TSA’s Top 100 of 2013: 10 – SimCity

10. SimCity

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.

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[drop]In recent years the main focus has really been on The Sims series, with the number of expansion packs we’ve seen for the games making it clear that the games are a huge cash cow for EA. However, it seems that someone at Maxis has managed to convince EA to bring SimCity back, and we’ve already seen some of that in this year’s SimCity Social. However, we’re not really going to see what Maxis have cooked up for the series until SimCity releases, although it’s looking fairly exciting so far.

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.

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16 Comments

  1. I’m very interested in this myself, I’ll pick it up whenever it goes on offer I think.

    I really love the art style, and SimCity gameplay is easily the best gameplay of any of the ‘Simulation’ genre games.

    One thing- that always-on connection? It’s not just DRM, it’s actually necessary for the game to run.

    “There is a massive amount of computing that goes into all of this, and GlassBox works by attributing portions of the computing to EA servers (the cloud) and some on the player’s local computer.”

    That’s Lucy Bradshaw, the VP of Maxis speaking. http://www.simcity.com/en_US/blog/article/The-Benefits-of-Live-Service

    • “One thing- that always-on connection? It’s not just DRM, it’s actually necessary for the game to run.”

      You actually believe the rubbish that woman came out with? This game is simply following the precedent set by Diablo 3 to combat piracy!
      Its maddening that they feel that throwing as much dust as they can in peoples faces is preferable to coming out with the truth and not pouring PR speak into every-bodies ears.
      The sad thing is that by implementing such restrictive DRM that turns people off the game the suits that run EA will look at lower than expected sales figures and assume that people aren’t interested in a Sim City game and terminate any future projects and shut down the servers early.

      Incidentally there’s no god-damn way that this GlassBox engine can only work connected to the internet, they said in the Reddit AMA that the game will run for a few minutes whilst looking for an Internet connection (in the event that yours drops) rather than terminate instantly, so you can safely call that bollocks.

      • Lower than expected sales figures?

        Didn’t Diablo 3 shatter PC sales records?

        I agree it sounds dodgy, but I’ve got to say that when someone that high up in the development says something that easy to factcheck when the game actually comes out, I’m going to believe her.

        It’s got something to do with the connections with other cities and other players I believe, which updates every few minutes, possibly explaining why the game will run for a few minutes without the connection.

        I don’t know why, I’m just taking her at her word.

      • Diablo 3 did yes but thats not what i meant, i only dragged that game up because there is no reasonable explanation for why they didnt implement the offline character system from Diablo 2 other than piracy.

        Besides you know that the corporate entities at EA are the type to judge a games theoretical lower than expected sales on people not being interested in the game rather than avoiding it due to the nature of the DRM.

        I think im just utterly jaded when it comes to big companies and their treatment of my favourite gaming platform, what with Rockstar completely ignoring us these days and a certain publisher declaring that I and every other PC gamer is a pirate its not been a good time for us.

        Thank christ for Kickstarter and the Indie Revolution.

  2. It’s not for me but I’m fascinated about how natural it might feel to see the city going about its way.

    My biggest gripe this generation has been poor A.I. and it strikes me that something like Simcity will need excellent A.I. to make the city feel realistic in how it goes about its day-to-day actions as well as react to any sort of emergencies (that I would definitely rain down on Cocksville… the make-believe town I’d create).

  3. Already preordered it, looking forward to it a lot, though not thrilled it’s on Origin.

  4. This is my most anticipated PC game of next year, as Generals 2 was turned into some F2P shite. Stupid EA.

  5. Looking forward to this too, although it being Origin exclusive is really putting me off, especially when they’re really pushing the deluxe and limited editions – the standard edition almost feels like half a game… :(

  6. This a retail game or F2P.?

    • It’s a fully fledged retail game that will use EA’s Origin service.

  7. Is this purely PC? I really want it but I can’t play on PC :(

    • Maybe Mac as well but if your meaning Consoles then not a chance.

      Although Xcom shows strategy can work on consoles the sheer micromanagment of this game requires mouse controls.

    • It could work on consoles, but it’ll probably be next gen I assume due to its tech. Like also they’d always come up with a way to make the gamepad controls accessible. Red Alert 3 was good, and Theme Park World was rather simple. They’d do the same on Simcity.

      • Good is overstating :) Passable yes but RTS games lets face it are built and made for mouse controls. You can make it with joypad but it would never be as intuitive.

  8. …always online DRM and Origin is going to suck… but argh I just hope its not another Diablo III.

  9. I’ll keep an eye on this, does indeed look good.

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