It’s been nearly ten months since the disastrous launch of EA’s SimCity, a game that served as a cautionary tale of what happens when you make a game online-only. Server issues left players unable to play a game that was largely about building your own city in isolation, and pleas to fix the problems by implementing an offline mode fell on deaf ears.
“Yes, Offline is coming as a free download with Update 10 to all SimCity players. When we launch it, all of your previously downloaded content will be available to you anytime, anywhere, without the need for an internet connection. We are in the late phases of wrapping up its development and while we want to get it into your hands as soon as possible, our priority is to make sure that it’s as polished as possible before we release it.”
If internet access was perfect, there wouldn’t be all this fuss about online vs. offline, but between crappy ISPs and unreliable servers on the publisher’s end, we’re not at a point in time where an online-only game is generally a good idea. While it’s well and good for multiplayer games to rely heavily on online, in the case of SimCity, the idea seemed ridiculous. Player’s past experience with the series told them there was nothing about sitting around city-building that required online play, and so they were furious when their seemingly single player game was interrupted by server issues.
While quickly adding an offline mode probably would have indeed been impossible during the launch window as a simple patch or hotfix, it’s smart that EA and Maxis realized that it needed to be implemented for the long term health of the game. Whether this will attract fans that abandoned the game after the fiasco, I’m not sure, but it can only serve to improve the experience regardless.
I will say that game companies feel like they’re getting slower and slower at recognizing what players want from their games, and identifying potential problems ahead of development. SimCity is getting offline mode roughly ten months after its official launch. Diablo 3 is still being patched into a game fans would deem worthwhile. Lord only knows how long it will take to get all Battlefield 4′s bugs worked out. It’s no wonder players are starting to feel like they’re alpha or beta testing what are supposed to be completed games.
No word on exactly when SimCity offline is coming, but it should be soon.