What the teachers never taught you
Odds are that as a child, you had the fascination of building things out of LEGOs. Or Lincoln Logs and Tinker Toys, if we're going back a ways. Whatever the case, as children, we have a keen enjoyment of building stuff.
This idea of entertainment was taken to the virtual realm on the PC with SimCity, a simulation title where one would play the deciding factor of a town's creation and sustained existence. A city would start from an empty patch of land and it would be up to you to maintain its life and potential growth. That, or you could run the city into bankruptcy and laugh as its residents rioted in the streets.
Well, good news. EA is bringing back our creation fascination with a newly realized, fully 3D SimCity title for PC and Mac simply called, SimCity...again. And the better news? It's just as fun as it was back in the good ol' days.
SimCity (PC [previewed], Mac)
SimCity is the series' first foray into the three-dimensional realm, whereas past titles portrayed the action in a 2D isometric, or birds' eye view. Developer Maxis states the inspiration comes from the studio's love of model train sets, as well as the idea of being able to reach out and touch the city. While hardware limitations restrain us from being able to touch our created world in SimCity, the game's engine does allow you to zoom in and out of the environment with ease and pan the camera into every nook and cranny possible, which is still pretty darn close to physically touching your city.
The world you create in SimCity is made possible by Glass Box, an in-house simulation engine that controls every car on the road, every person working on the street, and every tornado and other natural disaster that wrecks havoc on your utopia. Cars on the road now actually drive to destinations, be it to a job, the local burger shack, and so on, and if you don't have your roads constructed in an organized manner, traffic jams will be on the rise, negatively affecting the flow of the city's ecosystem. If people can't get to work, nothing can be produced and money can't be earned. There's a huge emphasis on cause-and-effect in SimCity, so detailed planning will make the difference in creating a prosperous metropolis or a dismal shanty town.
The desirability of your city will also go up or down depending on what you do with it. Setting your residential zones atop a hill or cliffside, for example, will score you major props with the residents. Placing a smoke-puffing factory next to them afterward, however, will result in a lot of "For Sale" signs. But adding a park, library and multiple areas of education within the vicinity of your housing district will increase the desirability, and in turn, you'll start to see more upscale housing pop up. If you play your cards right, those one-bedroom houses could quickly transform into a dream mansion with 8 1/2 baths and a theater. Think big!
Glass Box also features fully detailed maps representing information such as water flow, power flow, and what factories are currently functioning. Before placing a power plant or water tower on the field, you will see exactly where the energy will flow, effectively helping you plan out the best possible setup for your business and residential zones.
However, don't try to cram everything into one section with the hopes of creating the all-in-one paradise. Whether you're controlling multiple territories alone or interacting with people online, the best course of action is to have multiple cities, each specializing in one or two aspects, and then have them interact with the adjacent ones. For example, one city could set up housing, and its residents would travel to work to another city, and then travel elsewhere for spending. It's all about inter-city dependence, as Maxis calls it, and having cities work in unison will prove to have extremely profitable results.
And yes, I did say "interacting with people online," because EA's latest is not only the series' first 3D iteration, but the first one to come equipped with online play. You now have the ability to work together with others, both on a global scale or in a closed-community among family and friends, with the combined vision of creating the perfect inter-connectivity between cities. There's even a player-driven global market on offer, so if your town has, say, a surplus of oil, you can then put it up on the market at whatever price you choose and sell it to the Mayors (other players) of other cities who aren't so rich on that particular resource.
Global and local leaderboards are also present, with boards including the wealthiest and poorest city, the city with the most pollution, and the city richest in a certain resource. SimCity is one of those games that becomes what you make of it and thus has practically no end.
If nothing else, that's what's most exciting about SimCity's release date. It's a game that will trap you in its grasp for hours on end, where an all-nighter results in being buried half-alive under mounds of Red Bull and Bawls, with deep, dark bags under your eyes. And yet, that's a good thing. Remember, it's all for the greater good of your citizens, right?