SimCity Societies Hands-On

The newest SimCity game is entirely different from its famous predecessors.

When you think about Maxis, it's pretty easy to think of The Sims. However, the famed studio would have never made The Sims if not for its previous blockbuster franchise, SimCity. The original SimCity is almost 20 years old and has spawned three sequels on the PC, the last of which appeared in early 2003. So when EA and Maxis announced SimCity Societies earlier this summer, it brought the long drought for a new SimCity game to an end. But from the get-go, it was made clear that Societies isn't a "traditional" SimCity game by any means. We finally got our hands on a work-in-progress version of the game to discover the changes.

Societies is an entirely different kind of SimCity game, from the close-up look to all the hands-on detail.

The classic SimCity model was a fairly laissez-faire system. You, as a city's mayor, built the infrastructure and public services for a city, such as police stations and schools, as well as zoned the land for different use, whether it was residential, commercial, or industrial. Your virtual citizens did all the rest, deciding on what types of buildings and businesses to erect in the space you designated. It was very much an urban simulation. Societies offers up a vastly different gameplay experience because it's more of a city-building game where you are intimately involved in the placement of almost every object and building in the game. If earlier SimCities let you play as a "hands off" mayor, you'll be immersed up to your elbows in Societies.

If you're a SimCity veteran, it may take you a while to get used to Societies because many concepts have changed or been done away with altogether. There's no more zoning, which is perhaps the biggest change that we noticed. Instead, there's the idea that you balance six different energies in a city: productivity, prosperity, creativity, spirituality, authority, and knowledge. The buildings that you put down can either contribute to a societal energy or require a certain societal energy to operate. So if you build a bank, it generates 12 prosperity points, and those points can be used to "power" other prosperity-type structures, such as tony brownstone residences, each of which requires a single prosperity point to run. Keep in mind, this type of societal energy is entirely separate from the idea of electricity, and you still need to construct power plants to generate electrical power for the city.

The result of all this is that you can create any type of society you want, based on the types of buildings that you put in it. If you want a tranquil, pastoral city, then avoid the productivity-class structures, such as monolith blocks of apartment flats and go with creativity-class cottages instead. However, it's not that easy: You've also got to address the needs of your sims because they want to be happy. Thus, to keep them happy, you need to provide them with houses, work, and venues that cater to their needs. And that's where it gets a bit tricky because suddenly you have to juggle a lot more than how much societal energy each structure may generate or require.

The most important factor in real estate is location, location, location, and the same goes for Societies. Where you place things in relation to one another is as important as what buildings you decide to place. Your sims want to be close to all the important locations in their lives. At the same time, you've got to take into account that buildings are affected by the structures near them. So to build the optimal city, you've got to be careful of how you arrange things. It's also important to keep in mind that time of day plays an important role. Let's say you build a pub. It can make up to seven visitors happy at a time; however, it's only open during the day or from 9 a.m. to midnight. (The pub, by the way, generates three productivity points but consumes two creativity points; to build the pub, you need to already have structures that generate a total of at least 13 productivity and 17 creativity points.) Some structures only work half of a day, others during the day, while others are open 24 hours. Each societal energy has its own different take on all the key structures. We've already mentioned housing, but there are vastly different types of workplaces and venues as well. For instance, an office building will generate plenty of prosperity, while a charity center will generate spirituality, but both will provide jobs and revenue.

Many structures require a certain type of societal energy to be built.

As in most city-building games, you start small, but the idea is to keep growing. Doing so allows you to unlock more advanced structures. Eventually, your city will take shape and its composition will be entirely up to you. You can create an urban utopia full of artists, a university town full of knowledge structures, a totalitarian police state full of authority buildings, or--most likely--a city that blends all these elements together. It wouldn't be a SimCity game without graphs and filters; thus, there are a ton of both in the game to help you analyze your city. The biggest feedback, though, comes from your sims themselves. You can see them walking around town, and the unhappy ones will have a big red unhappy sign floating over them, indicating you've got a problem. If you right-click on a sim, you can call up his or her info card, letting you know of any issues.

The scale of the game certainly feels "smaller" than earlier SimCities where you could build humongous metropolises that stretched for miles on end. Instead, the camera is kept close to the ground in Societies, which lets you focus in on all the tiny details and the goings-on of your sims. This gives the game a much cozier feel, though it lacks the epic moment of SimCity games when you could zoom all the way up into the stratosphere and look down upon your creation from above.

Societies is clearly a different approach to SimCity, and that has caused a stir amongst the SimCity fan base. However, EA looks like it's trying to reach different audiences and those who may have never played a SimCity game before. It will be interesting to see how this all pans out in the coming months, as SimCity Societies will ship in November.

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36 comments
tiggerlu
tiggerlu

I think this game is very interesting - obviously any city or town, is made up of much more complex elements than slapping down buildings, and generating revenue. That's the old-school way of thinking which has led to many types of degradations (cultural, environmental and economic too) - i think this approach is a lot more realistic... I enjoyed the "big epic" scope of the last simcity series - so i hope they don't totally lose that either...but at the same time, something new, more relevant sounds good to me.

danielchaves86
danielchaves86

as a civil engineer student ive always looked as simcity as Simulation of City Management, hence the name.... seemed to me as a game but also as a realistic simulation and i've enjoyed it since sc3000... this one is not really a simulation, shouldnt be named SIMCITY, this should be called SOCIETIES or something like that, i agree this could be fun and i will most likely play it, but this certainly does not look like simcity

Whiteghost09
Whiteghost09

Yes! I was disappointed with SimCity 4 (it was my first SimCity and I expected something different), but this is exactly what I was hoping for in the first place!

bl4hster
bl4hster

Um this is more than "just trying something new". This isnt simcity. I want to build large cities and manage resources and population. I want to build humongous metropolises that strech for miles. Not this stupid "the sims" crap. This game will be for highschool girls

Zarcon94
Zarcon94

I don't get you guys. Basically, you're saying that you want a game that tries nothing new. All it does is adds a few cool-looking buildings and a graphical makeover. TRY SOMETHING NEW!

jkeefe
jkeefe

As a guy nearly 60 years old, who goes back to the original game, much of this sounds good to me. BUT the limitation of not being allowed big metrioplis with huge populations,, leaves me in the cold and I will not be buying the game. Adios Sim City You've progressed in some ways, but regressing to limiting the thrill of a huge bustling city, yuk. Forget it. Lets hope 5 years from now with the next release you will come to your senses.

KO3085
KO3085

I agree with penguise. If they made SC5 then what would be the point? Just for a new graphics makeover? SC4 is solid and if you like it a lot then keep playing that. I myself am ready for something new in this arena and get tired of the same zoning, place civics, repeat kinda deal. I like the idea of placing a neat building immediately rather than hoping one will spring up...

QBS216
QBS216

i agree with xenon671, it seems like too much work to create an entire city bit by bit. I always enjoyed watching low income buildings turn into rich folk cribs lol. but whatever the case this might turn out to be a good game, so for now its just a waiting game ^_^

xenon671
xenon671

I think that this looks like rubbish. Whoever came up with the idea needs to be sacked. The old formula was what made simcity simcity. This new game is true to its heritage in no way but name. It will be incredibly tedious to place each house individually, and to add up all those stupid creativity points. Part of the fun of the previous games was watching what your sims would build I will buy the game nevertheless, Often stupid sounding ideas can come out good, think of the original sims.

dex-paddy
dex-paddy

Looks to focusd. i like the way in the old sim citys the way your city would be massive and you zoom out and see everthing and it be just like being way over a city. this one just seems on a smaller scale

fishistheice
fishistheice

The whole point of bringing out a sequel is to bring something new to the game - and that's exactly what Societies will do. This should be a great game, and for all those who seem to have doubts: if you get the game, it doesn't mean that you have to stop playing your old Sim City game.

penguise
penguise

I think you pessimists sound like old farts that don't want to try anything new. Go play Sim City 4 If you want to play the same game over and over again. I have been playing Sim City since SC2000 and have loved each one, Sim City Societies sounds like it will be fun too. Hope I am not disappointed.

Kron81
Kron81

Apparently we lost Sim City and got Sim Block

mwa
mwa

ugh, this doesn't look too promising. the old system was fine. why deviate from it?

danhuling
danhuling

Oh man... this game is going to tank. Really bad graphics--the sky is like old sega games bad. Gameplay YET AGAIN is dumbed down for the young folks. If we keep dumbing down everything, how will we ever learn to advance?

saras2uk
saras2uk

I think they just used simcity name for selling it and copied city life... I'm a fan of simcity, but this one doesn't look great...

Geshpenst
Geshpenst

Sounds like it could be fun. Hmm, I might make a city of pollution, I wonder how well that'd work :P

TheProphetD
TheProphetD

Sounds less "realistic" (You need that amount of creativity points to build a pub and such) but still sounds internsting and fun, can't wait to try it.

Maeros4
Maeros4

reneetruss: sure but then make simcity 4 and sim societies 1 and both group of people will be happy.

oksel
oksel

To try something new is okay. But this game isn't just innovative. It's almost more like a sequel to CityLife, according its looks, then it is to SimCity. Why don't they just make a new SimCity. One that's bigger, let's you control huge cities and more country planning than city planning. Make it big, I like it. I think more Simmers do. The megolamane it gets, the better the game.

reneetruss
reneetruss

NA3D said It looks like a glorified Flash game of SimCity to me, sounds like it too. It sounds interesting, but for a 8 year old, not someone in their 20s, and definitely not for the original fans that are now in their 30s if not 40s or 50s. My dad works in the last group there, while I fit in the 20s group. This looks to be more a game for new "SimCityer's", and definitely a back hand in the face to true and original Simmers that have been there since the beginning. I guess at some point in time games have to go to that younger crowd, just like music does, but I though the SimCity franchise was going to stay true to it's age group, but instead, just like Pepsi, it decided to try to be hip and cool, and like NASCAR forget it's true roots. Many industries are turning their backs on their roots right now, it will be interesting to see what happens in the next 10-20 years. Most likely, move on like always, but maybe, just maybe. Someone will learn their lesson that your roots are more important than trying to make fat cash and be cool. One last note, SHAME on the CEO of EA saying that SCS is a sequal to SimCity, you careless, foolish little man. I still want him to publicly admit he was wrong, that EA is as innovative as Microsoft is loved by Mac users, and that they have not done ANYTHING with the sports games in a LOOOOOOOONNNGGG TIME! Then I want him to crawl into a ball, weep for hours, then run EA into the ground so it will go out of business.... (Wow, 2 years ago I wouldnt of thought that I would be against EA, but man, after 2 years of realize what EA really is...) Good luck TM at branching out to the new target gamer group, but you have lost the true Simmers, but at fault of EA, not yours. Your games are great, but just not for the original fans of this series. I am sure that was understood from the start of this project, and I am more than sure you are making the best game for what it was meant to be. The game looks great. It is too bad the game industry, as one of the most open minded industries in the world, hasn't found the true key to the most perfect way to ever make a game. That key it hidden away for a company to take over EA's position though. ---------------------------------------------------------------- This whole speak is pathetic,. I hate people who never want to try anything new and innovative. Just like the up coming sims 3. You will have people like this going off if it, if that game change and because something other than what we got now. I glad people like this don't work in the gaming industry. Because they would bore us to dead with their logic, lol

hairy_freak
hairy_freak

i want a huge city not a small group of bulildings

Darkreaper_1
Darkreaper_1

I did and still do enjoy the Simcity games but i am looking forward to trying something "different" so at the moment SimCity Societies is appealing to me. Hopefully a demo will be made available before the game is relaesed properly.

Died_Again
Died_Again

I would expect a paid writer to at least fact check their article. Maxis is not involved in the making of Sim Societies. Tilted Mill (formerly Impressions Games) is developing this game. It's a pity that some of the older features have been completely scrapped but I believe that was by design. Before Spore became a reality, Wiil Wright and his Maxis team were planning to simplify the Sim City series and take it in a new direction. I sympathize with the die-hard Sim City fans who are not happy with the changes. And yet at the same time I think the game looks very promising and I will definitely be buying a copy. Hopefully if the game sells well enough and the franchise is revived, there will be a Sim City 5 to follow.

oksel
oksel

Never change a winning horse. Damn, SimCity 4 was great, though it could have been improved. Waiting all these years for that improvement and now they are about to give us... NOTHING!

jakeboudville
jakeboudville

I could give this a try but I'm still skeptical on it

maneden
maneden

Never quote yourself... but! 'It's a shame no-one had the idea of combining the two concepts!! Zone and select buldings, build a city and create a society!' A good idea, but agreed this is not SimCity.

salle81
salle81

It's really weird that this isn't connected with City Life in Similar Games, because to me it sounds like they've copied the whole "societies" concept from that game (ie not making this game "original") although I haven't seen it for myself... and on a side note, who thinks of The Sims when they hear Maxis mentioned?

endtype
endtype

I don't like casual games...the end..it looks okay...

Kyran87
Kyran87

A challenge is always a beautiful thing. Bring on the Societies!

Armadous
Armadous

The Sims created a chain reaction I fear will destroy us all. There seems to be a rush now to appeal to people who aren't necessarily gamers which seems to be mutating some of my favorite titles. In spite of that this still looks interesting. I'm a big fan of steampunk and as such I find some appeal in this and look froward to playing it. However it is clear this game is SimCity in name only.

jazztrumpet5
jazztrumpet5

With all the people out there complaining that "no one ever tries anything new", I don't get it when a company goes a different route with a franchise and then people cry foul. If you want the same SimCity that you've had for the past 20 years, just play one of the fantastic iterations of the franchise. Sim City 4 is still very relevant today; I don't think there's a lot that can be done expanding that gameplay. EA/Maxis is just trying to actually do something different with a popular franchise, and I, for one, applaud them for it. Be happy for a game for what it is, not for what you think it should be.

osleyee
osleyee

looks really interested but its kind of sad that some elements they took out from simcity series but then of course they i wanted to change its and make something innovative.

NA3D
NA3D

It looks like a glorified Flash game of SimCity to me, sounds like it too. It sounds interesting, but for a 8 year old, not someone in their 20s, and definitely not for the original fans that are now in their 30s if not 40s or 50s. My dad works in the last group there, while I fit in the 20s group. This looks to be more a game for new "SimCityer's", and definitely a back hand in the face to true and original Simmers that have been there since the beginning. I guess at some point in time games have to go to that younger crowd, just like music does, but I though the SimCity franchise was going to stay true to it's age group, but instead, just like Pepsi, it decided to try to be hip and cool, and like NASCAR forget it's true roots. Many industries are turning their backs on their roots right now, it will be interesting to see what happens in the next 10-20 years. Most likely, move on like always, but maybe, just maybe. Someone will learn their lesson that your roots are more important than trying to make fat cash and be cool. One last note, SHAME on the CEO of EA saying that SCS is a sequal to SimCity, you careless, foolish little man. I still want him to publicly admit he was wrong, that EA is as innovative as Microsoft is loved by Mac users, and that they have not done ANYTHING with the sports games in a LOOOOOOOONNNGGG TIME! Then I want him to crawl into a ball, weep for hours, then run EA into the ground so it will go out of business.... (Wow, 2 years ago I wouldnt of thought that I would be against EA, but man, after 2 years of realize what EA really is...) Good luck TM at branching out to the new target gamer group, but you have lost the true Simmers, but at fault of EA, not yours. Your games are great, but just not for the original fans of this series. I am sure that was understood from the start of this project, and I am more than sure you are making the best game for what it was meant to be. The game looks great. It is too bad the game industry, as one of the most open minded industries in the world, hasn't found the true key to the most perfect way to ever make a game. That key it hidden away for a company to take over EA's position though.

Oktoberfest
Oktoberfest

Too many numbers... all these points and stuff. Sounds kinda boring. I think they should be able to implement stuff from the older SimCity games into this new one while retaining the new one's ideas

Geshpenst
Geshpenst

Sounds pretty different, but that the same time it sounds damn fun.