Video: Inside the depths of SimCity

Posted by CB Droege

The new version of the classic simulator follows individual citizens in their daily lives.

One of the major features of the upcoming remake of SimCity is the level of simulation. Using technology which simply wasn’t available to the makers of previous iterations of the classic game, the new SimCity will be deeper and broader in terms of the citizen presence.

In past versions of the game, the citizenry would be simulated by algorithm. The games had a complex series of rules based on a macro level understanding of city planning. If you had only one road between your residential sector and your industrial sector, then it would become heavily congested during rush-hour because that’s what happens when you do that in the real world, but it was all happening at the macro level, and had nothing to do with the ‘residents’ of the city themselves.

In the new game, every individual citizen will be simulated. Each resident of the city will have a life story. Rather than the congestion, for example, being caused directly by your placement of the road, it will instead be caused by too many residents trying to take the same roads at the same time. It seems a minor distinction to have the cause come from the micro level rather than the macro, but it makes a huge difference experientially.

As Will Wright (the designer of the original SimCity) and Ocean Quigley (the creative director of the new SimCity) point out in this interview video, part of the SimCity Mayor Memories series, the change doesn’t just affect how the simulation runs, but also has an emotional effect on the player. When something happens to a person, they are not just a statistic in an algorithm, they are an individual 'sim' with a name and a story.

They also devote a bit of their discussion to the scale of the newer game. There have been a lot of complaints from players lucky enough to play in the closed beta test about the plot sizes. Each ‘city’ can only be about 2 square km, about the size of a ‘medium’ plot in SimCity 4. According to Quigley, the purpose of this is to focus on “Quality over quantity”; to encourage players to create efficient and well-managed small city segments, rather than just making their city as large as possible as fast as possible, which was the best way to do well in the last game. Smaller cities will make each management decision much more important to individual residents and make their impact more visible. In addition, it will force players to specialize their towns.

SimCity is slated to hit the shelves in March 2013. EA’s Origin will be required to play. The game can be preordered now over on Amazon.