Urbane Living: SimCity

By Adam Smith on October 4th, 2012 at 3:00 pm.

This is a treat. Ten minutes of SimCity, showing a city being simulated all the way from its humble beginnings as a field to its brash middle period as a nascent tourist trap. I’m unable to remove the frown that the social and online aspects of the game have stitched into my forehead, but I’m also unable to banish the smile that the multitude of systems at work brings to my face. Rather than being about plonking down zones and buildings, this SimCity tracks and models individual elements in great detail. That level of simulation fascinates me.

I tend to become bored when my cities reach a certain size. Now, instead of clicking to maliciously send natural disasters tearing through them I’m hoping I can just find ways to break the simulation. Traffic jams that perpetuate themselves endlessly. Sims whose lives become a limbo as they head to work and find themselves on a route that leads only to itself. Basically, I want to recreate this slice of brilliance.

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68 Comments »

  1. TechnicalBen says:

    “I want to encourage them to gamble”. Well, that say’s it all does it not EA and ZombieMaxis? Heh!

  2. Discopanda says:

    Did they ever make a Sin City mod for Sim City? I think the franchise could use a gritty, Frank Miller-y coat of black and white to make it more interesting.

    • RaveTurned says:

      Maybe someone can make that mod for this version.

      Oh wait…

    • Phinor says:

      Argh, I never realized the potential or possibility of creating new type of worlds for Sim City until you mentioned it. Now I need to have Sin City version of the game, the regular simply won’t do.

  3. MiniMatt says:

    EDIT: Aarggh, I promise I’ll read the article properly next time rather than just skim and rush straight to the KEYBOARD OF FURY.

    I can’t remember if I need to spin up my always-online rage-o-tron for this one?

    Vaguely recall some nonsense about intertubes being required at all times but stance may have mellowed.

    • Dark Nexus says:

      Definitely still always-online

      • Discopanda says:

        Didn’t they say it’s a once-per-session activation every time you start up the game? I mean, it’s still inconvenient, but it’s not quite as egregious as Diablo 3 or Ye Olde Ubisoft DRM.

        • Dark Nexus says:

          I hadn’t heard that, but it’s still a non-starter for me.

          • sPOONz says:

            Agreed. The game looks fantastic but the DRM puts me right off it.

    • GraveyardJimmy says:

      I think the main thing is that to preorder with the European cities theme it costs £65, £45 for the base game.

      • Lev Astov says:

        And it is for that reason that I am seriously considering pirating my first game since I left college. We will not tolerate this, EA!

      • The First Door says:

        It really doesn’t help that they’ve seemed to decided calling items ‘Ploppables’ is a good idea. Apparently “The British City Set comes with exclusive Ploppables…” Errr… good?

    • jayc4life says:

      As far as I know, it’s login-once on startup. Whether that’s when SimCity itself starts up, or when you try to load and log into Origin, is still up for debate.

  4. Sparkasaurusmex says:

    This is off topic, but I used to start the youtube videos and pause them, wait for the buffer to fill all the way, then watch. Now youtube will only buffer a fraction of the video while paused :(

    On topic post coming after I watch…buffer….watch…buffer…watch…buffer…seen enough to post something.

    • Sparkasaurusmex says:

      For some reason the zoomed shots remind me of Thomas the Tank Engine. It’s the edge of the screen blurring and everything looks like little toys. I like that.

      Okay, this looks like the best SimCity game I’ve ever seen! I’ve always preferred Tropico, but it looks like Maxis is actually incorporating some of the things that makes Tropico so good.

    • Mana_Garmr says:

      Change the quality setting of the video and it should buffer normally when paused. At least it does for me at 240p

    • jrodman says:

      If you don’t want to change technology, what you can do is pause, wait for buffer, click on the timeline to advance, wait for buffer, repeat. When you have all the data, rewind to start and press play.

      If you make a mistake you have to download everything all over again.

      What I recommend is to give up on using youtube’s website entirely, and use http://rg3.github.com/youtube-dl/ on youtube urls, and play them with VLC when they’re done downloading.

    • AngryAmoeba says:

      Right-click the video and select “Settings”. In the Flash settings panel that comes up, you can set how much Flash data that website is allowed to store on your hard drive. If you set it to “Unlimited”, videos shouldn’t stop buffering prematurely.

      • jrodman says:

        It buffers to memory, not disk, so this setting isn’t really it. That my above steps work (seeking into the pause) demonstrate the veracity of this.

      • Sparkasaurusmex says:

        I changed that setting, refreshed, made sure the new setting stuck, but it still buffers for a few seconds then just stops. I can jump along the timeline to get it buffering again, but I’d prefer a solution that will buffer the videos in background tabs or while I get up from the desk for some silly reason.

        I will check out your recommendation, jrodman. Thanks for mentioning it because that reminds me that there is probably a flashget type plugin for chrome. I’ll check that out too.

        Thanks for the replies, guys.

  5. yhalothar says:

    Look at all this cool stuff that I’m not going to buy.

  6. The First Door says:

    That looks really lovely! I adore games where you don’t have direct control as there is something about watching a system work or fail autonomously which is so pleasing. The different layers seem to be implemented really well too, which is really nice.

    I do have one tiny concern though. if the water and power flow along roads, does that mean you don’t get to make your own plumbing/wiring? That’d be a bit of a shame…

    • suttsc says:

      my biggest problem with the video was realising there was no water pipe and power line construction going on. Is this another case of over simplifying something so that it loses its charm?

      • Rasga says:

        When that part of the video came along I was just far less excited for this new Simcity.

        • Answermancer says:

          I think if you take some time to think about it, you might realize that this is not that big a change, and that your initial emotional reaction is overblown.

          Managing power lines and plumbing was never really that interesting, in Sim City 4 you didn’t really manage power lines at all, except to drag high tension wires all the way to the other side of the city if it needed. Mostly the zones just spread power to each other automatically, and it didn’t really affect the complexity or fun of the game (Sim City 4 was the most complex and, IMO best game in the series despite this change).

          Pipes were kind of fun to lay out, but mostly just because they got their own “underground layer” that I found kind of cool to interact in. 90% of the time there was no reason to do anything “interesting” with them, and laying them along roads was probably the optimal solution anyway.

          As long as there are still interesting options for water pumps, towers, and other sources of water, I think the lack of manually laying out pipes won’t really change the feel of the game almost at all.

          • psaldorn says:

            I always used to lay pipes under roads anyway, as buildings have to be next to roads to function it means they’re always watered as well. I welcome this minor dumbing down.
            I’m far MORE worried about the E3 trailer, where it shows someone plonking down multiple sky scrapers. I hope that was alpha code or something.. skyscrapers should grow!

          • MrEvilGuy says:

            I dunno I’d probably welcome a feature of being able to “place” skyscrapers – they’re big expenditures in the real world, not simply commercial buildings that grow in size over time. Plus, I’d like to have the ability to create a city without hideous skyscrapers destroying public spaces.

      • Elusiv3Pastry says:

        I am so happy I don’t need to lay down plumbing or power lines. I never liked that particular bit of busywork.

    • Lev Astov says:

      That would be a lot of a shame, actually. I’m quite concerned about that, myself. It won’t feel right at all if they just say, “connect a single road to get the water there” when I have such vast quantities of water flowing through the pipes I should need to add more pipes.

    • Yargh says:

      While the reduced complexity does feel a little like dumbing things down, this actually makes sense. Most pipe work in cities is along the roads as that’s the only place you can dig up without tearing down buildings.

  7. MentatYP says:

    Now, instead of clicking to maliciously send natural disasters tearing through them I’m hoping I can just find ways to break the simulation.

    Yes, yes… but can you still unleash disasters upon your unsuspecting city?

    Your comment about “rather than plonking down zones and buildings…” got me worried, but they show right there in the video the process of plonking down zones and buildings. No power lines and pipes, which is too bad.

  8. Smashbox says:

    Kee-rist, when’s the beta starting!?

  9. Bootsy81 says:

    Looks pretty good actually. Shame I’ll never buy it, cause y’know, EA, Origin yada, yada, yada.

  10. Cryptoshrimp says:

    Shame about the shit DRM and always online bullshit. I’d love this otherwise.

  11. InternetBatman says:

    This game looks really cool. They definitely took more cues from the original Sim City than Sim City 2000, which isn’t a bad thing. Shame I’ll probably never get it because of the online requirements.

  12. Hunchback says:

    Can’t wait nao…

  13. tehfish says:

    I had a go of the demo of this at eurogamer.

    I’m going to be so ludicrously addicted when this comes out!

  14. Xardas Kane says:

    “Once they get their pay-checks, they try to spend their hard-earned money to buy happiness.”

    Oh, sillly, silly sims.

  15. mrmalodor says:

    I like this latest video, but the likelihood of me paying for this with always-online / at-start DRM is close to 0%.

  16. Bobtree says:

    Those flickering car lights would drive me mad. Welcome to EpilepticopalypseVille.

  17. ItalianPodge says:

    The game looks good enough to be a day one purchase, but the price… I’m just not paying that! Have to be during an Origin sale.

    They should also let people choose to have the European tile-set or the US tile-set or pay more for both, why should the European have to pay more?

  18. Moni says:

    I was expecting a much more furious old-school-fan pant-shitting in the comments regarding the lack of pipe-laying.

    • MentatYP says:

      The crotchety old school curmudgeons are too busy defecating on XCOM to bother right now. Just give it some time though.

  19. SAM-site says:

    I don’t mind that there aren’t pipes/wires as it was just a bit of extra hassle that added nothing to the game.

    I don’t mind that it’s always online, sure I’d prefer the flexibility of on/offline play but that’s no deal-breaker.

    This all looks rather splendid.

  20. Tei says:

    Like what I see, soo far. Is sim city 2000, but better.

  21. iatw says:

    I’ve never been a fan of SimCity games so pardon my possible ignorance, but boy the narrator is creepy. He doesn’t sound like a benevolent mayor. He’s a cold businessman. I wonder if the game/series encourages this. Or can SimCity games also teach/prod players to be kind – genuinely kind, not just to “get them to stay” – to their Sims instead of going after high scores in efficiency and profit?

    • Sparkasaurusmex says:

      I thought this kind of stuff about Civ IV when my daughter (9 at the time) thought she might like to play it. It basically teaches you to exploit, obtain, expand…etc. and one of the hardest ways to success is a cultural, peaceful nation.
      It didn’t really matter because she just wanted to explore the map and run from bears.

    • Sparkasaurusmex says:

      You know…. maybe it’s a more important lesson to teach that running a city requires this sort of behaviour…

      • iatw says:

        Man, I certainly hope not! The part where he talks about the sewage is particularly chilling, although I can still laugh about it since it’s a videogame.

    • jayc4life says:

      Well, he DOES work for EA so…

      *ducks*

  22. kaffis says:

    Still looks awesome. Still not even close to good enough to make be tolerate Origin. EA, it doesn’t matter how good a game you make, I won’t swallow your shit. Perhaps you should rethink some things if you want me as a customer.

  23. satsui says:

    It looks awesome and the UI is slick. My concern is simplicity. I hope the game is more open and easy to allow newcomers to get a grasp on the game, but I also hope the game offers a lot of really tough challenges at the same time.

  24. Synesthesia says:

    its… its beautiful! *sob*

    why would they cripple it with always online drm? I thought they once said it was a one time activation thing?

    • mrmalodor says:

      No, the thing is that the activation happens once EVERY TIME you start the game.

  25. GamerOS says:

    This game is making me feel all mixed up inside, so far it looks like a genuinely good Sim city game, but at the same time it’s EA and harsh DRM….
    Guess I’ll have to wait till release to see if it’s actually worth spending on.

  26. socrate says:

    Simcity has been a cashcow that hasnt evolved in any interesting way since its first game and i lost interest pretty face and don’t really get how anyone is still interested in that horrible concept of “painting” when there is game like anno that give you the liberty to place what you want where you want,every damn city i built in simcity 2000 look exactly like the other one ive built it always end up that way.

    Even if that one as a new graphic engine and UI and borrowed concept of sim society(the only stuff that was good about it hopefully) it just seem extremely poor in terms of gameplay and interaction,even the guy that played sound bored to play the game already so its not that exciting for me already.

    Add to this that you are stuck with an forced online feature that i totally don’t want in….i tried facebook game and they are a big scam and having a gazillion friend i don’t care about and never will if they would even die because hey they are your friend on facebook and helped you on whatever stupid game you had to have friend with to help you build another dumb thing that in any other old ass game you could do alone but NOW omg we need to force people to be social for some stupid reason,i have few real friend that i have left and that i trust and care about and that is the reality of life,so yeah i could care less about this dumb feature on a game ive played solo for the past w/e year.

    Also don’t forget that they will probably shove Origin in our ass again and again that this is another bad EA product…even the dumb world thingy look stupid as hell and taken from sims 3,so now it look even smaller then before and i actually look like i build small town instead of different big city…hey at least il feel like ive built a city in the end when all is filled up /rolleye

    people will just buy every damn crap thrown at them….il pass and not pay thx

    in the meanwhile il wait for Clockwork Empire which seem actually fun and interesting(hopefully it will be)

  27. Grargh says:

    I hope they fix the way train tracks connect to each other, because that T-junction looked a bit wacky.

  28. Bhazor says:

    “Once a Sim has a job he’ll want to spent it to get ha penis”
    “A sim needs two things. Money and ha penis”

    I am not ashamed.

    But it has bullshit always on DRM and forced social network spamming. So fuck you.

    • Stellar Duck says:

      Shockingly I’m much more bothered by the social crap than the DRM. Though both are deal breakers for me the latter annoys me more.

      I don’t play Sim City to socialize.

  29. lcy says:

    Interested in a new Sim City. Not interested in social networks intruding on my escapism. Pass.

  30. smg77 says:

    This will be the first SimCity game that I don’t buy. Screw EA and screw Origin.

  31. crinkles esq. says:

    Interesting how the narrator chooses a wind farm for his power source, extolling its clean, verdant virtues, and then chooses to deal with the city’s sewage problem by putting an open drainage pipe in the forest. This guy is like the Mitt Romney of SimCity mayors.

    I’m curious how many green options city planners will really have. Will it just be lip service?

    Still probably not going to buy this as long as the always-on DRM remains in place. As much as it really is the first SimCity to get me excited since…well the first SimCity.

  32. Ateius says:

    I quite like the aesthetic. The buildings and cars seem to pop out against the landscape, appearing sort of the way small models do when set into their artificial terrain. I wonder if this is deliberate, or simply a result of their rendering/graphics/whatever not being finalized?

  33. Listlurker says:

    It looks amazing to me, visually, but I have the same problem with SimCity games as the article author: once I reach a certain point in city building, I get bored.

    Sure, I can “blow shite up real good” in various ways, but that gets old for me very quickly as well.

    I supect that, eventually, the SimCity and The Sims games may be cross-linked, perhaps when the inevitable Sims 4 releases? Being able to do sim-ish things at both the macro (city) level, and at the micro (inhabitant) level could be very fun, if done well, and it could effectively kill “mid-game boredom” in both games.

    Just a thought.

  34. trjp says:

    I have to admit that I’ve long-since lost interest in Sim City-type games – and I’ve never ever wanted to get involved with the cashcow/glitzy-crap which is “The Sims” – but there’s something about that game which appeals.

    It looks fantastic for starters – I played RTS’s for years simply because I loved the little building animations and wanted to unlock more of them :)

    The price they’re asking is bonkers tho – there’s simply no way I’d spend that sort of money on a city sim – and then there’s the issue of the endless DLC and other crud which just deters me further.

    It’s the same with every game EA and THQ (and others – but they’re the worse offenders) now seem to release of course – but this just seems to be bursting with potential for wallet-damaging nonsense.

  35. ninjapirate says:

    “Once [the Sims] receive their paychecks, they’ll spend their hard-earned money to buy happiness.”

    Ouch. :o(

  36. StressBall says:

    I’ve watched some of the other videos about this game, and played previous SimCity games, but it wasn’t until watching him build a city from scratch in this video that I realized how much this game series pushes a North-American heavy-road-infrastructure suburban-sprawl style of city development. I wonder, will there be any way to create urban spaces with mixed residential/commercial buildings that are bike-friendly? The narrator fellow mentions that the way for Sims to get happier is to buy stuff. I’m actually somewhat disturbed by many of the assumptions that appear to be underpinning the simulation. Am I coming across like some sort of crazed eco-liberal, or does anyone else here feel the same?

  37. Jasoco says:

    I just hope my computer will be powerful enough to handle this game because this looks like a SimCity I’ll actually be able to enjoy. Haven’t had that since the SNES SimCity and SimCity 2000 when I beat the San Francisco scenario and had millions of dollars so I erased the entire city, flattened the land and built up the perfect city layout.