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Maxis Developer Denies Need For Single-Player SimCity Servers

| 12 Mar 2013 22:00
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A SimCity developer says the oft-heard claim that remote servers handle some of the game's computations, which makes true single-player gameplay impossible, is simply not true.

Maxis and Electronic Arts have repeatedly defended the need to be connected to remote SimCity servers even when playing alone by saying that those servers handle a significant portion of the game's calculations. "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," Maxis General Manager Lucy Bradshaw told Polygon last week. "It wouldn't be possible to make the game offline without a significant amount of engineering work by our team."

But a developer who worked on the game has now told Rock, Paper, Shotgun - which verified his direct participation in the project - that the claim isn't actually true. "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," the anonymous source said. "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."

He explained that the servers allow players to share maps and resources and ensure that nobody is cheating, but said none of that happens in real-time and it has no direct impact on individual games. That's why EA recently disabled Cheetah mode, he added: To reduce the number of updates coming into the server queue.

The bottom line is that the complexities of disconnecting SimCity from remote servers have been vastly overstated. "It wouldn't take very much engineering to give you a limited single-player game without all the nifty region stuff," the source said.

This, I think, qualifies as an interesting development. Even if it's true - and Kotaku tests suggest it may very well be - it's possible that this is all simply a result of a difference of opinion about what constitutes "a significant amount of engineering." It could be something a whole lot shadier too, but I have a hard time imagining a major game publisher - yes, even Electronic Arts - flat-out lying about this sort of thing. That's the sort of maneuver that's bound to be caught out, and to bring some mighty ugly fallout when it does.

Source: Rock, Paper, Shotgun

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