Archive for the ‘SimCity Retrospective’ Category

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SimCity Retrospective: SimCity 3000

September 1, 2012

This is the post I was writing when I decided to spin off the Todd Akin stuff into a new category, which means I’m about a week or so behind on this one, and this head cold sure isn’t doing me any favors.

SimCity 3000…it’s complicated. See, this is the point in the series when Electronic Arts took over as the publisher. I’m going to go off on a little bit of a tangent here, so if you’re not interested in my opinion on EA, go ahead and skip to the next paragraph. EA has…well, they’ve got somewhat of a spotty record in taking over publishing for established series, the biggest example I can think of  being the rush job they made Origin do on Ultima VIII, shipping a product that was basically unfinished and damn near unplayable, but I’ll get deeper into EA when we hit SimCity Societies.

Now, as for SimCity 3000 itself, I don’t know. It’s-the game isn’t bad, it’s just a big shift from where SimCity 2000 was. The best way I can think of to describe it is that it’s cartoony. Let’s just quickly touch on some of the things the game introduces. First, starting with this game you had advisors for each of seven different matters, and they would give a detailed  account of situations in their field rather than just a short summary. Secondly, it is much, much more stylized, with the advisors being-

Moe Biehl

HOLY JESUS! WHAT ARE THESE GODDAMN ANIMALS?!

Er, yeah. That’s the transportation advisor, and the rest aren’t any better. The buildings are also more stylized. In addition, once your city gets to a certain size it starts producing trash, which has to be disposed of by either building incinerators or landfills, and now you can also deal with your neighbors, buying or selling water, power, or garbage capacity.

PROTIP: Never sell water to a neighbor, because you will eventually run out and when you do, you are going to be paying out the ass because of it.

SimCity 3000 came out in February of 1999, despite Maxis wanting it released in time for Christmas 1998. I’d say it came from the problems EA had with Ultima IX, but SC3K came out almost a year before. So there’s that theory shot down.

All things considered, SimCity 3000 isn’t bad. It’s different – very, very different – from almost everything else in the series, but…well, let me explain it like this. It’s the Temple of Doom of the SimCity series: Not bad, but the weakest until something worse comes along.

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SimCity Retrospective: SimCity 2000

July 30, 2012

This one was actually my first experience with SimCity on the PC. Back in the mid-90s, our local Wal-Mart had display computers set up, and one of them had SimCity 2000 loaded on it. I was back there constantly, and thinking back it may have been a contributing factor in petitioning my parents for a computer.

SimCity 2000 introduced some pretty significant gameplay mechanics, namely water and subway systems, new civic buildings (prisons, schools, colleges, libraries, museums, hospitals), connections to neighboring cities (named after Red Dwarf characters), and maybe more importantly, the zoning system was revamped, allowing for single tile zones and more flexibility in placement.

Also added were newspapers, which give important updates, telling you that your citizens are getting sick of the crime, or that your power plant is on the verge of collapse, or that no one will shut the fuck up about not having a stadium. I’LL GET TO IT WHEN I GET TO IT, YOU ASSHOLES!

Ahem.

Well, getting back on topic, the library in the game features an, I think, amazing essay by Neil Gaiman:

Cities are not people. But, like peole, cities have their own personalities – there are a dozen Londons, a crowd of different New Yorks.

A city is a collection of lives and buildings, and it has identity and personality. Cities exust in location, and in time.

There are good cities – the ones that welcome you, that seem to care about you, that seem pleased you’re in them. There are indifferent cities – the ones that honestly don’t care if you’re there or not; cities with their own agendas, the ones that ignore people. There are cities gone bad, and there are places in otherwise healthy cities as rotten and maggotty as windfall apples. There are even cities that seem lost – some, lacking a centre, feel like they would be happier being elsewhere, somewhere smaller, somewhere easier to understand.

Some cities spread, like cancers or B-movie slime monsters, devouring all in their way, absorbing towns and villages, swallowing boroughs and hamlets, transmuting into boundless conurbations. Other cities shrink – once prosperous areas empty and fail: buildings empty, windows are boarded up, people leave, and sometimes they cannot even tell you why.

Occasionally I idle time away by wondering what cities would be like, were they people. Manhattan is, in my head, fast-talking, untrusting, well-dressed but unshaven. London is huge and confused. Paris is elegant and attractive, older than she looks. San Francisco is crazy, but harmless, and very friendly.

It’s a foolish game: cities aren’t people.

Cities exist in location, and they exist in time. Cities accumulate their personalities as time goes by. Manhattan remembers when it was unfashionable farmland. Athens remembers the days when there were those who considered themselves Athenians. There are cities that remember being villages. Other cities – currently bland, devoid of personallity – are prepared to wait until they have history. Few cities are proud: they know that it’s all too often a happy accident, a mere geographical fluke tha they exist at all – a wide harbour, a mountain pass, the confluence of two rivers.

At present, cities stay where they are.

For now cities sleep.

But there are rumblings. Things change. And what if, tomorrow cities wake, and go walking? If Tokyo engulfed your town? If Vienna came striding over the hill toward you? If the city you inhabit today just upped and left, and you woke tomorrow wrapped in a thin blanket on an empty plain, where Detroit once stood, or Sydney, or Moscow?

Don’t ever take a city for granted.

After all, it is bigger than you are; it is older; and it has learned how to wait…

– Neil Gaiman

The best thing about that essay is that it fairly accurately sums up what SimCity 2000 is all about. As you play, your city is going to start to take on a life of its own. And it comes down to what kind of city you want to build. Are you going to build a metropolis? Or is a series of towns connected by road and rail more your style? Maybe you’re up for interconnected boroughs. Whatever your style, odds are SimCity 2000 can accommodate.

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SimCity Retrospective: SimCity

July 26, 2012

Occasionally, a gamer will come across a series that really grabs hold of them. For a lot of people, it’s the Final Fantasy series; others have Ultima or The Elder Scrolls series. As for me…well, since about 4th or 5th grade, my drug of choice has been SimCity. I used to have, and this is completely true, a copy of the DOS version’s manual. I did not own a copy of the game for DOS. No idea where I got it, and I probably lost it sometime in the last fifteen years or so.

Still, I really do love the SimCity series, and the original in particular because there’s a certain simple grandeur to it that makes the whole greater than the sum of its parts. The series has primarily been about building yourself a city any way you want, but that isn’t to say that there are no objectives; in fact, the original came with seven scenarios: Traffic congestion in 1965 Bern, RoboCop-levels of crime in 1972 Detroit, dealing with the aftermath of the 1906 Earthquake in San Francisco, flooding (or high crime rates on low-power machines) in Rio de Janeiro in 2046, Tokyo being attacked by Godzilla in 1961, and a nuclear meltdown in 2010 Boston.

But I think my favorite thing about the original game was the music in the Super Nintendo version. Just listen to this music from the starting screen:

Video by supersdf185, go check out their LPs on YouTube.

Just listen to that music. It may be the most calming music I’ve ever heard. I’m serious, if you’re having  a bad or stressful day, just listen to this song. It’s worked for me.

SimCity is a little outdated, sure. But it’s a classic, and it’s the game that introduced me to the SimCity series, and by extension, The Sims. The original is a game I still love to play, even some two decades later.