While DRM is understandable given that games and other media generate revenue that in turn pays the bills and feeds the kids, sometimes the efforts to curb piracy goes too far. Publishers spitting out titles that require an Internet connection even when customers want to play a single-player campaign -- and then say it's because of built-in social features, not DRM -- is full of crap. Maybe I don't want to be social. Why don't I have that option? If the servers are down, I'm totally screwed.
EA and its excuse for SimCity is a great example. Both EA and Maxis publicly claim that the always-online DRM is necessary for in-game calculations that must be performed by the servers. But an unnamed Maxis employee has come out and called those claims a fabrication. They also said that removing the online requirement would call for a complete overhaul of the game. He says that's a load of crap too.
Seemingly backing this masked Maxis employee, a modder by the name of UKAzzer – which could be the Maxis employee for all we know – has created a workaround that removes the DRM-based Internet requirement. A portion of that mod includes disabling the game's disconnection timer, setting it tp unlimited. Typically EA kicks paying customers out of the game after 20 minutes of offline play.
"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," UKAzzer states on Reddit. "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."
UKAzzer points out that he can edit highways anywhere, even outside the city's boundary. He also modded out the "fluffed population count" so that the game shows a real population account. But progress can only be saved on the Origin servers, so a connection will be required at some point. Access to SimCity's region features also isn't possible – at least, not yet.
"This shows that highway editing will be easily possible, AND that editing outside of the artificially small city boundaries should be very viable too," he said.
Naturally EA wouldn't comment on the mod, but the company will undoubtedly address the issue soon. If anything, this hack proves that SimCity can be played in offline mode – just give modders time to get it fully detached from EA's clutches. Hey, if EA wanted a cloud-based game, it should have remained in the cloud and not dumped onto your personal property (hard drive) for $60.
To see SimCity running in offline mode, check out the video below!