Cautionary Tales: SimCity Plays With Fire

Oh no, don't worry. The fire truck should have no trouble getting there in time.

Fire! It’s nice to look at, pleasant to sit around during the harsh winter months, and – because Mother Nature likes a good laugh just as much as the rest of us – one of the most insanely destructive forces on this planet. And now, it’s coming to a SimCity near you. Well, OK, it’s only doing so if you’re a really miserable/sadistic city planner. Wondering how to avoid reducing all your hard work to ash? Hey, me too. We have so much in common. Near as I can tell, step one is to watch the following trailer and then do the exact opposite.

So probably build some fire stations. And maybe don’t abruptly abandon an entire neighborhood, even if the “oooo, pretty” cortex of your brain wants to watch the pretty lights dance. Even then, though, as Alec noted in his preview, fire trucks could get stuck in traffic or something along those lines. Everything’s simulated this time around, as opposed to previous entries, which were probably closer to SmokeAndMirrorsNeatoAlgorithmCity. The Internet-on-launch requirement does sound pesky, but I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t looking forward to this one. The possibilities seem nearly endless. I wonder, though, if I can also remove ladders from things – say, for instance, swimming pools. You know, to keep my Sims safe, obviously. From the fire. Yes. Yes.


  1. mentor07825 says:

    I wonder if there’s a way for you to affect neighbouring cities negatively, such as fire…

  2. Ian says:

    Hopefully if that happens then The Crazy World of Arthur Brown’s “Fire” starts to blare out.

    • wodin says:

      Love it. Though he is famous for that tune and his flaming hat don’t let the gimmick put you off the album. itt is a fantastic album. I bought it with my fingers crossed and was pleasantly surprised. Though I do have over 300 mid sixties to early seventies psych albums it’s up there with some of the best of them.

  3. stahlwerk says:

    I too wonder, despite the algorithms being much improved, if the results are that much different from those in, say, 2000, or necessarily more realistic or “fun”. The grid based automaton seemed to do just fine back then, at least in spreading influences of fire, crime, power, water. The agents based approach seems like adding lots of overhead, for example, one firealarm agent per burning house, when the radii of influence of nearby fire stations could be checked in much less time.

    But I trust them to know what they’re doing. Can’t wait to play it next year!

    • Baboonanza says:

      That’s a fair comment. While I like the concept in general and I imagine the agent approach works really well for some things, probably with many non-obvious benefits you have to wonder if they’re using it unnecessarily.

      But then I think about the case a bit more deeply and maybe they’re right. Take the 2 cases in the video:
      1 – The fire alarm. The agents travel by road which seems contradictory to real-life but what it achieves is that they find the fire station with the shortest travel distance (shortest response time), something more difficult to do if you just select them by radius.

      And why one agent for every house? If we assume that one alarm agent will dispatch one engine (or more if it’s a bigger building) then multiple alarms can bring gradually more engines, pulling them from progressively further away as required.

      2- Fire agents. In the video they show this as basically a radius so it’s difficult to understand why agents are necessary, but what about the case of a larger building on fire? And what about wind? If a tall building was on fire you would expect wind to spread it further and in a specific direction, something which these agents could simulate.

      So while agents can seem like overkill they may be good way to provide a more complex simulation, even if the benefits aren’t obvious at first glance.

    • dsch says:

      A very similar agent-based approach was done in Caesar III and sequels, where you can place roadblocks to direct traffic.

    • Smashbox says:

      Hopefully the new simulation system will allow the nuts and bots of the interactions to play out in the game world, rather than in menus, overlays, and advisors. This alone is reason enough for a system like this.

    • finnith says:

      dsch is right, this system was used well in the city-builders Impressions Games developed for Sierra (Caesar, Emperor: RotK, Pharoah, Master of Olympus). None of those games factored in traffic though, and some agents that exist in this Sim City games were absent. It also necessitated that every building have road access, even if it wasn’t connected to the main network.

      Coincidentally once Impressions was shut down its devs went over to Tilted Mill, which developed Sim City Societies, possibly explaining the lineage here.

  4. DanPryce says:

    “And the city lies in ruins. Thanks for watching!”

    You MONSTER.

  5. PearlChoco says:

    Did they already release a single in-game screenshot?

    • Simes says:

      As they’re demoing systems and the graphics are stated to be not representative of the final product, releasing screenshots seems a bit pointless.

    • lordcooper says:


      I’d rather a video showing cool mechanics than a pretty picture.

  6. wodin says:

    Fire of London anyone. I love disasters in these sorts of games.

    • squareking says:

      And SimCity is the disaster simulator game. I just hope alien invasion is still an option.

      • subshell001 says:

        It sure would be neat if your city’s radio waves are also agents, send out into the mostly empty vacuum of space until a simulated alien society (perhaps from Spore) comes across them and then decides to trace it back to everyone’s SimEarth and invade all of the cities at the same time.

      • Premium User Badge

        gritz says:

        I’m sure there will be an Alien Invasion Disaster DLC for a mere $19.99

    • Hoaxfish says:

      only if the game also includes bakeries and plague rats

      • orbit_l says:

        I think that would require you to buy the British City Set DLC. Also comes with pubs, hooligans and consulting detectives.

  7. Fincher says:

    Sends out agents? Don’t these people have phones?!

    • Premium User Badge

      Bluerps says:

      Nope. Everything is done with agents in this world. Even the electricity is carried by agents from the plant to the houses. Though I’m not sure how the agents do this or why they can only move on power lines. Maybe the agents carry batteries, and have to balance over the power lines because on the street they would be robbed immediately.

  8. Raiyan 1.0 says:

    Meanwhile, in Detroit, the fire department is so cash-strapped that they’re letting vacant buildings burn instead of putting them out.

    link to

    • lordcooper says:

      2010 isn’t meanwhile any more.

      • Raiyan 1.0 says:

        Sorry, grabbed the wrong link.

        Anyway… link to

        • stupid_mcgee says:

          I had an tongue-in-cheek idea a while back for a punk-rock city-block burn-down party-a-thon. Basically, buy up a block or two of houses, throw a house party, burn down the house at the end, and then repeat until there is no more Detroit. Or until property values start to climb. Whichever comes first. (destroying Detroit, preferably)

          • Jackablade says:

            “The motor city to the city of Dis”, if I may make a slightly obscure musical reference.

  9. macks says:

    I’m not going to give money to any company that requires an “always-online” or “internet-on-launch” scheme in their software.

    But I really want to play this game :(

    • Iskariot says:

      I agree completely. I am a Sim City fan, but I am forced to pass.
      For me Sim City has always been about playing around in the sandbox on my own. I do not need any online involvement.
      They should offer players a choice.
      I am not against DRM, but any always online requirement is ridiculous for a game that many Sim City fans, like me, want to play on their own.

    • kaffis says:

      It’s not the alleged multiplayer ambitions, nor even DRM that stays my wallet.

      So long as it remains inexorably tied to Origin, this game remains a no-purchase for me. I just don’t trust EA enough to give them an account. I’ll happily pay them money for a standalone game, but so long as I need to enter any data into a database to install and/or play, I won’t be doing so.

    • rocketman71 says:

      Origin AND always-online. They sure don’t want us to buy their game.

  10. RedViv says:

    Chaos. Delicious chaos. I wanted this to be transported from Sims to SimCity, and here it is. Delightful.

  11. Skabooga says:

    It does seem that this latest SimCity is approaching Dwarf Fortress levels of simulation-via-agents.

  12. S Jay says:

    An abandoned house has more chance to catch fire? Why? Ghosts? That makes very little sense.

    • Salt says:

      I think it’s meant to be meddlesome kids / drug addicts / homeless people using it to shelter and ending up starting a fire to keep warm which gets out of control.

      That the kids / drug addicts / homeless people are not themselves simulated as agents is a great disappointment to me (worryingly for me, I’m only half joking).

      • Dozer says:

        Homeless people with a wrecking ball, driving a nail down the soldier’s bodies.

        When the power drops, go in and go in and go in and go in like the US Marshall and his three daughters and we lose the vaccine?

    • stupid_mcgee says:

      Lack of working fire alarms, no residents to report the fire at outbreak, etc. There’s plenty of real-world reasons that make perfect sense. And it’s true. A vacant building is much more likely to be destroyed in cases of a fire than an occupied one.