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SimCity: Maxis’ Grand Designs For Re-Building City Simulation


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Adam Barnes

We get eyes-on with EA and Maxis’s latest – and long-awaited – SimCity game to find out if this could be the most revolutionary city management game yet.


Published on Apr 20, 2012

Believe it or not, but SimCity remains one of the most fan-requested games in EA's back catalogue. There’s a diehard community out there absorbing themselves in the world of SimCity, as well clamouring for a new one.

But what is so interesting about this brand new SimCity? Will it appeal to hardcore fans only, or is there still hope for newcomers who might have forgotten all about SimCity? 

NowGamer had an early look at Maxis’ most innovative city building game yet, and it’s clear a lot of work has gone into mixing up the tried-and-tested formula. Read on to find out why this could be the best SimCity yet:

How Are SimCity’s Visuals?

Bret Berry, VP of Maxis, was keen to emphasise that what was being shown was still very early visuals and not nearly a representation of the final thing. But honestly, he was being a little modest.

SimCity looks more charming that ever. There’s been much chatter about SimCity’s unique tilt-shift camera style, but it is the bright, colourful buildings scattered throughout the pre-made city that appealed the most. 

Sure they were a little rough around the edges and animations weren’t complete, but as a base for the visuals this could easily become the most recognisable and appealing SimCity yet. It’ll be exciting to see it all come together. 

This is just art, but it's a good representation of the bright and cheery visuals already in place.

The Playful Nature Of SimCity

Tying into the charm of the visuals and capitalising on the humorous nature of the Sim franchise, Maxis has made the latest SimCity the most playful yet.

New structures such as power plants are dragged onto the map, and crash into the ground with a satisfying billow of smoke. Dragging residential zoning across a curved road clicks into place, sounding like a stick being scraped across a fence. Power lines pop into place, stretching as the cables reach maximum tension and, finally, snapping if you place the lines too far away.

It really emphasises the sandbox nature of SimCity, making it immediately satisfying and fun to play, but never ignoring the complexity of the tools available. It’s easy to see how newcomers and hardcore fans will both find SimCity’s new style instantly appealing.

Everything In The World Is An Agent

There have already been a number of videos detailing the new agent system underpinning SimCity, but seeing it in action really highlights how innovative it really is.

Take, for example, the citizens of your city. Each and everyone of them is an individual person with needs: at the base level this is the need for electricity and water, but then they’ll search for work and, failing that, visit a park or head to the commercial district.

You could – quite literally – follow an individual citizen around your city as they travel from point to point. It’s fascinating, and an element that has long been needed in city management games.

But more than this, agents can be electricity or water ‘packets’ sent out to housing and businesses, products created from your fully-functional industrial system or pollution created by your busy factories and power plants.

Not only does it help create a city that feels like you’re having an impact on it, but it provides logic to everything. Using the different overlays will remain as important as ever, but even a quick glance at your city will tell you exactly what’s wrong and how you can fix it.

Night is particularly impressive with the glare from homes and the flashing lights of hurried police cars.

What About SimCity Multiplayer?

You won’t be able to join a friend and build horrible industrial zones inside his carefully planned and pristine suburbs, that much is certain. Instead, SimCity’s multiplayer will be a little more passive-aggressive.

Neighbouring cities – whether a friend, some random internet guy or computer controlled – will provide a global ecosystem. What happens in their city can bleed over to affect yours, sometimes positively and other times negatively.

For example, if a nearby city has become a thriving hub of criminal activity, some of that might edge over into your city – perhaps causing arsonists or thieves to search your idyllic haven for potential targets.

Conversely, agreements can be made to provide services, such as police coverage, to your city. This frees your city of the costs of reducing crime to let you concentrate on something else entirely.

It won’t matter if this partner isn’t always around either, since cities will survive in stasis when offline and any arrangements will remain intact.

The Dangers Of Economic Chains

Multiplayer will also come in the form of trading on a global market. Got plenty of coal but refuse to utilise its dirty polluting nature? No problem: just stick it all on the global market to earn your city a few extra simoleans.

You can use combine resources in different ways, however, and the higher up the chain you go the better value your products will become. Selling oil is fine, but combine it with various other industries to create cars and its export value will increase massively.

This adds a little more economic strategy to city construction – something that has been missing from SimCity for far too long – and means you can utilise your city’s resources to its greatest potential.

But that resource becomes a chain; if any links in the chain are disrupted, for whatever reason, then that system falls apart, rendering your carefully planned economy useless. It’s a tantalising concept for prospective city planners.



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Electronic Arts
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Summary: It's rare for city management games to innovate, but that looks to be exactly what Maxis is doing with this brand new SimCity.
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