Beneath a mess of half-baked systems and massively detrimental online requirements, SimCity actually had some pretty cool ideas. Simulation of individual people and entities? Community options for those who want them? Curved roads? All interesting stuff on paper. Unfortunately, the reality of Maxis' latest city builder failed (rather miserably) to live up to those promises, and Maxis has been struggling to build something workable from the pieces ever since. Enter Citybound. Its goal? To construct a city sim from the ground-up with a focus on single-player, out-of-the-not-a-box moddability, and simulating a truly sizable geographical region - not an itsy bitsy ant hill town. Also curved roads. Always curved roads.
It's still relatively early, but many core systems - for instance, road laying, simulation of individual entities/objects, and procedural buildings - are already up and running. The plan is to release paid alphas and betas at a reduced price while ramping up fairly quickly with new features. Here are the basic pillars of this city. Sadly, none of them are rock 'n' roll.
- It will be a single-player game that works completely offline.
- The goal is to simulate one whole, huge region at once - no need for tiny city lots or artificial city interaction dynamics.
- It will be affordable and will not rely on DLC.
- Alpha and Beta versions will be available for a reduced price.
- Moddability will be a priority, not an afterthought.
And here are the longer-term plans:
Planned Core Gameplay Elements:
- Zoning, dynamic creation of buildings based on demand
- Residential/commercial/industry dynamics, micro-economy
- Electricity, water & sewage management
- Service buildings, service coverage (health, police, fire, education, ...)
- Public transportation
Additional planned features:
- Terrain: hills, rivers, lake, ocean
- perhaps even dynamical changes (flooding, landslides, ...)
- Data maps & graphs
- Day/night cycle
- Seasonal cycle
- Citizen inspection, opinion polls, social media
And here's a bit about individual simulation that makes me breath a sigh of relief because goodness SimCity really got lost in the trees and totally missed the forest on that one:
"Citybound uses microscopic agent-based simulation, but only where it helps immersion and realism. It will simulate individual cars and pedestrians. It will not simulate individual poop blobs."
So there's a nice mic drop for you.
I am, of course, skeptical about one person's ability to pull all of this off, but creator Anselm Eickhoff has set up a nice blueprint with copious screenshots, brief videos, and other visual elements, so the groundwork is definitely in place. The in-game visuals could use some work, but again, it's all still rather early. Naturally, then, the other big concern is that this project could fizzle out before it ever really picks up steam, and I suppose we'll just have to wait and see on that front. We're talking about unproven talent here, so nothing is really certain.
Eickhoff is currently taking donations on his own site, and chatter on Reddit has led to potential avenues for collaboration and edification of the original prototype. So things are off to a strong start, but there's still a long road ahead. Let's hope it curves smoothly - creamily, even - rather than leading to a jarring, whiplash-inducing dead end.