Hands-on with SimCity: Managing sewage was never so intuitive

SimCity

By on December 18, 2012 at 8:53 pm

Attending the recent EA Summer showcase, there was a recurring theme amongst all of the gaming press; everybody loved playing SimCity. And I mean everybody. Guys who prefer wasting zombie Nazis in BLOPS2 were having a ball managing the waste system of their little toy city; people who enjoy living the life of a drug trafficker in GTA were instead figuring out how to handle the traffic jams of their tiny town.

I’m more of a Town’s secretary than Mayor – I played way too much Settlers 7, and something like SimCity seemed way out of my pathetic micro-management league. Yet after completing the introduction mission, I had mastered SimCity’s intricate and layered ecosystem. That’s the real beauty of the new SimCity – despite being an onion of complexity, with layers upon layers of stats, the Glassbox engine includes visual indicators that make understanding what’s going possible in a single glance.

Before you even lay down the first slab of concrete, it’s wise to figure out where the natural resources are. Doing so is a matter of simply clicking the right menu item and the landscape dissolves into a transparent box, revealing the underlying coal seams and gas ponds below, just waiting to be extracted by your eager minions. It’s clear, and easy to understand – almost like an infographic view of your resources.

Once you’ve settled on the ideal place to destroy nature, it’s time to roll out roads with the new road laying tools. These have been totally revamped, making it much simpler to create gentle curves or sweeping bridges. The refined tools end up giving more intricate road networks when you’re done, but are simpler to use in the first instance. Try going up a cliff and the tool won’t let you – all roads are limited to the same gradient as the real world, with a maximum of around 35 degrees. With a few major roads splitting off into dual lane streets, I’d soon laid the foundations for my very own mini Big Apple, using a grid system to keep my OCD impulses happy.

Time to lay some residential areas then – once again, the tool automatically shows me where I can place them, and it’s just a matter of clicking and dragging to fill the spaces. And then I just sat there for several minutes, watching the dozens of workers driving up to the empty lot and begin building. It’s astonishing how detailed the game is, yet it doesn’t bring the demo PCs to a screeching halt. A few commercial and industrial centres later, and I’ve got a living, breathing city right before my eyes. It’s filled with inhabitants, and clicking on each one tells me where they’ve been and just how content they are with my creation.

As my city grows, problems like crime and pollution start to swell, but again I can click a single button to reveal an infographic, transparent version of the city. Brightly coloured areas show me exactly where I need to fix problems; the sewerage view shows brown blobs surging below each street, forming a block around the sewerage plant and indicating that I need to expand my poop-carrying capacity. Red buildings show where criminals have set up shop, though I should have noticed the environment filling with graffiti before now.

It’s this ability to strip your creation back to a single layer, exposing only the information that is most relevant, that will make managing cities in SimCity even easier than ever. The fact that your city truly feels alive, with realistic animations for any action you can think of – from fireman spraying out fires to garbage dumps burning off waste – means watching the city develop never gets old.

If the idea of building a city is about as appealing to you as reading a street directory, SimCity could be the game that changes your mind. The clever tools unleash more possibilities than ever before, but their focus on usability means it should never become overwhelming without a 400 page manual nearby. If it can convince a Battlefield 3-loving, Hitman Absolution slaying player like me to buy the full game, chances are there will be a whole influx of new players come SimCity’s March release date.

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20 comments (Leave your own)

man I’m liking the sound of this game. I’ve watched a few of those videos they’ve been releasing and they look really cool.

only issue so far is the DRM they seem to have implemented. all game state is saved online, and if you disconnect for more than a few minutes, you lose the game state (going from statements the devs made on a reddit AMA).

my internet isn’t perfect, and it’s always nice to be able to play a game like this offline.

this issue and release price might decide whether I buy it or not.

 

been dying for a new city building game

 

Sim City has always been one of those games, it is inoffensive, it plays well on modest systems and it is all about creation and nurturing that creation. It offers great depth but you don’t need to delve into monstrous tomes or manuals to figure it all out.

And sometimes it is about destroying that creation mercilessly.

What’s that petulant sim? taxes too high?! Well lets discuss that with the Minister of Finance, Mr Fiery Death Spewing Volcano! He’s paying a neighbourhood visit, what service! Also that clean up will cost a lot of money so up go taxes, unless of course you wish to discuss it again or perhaps discuss it with the opposition Minister of Finance, Madam unsanctioned UFO attack.

This game is definitely on my to buy list, That fact that a guy called Ocean works on it and another by the name of Stone simply makes it that much sweeter.

 

meji:

What’s that petulant sim? taxes too high?! Well lets discuss that with the Minister of Finance, Mr Fiery Death Spewing Volcano!He’s paying a neighbourhood visit, what service! Also that clean up will cost a lot of money so up go taxes, unless of course you wish to discuss it again or perhaps discuss it with the opposition Minister of Finance, Madam unsanctioned UFO attack.

haha nice

 
downloadaccount

skitzor,

The DRM on this thing is offensive. Buying it gives tacit endorsement of the use of always-on DRM (assuming the customer actually knows about it). But I’m sure some people will says that their Internet is always working perfectly and forget the fact that there are many, many instances of things failing at the publisher’s end rather than the user’s. But that would be too crazy a concept for some gamers apparently.

Apart from that the game looks alright.

 

The always online thing is a pita and it is a big drawback regarding this game. It means that if I’m travelling and I fire up my laptop I won’t be loading up the new Sim City to play if always on DRM is required. I also live out in the sticks and when the weather gets nasty so too does the internet connection not to mention EA’s dropping of online support for games fairly quickly (at least they have in the past).

Of course perhaps it might do the one time connect and then allow an offline mode, as it were, to accommodate that. Fingers crossed.

 

kunodiablo:
skitzor,

The DRM on this thing is offensive. Buying it gives tacit endorsement of the use of always-on DRM (assuming the customer actually knows about it). But I’m sure some people will says that their Internet is always working perfectly and forget the fact that there are many, many instances of things failing at the publisher’s end rather than the user’s. But that would be too crazy a concept for some gamers apparently.

Wait, you mean like STEAM! OH NO!

 

If buying it is endorsing DRM, does that mean pirating it is encouraging DRM?

 

jonlee:
been dying for a new city building game

Tropico!

^^…

 

jagji,

Steam doesn’t disable your ability to save your game on your hard-drive…

 

re:drm
EA and their “stickiness” goals are best served by having you online for everything .

 

jagji: Wait, you mean like STEAM! OH NO!

the simple fact you said that leads me to believe you wouldn’t be able to understand the difference, but I’ll explain it anyway.

as jez has said, steam doesn’t save your state online. you can be in the middle of a SP game and your internet can disconnect and you’re fine. the other thing is that steam has an offline mode.

 

What a load of shit…

Seriously can’t wait for this. Might hold off until a couple of weeks to skip any DRM teething issues though.

 

Even with always online DRM i’m finding it very difficult to justify NOT getting this game. Although if I move next year I don’t know what kind of internet i’ll end up with. :(

Sounds like the game will refuse making cities on anything other than flat ground. I’d like the make a city on heavy hills and stuff like is quite common in the real world. :(

 

Seriously can’t wait for this. Might hold off until a couple of weeks to skip any DRM teething issues though.

This. I’ve learnt my lessons in the past. Because of those lessons I rarely play a game on day 1 anymore. Especially one with an online component (login, drm, or client/server model).
BUT jebus, am I looking forward to the day I sink my teeth into this!

 

And stay tuned next week, loyal readers, as Bennett renounces flight sims in favour of Toon Town!

 

Ooooooohhh I really want this!!!!

But it is and isn’t the always online DRM that bothers me. My net is very stable and it is a very rare day that I have a problem with it, BUT any other game that I do have that has to be online the problem that appears comes from the games authorisation server itself.

Be it down for maintenance or just teething problems the only time I ever have problems connecting to the server is 99% their problem.

Also if they had regional based servers that maintained our games then we wouldn’t be inconvenienced when the US decided their servers needed maintenance in their early morning downtime which just happens to be our normal play time etc. If your regional server is down, then it should automatically connect to the companies main server for the time being and then back to your regional server when it is back online.

That’s my problem with their always on DRM more then anything else.

But the game itself looks sweet and one that I am eagerly going to buy even though it does need this DRM.

 

Bicketybam:

Also if they had regional based servers that maintained our games then we wouldn’t be inconvenienced when the US decided their servers needed maintenance in their early morning downtime which just happens to be our normal play time etc.If your regional server is down, then it should automatically connect to the companies main server for the time being and then back to your regional server when it is back online.

That’s my problem with their always on DRM more then anything else.

I still can’t believe companies don’t do this on a more regular basis. I get that its more expensive than having them all in the same place and they’d have to stagger their maintenance, but seriously its not that hard guys. Companies like Blizzard had the opportunity to make this sort of thing a standard, but have neglected to do so. A couple of servers in either Asia or even Australia for WoW a number of years back would have seriously encouraged others to do the same. It seems some companies are splitting their servers up around the world a bit more, which is nice (Wargaming.net for one), but its been a long time coming and is far from a regular feature. Hopefully there’s more of this sort of thing in the future.

 
downloadaccount

The only other issue I have with this form of DRM of course is that it create an arbitrary lifespan on the game when there doesn’t need to be one. I can still play Doom using various source ports to enhance the graphics and run on modern operating systems (thanks open source) and that game is almost 20 years old. Do you really think EA will be running authentication servers for any games you buy today 20 years down the track?

Gamers probably don’t think about such things because games are too disposable nowadays. You play them, then ditch them and move onto the next one (otherwise you feel guilty with the backlog in your Steam account not being played). Maybe I’m just worried about the next generation not realizing the value of keeping games around long after they’ve been abandoned. If they’re an art form, why put an arbitrary shelf life on art?

Anyway, there’s always a chance EA will come to their senses and allow offline play. If that happens then maybe this will be worth a looki-n.

 

The disposability of games these days is a real problem. There’s countless timeless movies that will be great, and available forever, we’re yet to get that for games for various reasons.

 
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