Your SimCity won’t look like my SimCity

Posted by CB Droege

The reboot of the classic SimCity franchise is still a couple months out, but fans have already found a couple things to grouse about.

First, they have a problem with Origin, EA Games’ digital distribution client which requires users to log-in and stay logged in in order to play their games. Frankly, complaining about this is like complaining that you have to get a library card to check out a book. This is simply the way video games work now. I’m honestly not sure how or why anyone is surprised. In today’s industry, only independent titles are released without any DRM. No one complains that all of Valves games carry the same always-online requirement, but that’s because people actually like Valve, while people distrust EA (not because Valve’s Steam is actually any less intrusive than EA’s Origin).

Second, there have been a lot of complaints about the look of the game. With many calling it too cartoony or too much like the city is a miniature train-set, rather than a real city. The thing is this: that ‘miniature’, unrealistic look is just a visual filter. The effect is created by blurring out the top and bottom of the image to create an artificial depth of field. This can be used to make any photo of a real city look like a miniature city. Do a Google image search for 'miniatures photo filter' and you'll see some examples of real city scenes made to look tiny.

That’s the default filter for SimCity, and I think it looks neat, but in response to the criticism, EA has announced that, not only will players be able to turn off that filter if they wish, but that there will be a wide variety of color schemes to choose from, including a softer palette for more realistic color. Here’s a sampling of the available palette, from the SimCity development blog:

 

In a side note, we also heard from EA this weekend that they’ll be creating a special version of their new game for use in the classroom. SimCityEDU will allow educators to set up specific challenges and lessons for their students to play through in the Sim City game client.

"For decades, SimCity has been embraced by the educational community as an engaging videogame that also provides a powerful learning experience, teaching problem solving skills through imaginative civic gameplay," a Maxis rep confirmed.

"We want to up the ante of SimCity’s educational influence. Through our partnership with GlassLab, SimCity will become the foundation of a program to re-imagine learning in a way that will inspire today’s youth to get excited about STEM education and become the problem solvers of tomorrow."

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. If you want a closer look sooner, and feel lucky, you can sign up for the closed beta over on the game’s official website.