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EA brings offline mode to SimCity ten months late

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Can we rebuild? (Credit: EA)

Nearly a year after a disastrous launch plagued with server woes and bitter player complaints, the troubled SimCity is finally getting an offline mode.

EA announced the change Monday, saying developer Maxis is “in the late stages” of developing the mode. The company did not give an estimate of when offline play would be available, saying it plans extensive testing before doing so.

“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,” said Maxis general manager Patrick Buechner in a blog post. “So, until then… testing, testing and more testing. As one of the final steps, we’re putting Offline into the hands of some of our most hardcore players, the DevTesters. This group of volunteers is going to put Offline through its paces before we release it.”

SimCity was pegged as one of 2013’s most anticipated games, but EA ran into loads of trouble when they revealed that the game would require an online connection to function. Worse still, the game’s launch was marred by countless connectivity issues, essentially rendering it unplayable for many gamers.

Maxis had previously resisted the idea of an offline SimCity, saying it would take “a significant amount of engineering work by our team.” The company opened the door to the idea in October, but wouldn’t commit to it.

The introduction of the offline mode will also allow users to mod the game. Maxis says it plans to roll out a series of how-to videos to encourage creativity among the community.

That all sounds swell, but this is one of those rare cases where adding a feature is actually riling up users. EA had initially insisted that an offline mode was simply not possible due to the game's design. There was, players note, no apology in Buechner’s announcement and no acknowledgement that the company had erred. Others say it’s a case of closing the barn door after the horse escaped.

“There is no mea culpa here, no evidence that EA nor Maxis understand or care how badly this sudden reversal hurts the already broken trust between the publisher and the people who buy their games,” wrote Polygon’s Ben Kuchera. “This is why people don’t like or trust EA.”

EA’s online troubles aren’t limited to SimCity. The company’s military shooter Battlefield 4 has been wrecked by connection issues, prompting the developers to hold off releasing new content until they stabilize the core product.

EA’s next big game, Titanfall, launches March 11 and is built from the ground up with online multiplayer in mind. Here’s hoping EA’s learned something.

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