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Maxis is exploring the idea of an offline mode for SimCity, Emeryville studio general manager Patrick Buechner announced today. What's more, they're also toying with the possibility of allowing mods.
"We have begun a discussion with our players with the ultimate goal of giving you space to mod while assuring all our players that the multiplayer gameplay experience is safe and has integrity," Buechner said in a "state of the game" blog post. "It’s difficult to determine what makes a 'good' or safe mod and what mods cross the line. Clarifying guidelines for [User Generated Content] will help players understand where that line is. "
The developers want fans to voice their opinions on mods and their related guidelines. They've created a forum thread so that the player base can offer their thoughts.
Another big request from gamers is an offline mode. SimCity requires you to be connected to EA's servers while you play, even if you're not interacting with other players. This means that, if your Internet connection or the servers are on the fritz, you're not going to be able to play at all. This resulted in major problems during the game's launch. Maxis insisted at the time that an offline mode wasn't possible but now they seem open to the idea.
"Right now we have a team specifically focused on exploring the possibility of an offline mode. I can’t make any promises on when we will have more information, but we know this is something that many of our players have been asking for. While the server connectivity issues are behind us, we would like to give our players the ability to play even if they choose not to connect. An offline mode would have the additional benefit of providing room to the modding community to experiment without interfering or breaking the multiplayer experience."
Today's update from Maxis wasn't all good news, though. They admitted that they won't be able to expand city sizes. Buechner says they did months of testing for larger cities but couldn't make it work.
"The system performance challenges we encountered would mean that the vast majority of our players wouldn’t be able to load, much less play with bigger cities. We’ve tried a number of different approaches to bring performance into an acceptable range, but we just couldn’t achieve it within the confines of the engine."
Maxis has ceased work on expanding city sizes so that they can focus on the offline mode and other improvements. However, the months of testing weren't completely fruitless. During the process, the developers found new ways to improve the game's overall performance. These changes will be included in future patches.
It's great that Maxis has a willingness to make big changes to their game. It's just too bad that they didn't go through this process before the game shipped. They would've saved themselves and a players a lot of grief.