SimCity, eh? What a mess.
Still, even despite the swathes of negative feedback from both press and public, Maxis appears commendably committed to improving the game over time, and as such has finally incorporated two things that should probably have been in the game when it originally launched back in March of last year: official modding guidelines (but not, notably, an official toolset) and, more importantly, an offline mode.
The two things actually go hand-in-hand, because the official modding guidelines note that mod creators "must not jeopardize the integrity of the gameplay or harm the experience of others. Mods that affect the simulation for multiplayer games and multiplayer features, such as leaderboards or trading with other players, are not allowed." This means that, had an offline mode not been implemented, mods would have to be limited to new audio-visual content or UI revamps -- nothing that actually affects gameplay.
The official guidelines note that EA would "like the opportunity to promote and distribute [your mods], without further compensation to you." This means that in creating and distributing a mod, you are granting EA an "irrevocable, perpetual, royalty-free, sub-licensable right to use, copy, modify and distribute that Mod (and derivatives of that Mod), and use your name if we choose to, for any purpose and through any means, and without obligation to pay you anything, obtain your approval, or give you credit." In other words, if you make something that's really good that the community takes to, EA theoretically has the right to implement it into a future expansion or DLC pack without having to even acknowledge you, let alone pay you for your hard work. Hmm. Hopefully it won't come to that.
EA also notes that mods "cannot be sold, licensed, rented for a fee, nor can the mod contain features that would support monetary transactions of any type" and donations may not be directly solicited within mods themselves, though there is no restriction on developers providing a donation facility on their own website. Mod creators are not, however, allowed to provide donors with special benefits. Along with all that, only individuals are allowed to be credited with the creation of a mod -- corporations, companies, partnerships and even donors are not allowed to be listed in a mod's credits section.
The offline mode, meanwhile, is coming in the tenth major version update to the game, and brings with it a new single-player mode which you can play by yourself without having to mess around with Regions and other players. This means you will not have access to the Global Market and Leaderboards, but also means that you can save and load games locally without having to rely on EA's cloud servers. I guess there wasn't all that much simulation processing going on "in the cloud" after all, huh?
Maxis Emeryville general manager Patrick Buechner took to the SimCity blog to note that Offline Mode will be of particular benefit to modders because they can do their work without compromising the integrity of the online game. However, the modding guidelines do state that mods are not permitted to modify .com, .exe, .dll or other executable files, so that means that more major community-made gameplay modifications -- such as, say, the ability to play on a larger city plot size -- may still be against the terms and conditions depending on how they are implemented.
It's a start, then, but we're nearly a year after release now and these things are only just appearing. One can't help but think these peace offerings to the community are too little, too late for those who have already jumped ship with no intention of going back.
Does the news of offline play tempt you to give SimCity another chance?