The sad SimCity saga continues, but things are looking up. EA and Maxis have finished migrating the game's back end to a "new, faster/higher capacity server architecture." A server status page has been established to detail which hosts are available, full, and gated by waiting rooms. There's also a patch that supposedly fixes game crashes, decreases latency, and improves "the success rate for connections."
Much of SimCity's problems seem to stem from its required connection to online servers, a link that is claimed to be vital to the game. In an interview with Polygon, Maxis General Manager Lucy Bradshaw had this to say about the prospect of an offline mode:
With the way that the game works, we offload a significant amount of the calculations to our servers so that the computations are off the local PCs and are moved into the cloud. It wouldn't be possible to make the game offline without a significant amount of engineering work by our team.
A few days after that was published, Rock, Paper, Shotgun received word from an Maxis insider claiming the contrary. The source, who has reportedly been verified to have worked on the game, says the servers are required only for the "nifty region stuff." This snippet is particularly damning:
The servers are not handling any of the computation done to simulate the city you are playing. They are still acting as servers, doing some amount of computation to route messages of various types between both players and cities. As well, they’re doing cloud storage of save games, interfacing with Origin, and all of that. But for the game itself? No, they’re not doing anything.
Don't take the source's word for it, though. The RPS story notes that Kotaku managed to get the game running offline, albeit for only 19 minutes. An enterprising modder has apparently removed that time limit, enabling unlimited offline play. There are some limitations, of course. According to the modder's Reddit thread, saves and region synchronization don't work... yet. The modder was able to access a special debug mode, though, and that enables more extensive editing than is normally allowed by the game. You can see modded game in action below.
And they say modding is dead. The only question now is how long it will take for a downloadable offline mod to pop up online.