EA's 2013 revival of SimCity will sport one of the more controversial features of modern PC gaming: an always-online requirement, even in singleplayer.
Developers of the game confirmed this during a recent demo of the new title for Kotaku.
"This is a mutiplayer game," producer Kip Katserelis at EA development studio Maxis said, explaining the requirement. Yes, they even consider singleplayer to be multiplayer. "We're constantly tracking what you do… and then feeding that back to players." They're tracking who is polluting the most or who is playing better. They're spawning challenges for players. They're keeping everyone connected.
They're basically, like Blizzard, saying the latest game in a series that used to not require an online connection now will, and like Blizzard it's saying that it's fundamental to the way they want this new game played. If games play offline, they would become out of sync with the game's perpetual tracking of the cities that together comprise the sense of this new SimCity as one grand interconnected world.
Sorry if you were hoping to play this on an aeroplane without internet.
Asked an open-ended question about why they'd require online, the developers of the new game won't say the reason that's most commonly suspected for this kind of requirement: piracy. They will, however, provide some solace to those of us who fear that strict online-only requirements will cause our games to blink out if we're trying to play while connected to an internet signal then tends to drop once in a while. The developers say they are programming this new Sim City to tolerate some undefined amount of "minutes" of offline play in the case of dropped connections-presumably an amount of minutes closer in length to a commercial break than a TV show, though they didn't want to say.
But what of the debacle of the Diablo III launch and the fury of players who couldn't play a game they wanted to play solo because Blizzard had trouble keeping its servers up and error-free?
"We've got experience from Spore and Darkspore," Katserelis said, citing other recent Maxis games. "EA is an on online company. We're definitely watching what's going on at Blizzard, and we're putting in backstops and checks to try to prevent those kind of things from happening."