SimCity 4 (SC4) is a city-building simulation computer game developed by Maxis, a subsidiary of Electronic Arts. It was released on January 14, 2003. It is the fourth installment in the SimCity series. SimCity 4 has a single expansion pack known as Rush Hour which adds additional features to the game. SimCity 4: Deluxe Edition contained the original game and Rush Hour combined as a single product.
The game allows players to create a region of land by terraforming, and then to design and build a settlement which can grow into a city. Players can zone different areas of land as commercial, industrial, or residential development; as well as build and maintain public services, transport and utilities. For the success of a city players must manage its finances, environment, and quality of life for its residents. SimCity 4 introduces night and day cycles and other special effects for the first time in the SimCity series. Tools such as the Building Architect Tool (BAT) allow custom third party buildings and content to be added to the gameplay.
SimCity 4 was praised for being the first game in the SimCity series to primarily use a 3D engine to render its graphics. It received widespread acclaim, won several awards, and was one of the top ten selling PC games of 2003. It was however criticised for the difficulty of gameplay and computer performance.
Neighbor cities play a larger role than in the previous versions of the game. For example, neighbor deals can be established, where a city can exchange resources such as water, electricity, garbage disposal with other cities for money. Players may develop several dependent cities at the same time, eventually populating the entire region.
The first is the God Mode, which allows players to design or terraform a selected tract of land where the city will be built. God Mode also allows players to trigger disasters, including tornados and earthquakes among several others. Players can select an area where a disaster will occur and even control the direction of certain disasters. Most terraforming tools are disabled after the city is named and founded. The player still has some terraforming tools (although they become very limited and expensive) and can still trigger disasters at will. However, a cheat can be used to enable the terraforming tools lost after founding the city.
The second of the modes is the Mayor Mode, the fundamental mode of the game where the actual city building is conducted. Areas of land can be zoned as residential, commercial or industrial areas where the city will begin to grow. Players can build transportation networks, which include roads, streets, highways, subway lines, and bus stations. Other things that players can do in Mayor Mode are build civic buildings such as schools, hospitals, parks, police stations, fire stations, and public utilities.
The final mode is the My Sim mode which enables players to create user-defined Sims, which will live and work in the city the player has created. This mode can be used to closely assess citizens' needs through sims giving the player feedback. Players can choose a selection of characters or import them from The Sims. Sims can be killed by certain disasters. In My Sim mode, players can also do 'U Drive It' missions, which involve driving various vehicles around the city trying to acheive certain goals. A successful mission rewards the player, usually with cash, a boost in mayor rating, or an unlocked building; a failed mission punishes the player. There are good and evil missions, the latter usually dealing with the sinister Dr. Vu, one of the game's many running jokes.
Maintenance expenses for public utility facilities (power plants, water plants, and garbage disposal services) will increase as they age. The maximum output of facilities also decreases as they get older. The rate at which facilities age is dependent on the percentage of its capacity being used and the level of funding being given to it.
Although a 3D engine is used, the camera in SimCity 4 is restricted to a fixed trimetric orthographic projection for performance reasons. Additionally, a simulated city can now be seen at nighttime as well as during daytime. The time of the day does not affect the gameplay, other than the traffic in the city.
New landmarks, including Rockefeller Center, the Brandenburg Gate, and Stonehenge were made available online. Later, landmarks were primarily used to demonstrate the capability of Gmax and the Building Architect Tool (BAT) around the time of the BAT's release.
The Building Architect Tool (BAT) is a suite of tools developed for producing custom buildings. The suite consists of three applications: The Building Architect game pack for Gmax, which enabled users to render Gmax models into SimCity 4 sprites or props to be imported into the LE; an updated version of the LE; and the standalone Plug-in Manager, which enables users to modify simulation properties for new lots. Several modified versions have been released that have, in effect, served as bug fixes for various problems that had not been discovered before the initial release. First released on February 2004, it enabled the modding community to produce custom buildings and props for SC4. SimCity 4's Building Architect Tool is similar in function to SimCity 3000's Building Architect Tool and SimCity 2000's Urban Renewal Kit; however, previous programs of this kind were created from scratch by Maxis and used completely different interfaces. The SC4 BAT required a third party application (Gmax) to function, and was never bundled with SC4's or the Rush Hour expansion pack, as SimCity 3000 Unlimited had with its own BAT.
The Lot Editor (LE) is a tool which allows users to edit or design lots for SimCity 4 using available props. Because it was released several months before the BAT as a stand-alone version, users at the time were only capable of producing lots that consisted of built-in props from SC4. The BAT provided users with an updated version of the LE, which rendered the original LE utility obsolete. However, the old version is still made available in the official site.
In addition to official tools, third party programs were released for further accessibility in editing SimCity 4 contents, potentially allowing users to change the nature of the game itself. Since the release of the Lot Editor and the BAT, the majority of add-ons in circulation consists of user-created content; most are buildings and lots, while others include cosmetic changes for terrains, custom vehicles and modifications in the game's behaviors. Both the skills of lot building and modding are also integrated at times, producing lots that are capable of affecting a city in a variety of ways.
Although not necessarily a "bug", players often complained about the unrealistic pathfinding mechanism; it would often find the shortest route but not the fastest, which often left mass transit and highways relatively unused. Many players made Mods to attempt to rectify the issue. This resulted in many different versions of the "SimCity 4 Network Fix" and the popular "Network Addon Mod".
Shortly after its release, the PC version of SimCity 4 garnered mainly positive reviews, gaining 84/100 from Metacritic, and an 85.1% overall score from Game Rankings. The game got a 9.2/10 rating at IGN; the review praised the depth of regional gameplay and called it a "major evolutionary step in the series". The game scored an 8.1/10 rating at GameSpot; the review concluded that it was a "complex and detailed strategy game", "though not as polished as it could have been". GameSpy gave the game a score of 75/100, commenting that SimCity 4 is "graphically stunning"; the review however also criticized the game for having issues "that will likely kill the game for casual players" including performance and difficulty.
SimCity 4 received further reviews after the release of the Macintosh version. The game received a rating of 7.25/10 from InsideMacGames. The review commented that the regional gameplay was a "new and welcome addition" and that it had detailed and realistic graphics; it was also said however that the game was not "revolutionary", had "horrendous bugs", and that the tutorial and manual lacked information.
SimCity 4 was chosen as one of IGN's "Editors' Choice" games for January 2003. It was also given the Parents' Choice Award by the Parents' Choice Foundation.
On September 22, 2003, Maxis released an expansion pack for SimCity 4 dubbed Rush Hour. SimCity 4: Deluxe Edition, a bundle of the original SimCity 4 game and the Rush Hour expansion pack, was released on the same day. On August 25, 2004, Aspyr Media released SimCity 4: Deluxe Edition for Mac OS X. This was followed by a September 4, 2004 release of a Mac OS X version of SimCity 4: Rush Hour.
The expansion pack, among others, enhances the range of transportation facilities, as well as allowing the player to trace traffic flow, control vehicles and construct larger civic facilities, and introduces a new range of contemporary Europe-styled buildings.