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SimCity DLC Update: Offline Mode And Larger Cities Discussed By Lead Designer At NYCC Panel

By Mo Mozuch on October 11, 2013 3:12 AM EDT 0

SimCity DLC
(Photo: EA) (Photo: EA)

If you're a loyal SimCity fan hoping the latest SimCity DLC will grant your big wishes for the series, well, keep wishing. During a New York Comic-Con panel discussion Thursday night, SimCity Lead Designer Stone Librande talked about a lot of great things coming to the SimCity DLC Cities of Tomorrow but couldn't confirm the two changes fans want most: offline mode and bigger cities.

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"Population sizes get bigger but maps don't," Librande said. "The increased verticality allows for a lot more people in the same sized space."

Librande was discussing one of the new elements found in the upcoming SimCity DLC. The technology is advanced 50 years so expect working versions of today's dream techs, like fusion reactors. In the not too distant future, super towers are the name of the game. Megatowers to be specific. Each player gets to build eight Megatowers fairly quickly after unlocking the tech to do so and these massive structures dwarf the tallest skyscrapers. Fans of the old sim tower will feel right at home laying out their Megatowers which feature levels for domestic, commercial and industrial functions. Stack parks on top of nuclear plants and apartments and connect two towers with an elegant Skybridge.

Megatowers are part of the "verticality" Librande mentioned several times during the presentation. The future is advanced (duh!) and high-rising structures like Megatowers and light rail trains dominate the skyscape. Larger maps would be a step out, but they'er not in the cards right now. So Maxis took a step up to try to find the happy medium between what fans want and what's possible to achieve. Of course, there is no middle ground when it comes to the biggest change fans want to see: offline mode.

"Yeah, we're working on it," Librande told the assembled crowd at NYCC. Of course the presiding EA PR rep was quick to jump in and clarify that they're "investigating" an offline mode and "nobody's promising anything." This is the party line from EA on the offline mode issue, and Librande told everyone to check out this blog post from Maxis GM Patrick Buechner to learn more about the long-awaited SimCity offline mode.

"We've chosen to cease work on bigger city sizes and put that effort into continuing to evolve the core game and explore an offline mode," Buechner wrote. "Right now we have a team specifically focused on exploring the possibility of an offline mode."

How "investigating" and "exploring" are different than "working on" I'll never know, but it sounds as if the SimCity offline mode is at least more possible than larger map sizes.  And a SimCity offline mode could be the first step on the path to obtaining larger map sizes. Right now, modders are stymied by the constant online connection and EA has to worry about what mods would do to the multiplayer experience. Buechner admits in the blog post that an offline mode would work to the advantage of both modders and the team at Maxis.

"An offline mode would have the additional benefit of providing room to the modding community to experiment without interfering or breaking the multiplayer experience," he wrote.

Offline mode then modding then larger map sizes is a timeline I think most fans will admit is OK. And while they're waiting for their wishes to come true SimCity fans will find some new gameplay features in the upcoming SimCity DLC Cities of Tomorrow when it releases on November 12 on PC and Mac.

I touched on Megatowers earlier but forgot to mention that they look crazy cool. The sleek high-end Megatowers seem inspired by the minimalist aesthetics of an Elysium-style utopia. But my heart swooned for the grittier, low-end Megatowers that are plastered in neon billboards and look, as Librande lovingly described them, like "killer Blade Runner style."

Another big change coming to the SimCity DLC Cities of Tomorrow would make the GOP happy. You're going to want to cater to the rich in Cities of Tomorrow. The mega rich, and the ultra corporations that serve them, are more important than ever before. The mega rich manage ControlNet, a dystopian social manipulator that is a byproduct of the production/consumption of a mysterious ultra-product known as Omega. There is no explanation what Omega is but your citizens will want it, and once they get a taste for it they'll demand it regardless of the environmental and physical effects. The more mega rich you have in your budding futropolis the more ControlNet they manage and the more power you have.

Old school SimCity fans will be happy to know that the Launch Arcology makes a comeback in the upcoming SimCity DLC. Unlike before the launch Arcology isn't an ambitious endgame build but rather just part of the new advanced landscape. If you're nervous about loading up your Launch Arcology with your best and brightest and launching it into space don't worry, Librande confirmed that the Launch Arcology can be modified so that it becomes a launchable prison, making it an easy solution for dealing with the undesirables in your world.

"Australia was founded that way," Librande said wryly.

Overall, the impression I gathered from the SimCity DLC presentation at NYCC was that Cities of Tomorrow is about enhancing the core SimCity experience to include new gameplay challenges and significant content for current users. But if EA and Maxis are looking to attract more than the current crop of users all it will take is one simple word: offline.

"Offline mode is the reason I didn't buy the game yet," I heard a nearby attendee whisper during the presentation to a guy next to him.

"Me too," he replied. 

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