Posts Tagged ‘ea’

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The Sunny Side of SimCity

March 9, 2013

Everybody's Happy!I feel terrible.

No, not for something I did, at least not directly. I feel terrible for the people who created SimCity, the people who brought it to life, the people who tested it and programmed it and decided what colors it should have and what Simlish sounds like. I feel terrible for the programmers who came up with a way for thousands of little Sims to influence the direction of a city, to appear to each think for themselves and live unique little lives as we create the infrastructure of their city — and in some ways, their world — around them.

So much of this game is a feat of design and programming. It is so sad to see it reduced to a server complaint and a one-star Amazon review.

Here is what I want to say to the rest of them, to the devs who had nothing to do with the debacle that is now transpiring:

This game, this toy, this thing you have created, it is brilliant.

SimCity is a beautiful game, with a color scheme that’s like every color in nature except brighter. These are the colors we wish we saw in a growing suburb or a bustling metropolis, colors not yet obscured by the browns and grays that come with disrepair, with salted highways, with the pollution that hangs in the air of the modern city. Hell, even the pollution of SimCity is something to behold, a gently wafting cirrus cloud of smog that hangs in the air just long enough to tell you that you have a problem.

This is a game that actually makes the player believe that every action has an effect on each of the individual Sims walking or driving or lounging around the city. You don’t just see stats like crimes and fires, you are actually alerted to individual ones. You watch your police car patrol chase criminals around the city. You see flatbeds with construction materials moving their way to build sites. You watch ambulances transport the sick to the hospital, and you watch the sick try to lurch their own way to the hospital under a constantly, pitifully endless fountain of what I presume to be vomit. The new SimCity makes you care for your city’s citizens in a way that no previous SimCity has.

This is a game that promotes collaboration, even if that collaboration is between you and yourself. Your city is not an entity unto itself. In order to truly succeed, it must ship materials to, or borrow emergency vehicles from, or encourage tourism among other cities in a predetermined “region”. You can create cities whose sole purpose is to exist as a supply house for a city you’d really like to see succeed, or you can create cities in direct opposition to each other — say, a green self-sustaining environmentalist nirvana next to a high-tech smog-covered industrial manufacturing center — just to see what happens, to see if they can coexist.

There are so many little touches that make this game such a charming experience, things that people just won’t see because they’re so angry right now. Someday, when the servers return, when cheetah speed is again attainable, when there’s less vitriol clogging the promotional space, people will return. They’ll see what you’ve done here. And one by one, they’ll applaud your efforts.

Thank you for sharing your vision with us. I hope it’s not too long before you get to share that vision with everyone who wants to experience it.

* * *

The picture I’ve painted here is a rosy one. SimCity is not a perfect game, and I’ll be going through my issues with the gameplay side of it and, to the extent that I can, the server side of it in my review. Still, my personal experience with the servers has been mostly positive, and I want to give credit where it’s due, from someone who has only played it in the time when it’s been open to the general public.

SimCity is a fun, absorbing experience. It’s too bad so much positive has to be outweighed by such an invasive, inexcusable, but still singular negative.