Of all the games that I’ve played over the past twenty five years or so, SimCity, in its various incarnations, has to be the one that I cherish and have spent time playing the most. Ever since I laid my eyes on the first version of SimCity in the early 1990s, I became enamored with it: it possessed this rare and seemingly magical quality you’ll get by reading books — one that you seldom get by playing video games, at least as far as I am concerned: it allows you to engage your imagination, think about aspects of the game that go beyond what the game mechanics, assets and design ever intended. A bit like playing a desktop RPG game, or — even better — Diplomacy, listening to a story or reading a book.
I’ve written about SimCity in the past, in my opinion one of the most intriguing games ever to grace a personal computer. The following videos showcase some of the fundamental changes that have taken place for the upcoming game, SimCity, a reboot of the franchise that features a brand new engine called GlassBox. The engine introduces agent-like behaviour in the objects that inhabit the SimCity universe, thus creating an extremely consistent visual representation of the internal state of the game (something that, in turn, maximises realism). One of the previous concerns of Will Wright (and perhaps the rest of the team at Maxis), especially for SimCity 4, was that it was becoming too complex to be commercially successful. In my opinion, this is completely wrong. SimCity draws its appeal from the fact that it endeavours to be a realistic yet fun city-building simulator. Complexity is not the problem, it’s a benefit and I’m sure that the new agent-based engine will allow for much more complex, yet easily-graspable and consistent game concepts with higher complexity to be playable and fun. To my mind this has always been more than just a game and the concepts behind SimCity (as well as, to my knowledge, the engine) have been used for real city management needs.
Will Wright on the Spore DRM controversy:
“I think one of the most valid concerns about it was you could only install it so many times. For most players it’s not an issue, it’s a pretty small percentage, but some people do like wiping their hard disk and installing it 20 times or they want to play it 10 years later.
Spore doesn’t seem to be anywhere near what it was promised to be — in 10 years it is quite probable that few will remember it (let alone play it), unless it is followed by vastly improved sequels. That cannot be said, however, for several of Wright’s other games. SimCity 3000 is still enjoyed by many, 9 years after it was released, especially as it was (and probably still is) part of several ‘classics’ low-price bundles. SimCity 4 is practically universally still considered superior to the ‘Societies’ spin-off and still enjoyed by millons globally. And while it may be true that the, ever-elusive, ‘market’ could, potentially, boycott games in lieu of their ridiculous DRM, Wright’s response is unfortunate in the way it treats both replayability and consumer rights.
Hmm, can Maxis deliver on yet another edition of this once pioneering social simulator? How will SimCity fare against the promising Spore and Sims 3?