Gamer hacks SimCity to run offline

Screenshot from SimCity Long delays have dogged the launch of the latest version of SimCity

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SimCity has almost been turned into a single-player game by an enterprising hacker.

By modifying the game's code, the hacker has made it possible to play the game offline almost indefinitely.

The feat sits at odds with assertions by Electronic Arts (EA) that the game requires a permanent online link.

EA said the "always on" requirement contributed to big problems at launch as it tried to keep different players' cities co-ordinated.

Soon after SimCity was launched on 5 March, many people reported that they were having to wait up to 30 minutes or more to play the game.

Others reported sluggish performance and others bugs as they played. EA said these problems occurred because many aspects of the game were shared and the sheer number of people trying to play overwhelmed servers.

The ongoing problems led EA to apologise for the "dumb" way it set up the launch and led to it adding servers behind the scenes to spread the load.

However, claims that the title needs to be permanently connected so data can be shared have been whittled away by players. Some have unplugged their web connection and found that SimCity can last for 20 minutes before it needs to check in with back-end servers.

The always-online requirement won criticism from many players who said it was unnecessary and was more about preventing piracy than improving gameplay.

Now, a gamer going by the alias of AzzerUK has revealed on social news site Reddit how he turned off the requirement to be online all the time.

By rewriting the game's code during "debug mode" AzzerUK turned off the game's disconnect timer so it never checked whether it was online or offline. He also fiddled with other values to almost convert it to an offline, single-player game.

City saved

"Your PC can handle your entire city simulation without any help from the internet or EA's servers," he wrote in a detailed explanation posted to the Pastie website. Videos showing the game working offline were also posted to YouTube.

The work lent weight to claims made on the Rock Paper Shotgun website by an unnamed worker at SimCity Creator Maxis who said a permanent connection was not always needed.

However, added AzzerUK, there was no way as yet to save a copy of a city to a home PC. Instead the copy had to be downloaded from EA's servers.

"Local saves will not be possible with simple editing, but may be possible with some serious work and ingenuity," he said.

EA said it did not comment on "rumour and speculation" when asked about AzzerUK's hack by games news site Eurogamer.

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