An offline mode for SimCity is coming, according to Patrick Beuchner, general manager at developer Maxis. Beuchner didn't provide an exact timeframe, but wrote in a blog post that the mode will be a free download in Update 10. Maxis has been releasing updates roughly once per month, and Update 9 went out in December, so offline mode presumably will arrive soon.
"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," Beuchner wrote.
Players can still play in Regions, where they'll feel the effects of other players' neighboring cities, and they can still work together in Multiplayer. But the new Single Player mode will be a throwback to the classic SimCity games, where urban design happened in complete isolation. All files will be saved locally, and the mode won't require an Internet connection.
Beuchner also noted that the Single Player mode will benefit modders, as they'll no longer have to worry about compromising the integrity of the online game.
SimCity fans have been asking for an offline mode since day one, especially in light of server failures that made it nearly impossible to play the game. But at the time, Maxis said that offline mode couldn't be done. "The game was designed for MP, we sim the entire region on the server so this is just not possible," Maxis General Manager Lucy Bradshaw wrote on Twitter in response to players' questions.
Bradshaw also reportedly defended publisher Electronic Arts in an internal memo, saying that the online requirement was Maxis' decision rather than a forced version of digital-rights management.
There were signs that Maxis was changing its tune last July, when a survey asked if players would be interested in an offline or "classic" mode. In October, Buechner said Maxis was listening to feedback and considering offline play.
While it's disappointing that EA and Maxis didn't provide an offline mode sooner, the reversal is a win for players who want to master the game over many years, regardless of server status or the meddling of nearby players. Hopefully the update will inspire the same kind of amazing creations as previous SimCity games.