Game Does Not Offload Significant Calculations says SimCity Modder

Azzer Cronin, the SimCity modder that brought us the video showing the world that offline mode in the new sim game was, in fact, possible, has struck again. He and his friend Alex “Weeble” House have taken it upon themselves to go though every statement EA makes about online connectivity—and why it is necessary in the game—to see it if the facts add up.

And this time they don’t.

In an interview with Polygon, Lucy Bradshaw, Maxis General Manager, said that it wasn’t possible to flip a switch to have offline capability in SimCity. It has to be played online because they “offload a significant amount of the calculations” to their servers.  But Cronin said that wasn’t true.

“It’s not possible that EA servers are ‘offloading’ calculations (simulations) for your city, which it works out, and then sends to your client… Your client simulates your city, and your client simulates all of the ‘fire trucks from another city’ type stuff too. Your client does that all. EA servers do not do any processing that your client is incapable of because our ‘computers aren’t powerful enough.’ EA servers do no complex calculations ‘on our behalf’ that it then passes the results back to us and that our clients need to run the game.” Azzure Cronin, SimCity modder, in an interview with Polygon

To be fair, Cronin doesn’t know what exactly the servers are doing.

There are processes, like cheat checking, that don’t happen within the client. However, he can look at what his own computer is doing and report on that. He can tell what data is being sent back and forth. He believes that the user’s computer is doing all the simulation for the city, leaving the servers completely out of that equation. If what he says is true, then there is a problem with what we have been told by EA.

Here is exactly what Bradshaw said: 

“An online interconnected world has been part of our design philosophy since day one. It’s the game that we’ve been wanting to create since SimCity 4 as we’ve wanted to explore the dynamics between cities as they exist within regions. Real cities don’t exist in bubbles; they specialize and trade resources, workers and more.”

If she had stuck to that explanation, perhaps we could give her, Maxis and EA the benefit of the doubt. It’s true that cities don’t exist in bubbles. It might be cool to explore how other cities affect the one you are running. The fact is: Whether or not we liked it, most of us bought the game understanding that it would be played online. Had EA not botched the release (and let down fans and customers in a very serious way), we might be talking about how much we enjoy the game instead of grumbling about Big Brother EA.

With the way that the game works, we offload a significant amount of the calculations to our servers” – Lucy Bradshaw

But then she had to go ahead and say:

“With the way that the game works, we offload a significant amount of the calculations to our servers so that the computations are off the local PCs and are moved into the cloud. It wouldn’t be possible to make the game offline without a significant amount of engineering work by our team.”

That would be fine if it were true.

Once it was stated that offline mode wasn’t possible, a the SimCity modder stuck two lines of code in that made it very possible. Once it was stated that the game had to be online because of the “significant amount of calculations” offloaded, they checked out what was going on with their computer and found that it wasn’t the case at all.

I don’t want to be in the camp of naysayers that assume the always-online aspect of SimCity—or every other game—is just DRM in disguise and that EA is forcing us online so they can sell their products to us via micro transactions, but at this point it is hard to by sympathetic. Every site I go to looking for a response from EA about the most recent SimCity modder discovery says that the company hasn’t responded yet. That’s a good thing. They need to get their ducks in a row before saying something else that Cronin or another SimCity modder will publically disprove.