SimCity Hacker: Offline Mode Could Be Done 'With Absolute Ease'

It's unfortunate the new SimCity will be remembered for its abysmal launch issues and inconsistent and seemingly misinformed PR. With the game finally resting on a semblance of stability, the focus now is on just how much the game relies on its connectivity to function... though we might already have an answer: Not much.

Azzer, the intrepid player that allegedly managed to activate SimCity's debug mode that allows for unlimited offline play (among other things), told Rock, Paper, Shotgun that providing official support for a disconnected mode would be simple.

From the RPS piece:

"I've analysed all of the data calls to and from EA servers — all of the APIs, every request for data, and all of the data that comes back ... The SimCity servers are not doing any calculations that could not be done on your PC, even for an entire region single player offline mode, let alone just the city you are in."

Azzer goes on to say that claims the servers are doing serious sim-crunching is "frankly, rubbish ... Every bit of it" and that most of the work the servers do is likely related to "anti-cheat stuff" (though my guess would have been collecting stupid amounts of metrics).

As for an offline mode...

"They could make an entire region single player offline with absolute ease. It would be as simple as coding in a switch saying, 'Is this person playing single player? Take the power values of each city from local memory instead of ask for it from the server instead.'"

This flies in the face of previous comments from SimCity general manager Lucy Bradshaw, who stated that a single-player mode would take "a significant amount of engineering work from our team to rewrite the game".

If the situation has highlighted anything, it's the level of disconnect between Maxis / EA management and the game's programmers and designers. Sure, delegation is necessary, as is compartmentalisation of knowledge — not everyone needs to now the specifics — but having no idea of the balance between the server and client, even on a basic level? That's a little hard to believe.

Spin is one thing, but bold-faced untruths and treating your customers like idiots? Someone needs to revise EA's customer retention plan.

SimCity Modder Tells Us Offline Regional Play Easily Done [Rock, Paper, Shotgun]


    I thought "Bold face un truths and treating your customers like idiots" was ea's customer retention plan

      They have a customer retention plan? I thought they just screwed you till you quit.

      Actually, what they have is a customer DEtention plan. Keep legitimate customers trapped and all that...

    I am so glad that we have people with the determination to call out companies who BS us like this.

      Yep because some random guy contradicts EA it must automatically be true

        Sure it might be some random guy, but so are you. Just because its some random guy with a possible passion and determination of finding out the truth for a game he might love. Doesn't discount the possibility he is right or true.

        I hate to say it, but the possibility that this game can only be played online; doesn't exist. They would have needed a local play mode to actually build the game productively.

    I think it's more a design thing, its really the only valid thing they have to say other then DRM, they think adding offline single player means they'll have to tailor the game to a solo experience, when it really doesn't, people would be quite happy just to have the option even if it lacks multiplayer stuff.

    I am loving this story every step of the way.

    On the Maxis blog or somewhere, they've said "okay sure, it COULD be offline, but that wouldn't have went with our vision of the game" which apparently included people not being able to play day 1, disabled features, broken mechanics and the worst customer-company relations in recent history, outshining even Aliens: Colonial Marines' bold-faced lies.

    edit: spelling

    Last edited 17/03/13 9:18 pm

    If he's reverse-engineered the SC API, then publish the data. I'm not saying he's lying, but right now, he's saying "trust me."

      You don`t need to do that. You can confirm everything he is stating just by taking a look on all the features and function calls the "debug mode" enables. Need more proff? If he was reverse-engineering... Come on, if you know that term, you know the legal implications of doing so.

      You would have to go very out of your way to make events like trading techs, and markets completely unable to be emulated offline. You would need to have another type of DRM to verify every single player interaction, and some how make it so that said verifications are necessary on a base level for the game to function. Such server interactions would be easy to verify even without looking at the games code. Not to mention that such a system would preclude the ability to do anything without the game being connected (and it has been shown that the game can be played offline for 20 minutes before any modifications are made)

      Can you name a single feature that would be impossible to emulate offline that doesn't include the social networking portions (and from what I have read, most of them could be simplified to a tech and resources trading screen, something that has been in games since at least 1991, so would be easy to build onto any currently existing negotiation system.

      You only need basic understanding about the way computers talk to each other to know that making offline impossible to patch in would have required planning and programming from the construction of the game engine.

    I'm just waiting for the news where Azzer has been hired by EA...

      Well, the funny thing is, someone at Maxis has already said what he did about implementing offline mode. ( Maybe he already is... The plot thickens.

      EA aren't Valve. The swat team has already been dispatched.

    And now theres this:

    SimCity Hack Lets Users Destroy Anyone's Online City Thanks To Always-On DRM

      To think, the Project Mayhem shit storm someone in a Tyler Durden/Fuck EA frame of mind could unleash with this...

      Last edited 18/03/13 8:15 am

    As I said before, the description given in a previous article listed things to do with persistent world, social networking, cloud saves and multiplayer. All of which are easily emulated offline (markets and tech trading especially), or are even totally optional, or even technically unnecessary (why do you still need cloud saves for single player sandbox mode?).

    IMO this is incredibly bad news for EA. Not because the "always on" turned out to be (if true) just a anti-theft thing, but the fact that if you can hack it to play offline then people will and the demand will be strong enough for it to be widely circulated. Which means that the entire point of it will be circumvented.

    Honestly, for their own sake I do wish that huge amounts of processing did actually occur off people's computers.

      If they really wanted to do raw processing that would mean that they would need more power on their end than our end for each person that wanted to play.

      So if I have a Hex-core PC they would need to be at least better than that on their end per person to make it worthwhile to do server side processing.

      I don't think they would shell out on that when the game only costs 60 bucks.

      I bet they only have like 10 servers running the whole thing and it is just to authenticate your copy of the game and your micro transactions.

        I bet they only have like 10 servers running the whole thing and it is just to authenticate your copy of the game and your micro transactions.

        I think you have just hit the nail on the head. If they don't release or at least show clear intentions to make a single player mode then, when the torrent guys do, (and they will,) this game is set for some major piracy.

        Why could they not stay true to the series and have developed this as a single player game. Incredibly bad move in my own opinion.

        Last edited 18/03/13 10:05 am

    I have had one of more successful cities disappear......

    I have been watching this unfold since launch. I have to say I don't understand why we can't have two play modes;

    Mode one - current online mode with all the social features resource sharing and whatnot.
    Mode two - an offline map just like in the old versions where I have to manage everything which has no effect on my online play and if they want to throw micro transaction in there I'd be cool with that too

    I'd happily play in both modes depending on my mood, there are time when I'm happy to interact with other players but other times I just want to destroy my city with whatever disasters I can throw at it, then roll back to my previous save and continue as normal.

    "If the situation has highlighted anything, it’s the level of disconnect between Maxis / EA management and the game’s programmers and designers."

    Honestly? That's what you took from this? It's almost like you're scared to call them out on their business practices despite it being the truth (and obvious). Is Kotaku on EA's PR payroll as well? Nearly every other large games blog is.

    No. What this situation has highlighted is that Maxix/EA don't give a fuck about customer experience, they care about milking intellectual properties for every dollar their worth while simultaneously running them into the ground and cheapening them with half-assed releases.

    This write-up seemingly implies that Lucy Bradshaw just made an innocent mistake with her comments on the effort required to make Sim City work offline. Are you kidding me?

    IT IS HER JOB TO LIE TO US. ARE YOU STUPID OR SOMETHING? The developers are just slaves to the publisher, they barely have any creative control anymore. Maxis is dead, it died a long time ago. Along with this entertainment industries integrity.

      Fyt da powuh

      Try reading to the end.

      "...having no idea of the balance between the server and client, even on a basic level? That’s a little hard to believe. Spin is one thing, but bold-faced untruths and treating your customers like idiots? Someone needs to revise EA’s customer retention plan."

      Actually, the article actually strongly implies that giving Bradshaw the benefit of the doubt is... incredibly charitable; that while the possibility is there, it's highly unlikely and difficult to believe.

      If you're going to put anything out there publicly as some kind of authority, it's probably best to leave yourself a little wiggle room. Innocent men get convicted by cops who are absolutely damn certain that this is their guy... until years later evidence proves it wasn't. When you start talking about people's intentions, unless you have actual proof, rather than drawing conclusions, it's always better to leave yourself an out.

    @Dane Green

    Totally, thats just another thing that this EA fiasco has done. It's helped brought to light which websites barely report on it to protect their business arrangement. The whole Gaming website scene (with a few exceptions, come to mind) is such a farce with the primary revenue being generated by the publishers they are called upon to review - its just as bad as politics.

    Frankly ea get everything they deserve.
    Im more than happy to use an offline hack to avoid this city destroy online hack.

    And I thought SWToR-tanic was a big enough shipwreck... Having your name on two of the biggest, most miserable flops in recent years, if not all time, is not something to be proud of.

      I wouldn't call Tor's launch or even 12 month status a flop. The game certainly failed to meet the silly expectations of being a Wow killer, but the second biggest mmo launch of all time seems to be at least worthy of silver. Besides EA must be making a fortune off the horribly overpriced Cartel Market.

      Still EA is one by one destroying good games/studios. Between rushed games, bad games, bad endings and tacked on multiplayer EA is heading in a bad direction. If EA doesn't undergo some serious change soon, I don't see them maintaining their current size/influence as a publisher.

        EA has already gone so far in the wrong direction its only a matter of time before they do the full 360 and pop up on the far side of the right direction.

          Hey, let's not get extreme here! This isn't a 'stopped clock right twice a day' thing. These guys are just digging a hole, and you can't 'dig up' - you gotta climb instead. The radical change in thinking required to teach these assholes to climb is probably too great for them to manage. They'll just keep on digging and loving it, until (hopefully) they reach crush depth and their organs collapse from gravity-pressure. (I think this happens before they reach magma. I could be wrong. Maybe they'll burn to a crisp.)

        SWToR cost EA like $200 or $300 million though, and they'll never see that money again. Not only that, but they spent the majority of their budget on voice actors, used a beta version of a very buggy game engine from 2005 and then blamed nearly every problem on their fanbase and shat on them.

    The main reasons i don't want this game are A) I don't want to HAVE to log in and hope for the server to be up and maybe i want to play offline? and B) I want to be able to build a complete city, not HAVE to rely on everyone else.

      Pretty much why I'm not buying it.

      The game is still quite playable and enjoyable in its current state and you need not rely on other cities in your region to make each other work properly. There are now plenty of servers (even one for antarctica though probably only in name and only for a laugh) so queue times are nonexistent, you can make a city, take out bonds, have your RCI along with mining/oil/tourism etc all in the one city.
      The only major things that hamper gameplay is the size of each individual city plot and the lack of terrain sculpting tools.

      Yes there were a number of lies spun by EA/Maxis on the advertising front but ultimately, were they so much worse than having an exciting trailer for an ordinary movie? Is the game unplayable simply because it didn't deliver on some/most of it's promises? It is almost like the mountain of butthurt induced by ME3. The game was still a decent game even if the ending didn't live up to expectations.

    Holy crap! The general manager for SimCity is a liar! She also found that tying shoelaces was a feat too difficult, so she wore velcro sneakers through high school, but she never told anyone. She also thinks that when the general manager of SimCity lies, it's fine because nobody will know, and nobody will change their purchasing decisions as a result. I preordered Spore, back when I trusted EA; however, I'm not going to buy SimCity.

    I got about 10 hours out of the game in the first couple of days that I could play it. But really, I'm over it already. Once you delve deeper you start to see so many issues. Still, $7 an hour for entertainment, I've had worse.

    I know the game has been plagued with issues, but I bought the game for $68 at JB on Saturday. Have had some annoying login bugs at the start, but so far haven't come across any of the major outages people are talking about.

    I'm guessing EA have resolved a lot of the day 1 issues then? It's strange, going by a lot of the gaming media you'd think the issues never stopped.

    I think there are thousands of people patiently waiting for a crack so if it's so easy shouldn't take long.

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