SimCity has been with us since Will Wright and Maxis created the franchise way back in 1989. The last game in the series was SimCity 4 which was released in early 2003 which is over 10 years ago now. Yes, it’s been a decade. Maxis – still at the helm of development for this city building simulator – has finally decided to give the franchise a proper reboot and will ship SimCity on March 6th for PC and MAC this year. Before we will get a chance to play the full game in its entirety Maxis and EA have held a closed beta session for SimCity a little while ago which allowed players to be Mayor of a small area for as long as an hour. While an hour at the time obviously isn’t enough to make any kind of true judgment about SimCity, it does allow us to make a few careful assessments.
Maxis hasn’t just started over with the title of the new game, the developer also made some really drastic changes to the simulation SimCity. In the beta we didn’t have the full plethora of features or tools available but it was just enough to give players a glimpse as to what we will be able to do when the game hits in March. Some of the biggest and most fundamental changes in SimCity are that most of the city development is based on roads and highways as well as dynamic zoning. Maxis has decided to build just about all the infrastructure into roads which streamlines the process of creating the city web. Roads now contain sewage, water main lines, power transmission and of course traffic and public transport networks. Zoning is divided into three main areas which contain residential, commercial and industrial.
To be successful in the close beta of SimCity Mayors had to carefully manage the distribution of roads as well as zoning as there needs to be a good balance between residential zones to fill the factories in the industrial sector to then make money to spend in the commercial zones. It’s a simple concept really – one moves into a city and buys a house, and of course needs to earn money at work , to spend in the shops which generates a strong economy – this ultimately allows Mayors to generate income and improve, grow and expand the city. This is what SimCity excels at more than ever in this closed beta. I quickly got a handle at how to run a city that would grow its population, industry and so forth – the problem was, we only had ONE hour.
Quickly, I restarted as my last hour expired and ran the game at cheetah speed just to see how big my city could get. I would max out around 20 thousand people and had a hustling and bustling city filled with a good mix of income ranges in my residential sector which was filled with beatification areas such as parks and playgrounds, who then took their hard earned cash and spend it at the shops in my flourishing commercial zone. Once the city grows enough Mayors also have the ability to specialize the city – in the closed beta only ‘Gambling’ was available but the full game will have a lot more to chose from.
Of course other city management skills come in like having police, fire departments, hospitals and schools to satisfy the populations needs all while balancing the city budget. If money gets tight, Mayors can always raise taxes or take out bonds but this can also cause financial problems down the road or angry citizens leaving your city. I could probably go on and on, gushing over how much fun the close beta for SimCity was but I will leave that for the review when the game comes out. I will however leave you with some of the main streamlining aspects which made SimCity such an enjoyable time during this closed and limited beta.
- Dynamic zoning creates very complex areas without much management from the player, all one has to do is line a road with a zone and the chosen type of area will build itself based on demand and space in that zone.
- Roads are now the main way of developing the city and its infrastructure and include water mains, sewage and electricity pipes which go through the entire city as long as they are connected continuously.
- Interfaces are streamlined to make it super easy for Mayors to see if the water is polluted by the industry sector by clicking on the water section in the menu and a map shows what the city looks like under the surface, the same goes for power plants, bus transit or the reach of the police department.
There are so many more things to come in the full game that weren’t accessible in the closed beta such as trading with neighboring cities or building a combined project with other cities such as an airport. When SimCity finally releases on March 6th this year, I am pretty sure that the Mayors all over the world will only leave their ‘office’ to complete mandatory things like eating since SimCity seams as close to digital crack as we have seen.