Supply, Demand, and SimCity's Global Market

Lead designer Stone Librande reveals how the global market can transform the most environmentally friendly city planner into a high-rolling oil tycoon.

Over time, even gold becomes worthless. For proof, look no further than the hyperinflated economies of World of Warcarft and the Diablo series. From his prior experience working with Blizzard Entertainment, Stone Librande, lead designer on SimCity, has witnessed how rewarding players with a currency, and then building a player economy from that same currency, can have detrimental results.

Armed with this perspective, Librande and his team have set out to create a virtual marketplace that will be economically stable after years of use, while remaining potent enough to influence how you play.

The number one thing you need to know is that the global market is not an auction house. "We talked a lot about having an auction-type model where everyone would track their own goods individually," said Librande. "However, this created tons of extra tracking you had to do, and it guaranteed hyperinflation. After an amount of time, new players would be priced out of certain things from the get-go."

Within the global market there's no player-to-player trading, you do not directly control the price of what's sold, and only in-game currency is used. Everything is bought from and sold to the market, and the price of an item changes at fixed intervals depending on the buy and sell patterns of its users. It's pure supply and demand.

Up for grabs are SimCity's 10 commodities. These range from resources pulled straight from the ground (oil) to refined goods (plastic). The average price for these commodities increases proportionally to its level of refinement. Since pulling oil out of the ground is fairly straightforward, it's worth less on average than a computer, which takes several steps to complete.

"The idea was to make each step in that process pay off just a little bit more," Librande said. "Players can run the entire refinement chain by themselves if they have enough city space to devote to these different commodities, or they can simply buy the components needed to complete the chain."

If you want to focus on the global market game, your goal is to "always be a little bit ahead of the curve." To help you do this, the team is designing historical graphs and other tools to aid you in predicting market trends. They also want to give you enough time to put your plans into motion.

"It's not like the stock market where every second the price is changing by pennies," Librande explained. "We want players to start the game, look at the current prices, and develop a strategy for that session based on those numbers." To illustrate, consider oil. It can be refined into either fuel or plastics. If you start a game and notice that plastics are in high demand, simply swap out a few module buildings on your refineries, and you can alter your production stream from fuel to plastics (and swap back during your next session).

Excellence in the global market also requires sufficient infrastructure. Commodities aren't just abstract values represented in a menu. Every drum of oil or pallet of microprocessors takes up physical space in your cities. If you want to stockpile hundreds of drums of oil, you need to build some extra stockyards to hold them all.

The global market only uses in-game currency. There are no real-money transactions as part of the global market.

Since the global market is partially a player-driven economy, Librande is already assuming some users will try to disrupt the market for pleasure and profit. His team is preparing accordingly. Safeguards are being put in place against extreme market manipulation, such as assigning maximum and minimum price ceilings to each commodity. This means the price for any one commodity will not rise above or fall below a predetermined amount, regardless of market trends.

While the team doesn't want a handful of players to spoil the market for everyone else, they also want market activity to be potent enough to impact city management. Finding this balance is worth the effort. As Librande explained, the market can "pressure" you with handsome payouts or costly price tags. It's a subtle way to mix up play sessions without creating formal missions or objectives.

"A common pattern that we see is players building up these green cities and saying, 'Oh, I'm never going to dig up that dirty [oil] and pollute my city.' But when the cash rewards on the market get large enough, it's interesting to see when and if people tip and start destroying their cities to dig that money out of the ground."

"I think it'll be a rare occasion that everyone on a server [monopolizes] one commodity just to drive the price up."

SimCity's global market is designed to be more than a fast way to make some extra cash. It is an optional objective, a nudge in a different direction. You can dip into it sparingly without much commitment, or dive in and structure your entire cityscape around its whims. Its influence can lead you to riches, or to ruin. But most importantly, it can help give your city a story.

"That story I find to be a really important part of what SimCity is about; players being able to run through these fictions I think adds a lot of richness to the game."

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7 comments
ZachBobBob
ZachBobBob

People are being very very ignorant to the always online component. It's not for DRM...not really. It's because of the glass box engine. It's a mass simulation controlling thousands of different entities. The memory that would take on your pc would be insane, so some of the computing power goes to their servers to figure out the algorithms and such. And if you wanna play the game on your own then that's perfectly possible...you don't have to play with others and your city doesn't have to controlled or influenced by them either.I was totally against this idea of always being online, but the more I hear about this game the more excited I get, the depth is unreal and every component has it's place and is necessary. I think people need to be a little more open towards this, people complain when there's no innovation (COD) and complain when there is (SimCity).Yes I am aware though that some people still have sketchy internet connections and some wanna play on a laptop on a long journey though..and I feel like that's the only pitfall with this always online thing. Also, I hope this can be installed on two pcs. Me and my brother would love to play this game together, but no way I'm buying two copies.

wcw6
wcw6

Don't care about the global market or global demand or whatever. How about the demand I created by myself and the ability to grow my city in peace without going online and relying on others?

joesampson
joesampson

Always online, forced multiplayer, small cities, cartoony graphics. They have ruined Simcity

bandarman
bandarman

I just can't wait for this game to come out! Why March? :(

jonaadams
jonaadams

They should put a racing game, or even, a GTA type of game inside of it. So while one player manages the city, other players can go inside the city and do stuff. But sell them as different games. Wouldn't that be fun?

JoiLambell
JoiLambell

"SimCity is a Beautiful Disaster" IMO 90%of the  classics latetly have been a let down, why this should be any diferent ?

One thing i learned the hard way long time ago, dont get high expectations about any game till you dig as much as you can after its release, and never, never pre-order.

Sadly thats my truth.

They left me no choice.

Please gaming companies help us, to help you.

00J
00J

i like the diorama style look of this latest Simcity. It's got a neat Model Train Scale look to it. I wonder if it will really look like that or if that is just the view from the opening video or something.

trencher10B
trencher10B

Somebody at Maxis ended up playing EVE Online's player-driven (or to be specific, "corporation-driven") market.

anfunny
anfunny

It just sounds like RuneScape's Grand Exchange. 

zoeyleft
zoeyleft

always online, hahah so ridicolous. piracy is never the problem. its been proven over and over that a good game will sell. take a look for instance at witcher 2. drm-free, sells over 2million.

DAP2010
DAP2010

dont like the glassy cartoon feel at all. after over 10 years (i think) they shouldv made it look as realistic as possible.

SlowMotionKarma
SlowMotionKarma

I just filed a trademark application for "SIMMO." That's called "investing for the future."

I'd like to play a new SimCity game, but with the mandatory multiplayer and Origin requirement I'm going to pass on it.

oflow
oflow

sup with the flying saucer?

NYJets12
NYJets12

always online=no buy unless theres a hack to make it playable offline. just so you know since ea shuts off there servers after 2 years that means you wouldn't be able to play this game after 2 years.

skunk_
skunk_

i cant wait for the new simcity

snaketus
snaketus

I'm getting warming up for this game after all, allthough always online requirement. As long as I don't have to deal with other players try to ruin my city except my friends.

edinko
edinko

always online=no buy

prismtech
prismtech

it's actually all Laissez-faire. big brother is watching. true story.

Toysoldier34
Toysoldier34

I don't mind the online play with a friend building near me, but I don't want to be affected tons by random players.

Lattata
Lattata

Looking forward to it.

megakick
megakick

Looks like fun but why do PC games cost as much as CONSOLES games NOW. Few years back PC games where 10 dollars cheaper then MAC and CONSOLE games.

halo180685
halo180685

Love this game, but its expensive. Maybe i need to wait for next 2 -3 years until Sim city ultimate collection (including all of DLC) release.

Drokuz
Drokuz

Why does every article end every comment I read about this game get me less excited? Always online is already the worst thing they could do, and many of the features they are announcing are finishing to convince me to stay away from this game.  They are saying "you will build a city where and how we want, play when we feel like letting you, bear with whatever your neighbouring players feel like doing. And you can't opt out and do what you actually want". Are we getting into an age where the single player dissapears, forcing you into multiplayer whether you like it or not?

You were getting so close to perfection with SimCity 4...

Joutja
Joutja

@ZachBobBob I've been a bit sketchy about the online thing. I do hope that it's not such a big thing that the gameplay focuses on it, it's not an online strategy game, just rather an extra feature like the server thing in spore. I do like some of the features such as this global market feature. It's pretty good and can help some players start off making money one way then once they have a lot of capital then rebuild the city how they wish. 

shadowhunter0
shadowhunter0

 @wcw6 you don't have to use it if you want you can play by yourself

dfm5000
dfm5000

 @joesampson

Sim City Societies ruined sim city i think this one will be alright. But who know's EA has to destroy it some how it's EA after all.

Xenuri
Xenuri

 @jonaadams That's an awesome idea! Having real people fill you city would make it feel much more alive than predictable AI

Zooner1399
Zooner1399

 @JoiLambell Spot on. ANY gamer shouldn't do pre orders. Pre orders deals doesn't help any customer, only dev/publisher lazyness and maketing lies and also getting customers outside the game's target audience. But people keep pre ordering and filling forums with garbage about their let downs.

Lanceknight88
Lanceknight88

 @JoiLambell Yup lately i just pirate a game and if i fine it good then i buy it. companies are so unreliable now its not worth the risk of buying shit anymore. plus all this shit about paying for dlcs is just unfair

Xenuri
Xenuri

are you still on dial up?

made_u_look
made_u_look

 @snaketus Ya same, I've played all the Sim City games until the disaster of Sim City Societies. Figured EA destroyed the IP and ruined Maxis. But this is starting to look real promising. Might give cities XL a run for its money if they allow modding to happen.

cirugo
cirugo

 @Toysoldier34

 no one minds that.  it's removing the choice to play offline and be able to mod and use cheats and not have the balancing necessary for a mutliplayer game affect the game for people who aren't interested in multiplayer that people are upset about.  They need to separate single-player from multiplayer and let people play offline.  SimCity is not an MMO and people shouldn't support companies that force players to have an internet connection to play single-player games.

moc5
moc5

 @megakick but worth 10 dollars more...i dont know either.

megakick
megakick

 @Drokuz

 Always online is the new DRM. Developer adds a couple of features that they say, "this game needs constant online BLAH, BLAH, BLAH...."

BAM! DRM!

SNEAKY HUH?

EXAMPLE: Diablo III

 

thebeasle
thebeasle

 @Drokuz "Why does every article end every comment I read about this game get me less excited? " 

 

Because the game is going to be terrible. 

shingui5
shingui5

 @Drokuz just an fyi.

you can completely ignore everything about multiplayer in this game, and just be alone in your region, with no outside influences at all.

cirugo
cirugo

 @Drokuz

 yup.  and if you support this gaming model by buying it they'll just keep on cranking out more and more games that remove your choices and options.

prestonburford
prestonburford

 @Lanceknight88  @DAP2010  Realism doesn't always have to drive of processing power. Cities Unlimited look way more realistic than this game and it works fine on my 5 year old computer. This game will be much smaller and more unrealistic looking and by the sound of it, it still may not run on my computer. The graphics aren't the only factor making this game truly unrealistic... scale, spacing, colors, size, lack of many things... the list goes on.

prestonburford
prestonburford

 @Xenuri I don't think you understand how most peoples laptops work... and yes most people have laptops now for personal use such as games. I go with my laptop somewhere, sometimes there isn't internet. Also my internet goes out more than I would like to admit and no one here can say their provider is amazing, because they all suck. Also this is more an issue that EA has repeatedly with their sports games, shut down the servers when a newer version of the game comes along... forcing people to go get the new game, even if their still wanting to play the older one. EA is taking the fun out of games and obviously not considering the long term use of their games, but the short term use... which is terrible. Sim City is a franchise because of how addicting the games were... now they will lose everything it was.

NYJets12
NYJets12

@Xenuri no you can't play once the servers are shut down.

made_u_look
made_u_look

 @Xenuri Not the point, some people aren't always hooked up to the internet. Ex, when I was in the Navy I played alot of stradegy games on my laptop during deployments so in this case anyone who did the same thing wouldn't be able to play this game unless they got a workaround for it. Which in essence would just perpetuate people in pirating it.

prestonburford
prestonburford

 @made_u_look  @snaketus The modding will be a joke, it will have to be something approved by them because all your cities interact with others on their servers. So nothing more than adding some new houses or small aesthetic things.

megakick
megakick

 @moc5

 Firgured it was to offset the price, a Good PC cost much more then a Console but I guess Publishers don't see it that way anymore.

prestonburford
prestonburford

 @shingui5  @Drokuz Except all your prices for resources aren't affected just my your region... it's everyone playing the game. And we won't have the option to mod the game because it's still in the servers region which means the mods would affect resources and prices... yadda yadda. There is a reason they did this and it wasn't to make it more interactive for us, it was to control this game and make us purchase the expansion packs they have coming because we won't be able to add mods ourselves to improve the game... because of the online play... that they fool you into thinking is solo play if you don't let people into your region.

cirugo
cirugo

 @shingui5  @Drokuz

 right.  so why the requirement of an internet connection?  and that's not all that's wrong with these game.  scroll down and myself and others have pointed out a lot more.

cirugo
cirugo

 @made_u_look  @Xenuri

 not to mention internet goes out too...more often than I'd like and I have high-speed cable internet.

moc5
moc5

 @megakick I think game developers have been replaced by profit seekers above all else.  Kinda like politics, it always starts with good intentions but ends with those who pursue self interest.  The theory is based on one who seeks the least amount of effort.  A good king wouldnt want to be king because he'd be selfless.  It would be too much effort.  Most people are motivated by greed/power.  They end up taking power in the end because they seek it to help themselves not others.  Hence the quote, 'All power corrupts'.  Truth stains the record of wrong. ;)

moc5
moc5

 @shingui5  I dont mean to offend you, but I hope you are listening to your customer base.  We are rooting for EA.  We want them to do the right thing.  We are happy to support an honest effort in gaming.

cirugo
cirugo

 @shingui5

 that's why multiplayer and single-player need to be separate.  And piracy isn't the gamer's problem...it's the developer's problem.  If it's such a big problem for them they need to come up with a solution that doesn't inconvenience and antagonize their legitimate customers.

 

shingui5
shingui5

 @cirugo  i can't say what the true reason is. but for a semi-educated guess: i'd say it would be so people can't tamper with their save files on their desktops, give themselves a lot of resources, then continue to flood the online market with their ill-gotten gains.

 

That, and the usual story of 'fighting piracy'.