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The Happy, Despondent, Shiny, Gritty People of SimCity: Cities of Tomorrow

Future, tense.

by

In fifty years, what will the world’s cities be like? Will they be glossy, pollution-free metropolises with abundant glass towers and clean-fuel hovercars? Or will they be disgusting trash heaps filling the air with smog and giving rise to murder and arson?

I like to think they’ll be more like the former than the latter, but I am thankful for video games that let me express my selfish, evil side. While I’m typically a goody two-shoes when I play games, I took pride in my blackened, hellish world in Black & White 2. I was a god to be reckoned with. Cities of Tomorrow, the first full expansion for SimCity, will allow me to take my evil deity tendencies and translate them to mayorhood. Watch out, Kevinville: hard times are coming.

Electronic Arts’ Jason Haber recently walked me through a demo of SimCity: Cities of Tomorrow and did what I thought to be impossible: got me excited to return to a game I haven’t been keen to revisit. And it’s the idea of crafting a dystopian municipality that has me most excited. Cities of Tomorrow includes two new specializations that allow you to morph your city into one that reflects your vision of the future.

My vision is bleak.

In my city of the future, violet clouds of dust and smoke rise from factories, and black-and-neon megatowers fill your vision. Think of Coruscant’s Underworld as depicted in several Star Wars narratives. Crime rates are high, the citizens are sickly, and the skies are polluted. When the devil over my right shoulder wins out, this is the dystopia I imagine, and when you partner with a corporation called OmegaCo, it’s the digital reality that can play out in front of you.

OmegaCo is all about profit. To begin your path towards public despair and chronic smog, you first build an OmegaCo factory. If you feed the factory oil and ore, it begins to produce a mysterious resource called omega, which Haber calls “the last technology you will ever need.” Sounds great, yes? It certainly is if you like to rake in city revenue. As Omega is transported to commercial and industrial buildings, those businesses become OmegaCo franchises. As mayor, you receive a franchise fee from each of these buildings, and as you convert more of them, you unlock more ways to extract resources from the fertile ground Mother Earth has provided you, and ultimately earn the ability to manufacture drones.

In omega-driven dystopias, those megatowers look black and bleak, with jade and ruby neon lights making me think of dank nightclubs in the underbelly of Las Vegas.

Mother Earth is hardly happy about this turn of events, obviously. You’ll be putting out many more fires than before. You’ll be needing to get more ambulances onto the streets, and more cops into your police stations. And you’ll be paying exorbitant sums to pump precious, delicious water from beneath your living symbol of corporate hubris. But it’s worth it to watch your drones in action, flying routes above your existing roads, and converting residential buildings into OmegaCo subscribers.

Cities that rely on omega ultimately produce megatowers that touch the heavens. In omega-driven dystopias, those megatowers look black and bleak, with jade and ruby neon lights making me think of dank nightclubs in the underbelly of Las Vegas. Such towers are simulations in and of themselves. As you add levels to them, you give your sims places to shop, live, and work--but you don’t need to share my gross view of the future to build megatowers. If you prefer to follow the advice of the angel on your left shoulder, you can choose the Academy specialization and research green technology that reduces pollution and allows your citizens to thrive.

An Academy-based city doesn’t feature OmegaCo’s questionable ethics. Here, the glassy towers are notable for their turquoise trim and their art-deco-inspired curves. Such a city proclaims its own dedication to natural beauty on first sight, though the particulars are hardly natural. Man-made sky bridges, for example, allow citizens to travel between megatowers without ever needing to set foot on your busy streets, resulting in self-sustaining minicities. Maglevs, which are light rails that run above street level, also assist your citizens in getting to and fro. Maglevs needn’t align with your roads and can be woven in and out of buildings, and neighborhoods will grow underneath them.

"Crowns" serve as toppers to your pristine utopia. You place crowns atop your megatowers that benefit other aspects of your city. Crowns may provide entertainment to your citizens, scrub pollution from the air, or enhance your tourism industry, and placing more than one of the same type of crown gives you an additional bonus. Underneath your crowns are service levels that provide parks, safety services, and education to its residents. And those residents are the kind that enjoy a bit of moolah to pad their wallets. The wealthier your workers, the faster you can research new levels, new power types, and new pollution-fighting techniques. And as SimCity veterans know, wealthy workers require a lot of effort--and money--to keep happy.

Where OmegaCo has omega, the Academy has a resource called ControlNet, a wireless network that radiates outward from the Academy itself. All of the technology you unlock through the Academy requires ControlNet, which requires no workers to function. And like omega, ControlNet can affect neighboring cities, even when their mayors do not own the expansion. Your futuristic cars will drive to adjacent cities, and drones will come shopping on behalf of their owners. Even if you own only the base game, OmegaCo trucks might convert your buildings into franchises and ControlNet will leak into your city, with all of the benefits and disadvantages that those resources bring.

Every SimCity mayor will get access to four new regions later this month month, featuring tropical and desert themes. You may also rejoice for the ability to turn off disasters when the expansion arrives, especially when you see the new disaster, a space robot called Outworlder 6, in action. The intruder is all blue metal, green trim, and orange lights, and he descends to Earth in search of precious power before dancing a robot jig and flying back home.

I don’t think my citizens should worry too much about Outworlder 6, however. I am posed to smother their meager lives with thick pollution and corporate corruption. After all: it’s the American way.

Discussion

41 comments
kenthanxxx
kenthanxxx

it would be nice also to have expansion on old ancient cities likes olds egypt empire, aztect, romans empire, etc. 

cgobeil
cgobeil

As much as I would like to build a city of tomorrow, I will pass on this expansion;  Maybe an all OmegaCo city would work properly but the Glass Box engine (although a nice concept), has proven that it's practically impossible to make it work properly, even after 8 major updates...  I will continue to LOL at people trying to build hybrid cities on stream !

blackeagle84
blackeagle84

The city size is limited by the current hardware, EA developers have stated they tried to run the game with bigger map, but even with top notch development PCs, the game still bogged down to a point of unplayable.

juaner92
juaner92

WTF. they did a survey to all simcity players, (u can read it here: http://imgur.com/a/n9gy8#0 ) but they didn't read at all! we want bigger cities, and offline mode wtf EA! why u did a survey if u didn't do what we want for this game! ea i hope u don't sell anything until u change the game to what the communities is waiting for... paying again all that money for a horrible game. i don't know what is crossing the mind of these people...

when i read the survey i was happy! finally we have an opinion to improve the horrible mistake they did, but when the expansion is realeases is the same crap... i dont get u guys EA u suck!

kurtgros
kurtgros

The city size issue is certainly an issue for me as well, and I am disheartened to know that they won't be increasing these sizes anytime soon...or ever.

HOWEVER: Why doesn't Maxis simply place all the small cities directly next to each other???  If you gave the user freedom to create as many road connections as they wanted between two cities, this could at least give the effect of a larger city...while only working on one "district" or "neighborhood" at one time.  

Sounds like a workable compromise to me...eh?

Avenger1324
Avenger1324

Any review of this has to factor in the price, as this DLC is almost as much as a normal full retail PC game.

LokiHero
LokiHero

As long as the city sizes are stiflingly small, I can't really be arsed to care about anything happening in SimCity.  The game has its sundry other problems, but that one is the single greatest dealbreaker there is for me.

In a way, SimCity and its city sizes are a metaphor for an issue in AAA gaming right now, the illusion of scale.  SimCity, Assassin's Creed IV, Battlefield/CoD, and many others all rely on either distracting set pieces or copy-paste jobs to provide the illusion of a vast, sprawling environment a player can manipulate.  The problem with this illusion is the same problem with every other illusion, when the illusion falters, it can never stand up to scrutiny again.

SimCity is a game that looks incredible, it makes a stupendous first impression (not counting launch day issues) with great concepts and beautiful design, but once you start to see past the veneer, you see how much isn't really there.

ryuthemonkeyboy
ryuthemonkeyboy

good video that gives incentive to buy but still reminds me how much i hate this game and quit playing it out of boredom frustration and it didn't work. still looks horrible graphically and functionally but that wouldn't stop from taking a look. pity that would require paying money to Maxis.

thread-of-red
thread-of-red

Does anyone still play Sim City? I was really excited for it, played about 20 hours, realised how broken it was, and haven't played since. And when I think of it, it's always brings a negative response in my mind, EA's handling of the launch was horrible, not to mention always online for a single player game...

zombieweekend
zombieweekend

The irony that EA considers corporate capitalism to be the mother of a dystopian future is nearly incomprehensible.

cirugo
cirugo

Really Kevin?  Have you ever seen an pictures of Coruscant that only extended to the limits of a discontiguous 2X2 square surrounded by empty space?

Cut the fawning...it's adding window dressing to a house with a rotten foundation.

draco934
draco934

THANK YEW FUR YUR SURVISS

Scorpion1813
Scorpion1813

Still no offline?

OK, I'll check back later.

TEFUKAM
TEFUKAM

On old gamespot you can get games your own scores where is not this on new gamespot?

Alastes
Alastes

I don't hear anything about the map size limits. The game is just a crappy demo until they make larger maps. This expansion is just to get around that by going vertical and it is not a proper solution.

kingcrimson24
kingcrimson24

EA ! i want a new C&C generals ..... with offline skirmish of course :D 

Quarkzquarkz
Quarkzquarkz

In other words, to offer more playability without expanding the city's small limits, go vertical and pack more people into that same space without fixing the current bugs and glitches that's ruining this game. Excellent EA! =(

andyshallperish
andyshallperish

I came here just to say that this preview was absolutely beautifully written

VintAge68
VintAge68

Revealing story it seems, which sounds a bit like a mixture of SimCity and Command & Conquer. I may prefer the latter, though: at least they fare their wars openly here, and not anonymously via mega corporations.

Krauklis
Krauklis

Bigger maps and offline mode, give me that and I might buy the game. 

chuckles471
chuckles471

"My vision is bleak."

Single player games turned into MMO's for no apparent reason. 

Aleksanian
Aleksanian

@thread-of-red its not a single player game...people didn't get that yet. The game has been made to be a multiplayer game where people have to work together to manage a region. Also, they patched the game a lot and its not as broken as it used to be. There is still some work to be done, but I'd say its pretty good now. I still enjoy playing it.

ZZoMBiE13
ZZoMBiE13

@zombieweekend It is, frankly, delicious. I am full to bursting with the savory flavor of ironic satisfaction. 

Also: omEgAco. Priceless. :)

Kevin-V
Kevin-V moderator staff

@cirugo I was clearly talking about the atmosphere, not the size. That is very evident from the words I wrote. I had nothing to say about the size of city plots. 

nl_skipper
nl_skipper

@cirugo   I really liked SimCity for a little bit... but yea, I can't get over the fact that the city size is so limited, and the main reason being so it because their own real time simulation tech isn't functional enough to handle a larger space... :(

lonewolf1044
lonewolf1044

@Alastes EA/Maxis had already put out they will not be increasing city size, so that is out the window. A lot of things EA/Maxis hyped about SimCity before release looks it it will not see the light of day. How Sad:(

Ice-Cube
Ice-Cube

@Alastes EA responded in regards to City Size limits, they said to appeal to everyone in terms of performance, they cannot increase the city size limits. They said they tried everything but the loss in performance was too great. Therefor they can't increase the size. Which is why I assume they came up with Cities of Tomorrow, if you can't build out, why not build up.

Yea it's pretty stupid. They should just allow us to decide if the performance hit is too much depending on how well the consumers computer is. I want bigger city sizes as well, it's ridiculous how small it is. One of my favorite franchises, why not just re-release SC4 with updated graphics? Im sure it's possible.

The thing that was the buying factor for me was they said there will be bigger city sizes at release. I played in both Betas and was still hoping they would fulfill their promise. Yea just a bunch of bullshit

Scorpion1813
Scorpion1813

@kingcrimson24  

They made a new Generals. Unfortunately, it was a Free-to-play game and was shit. So they probably won't bother making a REAL sequel because they'll think nobody wants it.

EA logic!! Where everyone gets screwed over!

ZZoMBiE13
ZZoMBiE13

@Aleksanian @thread-of-red Why do we allow companies in the games industry to get away with this though? If FORD sold me a Mustang that was missing the windshield wipers, the headlights, and the trunk lid, I wouldn't give them a pass because the engine would turn on. 

"Less busted" is still busted. I bought Sim City too. And I desperately wanted to like it. Truly. I've been a long time fan of the franchise and wanted to give this new version a fair shake and a chance for EA and Maxis to show me that I was wrong about their vision. But having played it, having gone through the launch issues, the patches, and the problems; I can say definitively that their vision was not the grand online utopia. It was omEgAco the whole time. And while this new expansion does look entertaining, I feel it'd be plagued by more of the same issues that already sullied the experience. 

cirugo
cirugo

@Aleksanian @thread-of-red  

people don't want a multiplayer SimCity.  If people telling them that before release wasn't enough then their post-release data has definitely done the job...considering they are FINALLY working on an offline mod and modding capability.  

cirugo
cirugo

@Kevin-V @cirugo  

you can really  immerse yourself in the "atmosphere" when it arbitrarily ends at such an artificially square boundary with nothing but empty space surrounding it?  I find that hard to believe.  You said nothing about the city plots when they are a HUGE stumbling block for the very atmosphere you're trying to have us believe the game gives us.  That's a pretty big omission....and considering all of the other flaws in this game no discussion of this "expansion pack" should take place without pointing out how many of them STILL exist.  That they have the nerve to release it when their game doesn't even work as advertised 8 months after release is breathtaking.

Aleksanian
Aleksanian

@nl_skipper @cirugo yeah that's true...apparently they tried in-house to run bigger cities and their engine just collapses lol

maddogmark25
maddogmark25

@Ice-Cube @Alastes When Maxis talked about the performance hit, what they really meant was that the simulation is broken and would not be functional on larger maps. Has nothing to do with performance.

Kevin-V
Kevin-V moderator staff

@hystavito @AggrandizedUser I don't hold any power. EA did not approach me personally, and I did not approach them; as per usual, EA notified press outlets and scheduled times to visit those offices, and I was assigned to do the write up and video. You have a very inflated idea of how important I am! It's flattering, but I don't think anyone out there is falling all over themselves to get me personally to cover their games :)

hystavito
hystavito

@maddogmark25 @Ice-Cube @Alastes Whether the performance is the issue or not isn't all that important.  Even if it is a technical limitation, it's due to their overall decision to make a game like this and not like the previous ones.