A Maxis blog post has stated that the SimCity team is looking into the possibility of an offline mode – but that bigger cities will definitely not be happening.
The post, entitled State of SimCity and written by Maxis Emeryville’s Patrick Buechner, states that there is a team “specifically focused on exploring the possibility of an offline mode.” No word on when we’ll know more, but Buechner notes that this would let the modding community “experiment without interfering [with] or breaking the multiplayer experience.” Considering the utter confusion created by the early guidelines for what mods would be allowed, that sounds like a good thing.
There’s a trade-off, though, and that’s this: bigger cities will definitely not happen.
“We’ve put months of investigation into making larger city sizes, reworking the terrain maps, changing the routing algorithms of our agent-based system and altering the way that GlassBox processes the data in a larger space,” wrote Buechner. “After months of testing, I confirm that we will not be providing bigger city sizes.”
The problem is apparently performance, in that most players apparently wouldn’t even be able to load bigger cities, let alone run them; despite trying various different things, the team “just couldn’t achieve it within the confines of the engine.” As such, work on bigger cities has now ceased entirely, with the focus going into the offline mode instead.
If there is one upside to this – and it’s not much – it’s that some of the stuff learned from the bigger city experiments will be incorporated into future updates to improve general game performance.
I have to wonder exactly how badly the bigger cities would impact performance, though. The post states that “many players have expressed the desire to build up one big city rather than manage the interrelationship of multiple smaller cities”, which makes it sound like they’ve been trying to create a zone that’s the size of all the cities in a region combined. What about just leaving the region connectivity in, but simply making the city zones 1.5x bigger? I don’t quite understand why that wouldn’t work, but then I’m not a developer. Mind you, I also don’t understand why bigger cities aren’t just thrown in as an option for players with PCs powerful enough to use them. I mean, we’re PC users. We’re kinda used to people with more powerful PCs having nicer-looking, better-running games.
Sigh. In any case, it sounds like that definitely won’t be happening, so we might as well stop hoping; if we get offline mode then the modders might be able to work something out, but I wouldn’t count it. Speaking of the offline mode, there’s no word on when we’ll hear more – the blog post states “I can’t make any promises on when we will have more information,” so don’t hold your breath.