Today we break into our top ten most anticipated games of 2013, and with it comes a format change. From now until we reveal the number one on New Year’s Eve there’ll be one game per article and one article per day. The first game to get this treatment is SimCity, and it’s a game I’m exceptionally excited about. In fact I’m so excited about it that I went and purchased SimCity 4 in the Steam Sale in the hope that it will keep me going until the next entry into the SimCity series arrives on the 5th of March next year.
If the SimCity series has completely passed you by, perhaps understandable given the last entry into the core PC series came in 2003, it was the series that kicked off the entire Sim franchise, a franchise that has expanded to an almost ridiculous extent. As you may have guessed by the name, the franchise consists of various types of simulation based games. Over the years pretty much everything’s been included, ranging from an ant colony in 1992’s SimAnt (yes, really), to the entire planet in SimEarth. There was even an attempt to go off world with SimMars, although that was ultimately canned.
Given the ten years that will have passed from SimCity 4’s release when SimCity arrives next year, it’s not all that surprising that the game will feature a brand new engine. However, what’s interesting about the new engine, GlassBox, is that it’s built in an entirely different way to previous engines.
While earlier games in the series worked on building graphical representations of statistical models, the new game’s simulation is built of a series of smaller simulations called agents. When a building catches fire it’s not because the statistics driving the game world have determined that it’s time for something to get set on fire, it’s because something’s changed in that building’s agent and caused it to catch fire. Hopefully this approach should mean that the game develops in a more natural seeming way, with different elements interacting and creating larger systems.
The engine also has stylistic updates. Whilst you’d obviously expect more detailed graphics in a new game, next year’s SimCity will be the first game in the series to feature curving roads, giving cities more realistic layouts. Interestingly, a city’s road network, as well as its general transport infrastructure, will contribute to the density of particular areas as they’re built up.[videoyoutube]The other element that will make long time fans’ ears prick up is the game’s region system. Every city is contained in a region, with cities in the same region connected to each other via a transport network. Elements such as pollution will move from one city to another, and may effect how those cities interact in terms of trade etc… If you want you can set your game to solo mode and play with AI mayors operating the other cities in your region, but if you’re feeling more social the other cities can be populated by real players, creating one of the more interesting multiplayer systems I’ve seen in a while.
Perhaps the only major disadvantage that the game has is that it requires you to be connected to an internet connection at all times, even when playing in single player. Although personally I’ll be playing the game on my desktop PC, it’ll certainly be an irritant to anyone looking to game on the go, perhaps whiling away a long train or plane journey. However, that’s not enough to put me off, and I’m eagerly anticipating March so I can get my hands on the game.