EA (Electronic Arts) has made the statement many times that the new reboot of "SimCity" would require an internet connection to play because of the emphasis on multiplayer, but according to an insider at Maxis that talked to Rock, Paper, Shotgun yesterday, Mar. 12th, that is not the case at all.
Heads of EA and Maxis have all claimed that the internet requirement for the game was to balance some of the computational load from the local PC and put the load on their servers in the cloud and to change the way the game works would require "a significant amount of engineering work by our team," says Maxis general manager Lucy Bradsaw. The insider at Maxis says the complete opposite in their talk with RPS and says that Bradsaw either "misunderstood or was misinformed" about how the game works.
The servers are not handling any of the computation done to simulate the city you are playing. They are still acting as servers, doing some amount of computation to route messages of various types between both players and cities. As well, they’re doing cloud storage of save games, interfacing with Origin, and all of that. But for the game itself? No, they’re not doing anything. I have no idea why they’re claiming otherwise.
Tests were conducted by Kotaku that resulted in about 20 minutes of gameplay before the game realized it wasn't online and was confirmed by a tweet from "Minecraft" creator Markus "Notch" Persson who conducted tests of his own. On top of that the insider claims that restructuring the game for single player would take "minimal effort" so the question remains, why does the game require an internet connection to even play? The assumption would have to be pointed towards EA and their attempt to put always online DRM (Digital Rights Management) on the game but masking it as game functionality. EA tried to add always online DRM to a single player game years ago with Spore, but received massive amounts of backlash due to the game requiring an internet connection even though there were not any critical game functions that required internet connectivity. EA eventually gave in and removed the DRM from the game but apparently spent the last few years trying to find ways to still have DRM but not call it that.
In the meantime what are the servers actually doing? According to the insider, the server takes messages from your game, puts the messages in a queue to be sent out to other processing servers, and then receives a message to forward on to the players computer. This process is done in minutes, not seconds, meaning that something you just did in the game doesn't reach the server and back to you until a few minutes later leaving many people questioning how vital are these servers to the game's functionality.
The amount of time it could take for you to get a server update responding to something you’ve just done in the game could be as long as a few minutes. This is why they disabled Cheetah mode, by the way, to reduce by half the number of updates coming into the queue.
The insider admits that it is possible to make "SimCity" a single player game, but would be limited in comparison and wouldn't have the "nifty region stuff.” The region feature is the ability to connect your city to other player cities in the cloud and is a required part of the game that allows your city to grow.
Frustration about the game continues to grow and a report like this will only add fuel to the fire and ultimately effect who will be buying the game in the future. It will be interesting to see what comes of this recent leak and whether this internet requirement for the game is just a ploy because EA wanted to add online DRM or Maxis really felt that this game required an internet connection at all times to play.