solo or multiplayer, they are drawn to the connected city experience. And Always-Connected provides a platform for future social features that will play out over regions and servers.
"The game we launched is only the beginning for us – it's not final and it never will be. In many ways, we built an MMO."
Bradshaw then admitted what we've known for weeks: it would be possible for SimCity to work without the servers.
"So, could we have built a subset offline mode? Yes. But we rejected that idea because it didn't fit with our vision. We did not focus on the “single city in isolation” that we have delivered in past SimCities. We recognize that there are fans – people who love the original SimCity – who want that. But we're also hearing from thousands of people who are playing across regions, trading, communicating and loving the Always-Connected functionality. The SimCity we delivered captures the magic of its heritage but catches up with ever-improving technology.
"So I'll finish with another HUGE thanks to everyone who stuck with us through this launch. Hundreds of thousands are building and sharing cities online now. And what you're creating just blows us away. SimCity is a special game, with a very special community of players, and we're proud to be a part of it."
Bradshaw's lengthy blog post came just as fans discovered a shutdown timer in the game which chucks players out of the game if offline for 20 minutes.