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.

pc games     SimCity Modder Catches EA Lying?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.

  • GamerEnvy

    BRILLIANT!! … Thank you for bringing this up … I hope they someone keeps slapping their faces …

  • Joey

    What happened to EA? I remember when they first started out, and I was playing games like Hard Hat Mac, Boulder Dash and Bard’s Tale. The games just kept getting better.

    And then… boom. Something happened, and they became the EA of today. They take great companies, swallow them up, and spit out sub-par material. I don’t understand. Wish there was a way to go back to the good ol’ days.

    • Aaron Labertew

      May have something to do with the corporation being run by corporate tools instead of actual gamers and developers.

      • MissingNo.00

        ►► People have been trying to ‘prove’ that a full offline mode can be easily achieved since the game’s release (maybe even since January’s first closed beta). Yet there has been NO SOLID PROOF, only half-filled glasses.

        ►► Hackers need to reconstruct a bulk of the software just to make offline mode possible – like any modded offline MMO out there. ► Even World of Warcraft already has a hacked offline version!

    • BabyChooChoo

      They tried (and still are trying I guess…) to outdo Activision. They set unrealistic goals for all their projects in hopes something and then can them when they fail to meet those goals.

      Dead Space is the greatest example of this. They said Dead Space 3 needed to sell 5 million copies. 5 million copies. That. Is. A. Lot. Neither of the other two games in the series came even remotely close to that.

      But the problem isn’t just that in and of itself. Because they needed the game to do so well, they tried to broaden the appeal. They turned it into more of an action game when the game used to be known as a horror game, they added coop multiplayer, added microtransactions, and other little things as well.

      The problem with that is that anyone who really wants an action game already has a billion other choices so why would they pick Dead Space 3? On top of that, hardcore fans of the series now feel alienated because the horror game they used to love is now an action game.

      All of EA’s big decisions lead trickle down and splinter off into multiple other HUGE problems.

      They tried to make Mirror’s Edge ‘the next big thing.’ That blew up in their faces. They tried to turn Medal of Honor into Call of Duty. That blew up in their faces. They tried to position SWTOR as ‘their WoW.’ That blew up in their faces. They tried to screw over fans with SimCity. THAT blew up in their faces. There’s TONS of other examples too.

      They’re so busy overestimating themselves and then fumbling around when NOTHING goes how they planned. I’m not a businessman by any means and I don’t know how they can fix it. However, I feel comfortable in saying, at this rate, shit is only going to get tougher for them.

      • David Alcon

        *stands up and starts a slow clap*

    • Thorghan

      What happened? GREED!

    • Jado Cast

      EA has gone down hill imo since 2004. Mostly due to Greed and not understanding their own market.

  • Rasmus Nielsen

    SimCity isn’t a bad game, anyone who’s been able to *play* it can tell you that. However, EA didn’t *make* SimCity, Maxis did, blame Maxis, don’t blame EA.

    Much like how people blame EA for BioWare when it’s *OBVIOUS* it was the fact that BioWare just got to do whatever they wanted with little to no interference from anyone, that’s been sinking them.

    • They Call Me Sal

      Everyone I know who has played it really likes it

    • Haldie

      Yes, but if BioWare wants EA to publish anything, they have to please EA. It really isn’t a case of Bioware (or Maxis, for that matter) doing whatever and EA shrugging and releasing it. EA really is partially to blame in a lot of this, since they have quite a bit more pull on what their developers can and can’t do if they want to keep EA as their publisher and, thusly, not be kicked out into the cold and then possibly sued for breaching contract. I don’t think people fully understand how this whole publisher-developer thing works…

    • Trevor Kidd

      I think you’re wrong about who deserves the blame.

      Maxis is responsible for it not being a “bad game” — and by that I mean the city simulation itself. I still won’t go so far as to say it’s a good game though. However, they wouldn’t be responsible for the DLC delivery scheme that was incorporated into it, which is reliant completely on the always-online component. That’s EA’s domain. It’s also EA’s domain to “protect” their investment, which they do through a system of DRM that requires the user to always be online. Those are business decisions, not creative ones, meaning they were made by EA, not Maxis.

      However, I do agree about Bioware being responsible for dropping the ball with SWTOR. That game failed specifically because of the design decisions, which is all on BW’s shoulders. EA certainly had a hand in the stupidity that followed, but it was Bioware who made the big mistakes. That’s one of the few cases where I won’t hold EA accountable for a screwed up game.

    • BabyChooChoo

      I don’t want to get into here because this discussion is potentially larger than the scope of a comments section, but publishers often have more of a say in development than you think.

      Publishers are the sole reason you see so many people jumping on the Kickstarter bandwangon. Developers don’t want to deal with them because without them, they only have to answer to themselves and their fans.

  • William Allen

    It’s always going to be DRM. I would really like to see how much money the game industry really looses due to pirating. The game industry is a billion dollar industry, so even if they are losing millions of dollars the percentage of lost revenue is miniscule.

    • David Alcon

      The problem with “lost revenue” is that you can not 100% state that every illegally pirated game was a lost sale. They like to do that to get a big dramatic figure, but most people I know that pirate games do it either to circumvent DRM restrictions, never play it more than a few hours, or just test a game out before buying it.

      • Steven Opie Wallace

        I have downloaded many games that I have bought simply for the fact I had lost one of the disks or lost the entire game. That’s not lost revenue at all. I already paid my dues to them. I have never done so to circumvent DRM restrictions and other than someone having no internet connection at all, I don’t see a point to doing so (obviously they have internet in the first place if they are downloading the games). Your point still stands, though. Not every illegally pirated game is a lost sale.

        • Corey Hernandez

          Its not lost revenue if those people weren’t going to buy the game anyway. You just need to add features that are only available as DLC to legit copies and makes pirates want to buy it. Skyrim is doing a pretty good attempt at this.

  • Dularr

    Sounds like the servers are taking care of the messaging between the cities. If Maxis had attempted to make this a peer to peer multi-player game, a significant additional local processing would be necessary for the cities to communicate and process requests.

    Example, If one cities requires oil imports and another another city is an oil exporter, the processing of those transactions probably belong in the clouds.

    But, even if this is true, there is no excuse for the royal screw-up EA made of the launch.

    • Aaron Labertew

      Read the full article, it states inter-city trade was being handled client-side.

      • Dularr

        Nope, you need to re-read the full article. It states,

        “According to the Cronin’s initial posts on Reddit, while the game can be played indefinitely without connecting online, it is not possible to save the game without reconnecting to SimCity servers and cross-city play is also impossible.”

    • Trevor Kidd

      I doubt that those incredibly simple transactions require more processing power to handle than what my wristwatch has it its disposal.

      Remember, if the game was offline and being run purely through your client, every city but the one being actively played is frozen. All your city needs to know is that a set amount of goods flows in on a certain cycle. How they get to you never needs to be calculated because those values turn from variables to constants, the moment you move away from the source city. Your active city just uses those constants in it’s simulation.

      • Dularr

        Let’s be careful, I don’t think there is a significant ‘simulations’ that occur in the clouds that is downloaded to the client. That does sound like a bull* statement. Maybe, just maybe, there is a market simulation going on in the clouds, but what I think happens is all the transactions are sent to your computer and world market simulations occur locally.

        But, I don’t see how your client could offline accurately ‘simulate’ the play occurring in another city. If a player can ‘go offline’ and make significant changes to their city. Let’s use my oil production example, a player decides to abolish oil production and never reconnects or reconnect much later to the game. Your city simulations would be using assumptions that are no longer accurate.

        Now if you are saying that gameplay occurring in other cities don’t matter, then not only is this game not a MMO, it’s not even a multi-player game.

  • Suicideking666

    Maybe they will be smart about this and release a patch to implement a legit offline mode. I know wishful thinking, but if they did I would probably buy it.

    • Trevor Kidd

      You’re probably right about it being wishful thinking. But looking at the situation, the damage is done. Their credibility is totally shot and their customer satisfaction is at an all time low. Their best avenue to recovery would be to admit wrongdoing and immediately give the customers what they are demanding. That would go a long way towards quickly dousing this particular inferno, giving them time to consider a more long-term strategy.

      But I know EA well enough to realize that they are arrogant as hell and completely dismissive of their customers. I expect they will just stay silent and wait for this to blow over, accepting whatever long-term losses they incur from it as a cost of business. It’s the wrong course of action, but then again, EA isn’t exactly known for doing the right thing.

      • Suicideking666

        Yeah that sounds about right to me. The thing I just don’t understand is that there are game companies now that really do listen to the playerbase and do what they can to give them what they want and those games and companies are doing great, look at SC, LoL, WoW, PS2. And then you have EA who just constantly shits in our hands and laughs at us.

  • Aaron Labertew

    I didn’t do much research into the game, and only learned it was online-only after I bought it….

  • Deadalon

    “Real cities don’t exist in bubbles; they specialize and trade resources”.

    Real cities dont exist in small white squares either. Thats the thing that is very hard to accept at this point. All cities have limited space to work with.. but it grows over time and is not limited by pre-determined regions.

    The two things that devalue SimCity are the online features and map size. Both are forced and both are based on flawed develop design phylisophy.

    Its so sad to see a game being put back based on these things. Cause it really doesn’t have to do that any more than any other SimCity game has done before. It is very obvious that the ONLY limit to the game is based on MAXIS bandwith and server load. Every modern computer can do the simulation that the game is built on – and in fact.. we know that just by disconnecting from the internet.

    • Kevin J. Redmond

      I agree. From all the vids I’ve watched, it seems there is no capacity for urban sprawl. Once people start getting wealthier sims, they encounter the problem of no room left for medium wealth sims. In real life, as land value and wealth in the metropolis of a city grows… the mid-low wealth populace spreads out from the city center. That’s how urban sprawl occurs, and why places like Atlanta include loads of outlying cities that all depend on the main city.

      In a game like SimCity, all of that should be in the hands of one player… and it shouldn’t happen in a tiny box. If they had left the regions more like SimCity 4 and just let the players optionally allow other people to join them in that region it would’ve been far more interesting, and far less constraining, than what they ended up with. It seems like this is happening across gaming, though. Players continuously want more and more creative license, and developers (or producers) keep taking more away and replacing it with player limitation.

  • Makesagoodpoint

    I love how even in the GBTV comments anyone who says that the game isn’t bad gets down voted. People if you haven’t played the game and all you do is read the biased article out there of course your going to think the game is bad. Yes EA and Maxis screwed this one up for launch but the game is still good. Get your heads out of your butts and think a little and not follow the hive mind. The DRM and Online is what is bad not the game even reviewers have said that.

  • Jonathan Hornsby

    Modder: EA is lying!

    Me: Shocking. Now tell me what color the sky is.

  • Inkogni Alex

    many lies got uncovered here, awaiting the next post where we will have more dirt from EA.
    i wana punch EA in the face for talking this much BS

  • Enricola

    It’s just rather mindblowing to me that a huge company with massive pr and legal departments would not have issued definitive responses to the people that are “allegedly” taking the game offline with ease and making assertions about the processing going on in servers/pc’s that contradict what they stated. Saying they don’t comment on rumor is not crisis management.

  • Thomas Dahl

    Hi UKAzzer/AzzerUK ,

    Thanks for the exposure of EA/Maxis …
    But the “online-war” has just begun !

    FOR NOW, a giant game-company is caught lying
    about the need for a game to be online – BUT soon
    the companies will develop ways to let their servers
    carry a small percentage of a simulation (already

    You have to load your cities from their servers !)
    and thereby make it impossible to repeat UKAzzers mod.

    A recent message from EA exposes clearly
    what we should think about before accepting
    that saved games ONLY are on their servers …

    Maintenance: We are taking down EU West 4
    to upgrade it’s hardware, which will allow for
    a larger capacity and faster response times.

    While we implement this upgrade,
    access to this server will be unavailable.

    Rest assured, no saves or data will be lost.


    The whole idea reminds me of how Microsoft
    started earning money on their “licenses”;

    You don’t “own” software anymore and now
    – dear gamers – You don’t “own” your gamesaves !!!

    So, what are consumers/gamers to do ?
    think consumers have the power,
    but we are not being heard by NOT buying the game …

    What; should I buy a game without offline-mode ?!?!?
    NO … Well, here’s my idea :

    You should like me start a petition saying :

    The following person will buy Your game
    BUT ONLY if You put offline-mode, data
    and gamesaves on computer back in !!!

    And then the representative of Maxis/EA

    or whoever, gets a complete list with
    names, adresses and email-adresses

    to show the board/direction !!!

    Kind greetings

    Thomas Dahl

    • Thomas Dahl

      At least we should demand that there is legislation
      to force those online-games to have a clearly visible
      warning that these games are only working if you
      have a decent internet-connection and the skills
      to adjust it through FireWalls and AntiVirussoftware …

    • Thomas Dahl

      At least we should demand that there is legislation
      to force those online-games to have a clearly visible
      warning that these games are only working if you
      have a decent internet-connection and the skills
      to adjust it through FireWalls and AntiVirussoftware …

  • rp90

    I am a software developer and one of my favorit things to do when working on a new project is to make good decisions early on that makes development easier later. I am sure “always on” was one of those decisions. My guess is that some of the features of this game depends on internet activity not because it had too, but because it was easier. To remove this dependency would not be trivial. Not saying it couldn’t be done… it would just be work.

    That said… the article was about calling out EA for “lying” and saying that the game cannot run in offline mode because the server does complicated work was bogus. I feel that calling them on this is a bit nit picky. The fact is that the servers are doing aggregate work that your client takes advantage of. EA tried to make it sound more interesting then it was, but it does’t change the fact that removing “always-on” would require re-working systems in their game.

    • Steven Diaz

      People are being nit picky because EA said it couldn’t make the game offline without a huge re-engineering, but one guy did it in a few minutes?

    • Quiet

      the point isnt if it requires reworking or not. the point is that it very obviously requires incredibibly minimal reworking to offer an offline mode. that means that offline was very close to possible and intentionally excluded. now, was it excluded to create a “quality experience where mayors build cities side by side” or was it because “hey dude, if we make this online, these kids are always locked inside of our In-game-store, so theyre more likely to buy” ? I dont think it takes a genius to say they wanted the latter and offered us the former as some bs excuse.

    • Jonnara

      If always on was one of these decisions than a login queue viewer like we have in an MMORPG would have been present during launch and a plan for large numbers of players coming in on day one would have been in place.

      So no i believe that is a lie as well.

  • Corey Hernandez

    Thanks for reporting this story. Excellent insight into yet another shady business practice. Dev’s and Publishers do realize that players like us can actually make these games on a smaller scale and do actually do know how to read code and interpret data right? Wish they’d stop treating us like stupid sacks of money they can loot.

  • Rob1003

    If the statement is true that a large portion of calculations are being handled server-side then how is it possible that my game continues unaffected if the client looses server connection? If what they said is true then it should come to a grinding halt but doesn’t.

  • anonymoose

    was anybody really surprised…seriously?

  • CannibalShinobi

    “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.”

    What the fuck are you talking about Summer? All he did was get rid of the timer on the offline mode that is built into the game, that tells you when it activates.