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TOPIC: City planning with SimCity

City planning with SimCity 5 months 3 days ago #210

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SimCity is a highly regarded game that I've been trying to get motivated to spend more time with for ages. I have vague recollections of playing the game in a computer class in middle school as a pseudo-academic activity, but I didn't really remember anything about it. I played the SNES version, which was actually developed by Nintendo and adds fun Nintendo touches, like Bowser replacing Godzilla as a possible disaster, advice from "Dr. Wright" (an in-game rendering of actual SimCity creator Will Wright), regular unlockable gifts when hidden objectives are accomplished, and a Mario statue awarded for getting the highest city type (Megalopolis).

I know that plenty of people love this game, but even after playing it for several hours I still don't really see the appeal. The basic premise of the game is at its essence much like Conway's Game of Life, where the tiles you place succeed or fail based on what it's connected to and similar factors (e.g. how far away is the nearest police station, the balance of industrial vs. commercial vs. residential areas, etc.). Unlike Conway's Game, however, in SimCity you don't see the immediate effects of your decisions, and a lot of your time is spent just literally waiting for the next year to roll around so you can collect more money to build more stuff. I imagine with the infinite money cheat the game would be a bit more fun, but as it is I quickly got bored waiting for the months to tick by. You can use some of that time to peruse the plethora of charts and maps that help you track how your city is doing, but that gets pretty boring as well. Building up areas wasn't that fun to me either, as it seems like building a grid and just repeating patterns over and over again is the surest (and most mindless) way to getting the best score/population.

While I was waiting, I spent time reading the manual, which is extensive. It seems like neither the manual nor the game dive into the deeper mechanics of how the game works, which might have helped make things a bit more interesting, although I suppose you can figure out some of them through careful observation over extended periods of time playing the game. The game feels more like a piece of software than a game, although you can make your experience more game-like by choosing scenarios. Scenarios start you off with an already developed city and then a disaster strikes, and you're tasked with repairing the damage. This didn't appeal to me either, as there aren't really any rewards for success of penalties for failure.

I'm glad I finally can cross this one off my list, although this makes me a little warier of tackling other highly regarded games in the genre, such as the Civilization series. Those games seem to have more variables to control and things to do and a much wider range of events that occur, so I'll try to keep an open minded when I get around to trying those games out.

Plan your city with these SimCity links:
- PDF of the manual at replacementdocs.com
- Review of the Wii Virtual Console release at NintendoLife
- Soundtrack at vgmpf.com
- Extensive FAQ on GameFAQs, including the requirements for unlocking each gift
- Entry on Wikipedia
- Cool screenshot of someone's Megalopolis on Reddit

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