Modder Discovers Way To Play SimCity Offline

The recent launch of SimCity hasn’t exactly gone smoothly thanks to EA’s bloody awful DRM policy meaning that you’ve always got to be connected to the game’s servers to play, even when you just want to play by yourself.

Needless to say that fan outrage has been vast, and many people have found themselves barely able to play the game over the past week due to various server issues and problems.

However, now a Reddit user by the name of AzzerUK has published a video, which you can see above, showing off a few basic tweaks he made to the game using a file which allowed him to access  Debug mode. While most of the developer’s tools aren’t available without having the correct build of the game, a few of the tools used are still accessible in Debug mode. Among other things, Azzer removed the disconnect timer, allowing him to play offline indefinitely.

“So with a little bit of package editing within SimCity thanks to the modding guide posted to Reddit earlier, and a little playing about in the code, it’s possible to enable debug mode. I linked the activation to the “Help Center” button in the main menu for ease. Most developer debug features are disabled without having an actual developer’s build (they have terraforming tools etc. available in the full developer build!), but a few things do still work – including editing the main highways.” He states on Reddit.

“Not only that – but you can edit the highways ANYWHERE – even outside of your city boundary… and even if you quit the game and log back in later, it’s all saved safely on the server.

This shows that highway editing will be easily possible, AND that editing outside of the artificially small city boundaries should be very viable too, potentially (since you can place roads and rails that snap anywhere on-screen).

Edit: And yes I also modded out the disconnect timer (can now play “offline” indefinitely – but no saves/syncs or region related stuff, not yet anyway… but the simulation can carry on with no connection indefinitely). And I modded out the “fluffed population count”, just shows the real population count now. Both very minor/easy tweaks.”

Understandably there were some questions, one of which was whether the game would save correctly, to which a Redditor user replied:   “I can confirm it saves to server; I’ve been able to play with AzzerUK and see his freeway modifications, and he can see mine.

We’ve been having lots of fun!” Obviously this means you will need a connection to the games servers to save.

Another question raised was whether doing this could result in you being banned. At the moment the answer to this seems rather hazy – comments from Maxis, such as this one from Twitter, suggest that modding is acceptable and encouraged, but so far no official confirmation has been given, and so there’s still a chance anyone found doing this could be banned.

Azzer also touched upon trying to make the game totally offline: “Hmm, don’t know about totally, but I’m experimenting with hacking in ways to spoof it into ‘claiming’ a city without sending that info to the server, loading that city data up from local data, and enabling editing, so you can edit a city and pick a region square all offline,” he says. “Still don’t think I can find any simple way to SAVE it yet, but it’ll be a start. Whether I take it any further than that, or leave that to the real hardcore coders/hackers with more time on their hands, I don’t know.”

I personally cannot condone all of this in case you do get banned, but if you want to give it a shot then you can find the same file Azzer used here:

Currently no pack has been released for you to simply install that will do everything for you, so you’ll need to figure it out for yourself.

“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,” Maxis general manager Lucy Bradshaw said recently to Polygon. “It wouldn’t be possible to make the game offline without a significant amount of engineering work by our team.”

Meanwhile an anonymous Maxis employee told Rock, Paper, Shotgun that, “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. It’s possible that Bradshaw misunderstood or was misinformed, but otherwise I’m clueless.”

The employee also said, ““It wouldn’t take very much engineering to give you a limited single-player game without all the nifty region stuff.” A fact that Azzer has seemingly confirmed with his quick tweaks through Debug mode.

In a strange way I’m sort of glad I chose not to review SimCity, now. The massive controversey surrounding it’s launch and how press should handle reviews of it would have probably driven me insane by now.

As for Azzer, he’s currently a hero to many, and rightfully so. Having to have a constant online connection is a modern gaming trend that I despise.



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