Look, this is from someone who last night made his first city about 8 times and lost it all 8 times because of the server nonsense. I was pretty annoyed.
But if we're going to lambaste someone for doing the always-online thing, maybe we shouldn't just jump to conclusions, maybe you should, learn something about i it first? Or maybe you just want to be hip & cool like everyone else and be against always-online without using any actual critical thinking. If so, bravo.
One of the cornerstone features of the game this time around is the Region play aspect. This was introduced in Sim City 4, but they've taken it to a much more interesting place in this iteration. Basically, there are about a dozen regions you can choose to play on; first, you choose one. Each region has X 'city slots'. This doesn't necessarily mean # of players, but it obviously puts a cap on X players in that region. Nothing stops you from building all X cities yourself over time. The cities have a lot of interconnection, hooked up by highway, or rail, or whatever. You can specialize one city as a college town, make another the bedroom community, etc. And, of course, you can invite people into your game (if its private, otherwise they just find it) to fill out the other cities instead -- and cooperate, fight, whatever.
That doesn't work without a server authority, so that needs always-online to work. Otherwise you'd need one person to host, and never stop. So this is logical. Plus, you can still play it by yourself if you want.
The part you can argue for the always-online component is whether they should have let you play in a local region offline. That's a reasonable question. But they didn't just 'tack always-online' on as a form of DRM (though I'm sure they were happy to have it) -- its pretty clearly a foundation of the way they expect the majority of people to play. And I think they're right -- the *only* reason I'm playing the game is so I can play with my brother. If it was a purely single player game, I'd have passed.
Now if could just get that server mess sorted out, I think this would be a fun game. From what I've seen so far, the UI is easily the best SimCity has ever had. It was pure pleasure laying out zones & drawing roads, etc. And I like their module system for expanding the utilities & other buildings.
It's not fair to say this is "how not to design a single player game". That's insipid. They've taken a single player game and made an interesting multi-player game, that if you really want to you can play by yourself. That's not the same thing.