According to a Maxis insider, taking SimCity offline isn't quite as difficult as Maxis and EA have made it out to be.
For the past week, Maxis and EA have been dealing with the PR and technical fiasco that was SimCity's launch. Since the game requires an online connection to play, players have had to deal with server issues. Many accused EA of forcing SimCity to be always-online for DRM purposes. However, both the developer and publisher have gone on record to say that the always-online was necessary for in-game calculations that had to be performed by the servers.oio
According to an unnamed Maxis employee that spoke to Rock Paper Shotgun, this is apparently a lie. Allegedly, the servers are not performing any of the claimed calculations, and that taking SimCity offline would be a relatively easy feat.
“The servers are not handling any of the computation done to simulate the city you are playing," said the inside source. "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.”
Both Kotaku and Mojang's Notch claim to have been able to play the game offline. According to Kotaku's Stephen Totilo, he was able to turn off his Internet connection while playing and continue playing the game for about twenty minutes before he was notified that his game was no longer connected to the Internet. When he reconnected to the Internet, his game was able to successfully synchronize to the servers without a hitch.
The Maxis source explained that while the servers aren't handling any computations, they are doing something. They're processing any data between players and checking to make sure that players aren't cheating: “Because of the way Glassbox was designed, simulation data had to go through a different pathway. The game would regularly pass updates to the server, and then the server would stick those messages in a huge queue along with the messages from everyone else playing. The server pulls messages off the queue, farms them out to other servers to be processed and then those servers send you a package of updates back. The amount of time it could take for you to get a server update responding to something you’ve just done in the game could be as long as a few minutes. This is why they disabled Cheetah mode, by the way, to reduce by half the number of updates coming into the queue.”
RPS's inside source's final verdict on the difficulty of taking SimCity offline? "It wouldn’t take very much engineering to give you a limited single-player game without all the nifty region stuff," he stated.