Fear and Excitement in the New SimCity

The legendary city-building series is back with a new game to revitalize the franchise, and we have all the early details (and concerns) right here.

Playing a SimCity game is a lot like playing with Legos. You build, you marvel at your creation, and then you smash it all to bits (sometimes with a tornado). Part sandbox, part strategy, this city-building series is famous for mixing smart planning and management with a dash of dry humor. And now, after roughly a decade of absence, SimCity is back. Recently, we paid a visit to Maxis Studio to check in with the team behind this new game. The early details revealed some exciting new additions, as well as a few concerns.

Multiplayer

That's right, multiplayer is coming to SimCity. You will join up and form regions, which lets you share resources and influence each other for good or for ill. In the examples we saw, one player shared some excess energy he had generated with his neighbors, while another player, whose city generated a lot of crime, inadvertently raised the others' crime rates. On a larger scale, all players in SimCity will influence the global market: a place where resources are bought and sold. Prices will shift based on supply and demand, and you can track who the big players are in each resource though leaderboards.

The global market is not an auction-house style of service; you will not directly buy from and sell to each other. Instead, you purchase goods from the market. The finer details of how this will work in the game are still in development, but our main concern is how people will try to break it. What will the limits of a player's influence be? How will the game change when you're not online? Does that mean you lose access to the global market, a service seemingly designed to be both a resource safety net and a way to earn some extra cash? How Maxis balances this service whether you're playing online or offline could greatly determine if this is a single-player- or multiplayer-focused game.

UPDATE 28/03/12 After this preview was published, EA confirmed that SimCity would require a persistent internet connection to play, due to the pervasiveness of the online features.

Presentation

A key point the developers from Maxis stressed was accessibility. They want the return of SimCity to appeal to those who don't find poring over spreadsheets and tax reports an enjoyable way to spend the evening. That means giving these numbers a fresh coat of paint. Electrical power distribution was the example shown. By toggling an overlay, you can view a red line leading out from your (nonfunctional) power plant across the city to all your buildings. When you power up the plant, a yellow bolt of energy shoots down the line, lighting up all the buildings along the way with a jingle.

You can specialize in various areas, such as gambling or coal production.

This is a simple example of the larger design philosophy of adding some extra flair to otherwise mundane parts of management. No matter how you dress it up, at its core, SimCity has always been a game of numbers. It's unlikely the team at Maxis working on this game, which includes developers as far back as SimCity 2000, could forget this. However, in their quest to make the series more user-friendly, we hope they don't forget the simple pleasures that come from diving into the details of your city and optimizing them to peak performance. Hopefully style won't come at the expense of substance.

Side Quests

The new SimCity borrows a page from The Sims 3 by offering lots of additional objectives for you to work toward outside of straight city management. Part of this design decision was to help put more emphasis on the sims who live in your city, thus giving your city some extra character. A simple example is a coal factory foreman who requests more coal for his factory (imagine that). On the more aggressive side, villainous sims can move into your city, such as the arsonist who will drive around setting fire to your buildings.

Along with the presentation overhaul, the underlying goal is to help this new SimCity engage a broader audience. This is all well and good, if these side quests are largely optional. If you wish to focus purely on the management aspect of the game, rather than constantly diving down to meet the individual whims of your citizens, that should be an option. The bulk of these quests should reward completion and not punish failure. And for the ones that do punish failure, it should fit naturally into the course of the game.

Specialists will visit your city with offers of new and unique buildings.

In addition to extra cash, the rewards for completing missions include new modules for buildings. We saw a small fire station receive a shiny new radio tower module that decreased the station's emergency response time. Cosmetic items, such as flags and signs, are also available. From a simple fire station to the game as a whole, SimCity is receiving a lot of upgrades. Some of them have us a little nervous, but the game still looks slick and colorful. We're very excited to learn what details will be revealed next, but until then, know that SimCity will be released on the PC and Mac sometime next year.

Written By

Want the latest news about SimCity?

SimCity

SimCity

Discussion

135 comments
straightcur
straightcur

so sad, looks like a dumbed down version geared towards the facebook "Farmville...etc"   crowd. 

SoloMayor
SoloMayor

Wow people will SO look forward to random real and NPC crazies burning down their hard work!

 

Greed is good, FEAR IS EVEN BETTER! Welcome to the glorious online hell of OTHER PEOPLE messing up your game! You think SERVER HELL is hellish, wait til you experience the THRILL of a DEMERIT ATTACK by one of our lead terrorists!

 

The magical stuff they are pushing these days.

 

 

jusedi
jusedi

Good to see Maxis alive.

RGSTRDSXOFNDR
RGSTRDSXOFNDR

"However, in their quest to make the series more user-friendly, we hope they don't forget the simple pleasures that come from diving into the details of your city and optimizing them to peak performance. Hopefully style won't come at the expense of substance."

Like what happened to Civ 5.  Dirty shame, that.  Hopefully Maxis will not make that same mistake.

vackillers
vackillers

Which leads onto the entire "Renting" a game system which absolutely cripples ANY SALES what so ever, why on earth would anyone buy a game on a console when you can rent it for a few bucks for a few days, complete it, give it back and move onto another? seriously? just imagine how many sales lost through someone renting a game instead of buying it? like going through gamefly. its an absolute joke to play anything on piracy, when only a few will actually pirate something compared to the millions that rent instead of buy. Not everyone!!! pirates multimedia like you think they do, there are PLENTY of paid good websites and software out there to grab things like movies and tv shows (streaming netflix) and napster for music that still take up the SAME ammount of bandwith a month then just simply pirating them. This whole notion that everyones guilty before actually thinking about it really really irritates me no end.

vackillers
vackillers

@ OverloadGunnar I do think that some people are stuck in the old days of the internet still where downloading multimedia was as easy as pie with out regards what so ever which is simply just not the case today, even with torrents, those are watched so closely by the proper authorities its not even worth the risk. Pirating has no baring on DRM no matter what developers of publishers say because it simply doesn't hurt sales, if any, it helps it because people will still buy games they download/pirate, anyway, most publishers dont even release a demo anymore to see how a game is, or see how it performs on their systems, and I think most people pirate games because they want to "see before buying".

NadCAtarun
NadCAtarun

@OverlordGunnar I agree with you that DRM have always existed and will always exist. And the same can be said about piracy. I just would like them to favor DRM methods that punish pirates more than they do honest gamers (like online passes and first-day "free" DLC). Especially since DRMs that hinder honest gamers more than pirates do nothing against piracy, obviously. I would have nothing to say against always online, if those people knew how to keep a server online (with backup servers among other things). Believe me, they really don't.

OverlordGunnar
OverlordGunnar

@vackillers I know it could be a bit harsh if you bought a game on-line, downloaded the 10gig file and then didn’t have enough bandwith to play it. That said, I live in Australia and I have a download limit of 150gig every month for $60. I never make it over 20gig. Now, I know this isn’t true for some people but let’s face it, the vast majority of people who go over their download limits have done so by downloading too many pirated movies, TV shows, games and music from torrent sites. And in the end, that’s exactly why these DRM features exist in games these days. Be honest, how many people do you know these days who DON’T have a hard drive packed with about a terabyte of pirated media?

OverlordGunnar
OverlordGunnar

@NadCAtarun Believe me when I say, I don't like DRM, nobody does. I'm merely pointing out that it's going to be a part of the future regardless of whether or not the consumers want it to be. Remember the days of booklet DRM? So many times I bought a new adventure game for my 386 PC only to have it stop and ask me, "what is the 5th word on the 8th line of page 12?” And of course, I’m a disorganized person so I lost my booklet within the first five minutes of buying the game. That is precisely why I don't mind always online, because I’m always online. I definitely agree that rewarding honest players is better than punishing the dishonest ones, but there just isn’t an effective method of doing so yet. I really hope that they find a way, until then, companies must protect their shareholders before they protect their customers. It’s an unfortunate necessity of economics. It’s not fair for the consumer, but it’s even less fair for the companies being straight up robbed.

vackillers
vackillers

this could potentially be a MASSIVE thorn into sim city 5, needing a permanent internet connection in a lot of countries simply is just not possible because ISPs in countrys like Austrailer have a broadband limitation cap, and once you've reached your monthly limit, your internet slows all the way down to about 2% of its capable speed, in some cases the internet gets turned off when you reach your monthly limit untill your next pay period. For THIS FACT alone, permament internet connections for ANY game is an absolute NO plain and simple, never lone the other stupid DRM stuff that follows with it. As far as the game goes I cant wait for it, I am really hoping that the 2013 timescale is more of a buffer time table then actual release, from the videos out already, im just hoping it'll be out at christmas this year, it looks stunning! so so excited aobut the prospect of another sim city game after waiting for so long for another to roll around, and technology has increased so much since Sim City 4 and rush hour, its just insane what could be done with a sim city game engine in todays generation graphically. LOTS of love to maxis, but the whole origin (which is absolutely horrible to use) and the perma internet connection will absolutely no doubt hinder this game MASSIVELY!!! should have definitely gone with steam without question in my opinion, would have had a lot more freedom then EA's monopoly of gaming developers.

MJS88
MJS88

This sounds very promising... the online mode has definite potential but will undoubteldy be marred by people who find exploits and we'll then be left only with the resouces that are easiest to find with a small few who are stinking rich due to being in the position to keep stock of rarer resources. Then everyone will have to follow a set regime (such as having a city full of coal plants) in order to generate just a basic income. (Sorry, I'm thinking too much along the lines of WoW auction house). Teaming up sounds good although I'd find it hard to find a friend who is interested enough. Also by making it user friendly I hope they don't end up with 'exactly the same but with clunky menus that make the same selections more cumbersome' like they did with The Sims.

NadCAtarun
NadCAtarun

@OverlordGunnar I get your point but here's the thing: most DRMs hinder my game experience and not the pirates'. I remember taking Newerwinter Nights with me when I moved but forgetting the manual with the key on it... so I couldn't play the game I rightfully owned. Meanwhile, people who pirated the game never knew there was a key. I like first-day free DLC and online passes because they can only hinder pirates (if they do). But a lot of DRM methods (such as required internet connection, serial keys, damaged cd verification) only delay piracy for a few days... and then every pirate gets a better experience than I do. I think I have a right to complain when I cannot play a game I just bought because the servers are down... especially when I know that people who pirated the game are playing it without a care in the world. That's exactly what happened to me with AC2. I felt I was punished because I paid for my game instead of stealing it. I see who you are talking to, but really, it isn't me.

OverlordGunnar
OverlordGunnar

@NadCAtarun Here are some real figures for you. Witcher 2 sold a little over a million copies; it was pirated 4.5 million times. http://au.gamespot.com/news/the-witcher-2-pirated-45-million-times-cd-projekt-6346876 For a business that needs to make money from their investments so that they can keep producing games like the Witcher 2, those are pretty scary figures. I’m sure that you can play outside for an hour or so when server maintenance comes around. When a company is crippled by piracy, people lose their jobs, game prices go up, and developers are forced to go with the sure thing instead of taking a risk on something new, and in many cases they just go bankrupt. Everyone needs to relax, you obviously have internet connections so I don’t see the problem, if the server goes down, go and soak up a dose of vitamin D, call a friend and grab a beer, maybe just play a different game. Often parallels are most effective arguments, so imagine if you owned an electronics store and for every TV you sold 4.5 TV’s were being stolen. Would you invest in some security, even if it caused minor inconvenience to honest customers?

zzodr
zzodr

@Phatjam You kind of missed the point completely, but anyway, just go on with your bad self and insult everyones comments if it makes you feel better.

hanzorev
hanzorev

why is this a puzzle game, according to Gamespot

sir_inverno
sir_inverno

"Concept = Great. DRM = Bad. Solution = Get the legal copy, but don't forget Download the crack. Problems = Solved " If IlI have to dl a crack I guarantee you I am not paying for the game.

justthefaqs
justthefaqs

Great, so my city gets ruined and I can't do anything about it as soon as some punk decides he's going to screw with everybody in the region and turns his city into a cesspit of crime and pollution.

Klone222
Klone222

@rafaelkhan Look at ME3. People at the beginning were buying the game for the great single player experience. It delved deep into character interaction and relations. By the end of the third one when I saw one of my squad members die i was on the bridge of tears. They added a multiplayer to ME3 and that took away from the innovation of the single player. Yes it is one of the best games I have ever played in my life but people everywhere can agree that the single player aspects that made ME1 and ME2 are constricted to the bare minimum in ME3 (ie. Dialogue options, ability to explore, of course the ending). Multiplayer takes away from the true great single player epics that we have grown to love over the past years. Yes some games need it, but others should definitely just steer clear of that crowd and refine and deliver a perfect single player campaign. An example is Arkham City, NO multiplayer, excellent single player.

Ladiesman17
Ladiesman17

Concept = Great. DRM = Bad. Solution = Get the legal copy, but don't forget Download the crack. Problems = Solved :P

Rohan233
Rohan233

WOW!, I am blown away by the Mechanics of how this game will work. It's like the real Global Markets which may give insight into more of real world business, trade, shares etc. Hopefully there aren't any corrupt banks including Wall-Street which rig the system and cause a Global Financial Market crash. hahaha man I Loved the SimCity series this might be the best one yet

MN121MN
MN121MN

@rafaelkhan That's what YOU and your kind think. And where would I buy it in my country without using Origin? NONE.... Hence pirated games....

rafaelkhan
rafaelkhan

You guys are missing the point! Single player games don't make money anymore! People just download torrents... Multiplayer is what makes players buy original games!

Phatjam98
Phatjam98

@gregrout Yeah because WoW, Guild Wars, Diablo II, Counter Strike have all been dropped and are unplayable right? Or maybe those devs never made another game? Yet another dumb comment that holds no basis in reality.

Phatjam98
Phatjam98

@zzodr Uhh, since forever. The games in the past have allowed you to build adjacent cities and to sell resources, waste management etc between cities. The ability to do this with other player city managers is gonna be awesome. Seriously? Did you really mean to ask such a silly question?

zzodr
zzodr

Since when was a game like Simcity ever meant to be an online experience?

D__
D__

[This message was deleted at the request of a moderator or administrator]

Joesocwork
Joesocwork

I absolutely love the idea of a SIm City that is closer in spirit to Sim City4 than Sim Societies. And I like customizing cities to meet certain needs in a region. But I'll be highly annoyed if I'm forced to play the game as an MMO.

Snaptrap
Snaptrap

Fear and Loathing in SimCity.

rleitao
rleitao

At first I was stoked, then I read through the article. not so excited anymore, but very afraid. I guess the title of the article should be switched around. Excitement and Fear, and then a bit more fear. and "no hope this will ever be any good" in the mix. I could be wong, but I am afraid I am not.

gregrout
gregrout

Looks like a bad design model (for gamers) to me. With this setup, the gaming companies dictate when and how you play the game. If they want to retire a game because they'd rather spend their budget on a newer game, you're SOL It's just not worth investing in a game title, especially under these rough economic times.

Maggot-Pulse
Maggot-Pulse

I'm always online anyways so the DRM stuff isn't a hassle for me.. Really liking this..

blazeghost
blazeghost

With the persistet internet connection requierement EA will be able to control the lifetime duration of the game. We are now buying games with expiration dates...

BornGamer
BornGamer

Only one reason needed to avoid this game: EA.

Gladestone1
Gladestone1

Infestedhunter we are complaining because they are trying to make games online only these days..So ya we have a right to complain..Like some one said below this is all about pirates..The legit user looses because we have to play online all the time..Most gamers just want a normal single player game..Hell id love to have d3 single player with out internet connection..Now im being forced to play online..What will happen to your single player games they will go buy buy..Because these companies like ea think every thing got to be online..So you stop crying...Let the public speek its mind..

masterdrat
masterdrat

I hope the modules are more than just a tweak to micro manage your resources, they have to give us a reason to use them or to have to chose between 2 different types of modules.

InfestedHunter
InfestedHunter

Seriously, stop complaining about being online to play single player. You guys cry way too much. What are you guys on pre paid internet or some bull crap? Get off the 56k and get some real internet you freakin hobos.

angry_roman1011
angry_roman1011

I wouldn't hesitate buying this game is graphics were that funky. :D

Darkbringer
Darkbringer

What happened to single player with multiplayer capabilities? Why do we need the online persistence if we're only going for the single player experience? If I want to go multiplayer, fine, but for the most part, I like to play my games without a middle-man server telling me that I can log on and play. If I wanted a MMO game, I'll return to WoW or something, leave single players alone and keep your stupid DRM schemes to yourself, you're only hurting the fans!!!

happy321
happy321

When are they going to understand that a more user friendly experience generally makes for a worse game.

trfritzen
trfritzen

DRM, the pirates won and the legit gamers lose. =(

orbit79
orbit79

I'm fairly oldschool, or possibly just old, old enough to remember playing the original sim city anyway. Maybe it's just me, but I think online play ruins some games. At the very least, there should be a non online component to games in my view. In this particular instance, I think this could be an effect of social gaming, it all seems a bit Farmville to me.

FroMcJoe
FroMcJoe

I hope MP works here but overall I'm really hyped!

YoungCardinal
YoungCardinal

I went from excitement of this game to 'meh' after hearing Requiring Origin or constant internet access. Sorry but simulation games like these I only care about creating my DREAM cities. I don't care about playing online, connecting to other cities etc. The whole idea of games like Sim City and Roller Tycoon are to use your creativity to create amazing designs. Simulate being the engineer or city architect. Sim City 4 had an online community where you could upload and share your great designs, and to me thats enough. I hate any game that imposes restrictions like constant online. Ruins the experience IMHO.

ToTs_00
ToTs_00

Haters be damned! I'd gladly have to have the game always connect to web for that since I think the MP sounds kick ass.

NadCAtarun
NadCAtarun

@OverlordGunnar I could agree with you... possibly... if servers and connections were always up. They're not. You're not exactly fighting piracy when legal players can't launch their solo game because the server is down or their network has some minor issue that might take a while to fix.

trixrfrkids
trixrfrkids

@OverlordGunnar  thats all well and good, but what happens when they kill the servers, permanently in 2-3 years? you shelled out the money, and now you cant play your game. how is that in any way, alright?