Wednesday, 20 March 2013

EA Has No Plans for A SimCity Offline Mode

Is it EA's decision to make? Sure. Is it a bad one? Absolutely.

This will hopefully be the last post that I have to make about SimCity for quite some time. It certainly won't be the last post about EA this week, that's for sure. However, that other topic, which is something quite interesting, is also something for another day. Right now I'd like to cover two important facts. The first is perhaps an obvious one, and the second should have been expected, but is no less frustrating.

It should be expected that once a product gets out there that people are going to open it up, sometimes even going to the point of utterly gutting it, just to understand how it works. These people are the modders, the community built around seeing what can be done with the building blocks provided by other people, even if the people providing the blocks would rather not have them tinkered with. So it's not really a surprise that the modders have been looking at SimCity, what might be surprising, however, is the fact that it was so incredibly easy to make it have a rudimentary "offline mode".

The modder responsible for the change, UKAzzer, even noted that, "Other things I have modded out with a quick change: Unlimited time to remain disconnected (won't get booted at 20 minutes, can now be disconnected "forever")." emphasis mine there. Is it a perfect solution? No, not hardly. As he outlines, the most difficult part would be actually saving what you've done, which cannot currently be completed without an online connection:

"Hmm, don't know about totally, but I'm experimenting with hacking in ways to spoof it into 'claiming' a city without sending that info to the server, loading that city data up from local data, and enabling editing, so you can edit a city and pick a region square all offline," he says. "Still don't think I can find any simple way to SAVE it yet, but it'll be a start. Whether I take it any further than that, or leave that to the real hardcore coders/hackers with more time on their hands, I don't know."

Still, for something that arguably hobbled the game horribly from launch day and resulted in a catastrophic press coverage and intense consumer displeasure, it's a little surprising to see just how simple a potential work around could be.

So, of course, EA has no plans whatsoever to ever make an offline mode part of this newest edition of the franchise.

Lucy Bradshaw, who you may remember as the person I cited as admitting that the game deserved its critical slamming due to the horrible launch, made a blog post attempting to address some of the concerns. This was a part of it:

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.

Now, as has been said elsewhere, EA doesn't have any sort of obligation to provide an offline experience, they're making that quite clear with their statements and actions. That being said though, saying that "oh, we're hearing from people who love what we've done" is easy to say. What I say to that is this: PROVE IT. Show me testimonials from people who love what you've done with the current setup, set it against all the complaints, all the vitriol, all the misgivings, and let me see how they stack up, because I'll bet that those scales aren't going to be anywhere near balanced.

Again, to conclude, I cannot stress enough that as a company that is one of the largest publishers of games in North America and perhaps the world, EA should know better than this. All of these problems, or at least the vast majority of them, could have been avoided. They heard from the people early on that there should have been an offline mode, they didn't put one in and still refuse to, they knew that there were going to be a fuckton of people trying to play the game, they still crapped out with the servers. If this is how one of the leading companies in the gaming industry acts, then can anyone really be blamed for losing faith?

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