SimCity (series)

SimCity (series)

SimCity is an open-ended city-building computer and console video game series and the brainchild of developer Will Wright. It is published by Maxis (now a division of Electronic Arts). The game was first published in 1989 as SimCity, it has spawned five different editions sold worldwide. The ongoing success of SimCity has also sparked the release of many other spin-off "Sim" titles, including 2000's The Sims, the best-selling computer game in history.

In SimCity, the player is given the task of founding a city, while maintaining the happiness of the citizens and keeping a stable budget. In SimCity 2000, SimCity 3000 and SimCity 4, the player is allowed to alter the terrain of the city before building on it.

The player must lay down zones, each having a specific kind of building that will be built there. The residential zones, in green, provide housing for Sims; the commercial zones, in blue, provide shops and offices; and the industrial zones, in yellow, provide factories, laboratories and farms. There are three different densities (two for SimCity 2000) in the game: high density for large buildings, mid-density for smaller buildings, and low density for small buildings.

Gameplay

The player is given a blank map to start with, and must expand their city with the budget they have. As the city matures, the player may get to place government and other special buildings (Mayor's House, Courthouse, etc.), depending on how large their city is. The player must supply services to their citizens. These include health, education, safety, parks and leisure. These come in the form of different buildings, where each building covers a circular "range" of service. Inadequate funding of these services can lead to strikes.

Cities must also provide basic utilities, namely electricity, water and (in SimCity 3000) waste management.

The primary source of income is taxation, which can be altered by one percent increments in all versions through SimCity 3000, and by tenths of a percent in SimCity 4. Legalizing gambling and placing certain "special" buildings (military bases, federal prisons, etc.) can generate income as well.

SimCity is predominantly a single-player game (the exceptions being a "Network Edition" of SimCity 2000, and a Unix port of the original SimCity). SimCity 4 also provides a form of multiplayer gaming with the ability to share regional maps and cities with other players, allowing players to collaborate, but not to interact in real time gameplay.

Versions

SimCity

SimCity was published in 1989, and was the first game in the SimCity series. SimCity was originally developed by game designer Will Wright. The inspiration for SimCity came from a feature of the game Raid on Bungeling Bay that allowed Wright to create his own maps during development. Wright soon found he enjoyed creating maps more than playing the actual game, and so the idea for SimCity was born.

In addition, Wright also was inspired by reading "The Seventh Sally", a short story by Stanislaw Lem, in which an engineer encounters a deposed tyrant, and creates a miniature city with artificial citizens for the tyrant to oppress.

The first version of the game was developed for the Commodore 64 in 1985, but it would not be published for another four years. The original working title of SimCity was Micropolis. The game represented an unusual paradigm in computer gaming, in that it could neither be won nor lost; as a result, game publishers did not believe it was possible to market and sell such a game successfully. Brøderbund declined to publish the title when Wright proposed it, and he pitched it to a range of major game publishers without success. Finally, founder Jeff Braun of then-tiny Maxis agreed to publish SimCity as one of two initial games for the company.

Wright and Braun returned to Brøderbund to formally clear the rights to the game in 1988, when SimCity was near completion. Brøderbund executives Gary Carlston and Don Daglow saw that the title was infectious and fun, and signed Maxis to a distribution deal for both of its initial games. With that, four years after initial development, SimCity was released for the Amiga and Macintosh platforms, followed by the IBM PC and Commodore 64 later in 1989.

On January 10, 2008, the SimCity source code was released under the free software GPL 3 license. The release of the source code was related to the donation of SimCity software to the One Laptop Per Child laptop, as one of the principles of the OLPC laptop is the use of free and open source software. The open source version will be called Micropolis (the initial name for SimCity), since EA retains the trademark Simcity. The version shipped on OLPC laptops will still be called SimCity, but will have to be tested by EA quality assurance before each release to be able to use that name.

SimCity 2000

The unexpected and enduring success of the original SimCity, combined with the relative lack of success with other "Sim" titles at the time, motivated the development of a sequel. SC2K was a major extension. The view was now dimetric instead of overhead, the landscape was not flat, and underground layers were introduced for water pipes and subways.

New types of facility included prisons, schools, libraries, museums, marinas, zoos, stadiums, hospitals (although they appeared randomly on residential blocks in the first SimCity, they could not be built by the player) and arcologies. Players could build highways, roads, bus depots, railway tracks, subways, train depots and zone land for seaports and airports. There are a total of nine varieties of power plants in SC2K, including coal, natural gas, wind turbines, hydroelectric dams (which can only be placed on waterfall tiles) and the futuristic fusion power and satellite microwave plant.

The budget and finance controls are also much more elaborate — tax rates can be set individually for residential, commercial and industrial zones. Enacting city ordinances and connecting to neighbouring cities became possible.

Another new addition in SC2K is the query tool. Using the query tool on tiles reveals information such as structure name and type, altitude, and land value. Certain tiles also display additional information; power plants, for example, display the percentage of power being consumed when queried, and querying roads displays the amount of traffic on that tile. Querying a library and selecting 'Ruminate' displays an essay written by Neil Gaiman.

Graphics were added for buildings under construction in the residential, commercial, and industrial zones, as well as darkened buildings depicting abandoned buildings as a result of urban decay.

News comes in the form of several pre-written newspaper articles with variable names that could either be called up immediately or could be subscribed to on a yearly basis. The newspaper option provided many humorous stories as well as relevant ones, such as new technology, warnings about aging power plant, recent disasters and opinion polls (highlighting city problems). SimCity 2000 is the only game in the entire series to have this feature (besides the discontinued children's version, SimTown), though newer versions have a news ticker. The newspapers had random titles (Times, Post, Herald, etc.), and prices based on the simulated year. Certain newspapers have a special monthly humor advice column by "Miss Sim".

SimCity 3000

The successor to SimCity 2000, SimCity 3000 (SC3K), introduced many changes both to the city management and to the appearance.

In a pattern which has continued throughout the SimCity franchise, the number and complexity of city services increased between SC2K and SC3K. The issue of waste management was added: once a city has a population greater than 1,000, garbage would begin to accumulate and would have to be disposed of at the expense of the city; in previous versions of SimCity, this issue had been ignored. Farms and agriculture were also introduced, and appeared on large light industrial zones in a city with low land value and little pollution. In Sim City 3000, there are three zoning densities compared to the two densities used in SC2K's. In addition to their limited life span, power plants are now vulnerable to decreasing maximum output at a constant rate after they have gone through about three quarters of their life span.

Although the concept of neighbor cities was introduced in SC2K, its role was expanded in SC3K. For the first time, the player could interact with his or her neighbor cities, negotiating rudimentary business deals with other mayors, such as the sale or purchase of water, electricity, or waste management services. These generate a monthly charge which is either added to or subtracted from the player's treasury, in accordance with the deal. Canceling a neighbor deal will incur a substantial cash penalty. From time to time, the simulated mayors of neighboring cities will call meetings to renegotiate the terms or price of these deals.

Although not strictly a city management aspect, SimCity 3000 simulated the effect of land value on construction much more realistically than in SimCity 2000. In the latter, most buildings fell into a wide stratum that did not reflect land value very effectively; every building was more or less suited to neighborhoods of every economic disposition. In SC3K, land value created very distinct neighborhoods which tended to contain narrow income bands, creating well-defined slums, middle class areas, and wealthy areas. Land value is also determined by the city center effect where buildings that are at the city center have higher land values and those buildings on the borders have lower land values. The city center effect is determined by the location of buildings within the city. However, over time, land value "inflation" would cause almost every area of a city to become expensive, so that wealthy neighborhoods covered most if not all of the map.

Business deals were another new concept to SC3K. By allowing certain structures to be built within the city, the player could receive a substantial amount of funds from them. The four business deal structures are the maximum security prison, casino, toxic waste conversion plant, and the Gigamall (a large shopping mall). Business deal structures however have serious negative effects on a city. The toxic waste dump cripples both the land value and residential desirability in the area surrounding it and produces massive pollution. The prison dramatically decreases land value. The casino increases city wide crime and the Gigamall weakens demand for local commerce.

There were several changes to the graphical interface in SC3K. Although the game retained the pseudo-isometric dimetric perspective of its predecessor, the actual landscape became more complex and colorful. In SimCity and SC2K, the playable landscape was brown, like the color of bare dirt. In SC3K, the playable landscape was a more realistic green color, simulating grassland, along with other colors that progressively change by height, from beige (beach sand) to green to brown (bare ground) to white (snow). In SC2K, land could either be flat or sloped, and all slopes were of the same steepness. In SC3K, there were five distinct steepness of slope, creating more varied landscapes. However, in SC3K, there are no waterfalls and hydroelectric dams, which are common in SC2K. Also, for the first time, there were different types of trees which could appear on the playable map. In SC2K, there were only pine trees, while in SC3K, oak trees prevail, but other types of trees exist, depending on the elevation of the terrain.

SimCity 64

Although general gameplay in SimCity 64 is much like SimCity 2000, the game's graphical textures and building tilesets are considerably different. However, the game provides several advanced features that were not seen in either SimCity 2000 or SimCity 3000 (1999), including the ability to view the city at night (now also available in SimCity 4), pedestrian level free-roaming of a city, and individual road vehicles and pedestrians (which could only be seen while in the free-roaming mode). Cities in the game are also presented in 3D hybrid graphics. An add-on was made called SimCopter 64 for the 64DD.

SimCity 4

As with previous SimCity titles, SimCity 4 places players in the role of a mayor (or several mayors), tasked with populating and developing tracts of lands into cities, while fulfilling the needs of fellow Sims that live in the cities. Cities are now located in regions that are divided into segments, each of which can be developed. The player has the option of starting the city in a segment of any of three area sizes, in real measurement the smallest has a length of 1 kilometers on a side, and the largest has a length of 4 kilometers on a side. A large city is 16 km²; for comparison the New York borough of Manhattan measures about 90 km². The size of a region and its layout of segments can be changed in a bitmap file provided for each region.

Zoning and building size have been improved for SimCity 4. Agriculture is now a separate industrial zone-type, enabling for farms to grow regardless of high land value, so long as there exists demand for agriculture and agricultural zones have been provided. Zones are now automatically aligned towards roads; streets are automatically created when zoning on large tracts of land. Buildings are now classified into several wealth levels, zone types, and building size stages, which are affected by the region's population and the city's condition. The game simulates urban decay and gentrification with buildings darkening accordingly. Buildings originally constructed for occupation by higher wealth tenants can now support lower wealth tenants in the event surrounding factors forces the current tenants to vacate the building; this allows certain buildings to remain in use despite lacking its initial occupants. Buildings and lots can now be constructed on slopes.

SimCity 4 can be used in conjunction with The Sims. Sims can be imported into a city for use in the My sim mode. City layouts created in SimCity 4 can be used as neighborhood templates in The Sims 2; the location of roads, trees, bridges, and map features such as rivers and hills are preserved in the importation.

SimCity DS

SimCity DS is a heavily modified version of SimCity 3000. The game inherits SC3K's graphics, but makes use of the handheld's dual screen to display additional interfaces at once. System specific features are also prominent, such as the use of the systems' integrated microphone, which is used to blow out fires, and the touch screen, which is used to control the interface. Before beginning a city the player must first choose a location in the region, one of five different advisors and then sign the town charter using the touchscreen and stylus. The upper screen of the DS displays the city and the news ticker while the map, advisor, information and the buttons are shown on the touch screen.

SimCity DS features five advisors who help players make decisions in the game by providing recommendations and advice. As opposed to previous versions of SimCity, the player must choose only one advisor to help them when they sign the town charter. The different advisors include Mr. Maxis (A Will Wright cameo), Julie McSim, Ayako Tachibana, Kaishu Tachibana, Servo 3000 and a secret advisor named Alien.

There are also petitioners, many of whom are citizens of the players' cities, who request solutions to problems and changes to city policies, such as lowering tax rates or enacting an ordinance. They may also give the player rewards or request certain structures to be erected in the city.

SimCity Societies

While previous mainstream SimCity titles could be best described as mayorship, or "God" simulators, SimCity Societies is different, as foreshadowed by the previews and statements from the developers, by being a 'social engineering simulator' rather than a city-building simulator.

Public works and a tax system do not play a part in the basic game. Instead, players get daily income from workplaces in the city. However, a downloadable update includes gameplay modes where a daily tax is incurred based on the buildings within a city. Transportation networks have been simplified to dirt roads, paved roads, subways and bus stops. Players do not build zones, a key element of past SimCity games; instead, they have the ability to directly place individual buildings, something not seen in previous editions, and similar to Monte Cristo's game City Life. There are also six "social energies", called societal values, which allow players to learn about the characteristics of the citizens. The six societal values are productivity, prosperity, creativity, spirituality, authority, and knowledge. The city will look, and act, in accordance with the energies the players choose. Players may focus on satisfying one, several, or all of these values. An improved version of the reward system introduced in SimCity 2000 has been included in the game.

The game is "fully customizable" and allows the players to customize individual buildings, decorations, citizens, and game rules. Prior to its release, when mentioning the depth to which the game will allow customization a Tilted Mill representative stated that those who were proficient in C# and XML will have easy access to every asset of the game and that basic tools would be provided for building editing.

SimCity DS 2

SimCity DS 2 is a game for the Nintendo DS video game console and is the sequel to SimCity DS. It was released in Japan on March 19,2008, and was realesed in the West in September 2008 under the name SimCity Creator. The game introduces a new Challenge Mode that sees players guide their city through different historical periods. Because of this, it is also possible to create cities with a historical theme. For instance, the player can create a medieval city, or a pre-historic city.

SimCity Creator

SimCity Creator is title for the Nintendo Wii that was first announced on February 12 2008 by Sims label president Nancy Smithalong with other upcoming EA Sim titles. The title features the ability to directly draw roads and train tracks on the ground using the pointer function of the Wii Remote, as well as several customisable themes for the city's buildings. It was released worldwide for the Wii in September 2008.

Spin-offs

SimCity: The Card Game

SimCity: The Card Game is a collectible card game based on the video game SimCity. It was released in 1995 by Mayfair Games. Several city expansions followed, adding location and politician cards from various cities including: Chicago, Washington, New York, and Atlanta. A Toronto expansion was planned, but never released.

SimCopter

As the name suggests, SimCopter puts the player in the role of a helicopter pilot.

There are two modes of play: free mode and career mode. The free mode lets the player import and fly through cities of their own or any of the 30 cities supplied with the game. However, user cities sometimes need to be designed with SimCopter in mind, and most of the time the player must increase the number of police stations, fire stations, and hospitals to allow for speedier dispatches. The second mode -- the heart of the game -- is the career mode. This puts the player in the shoes of a pilot doing various jobs around the city.

The game was considered a faliure by the gaming community, notably because of its many bugs and instability. The 3D modeling was also criticized for its low-quality bitmaps and badly shaped 3D models. The game gained controversy when a designer inserted sprites of shirtless "himbos" (male bimbos) in Speedo trunks who hugged and kissed each other, who appear in great numbers on certain dates. Their fluorescent nipples were drawn with a special rendering mode usually reserved for fog-piercing runway landing lights, so they could easily be seen from long distances in bad weather. An unintended emergent behavior of the code caused hundreds of himbos to swarm and crowd around the helicopter, where they would be slashed up by the blades, and then need to be air-lifted to the hospital -- which earned the player easy money. The easter egg was caught shortly after release and removed from future copies of the game.

Streets of SimCity

Streets of SimCity is a 1997 racing and vehicular combat computer game published by Maxis. One of the game's main attractions was the ability to explore any cities created in SimCity 2000 by car in a cinematic style. The game, like SimCopter, is in full 3D and the player's vehicle can be controlled using a keyboard, a joystick, or a gamepad. Another notable feature is the game's network mode, in which players can play deathmatches with up to seven other individuals.

Notably, it is one of the few games in the Maxis series that Will Wright did not work on, and the last Maxis game to be developed and released without supervision by Electronic Arts (which acquired Maxis in 1997 and assisted development of Maxis games thereafter).

The game could be considered to be the black sheep of the "Sim" line, since it does not accurately simulate driving. Most scenario goals involve destroying enemy vehicles, winning races, delivering packages, and evading cops, rather than careful driving. Also, the game suffers from poor collision detection, at times leaving the player's vehicle stuck in a building or tunnel wall. Other graphical inconsistencies include the ability to drive through trees of any density, and in-game pedestrians walking backwards.

Running the game under versions of Windows later than Windows 95 frequently leads to unexpected game crashes, a poor frame rate, and a state in which the player's vehicle temporarily stops responding to controller inputs and travels in a straight line. Most of these problems stem from the fact that the game's graphics are programmed using the 3dfx Glide API, which is incompatible with most modern graphics cards. Glide wrappers can be used on more modern systems to increase the stability of the game.

See also

References

External links

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