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.
"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]