Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Remembering SimCity

This is my fourth "Remembering" post. And also my fourth "Remembering" post on a classic game. Someone made a comment that I'm now turning my blog into a "Classic Games Blog." Well, with this being the fourth in a row, that comment might just seem quite founded! :D

SimCity is a city-building simulation game, first released in 1989 and designed by Will Wright. SimCity was Maxis' first product, which has since been ported into various personal computers and game consoles, and enhanced into several different versions including SimCity 2000 in 1993, SimCity 3000 in 1999, SimCity 4 in 2003, and SimCity DS & SimCity Societies in 2007. The original SimCity was later renamed SimCity Classic. Until the release of The Sims in 2000, the SimCity series was the best-selling line of computer games made by Maxis.

SimCity spawned an entire series of Sim games. Since the release of SimCity, similar simulation games have been released focusing on different aspects of reality such as business simulation in Capitalism.

On January 10 2008 the SimCity source code was released under the free software GPL 3 license under the name Micropolis.

The objective of SimCity, as the name of the game suggests, is to build and design a city, without specific goals to achieve (except in the scenarios, see below). The player can mark land as being zoned as commercial, industrial, or residential, add buildings, change the tax rate, build a power grid, build transportation systems and many other actions, in order to enhance the city.

Also, the player may face disasters including: flooding, tornadoes, fires (often from air disasters or even shipwrecks), earthquakes and attacks by monsters. In addition, monsters and tornados can trigger train crashes by running into passing trains. Later disasters in the game's sequels included lightning strikes, volcanoes, meteors and attack by extra-terrestrial craft.

The original SimCity kicked off a tradition of goal-centered, timed scenarios that could be won or lost depending on the performance of the player/mayor. The original cities were all based on real world cities and attempted to re-create their general layout, a tradition carried on in SimCity 2000 and in special scenario packs. While most scenarios either take place in a fictional timeline or have a city under siege by a fictional disaster, a handful of available scenarios are based on actual historical events.

The original scenarios are:

  • Bern, 1965 - The Swiss capital is clogged with traffic, the mayor needs to reduce traffic and improve the city.
  • Boston, 2010 - The city's nuclear power plant suffers a meltdown, irradiating a portion of the city. The mayor must rebuild, contain the toxic areas, and return the city to prosperity. In some early editions of SimCity (on lower-power computers that did not include the nuclear power plants), this scenario was altered to have a tornado strike the city. Much like the Tokyo scenario below, the mayor needs to limit damage and rebuild.
  • Detroit, 1972 - Crime and depressed industry wreck the city. The mayor needs to reduce crime and reorganize the city to better develop. The scenario is a reference to Detroit's declining state during the late 20th century.
  • Rio de Janeiro, 2047 - Coastal flooding resulted from global warming rages through the city. The mayor must control the problem and rebuild. In some early editions of SimCity (on lower-power computers that did not include the flooding disaster), this scenario was altered to have the objective be fighting high crime.
  • San Francisco, 1906 - An earthquake hits the city, the mayor must control the subsequent damage, fires and rebuild. The scenario references the 1906 San Francisco earthquake.
  • Tokyo, 1961 - The city is attacked by a Godzilla-type monster (Bowser in the SNES version). The mayor needs to limit the damage and rebuild. The scenario is strongly based on the original series of Godzilla films.

The PC version (IBM, Tandy compatible; on floppy disk) , CD re-release, as well as the Amiga and Atari ST versions included two additional scenarios:

  • Hamburg, Germany, 1944 - Bombing, where the mayor has to govern the city during the closing years of World War II and rebuild it later. This scenario references the bombing of Hamburg in World War II.
  • Dullsville, USA, 1900 - Boredom plagues a stagnating city in the middle of the United States; the mayor is tasked to turn Dullsville into a metropolis within 30 years.
In addition, the later edition of SimCity on the Super Nintendo (SNES) included the basics of these two scenarios in two, more difficult scenarios that were made available after a player had completed the original scenarios:
  • Las Vegas - Aliens attack the city. This invasion is spread out over several years, stretching city resources. While somewhat similar to Hamburg, the scenario included casino features as well as animated flying saucers.
  • Freeland - Using a blank map without any water form, the mayor must build a game-described megalopolis of at least 500,000 people. There is no time limit in this scenario. While similar to the earlier Dullsville scenario, Freeland took advantage of the SNES version's clear delineations between city sizes, particularly metropolis and megalopolis. In the center of Freeland is a series of trees that bear the familiar head of Mario. However, the player is unable to build any of the reward buildings from the normal game.
While the scenarios were meant to be solved strategically, many players discovered by dropping the tax rate to zero near the end of the allotted timespan, one could heavily influence public opinion and population growth. In scenarios such as San Francisco, where rebuilding and, by extension, maintaining population growth play a large part of the objective, this kind of manipulation can mean a relatively easy victory. Later titles in the series would take steps to prevent players from using the budget to influence the outcome of scenarios.

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