Maxis exploring offline mode for SimCity

General manager Patrick Buechner confirms developer has formed a special team focused on exploring possibility of offline mode for city-building game.

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After saying in March that an offline mode for SimCity "didn't fit with our vision," Maxis has confirmed the formation of a special team focused on investigating the possibility of introducing an offline mode for the city-building game.

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"Right now we have a team specifically focused on exploring the possibility of an offline mode," Maxis general manager Patrick Buechner said on the SimCity forums. "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," he added. "An offline mode would have the additional benefit of providing room to the modding community to experiment without interfering or breaking the multiplayer experience."

It was first suggested that Maxis was considering an offline mode for SimCity in July, when an Electronic Arts customer survey asked fans if they would be interested in such a feature.

The announcement came as part of a wider blog post regarding the state of the game seven months after launch. Buechner recalled the game's rocky release, saying, "Our launch wasn't what anyone on the team hoped for," noting, "we think about this every single day."

Still, Buechner said Max is "proud of how far we've come over the past few months." SimCity has sold over 2 million copies since release. Last month, Maxis announced the game's first expansion: Cities of Tomorrow, which will be released in November.

"I want you to know that we are listening to your feedback. We dig deep into the forums, Facebook posts, and Twitter feeds every day to see what players are talking about," he said. "There is a lot of feedback and there is a clear passion for SimCity. That’s great to see. And while we appreciate positive feedback, we take very seriously the players who have criticisms. Players have high expectations of what goes into our games and we have an obligation to deliver."

Buechner said Maxis "continuously" reviews this feedback in tandem with its own in-game telemetry to help the developer decide where to focus its efforts going forward. As an example of this, Buechner pointed out that Maxis has released seven major updates for SimCity since launch, addressing issues with traffic within the Glassbox Engine, among other things.

Buechner also confirmed a report from earlier this week about user-generated content coming to SimCity.

"Maxis has a long tradition of supporting User Generated Content (UGC) and the UGC community. 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," he said. "It’s difficult to determine what makes a 'good' or safe mod and what mods cross the line. Clarifying guidelines for UGC will help players understand where that line is. We want to have an open discussion with our community about what you want out of SimCity and hear your thoughts about UGC guidelines. To join the discussion go here."

Lastly, Buechner revealed that Maxis will not introduce bigger city sizes to SimCity, despite exploring the technical possibilities of this for "months."

"I confirm that we will not be providing bigger city sizes," he said. "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."

"We’ve chosen to cease work on bigger city sizes and put that effort into continuing to evolve the core game and explore an offline mode," he added. "Some of the experiments we conducted to improve performance on bigger cities will be rolled into future updates to improve overall game performance."

For more on SimCity, check out GameSpot's review.

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