Gaming Made Me: Sim City 2000

By RPS on May 28th, 2011 at 11:21 am.

This week in Gaming Made Me, Wired UK’s Duncan Geere recalls how Sim City 2000 (and its incredible manual) taught him utopian values, gave him a life-long fascination with impossible habitats and brought about a new sense of just what manner of strange beast is a city.

I still have the manual for SimCity 2000. The game CD, or perhaps even floppy disks — I can’t remember — have long disappeared, but I still own the manual. About once a year, I leaf through it – not for nostalgia, but because it’s such a beautiful creation.

It opens with a quote from the Danish urban planner, Steen Eiler Rasmussen: “To search for the ideal city today is useless. For all cities are different.”

Spread throughout the rest of the book, on every other page or so, are more quotes – chosen by the architect Richard Bartlett. At the end of the manual is a “gallery” of art, poetry, essays, and short stories that address people’s experiences of and feelings about cities.

As an eleven-year-old kid this blew my tiny little mind. I’d lived in cities for much of my life, but I’d never really thought of them as a whole — as more than a collection of houses, streets, and neighborhoods.

I’d never considered that a particular road layout might be more than just filling the space between buildings. I’d never considered that a public transit network might be based on principles honed over decades or even centuries. I’d never considered that town planning might be just as much of an art as a science.

Playing SimCity 2000, I was able to tune out much of what ailed my eleven-year-old self — mostly homework and the perpetual cold that every child of a certain age suffers from. I was able to really lose myself for the very first time. I’d played NES games before but I never really felt much of a connection to them — they never grabbed me in a way that Maxis’ city-building simulator managed to do.

The reason it had such a powerful effect was because it fueled my imagination. I imagined living in the streets that I was building on the screen, working in the warehouses and chemical plants and driving back over the suspension bridge to my home on the far side of the lake.

Oddly there were never any other people in this vision. There were buildings, cars, and roads, but no actual people — just like the game itself. Other games around the same time tried to include people, but failed miserably — ending up with cartoonish caricatures.

Certain aspects of SimCity 2000 have stayed with me more than others. The inexplicably angry transport advisor. Building my Mayor’s house on a raised area surrounded by waterfalls. Power plants exploding every half-century. The demented newspaper articles that referred to llamas on every other line. Reticulating splines.

But it was Arcologies in particular that caught my imagination and are something I’m still utterly fascinated by today. To my eleven-year-old credit, I totally understood the concept of what they are — enormous self-sufficient skyscrapers with almost everything necessary for their population — food, clean air, power, water, etc.

In practice, like so many great ideas, they don’t quite work. Despite a number of noble experiments, mankind doesn’t yet seem to have the technology or the willpower to bring a functioning arcology into existence. A lot of its central concepts, in particular the self-sufficiency and sustainability aspects, are being integrated into planned communities, but despite several attempts, no-one seems to be able to complete one.

Nonetheless, with the naivety of youth, my mind conjured up images of future civilisations, leaving behind the roads, police stations and residental zones of the ground in favour of vast, soaring constructions that they’d never need to leave.

It laid a utopic streak in my thinking at a crucial time in my life, one which I’m enormously grateful for today.

But almost more notable, going back to the game now, are the things I didn’t understand at the time. The things that my young mind couldn’t or just didn’t process. I never appreciated the concept of land value — to me, four houses squeezed onto the same plot was as good as one big house with a swimming pool. I also never appreciated the negative effect that raising taxes had on the population and on growth. I didn’t get why putting up the tax rate made the amount of money I was making go down over time.

One small aspect of the game that I didn’t understand at all was a particular scenario titled Dullsville. It puts you in charge of a small town in mid-western America where there’s no entertainment, nothing to do. At the time, I thought this was funny. How could there be a town where all the residents were bored? It wasn’t until much later that I realised that it was a deeply accurate portrayal of middle America, characterising the existential boredom of a generation of young people with nothing to do.

The curious thing about SimCity 2000 is that it simulates a very American city. I didn’t realise this at the time, and it was probably my first significant experience of large US cities — way before I ever got to visit one.

When — ten years later — I did get to visit the United States, I felt a powerful pang of nostalgia for something that I knew I’d never actually experienced, which was a very odd sensation indeed.

This sensation was fuelled by aspects of the game that reflect a uniquely American perspective on what a city is — the highways and onramps, the colleges, the zoning system and grid layouts. Most of all, it’s demonstrated by the difficulty of building a functional and effective railway system.

But the question of what a city is, what its soul looks like, and what type of personality it has is very much what SimCity 2000 is all about. That stood in contrast to superficially similar games around the same time, like Transport Tycoon or Theme Park, which generally task you with finding a solution to a problem. Instead, SimCity 2000 is about creating something beautiful, and then trying to manage the problems that come with it.

Doing that hundreds of times over taught me that you can have a dream in your head, succeed in following it to the letter and making it happen, and you’ll find all kinds of problems in it that you weren’t expecting. Just like the people trying to build arcologies in the real world. Just like the residents of Dullsville, who have a life coveted by a huge proportion of the world’s population, but can’t enjoy it.

SimCity 2000 taught me that, but showed me that it didn’t matter — because it’s the dream, not the problems, that’s important. Nowhere is that more evident than in SimCity 2000′s manual with its pictures, poetry and quotes. Michael Bremer, the chap responsible, who worked at Maxis between 1994 and 1998, had a dream of the greatest videogame manual the world has ever seen. He achieved it.

__________________

« | »

, , .

95 Comments »

  1. Persona Jet Rev says:

    Reticulating splines!

  2. talon03 says:

    Good work! Hyperlinks appear a tad broken though…

  3. Drake Sigar says:

    I love these ‘Gaming Made Me’ articles, total nostalgia trip.

  4. RegisteredUser says:

    I never understood the people that (mainly, even) found joy in destroying their own creation through massive tornadoes/firestorms/monsters/earthquakes/aliens after spending days/weeks building them.

    Always felt they had some weird kind of disorder. It would be like building a magnificent lego city/world and then kicking the crap out of all the blocks out of the blue once it looked good.

    Or, in modern parlay, griefing yourself on your local / favorite minecraft server. Or whatever it is these reality-deprived kids-and-people do these days instead of physical contact to real world items. :P

    • Persona Jet Rev says:

      At least in SimCity you could save your creation before subjecting it to fire and brimstone.

      I never understood ruining things others created, not even during those glorious, real life sandbox days.

    • Gnoupi says:

      The lego reference is not good, and actually the good example of why people destroy in Sim City.

      The difference is SAVES.

      You couldn’t save your lego construction. I’m sure that in some storage box I still have things I built, that I never had the heart to disassemble, even if tempted to, for fun.

      You can save your city and destroy it. You can marvel at the full range of “god” power, creating, and destroying… and load your save once satisfied. Just because you can.

      In Sim City 4, they even divided the interface in “roles”. God-like, Mayor, Sim. Destruction is a part of the god-like powers.

      And besides, some people are bored when things are going right. They like to deal with emergency, catastrophe. Scar the city, destroy a part of it, and rebuild it better.

    • frenz0rz says:

      I dont find it that wierd.

      As a kid, I used to build spaceships or vehicles out of lego or k’nex, and then gradually destroy them in some sort of epic battle. I think theres some sort of perverse, childish pleasure in blowing something to bits. As a child, I was also fascinated by the destruction/deterioration and change of things over the passage of time, which eventually led me to study archaeology. I’d build some complicated structure and then gradually knock it and tap bits off it, finding out which bits were the strongest and imagining it slowly falling to bits.

      Ok, so maybe that does sound a little wierd.

    • radioedit says:

      Yeah, I never understood that either. When I was playing it as a kid I turned off disasters, because I couldn’t bear to see my hours of careful work damaged.

    • battles_atlas says:

      There’s nothing weird at all about it – quite the opposite in fact. Destruction and creation are one and the same thing. It probably speaks of the rather pampered, simulacra experience of us late-moderns that we could even imagine the latter without the former. Either is meaningless without the other. The act of building your SimCity masterpiece itself requires the destruction of the pristine natural landscape of strangely brown soil and dotted evergreens that maps begin as.

    • Iokanaan says:

      well spoken.
      I still tend to destroy a lot paintings and drawings I make. somehow putting a lot of time and effort into something rarely results in the product being the way I want it to be. it might be the unbridgable gap between reality and imagination, between idea and product, or that preliminary ideas evolve or devolve with the time spent turning them into something physical. it might be perfectionism or insatiability, which in themselves are creative and destructive.
      or maybe I’m just too arrogant to enjoy the fruits of my work as they appear.

    • Phydaux says:

      I loved playing with disasters on. The break from the standard game to quell a riot or put out a fire, was like a cool mini-game. And it was always good when your town had Maxis-man to help. My cities would be planned with fire-breaks so if a fire did spread I could stop it from hitting major buildings (like power plants) or sweeping through the suburbs.

      Also, I named one of my cities Quakeville. I’m sure it had a much higher number of earthquake disasters than any other city.

    • Moonracer says:

      It’s kind of like the Buddhist sand art thing where they destroy these elaborate works of art after a while. Also, with Legos, you have to take your creations apart if you want to build something else. Why not make a game of it.

      I probably feel more okay than others about being greifed in MP games like Minecraft because it feels natural in a way. Sure it sucks, but I’ve also had servers disappear on me overnight. Worlds destroyed in less entertaining ways.

    • dyskordian says:

      As a child I loved my Building Blasters toy. Which is a build it just so you can blow it up thing.
      http://www.morningtoast.com/2010/01/build-it-up-blow-it-up/

    • Sum0 says:

      I realised once that a lot of the joy I got from SimCity was destroying things to make way for new, shiner stuff, like tearing down slums to build a new highway. That made it feel more like a real city where nothing lasts for too long.

  5. frenz0rz says:

    Llamas! Oh how I loved the llamas. Modern gaming needs more llamas.

  6. Curvespace says:

    I miss game manuals, maps and all the paraphernalia that helps bring a game out of the screen and into your life. They used to be valued and treasured, firing the imagination and filling the gaps that the rudimentary graphics left for you.

    Incidentally, like the author, I visited the US for the first time recently and found myself comparing it to the places I made in SimCity 2000. It felt as though I’d climbed into my own memories of the game.

    • Hentzau says:

      Yeah, the number one tragedy of the leap from large, unwieldy boxes to DVD cases has been the loss of manuals worth a damn. Manuals which not only tell you how to play the game – although there are precious little which will even do that these days – but which also include a thick wodge of background information that demonstrates a genuine love for the game’s subject area. The old Microprose manuals were best for this; everything I know about pirates, railroads and the European colonisation of the Americas I learned from their manuals.

    • adonf says:

      I believed zoning was an invention from the Sim City games until I visited America.

  7. kyrieee says:

    This is truly one of the greatest games ever.
    It kept me fascinated for years as a child, probably because we weren’t very good at it back then. I remember being envious of all the cool buildings my older firends managed to get.

  8. Wilson says:

    I wanted to get into SimCity 4, but apparently it’s harder than the older games? Or I’m terrible at it. Either way, I could never stop falling into the red… maybe I should just give this one a go again. Sure I have an old disk lying around somewhere.

    • Xocrates says:

      SimCity 4 is significantly harder than the other games, mostly because every public service has a maintenance cost. You can go bankrupt by making too many services before you actually need them.

      That said, it’s probably the best one of the series.

    • Persona Jet Rev says:

      The original SimCity 4 was incredibly hard, with power plants only lasting 30 years (and with their output getting lower during the years). SimCity 4 Rush Hour introduced a difficulty setting, but even on ‘Hard’ it isn’t as difficult as the original (power plants just keep working for example).

      I agree with Xocrates and the author of the article, SimCity 2000 is a great game, but SimCity 4 offers much more. Especially because of the mod support, which can also lower the difficulty even further if you so desire ;)

    • Wilson says:

      Can anyone recommend a good beginner’s mod, and will I need to get the Rush Hour expansion (I imagine it can’t be that costly now).

    • Persona Jet Rev says:

      Simtropolis.com is the SC4 community and mod site (the ST EXchange), filled with guides and such. I can’t recommend a specific mod for difficulty. However, I can recommend these:

      - Network Addon Mod: adds a lot of infrastructure options, might be overwhelming if you’re just starting out. However, the bus stops that you can build *on* roads are a bliss
      - Industry quadrupler: 4x jobs generated by industry, the default is on the low side so you have to build massive industrial parks, in comparison to more efficient commercial zones.
      - Bridge height mod (for aesthetics)
      - Garbage chute: a bit of a comedic one. Clean out dumps by shoving your cities’ garbage off the edge of the map :P

      You’ll also find heaps and heaps of custom buildings on STEX, both ‘ploppables’ (which you can build yourself) and ‘growables’ (which appear on building zones)

      I think most mods require Rush Hour by the way, but the ‘Deluxe’ edition is only 9 pounds on Amazon.

    • Wilson says:

      Well, if Rush Hour is easier than the regular game, that will hopefully be enough. Cheers for the info, and I’ll definitely check out those mods!

  9. Sigma Draconis says:

    Out of any of the games I’d attempt to reinstall as of late, I didn’t think it would be Sim City 2000. Assuming I can find the Special Edition CD or even run the game on Windows XP, that is.

    • FKD says:

      It is my understanding that Sim City 2000 now falls under “Abandonware” and can be downloaded. Atleast that is what I gather from a particular site which lists/carries games for download if they are considered abandoned.

    • Duncan says:

      DOSBox and Abandonia are your friends.

    • FKD says:

      Abandonia is amazing, I love it! I keep waiting for Sim Copter to pop up on there. I have it in storage somewhere, but would like to play it without having to try and find it somewhere to buy again.

    • Lukasz says:

      it is NOT abandonedware. that’s total bullshit as simcity belongs to maxis which belongs to EA.

      it is simple piracy nothing else.

    • TillEulenspiegel says:

      If it’s not being sold, it’s abandonware. Those evil, evil pirates, not paying money for downloading something when nobody’s giving them the opportunity to pay. They should be mailing individual checks to Will Wright, Fred Haslam, Don Walters, Jenny Martin, etc, amirite? And even if they do that, they’re still evil pirate scum because they pirated it like pirates.

    • Vinraith says:

      @TillEulenspiegel

      Yeah, except it is being sold. Check Amazon, for example. The price for “new” is totally unreasonable, but it is still being sold. The price for used copies, incidentally, is a pittance, not that that does the creators any good.

      This is not to say that I wouldn’t consider it “abandonware” since it’s clear enough that EA/Maxis are not setting those prices and likely aren’t seeing any cash from even the “new” sales at this point (I’m guessing that’s ancient backstock being sold at a premium), but it’s a little bit more “gray” than a clear cut case of the game being completely unavailable at retail.

    • KaL_YoshiKa says:

      Come on guys, it should be pretty clear with stuff like GoG seemingly doing fine packaging older abandoned games for sale (legally of course) that most people are happy to buy *abandonware* if it happens to be put on sale again. While it’s just a term it is meant to imply that the copyright holder doesn’t care anymore – people who want to own it will still buy it.

    • TillEulenspiegel says:

      But publishers keep telling me that buying used is just as bad as piracy.

      Yes, obviously EA/Maxis is seeing none the ~$70 on Amazon at this point. “Abandonware” is obviously illegal. Morality is the issue, and I personally don’t give the slightest crap about those looking to resell at an absurd premium. But sure, go buy the ones that are sold for little more than the shipping price if it makes you feel better.

      Me, I’ll keep downloading copies of games that I’ve purchased on disk years ago but happen to be several thousand miles away at the moment.

    • Vinraith says:

      My intent was, I think quite clearly, not to claim that the game was not abandonware. It certainly was not to suggest that it was more “moral” to purchase the game from gouging retailers, or used for pennies. It was simply to point out that your conditional:

      If it’s not being sold, it’s abandonware.

      does not apply here, so we clearly need a better definition of abandonware.

    • Lukasz says:

      downloading any game which was not released as freeware/sharware (like red alert for example) is a piracy.

      whether it is okay to pirate it or not is up to individual decision. of course anyone who wants to pirate a game will always find a justification.

      abandonware is a nice term used to do just that.
      You want SC2000? Go ahead and download it. nobody is going to prosecute you, neither publisher or developer is losing any money….
      just be frank with what you are doing. because downloading any game which is not released as freeware/shareware is copyright infringement therefore piracy.

      i did it few times myself. wanted to play mafia 1 but there was no new copy in local store or even ebay (before steam release) and i don’t buy stuff like that second hand.
      i pirated, i broke the law just for my selfish need to play the game. no need to justify that action. no need to make up terms…

    • FKD says:

      The FAQ on Abandonia states their policy for Abandonware as follows:
      Why can’t I download game X? What does “ESA Protected: NO DOWNLOAD” mean?
      - it means that this game is either still sold or actively protected by the copyright holder, or an anti-piracy organisation that the copyright holder is a member of (such as ESA).
      THESE GAMES ARE NOT DOWNLOADABLE.
      ——————————-
      I will be the first to admit that I do not know all the laws and technicalities behind copyright, but it would be my understanding that freeware/shareware would be something the company itself decides to do, giving it “their blessing” as it were. However, from what I gather from the FAQ is that the games that are available are no longer protected by copyright, and by what you are saying Lukasz, “because downloading any game which is not released as freeware/shareware is copyright infringement therefore piracy” would not hold true.

      Though further down in the FAQ it also lists:
      What is Abandonware? Is it legal?

      Wikipedia: “Abandonware is computer software which is no longer being sold or supported by its copyright holder. Alternately, the term is also used for software which is still available, but on which further support and development has been deliberately discontinued.”

      Since the software is no longer sold or supported, the copyright holders are not directly harmed in any way. This is why abandonware sites are, for the most part, ignored by the law.

      The distribution of copyrighted software however is, and will allways be, illegal!
      ———————
      So personally it looks like it’s a bit of a grey area because on the one hand the games are apparently no longer protected by copyright/yet they are still the copyright holders or some such. Anyway, I will be the first to admit I do not understand copyright law and its intracacies but this particular site does seem to make a effort to not host games which are still actively protected which is more than pirating sites bother with.

    • Faldrath says:

      We used to have those arguments at Home of the Underdogs very frequently. And they usually boiled down to: abandonware is indeed illegal, but not immoral (unlike pirating software that’s still being sold, which is both illegal and immoral). It’s not a perfect argument, far from it, but it can work.

    • Lukasz says:

      @FKD
      you are not correct. Copyright indeed expires but i think because of disney it is now like 90 years. Trademarks are voided if not enforced or used after certain quite short period of time.
      All games (unless the publisher messed up when the game was released) are still copyrighted. even freeware and shareware games.
      Therefore, downloading games which were not allowed by the owner of copyright to be distributed freely (which makes them freeware) is a breach of a law.
      Therefore it is piracy.
      Whether it is morally wrong or morally right is up to you to decide.
      Furthermore: Abandonware sites are NOT ignored by law. Law clearly states that what they are doing is illegal. They are tough ignored by publishers. Most of the time…. Lucasarts is known to enforce the protection of their IPs. Many don’t bother and for many especially older games nobody even knows who owns the right for those games.
      I respect abandonware sites mostly because they are doing what companies don’t bother. They preserve old games, make them work on modern system (gods bless dosbox creators)
      They also got my respect for allowing us to experience those old games without charge.
      Nevertheless the concept of abadonware is a wrong one. It is completely made up concept to hide the fact that they are breaking the law, that they are in fact pirating games.
      You can still hear opinions in regards to what gog is doing. They were much more common in the beginning. Why pay for games which are abandonware? Gog is nothing more than a money grabbing scam by profiting from games which were free for such a long time…
      To put it simple:
      Downloading SC2000 is pirating. Even if the game is not available to purchase, even if all traces of who owns the game are gone…. you will be breaking the law.
      Whether it is okay or is it wrong… it is personal choice.

    • FKD says:

      When they say “ignored by law” I do not believe they are meaning that if a publisher took a case to court that the judge would say “Pah! This is a waste of my time!” so much as meaning that they are not going to go out pro-actively and hunt you down. Then again, they could also either be miss-speaking or lumping it together with what you are saying about how it is infact instead ignored by publishers. I am certainly not a spokeswoman for that site, I am just trying to look at it from different ways here since we would need them to actually clarify what they were saying. :) ANYWAY..

      And I agree with you that what sites like that are doing is wonderful, almost like a museum or historian/collector keeping knowledge of obscure things alive.

      I understand what you are saying about it being piracy if you download it because as you say copyright apparently extends for 90 years. I am curious though then about your comparison to GoG, and by extension to places where as someone mentioned earlier that they saw a game on Amazon for $70 (I am willing to bet it was one of the 3rd party stores through Amazon). If the game is being sold by say “GamesDepot” for $70 and the Maxis is not going to see any bit of that money, how is it then different if they sold it for $50/$30/Free? So in essence it would seem that abandonware sites are doing the exact same thing as “GamesDepot” except not charging for it. (Note: I use a fake company there because I do not know if GoG has agreements with companies to distribute their old games or not)

      (And a final note, I want to clarify that I have absolutely no desire to argue/debate topics, I am merely trying to understand things and discuss them to achieve that. :) I know the internet is not always the best way to go about that! lol)

    • Lukasz says:

      Gamesdepot, assuming it is legitimate company, is allowed to sell the game for whatever they wish to charge for it. They are also selling a hardcopy so at some point somebody paid for that copy, money which maxis received.
      Gog has agreements with owners of the IPs. So whoever owns the ip now gets few bucks from us when we buy via gog (even tough creators don’t like for example Troika which made Arcanum but does not exist anymore)

      Abandonia on other hand is not allowed to provide us with the games therefore we are not allowed to download them. They also provide thousands of copies from single hardcopy.

      Therefore it is piracy.

      Also… what if Maxis decides to release SC2000? People who got it from abandonware sites may then not buy it as they believe that sc2000 is ‘abandonware’ and that nobody deserves to get any money from that game.

      that’s why i don’t like the concept. Whether it is okay to pirate the game is up to person view on piracy and old game. but the concept gives false impression about us being somehow allowed to download the game, hiding the fact that it is simple piracy.

    • steviesteveo says:

      My main problem with “abandonware” as a concept is that it’s a totally self appointed title – you’ve decided that a developer isn’t going to do any more with a product and put it up for download. It’s the “if you liked it you should’ve put a price on it” defence. I don’t really see what lets random internet people decide if a company is done selling something forever.

      I just compare it to the completely morally unambiguous alternative which is where the developer decides they aren’t going to do anything more with a product and donates it to the public domain, which they can do because they made it.

  10. Alez says:

    oh now i feel a bit bad for being in love with Transport Tycoon when this guy was with Sim City. Don’t get me wrong, Sim City is the better game, it’s just that i got it a lot later, started with 3000.

    Still, Transport Tycoon was a damn good game in which me and my dad sank plenty of hours. Always comparing our cities and the amount of money made. Good times…now he’s all old and only “plays” spider solitare and i’m a jaded gamer that can hardly find joy in even the best ones out there.

    • FKD says:

      I know what you mean and I hate that feeling :/ I now spend most of my “computer time” sitting here reading either RPS or being bored on the internet. I start up a game, and before I can even really get into it I am already bored and shutting it back down again. It is really confusing for me in a way because for so long this was my “hobby” and now I just do not seem to enjoy it, or atleast the games out there anymore :(

    • Duncan says:

      Oh believe me, I loved Transport Tycoon too. I adored how precise you had to be in it while laying the tracks. Though for a long time I only had a demo that let you play for three years or something before it booted you out, so I used to see how much cash I could make in that time, over and over again.

    • JonClaw says:

      As a fan of TT, I’m sure you’ve heard of this: http://www.openttd.org/en/

    • Alez says:

      yes JonClaw, i discovered it a while back. Thanks. It improves every single aspect of the game. Yet…it’s just not the same. I couldn’t do it anymore. I’m too different, i can’t enjoy a far better version of a game that i loved a long time ago. Life’s weird sometimes.

      @FKD Yeah, when i was younger i was playing because it was something new, interesting, fun. Now it feels like i do it to escape the real world or just because it’s what i do…i play games. I miss discovering genres so much. Now it’s just FPS, RTS, RPG etc. It became so mathematic, so soulless. Yet i play every day, year after year.

      I guess i just wanna discover pc gaming again.

      This post sounds a bit too sad. Don’t know how to express it another way.

    • Amun says:

      @alez
      Just get hit on the head by a ceiling fan and you can relive your gaming childhood!
      http://goo.gl/Zdsrg

    • Alez says:

      Amun, haha that might work.

    • Pinky G says:

      edit: deleted

  11. FKD says:

    I too loved game manuals when they were nice and thick and filled with goodness.. I would always read them cover to cover (usually several times) while the game loaded and immersed myself not only in the “story” behind the game, but also all the details the manual covered. Now it seems you get a piece of paper folded in half that says how to install it on one side, and the game credits on the other.

    As for Sim City, I had the first game and enjoyed plopping the boxes down and connecting them with power lines. To this day I have never quite managed to find the balance between building/taxes/running out of money (in any of the Sim City games) so I always ended up using the money cheat. All I knew is that I was supposed to follow the graph which was telling me to increase residental/commercial/industrial some how. Anyway, despite my failing I still loved the game.

    But I will never forget the day I saw Sim City 2000. I remember it being a full page screenshot/ad in a copy of Discover magazine (I still hope to find a issue from that year so that I can see the ad again!) and I was completly blown away by how “realistic” the game looked. The level of detail just blew me away. And you could even raise or lower the ground! Crazy. Absolutely insane. And I loved it and the idea of where PC gaming was heading because if games could look THAT good, then who knew what kind of computer magic would be created a few more years down the line!

    And of course in keeping with my abilities with the Sim series I have gotten absolutely NOWHERE in that game either (or the 3rd one..I finally lost heart and did not bother with the 4th). Even reading the manual I have no idea what to do with the water pumps/towers/etc. I can get some water going eventually but I lack the understanding behind what I am actually DOING :(

    • Duncan says:

      Those graphics were incredible for the time. I particularly loved the Urban Renewal Kit that came with later versions of the game, where you could probe and change all the graphics in the game, making them as insane as you liked. Was that one of the first developer-built modding tools for a game?

  12. Sinnorfin says:

    Humanarium

  13. nidzumi says:

    This is making me pine for a new SimCity. I’m still not counting Societies as a new game.

    • crazydane says:

      I keep searching on google every few months in the remote hope that perhaps EA will reboot the series. Societies was a pretty dreadful game that I got about 5 or 6 hours of enjoyment out of, then just I just got bored with it. Societies had nothing on 2000, 3000 or 4. SAD TIMES.

  14. Navagon says:

    Another great Gaming Made Me read. Sometimes games could be better educators than any stuffy classroom. It’s a shame that the education system remains in a state that I don’t think anyone is particularly impressed by.

  15. MD says:

    Great article. I played the original SimCity as a kid, and missed 2000 when it came around, but now I’m very tempted to give it a go.

  16. Towercap says:

    I had a hard time playing SC2000 because the one eyed monster thing *terrified* me. I would literally try not to look at the computer screen when my elder brother was playing, afraid the thing would suddenly appear from that bleak black chasm around the map.

  17. JonClaw says:

    I’d play 2000 again, but it runs waaaay too fast on its highest speed setting and not fast enough on its 2nd highest speed setting. Any ideas on how to fix that?

    • Alez says:

      yes, you can fix it by playing 4 :). Not the answer you were looking for but i truly believe that they evolved with every sequel. I can’t think of any reason to play 2000 and not 4, instead of nostalgia.

    • Mistabashi says:

      Sim City 3000 makes a good middle-ground between the simplicity of the older games and the depth of 4. It also runs fine on newer systems (unlike 4, which can have a lot of issues).

  18. Jimmy says:

    Great article. I love how the game makes you aware of cities and their complex inter-relationships. I study these aspects in college now, but to have played this game back then might have helped!

  19. misterk says:

    My favourite thing was the loans guy, who would propose that you get a loan… then instantly tell you you couldn’t afford it and need to pay it back

  20. tikey says:

    Playing as a Kid, one of the greatest gaming moments I had was when Maxis-Man saved my city by defeating the giant alien-ball-robospider thing.

    And of course my gigantic city that I was able to rebuild entirely after one of my brother’s friends set it on fire and saved the game so I could not go back.

    I’ve actually played it again a few years ago and had so much fun, it’s a great game.

  21. lunarplasma says:

    This game is memorable as one which my Dad did helluva lot better in it than I did. He would leave the PC on overnight running Simcity 2000 (with disasters turned off). Pretty soon he had the whole map filled with his planned symmetrical city, Arcologies everywhere.

    I never even got arcologies at all.

  22. Phydaux says:

    SimCopter 1 reporting heavy traffic.

    • OJ287 says:

      :::Cursor over Simcoptor, click:::

      Not anymore you’re not!

    • RCGT says:

      SimCopter was the best Sim game EVER. I used to fly around in the Apache and tear into the UFOs you could find at the top of the map. And upgrading your copter was tons of fun.

  23. Big Murray says:

    One of the greatest gaming joys of my childhood was building a huge, sprawling city, then getting my friends round my house so we could see how quickly we could destroy it.

  24. noclip says:

    This brought back memories. Well done.

  25. OJ287 says:

    My abiding memory is kettling rioters with the police and military, if you could attract them to your city, then placing fire fighters to contain the fires they started. IIRC you could actually block the intersections then let the fire spread in to the streets containing the rioters.

  26. Namos says:

    I think one of the things I loved the most about these 90′s construction sims is how a lot of them tried to go a bit sci-fi and peek into the future. It instilled in me an understanding that despite everything, progress will continue. Maybe we’ll even get to arcologies, eventually.

  27. BobsLawnService says:

    I’m glad someone felt the exact same way as I did about the Archologies. It’s an idea that fascinates me to this day and I often find myself musing about either them or other smallish semi-self sustaining utopian communities.

  28. Noumenon says:

    I just looked this up yesterday: “reticulating” means “covering with a network of crossed lines.”

  29. Davie says:

    Ah, this was great. SimCity 2000 was the very first game I ever played. My mother bought it out of curiosity in 1997, and I, being five years old at the time, was completely wowed by the concept of a city in the computer-box. It was an odd experience, really, because my parents have never been remotely impressed by video games, but my mother loved SimCity, and she sparked my interest in gaming.

    And I still love the series. Every now and then I’ll still idly pop 3000 into my disk drive, and then it’s dark and I’ve spent an entire afternoon constructing a flawed utopia. It’s left quite an impression.

  30. negativedge says:

    one of my top five games of all time.

    • cw8 says:

      Same here.
      Simcity 2000 or Simcity 4, just call it Simcity in general, is my top 3 games of all time.
      Best is definitely Simcity 4 with B.A.T.S.

  31. outoffeelinsobad says:

    Dude looks like Warren Spector.

  32. Nogo says:

    I have fond memories of importing my cities into Streets of SimCity and Simcopter so I could rummage about in them.

  33. bill says:

    I have fond memories of this. But I think I was too young to understand any of the details… I just liked drawing roads and making power lines. I doubt I ever made anything approaching a workable city as I ignored all the underlying mechanics.

    I kinda prefer it that way. Not sure I’d want to go back now and have to think about all the complex sim elements. That’d make it more like work and less like the creation engine of my memories.

  34. sigma83 says:

    This so much. Simcity for me became a tool to play Simcopter, and I played Simcopter co-op, with my brother pressing buttons and me flying.

    *bah, meant as reply to nogo re simcopter

  35. Red_Avatar says:

    Aaah Sim City 2000 … the game which PC Gamer first loved, then ridiculed for being in the top best selling spot for over a year (beaten by Doom 2 and then Doom 2 got kicked off the first spot by SC2000 once again) … and then after a year or two, it was called “a bit pointless and dull” (which resulted in quite a few letters to Cables).
    I enjoyed it quite a bit although I did find it pointless as well in the end, mainly because the act of building wasn’t that enjoyable to me. Whereas Theme Park had many cute and fun elements, Sim City was all about setting zones and other grey stuff.
    Having said that, I always loved the music in the game – it had a certain relaxed quality to it that made me play the game longer than I would normally have. Aaah … the music back then was so wonderfully cheery or mood-setting. Today, it’s all too often generic orchestra stuff – my cupboard is filled with lame soundtracks from games.

  36. snugglez says:

    “There were buildings, cars, and roads, but no actual people — just like the game itself.”

    A telling, and disheartening, statement. The reason 2000′s cities match American cities is because almost all American cities are designed and scaled for cars, not humans.

  37. tungstenHead says:

    I didn’t spend much time with the SC2k manual. The SimAnt manual, however, was where I learned nearly everything that I ever knew about ants. The school library just didn’t have anything to compare with that treasure trove of entomological knowledge. I was immensely pleased to find it hidden in my bedroom a couple weeks back.

    Good manuals back then. Really good manuals.

  38. Nick R says:

    Urban planner Stephen Rowley (who happens to be one of my favourite online film critics) recently republished this interesting article comparing the SimCity games’ limitations to the skills used in real town planning.

    Worth a read for the “SimCity’s Embedded Assumptions” section, at least.

  39. Synesthesia says:

    man, great read. Im going to play this some more right now.
    I really miss game manuals. I still remember the ewj2 and the dk one…

  40. TychoCelchuuu says:

    I played quite a bit of SC2k as a kid, and then my family moved to Seattle. I’ll never forget driving into the city for the first time and realizing that 80% of the buildings were ones I was already intimately familiar with because I had been building my cities out of them for a couple years. That was a pretty amazing feeling.

  41. tekn0phyle says:

    RPS,
    Beautiful article! I was wondering if that 11 year old ever ran across this one: “Off-Whitebeard the Pirate’s treasure map is found in the city’s museum. Go to the city map and find it.’?
    This message popped up after creating hundreds of Arcologies with 7 million + population and forgetting the game was running on the AV input of my HD TV (Playstaion console version) for over a month. I have searched EVERYWHERE and found nothing on this.
    After going to the city map, under a button marked with the location icon, the map turns unpopulated with a large red X and a Skull & Crossbones that moves to a different spot each time the map is opened. On the top left quadrant of the map is something that looks like an archeological site: an indented circle with four objects to the NSEW. Wot???