If you read this for electronics stuff, prepare for disappointment. Because this is a sleep-deprivation induced rant about a video game.
SimCity: What the hell happened to you?
Every now and then I feel like going back and playing SimCity. When I was the right age to really appreciate the game, SimCity 3000 was the latest one at the time. It had pleasant, pleasing graphics and soundtrack, lots of scope and didn’t take itself too seriously. The cities you built could grow to enormous size, enough to push the 900MHz Athlon I had at the time to its limits when drawing the whole thing.
Crucially, it wasn’t SimCity 4. I got it on Steam a while back. Argh, that was a mistake.
When I play SimCity, I want to build and run a city. I don’t want to drive around it (that’s what GTA and Driver are for). I don’t want to care about individual Sims in it (more than any others).
What I really want is a more realistic “local government simulator”. For me the best bit about SimCity, apart from the long-term building, was choosing all the progressive, green, lefty policies and having them work.
What I want from SimCity
Features I would love to see in a better SimCity would be:
More realistic building timescales
When you zone land for buildings in the game, it takes time for buildings to appear. If the economic conditions aren’t right, they may not appear at all. I want the same thing for other building. You want three miles of road? 8 months, and the cost is an estimate. You want a new water pipe under that industrial zone? That’s lots of digging. One year minimum, and the economic output of that area will fall. Oh, you need that pipeline now? Too bad, should have planned earlier. You’ve changed your mind about the construction of that new motorway? It’s going to cost time and money to remove what we’ve started.
Realistic limits to what you can build
I was always a bit dubious about building my own power plants. Isn’t that a national government/utilities thing? Since when does a town with a population of 5000 just decide to build a coal fired power station?
Towns aren’t (typically, at least) owners and operators of their own utilities. However, the local government gets to decide who gets to build what, and where. I want the Sim equivalent of EDF asking to build a new nuclear plant, and the likely impacts presented. I want to be able to refuse, and then I want the chance that the national government forces me to have it anyway and my citizens and I have to cope with that.
The feeling that I’m part of a bigger country
On the subject of national government, I want much more interaction with them. A huge part of local government is balancing the needs of your citizens with the wider national (and indeed global) interest. For instance, the government is going to put a high speed railway through your countryside. Do you support it or not? What do your citizens think? Will it stop in your city, and if it does, will it be a boon or a drain?
On the subject of the countryside, I want something akin to greenbelt laws. Why do my Sims not kick up a fuss when I fill in that lake or raise a forest to the ground? Maybe I should only be allowed to zone a new commercial block if I agree to build a load of new parks – with penalties if I don’t. Maybe the government will decide to stop me zoning altogether in some places. Who knows, but I do know that local authorities can’t just decide that a bit of land will be for houses now – as the regular e-mails from my MP will attest.
The feeling that I’m part of a wider economy
You already get a fair few economic choices in the game, but it’s all fairly local. I want to see the impact of the wider economy. You got to trade water, power, waste with the surrounding towns and cities, but there was never a sense of a fully developed economy. I want the town up the road to get a new factory, pulling activity away from my town and causing massive traffic problems. I want my local economy to be affected by the national one. Employment and investment as part of a national and global whole.
I want the plans I make to be forced to take time and the wider world into account, not just – as was most often the case in SimCity – money.
That sounds simple enough. Over to you Maxis.