The terrain is completely empty and I immediately start filling it with stuff. Long curving roads, residential zones, a wind power plant—I’ll make an effort to go green, I think, as I plunk a town hall among the houses. A tinkering melody comes through the speakers and its as though the game responds to the music; I watch a house spring up out of the ground, construction materials clicking together just as the music builds on itself. I watch as tiny cars zoom in and unstuff themselves with people, and another melody threads through the soundtrack suggesting bustling life and growth.
But without warning a fire breaks out on the other side of town, and people are complaining about unemployment rates. I realize I’m losing money, but if I want to build commercial and industrial areas I’ll need more of it first. A tense undertone crops up in the music, and it heightens my anxiety. So I raise taxes and shut down the power plant. I watch as my city’s revenue crawls up and up—until I’m reminded by my citizens there is no sewer system, and the sickening sound of sludgy mess fills my ears.
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A preview of SimCity! (It’s real good )
A tall, bearded man welcomes us to the demonstration of SimCity, his caffeine energy betrayed by the dark circles under his eyes. Enthusiastic almost to the point of mania, this is a man who seems to offset the stress of developing a near decade-in-the-making god sim with the help of a 24/7 Red Bull drip. You can’t blame him.
Maxis producer Jason Haber might not have the weight of the world on his shoulders, but he’s juggling several entire cities set over a massive slab of grassland, and delighted in showing them to us one by one. The first is Transportopia, an industrial town under a crown of factory smoke. Wholly geared towards production like a Russian gulag based in Pleasantville, there’s an ordered chaos to the fleets of lorries delivering materials en masse to the hundreds of mills, plants and refineries which churn out steady streams of goods around the clock. This is where people make things.
Check out the awesome!
Disasters are where the physics system is put to best use. Disasters are able to affect the game physics in a variety of ways. A small meteorite will set a building rocking; a large one will reduce it to a pile of rubble on the blackened, scorched ground. Physics is a great simulation tool and it adds depth and nuance to the game, but there are some things we don’t solve using physics. One example is vehicles. The transport team has done a great job of with the vehicles and there’s not a lot the physics would add there. Vehicles turn, merge, and navigate with detailed behavior. At the scale the vehicles operate at the physics system wouldn’t dd enough benefit to justify the cost in performance.
At the Maxis Townhall, Simtropolis asked the devs on the new SimCity several questions. Now they share their experiences whilst they visited Maxis and more thoughts on the new SimCity.
SimCity is back in the hands of Maxis. And last week, we were invited to visit their studio in Emeryville with an opportunity to interact with the team and to to get a detailed inside view of the development of the new game.
I have a few thoughts and impressions to share with you guys, but I want to make it very clear that while we enjoyed lots of candid, insightful conversation, we simply did not have enough time to fit in an extended play session with the actual game. So it made writing this difficult because I wanted to be honest with what I saw, informative for you guys, but fair to Maxis, knowing that I didn’t really get a full experience with the game.
What I did get was a brief exposure to a limited tutorial, and while I tried to take in as much as I could given the constraints, I just couldn’t get enough out of it without time to play freely. Again, this was just the unfortunate result of scheduling not conspiracy (I think). Anyway, even though our time there was condensed, it was packed with plenty of information, lots of demos were shown and plenty of discussion. I’ll share what I thought was interesting, but I’m not going into specific gameplay stuff that has already been shown or talked about.
Before moving on, one caveat: given that what we saw was all based on early software, some behaviour we discussed was undemonstrated, and what in-game art we saw is not final, I may totally change my mind on any of these things as new information arises.
The very limited tutorial I went through amounted to little more than click here, drag down this road, put down a zone and that’s about it. It’s a serviceable tutorial for a new player, but I didn’t get much out of it. I got a chance to draw a couple of roads; yes, it feels pretty good and intuitive. Painting down zones feels just as you might expect. I like how buildings sort of swing around as you drag them across the terrain before placing them. Yes, all pretty superficial. Sorry to disappoint, but if I get another chance to actually sink my teeth into the actual game, I’ll tell you something more meaningful.