My Big Fat (SimCity) Review by Serentropic

Generating Wind Power in SimCityMaxis did a live broadcast and I’m going to talk about it. You might say “There are topics for this feedback”, but I belong to the privileged class of self delusional individuals who think their opinion is so important that it deserves its own topic. (Really, I just wanted a place I could organize my scattered commentary into a long winded speech format.) Consequently I’ll flood you with regurgitated community feedback about the latest SimCity Broadcast.

Nerd. Rage. If you don’t care for the details, that overused phrase just about summarizes the immediate reaction to the Maxis broadcast. Legitimately so. Because whatever you think about the content of the game itself, this PR stunt was objectively insulting. I’d optimistically hoped to plop into my computer chair Tuesday morning and ogle furiously to two hours of SimCity.

Instead, Maxis proceeded with a rather transparent marketing attempt to overlap its markets by giving us well over an hour of The Sims. I don’t have anything against The Sims, but I have to question whoever thought that watching kids stuff their faces in pie plates would appeal to the type of player prone to hiking local tax rates on poor citizens to impose the virtual equivalent of gentrification. Followed by a video we’ve already seen and a Q&A session we’ve already heard, we were treated with a few minutes of grainy footage and then RETURNED TO THE SIMS.

Guillaume PierreMaxis was on track to leave me in a ripe foul mood for the day, but an amazing fellow named Guillaume Pierre saved their souls by doing in the forums what the broadcast so pointedly dodged. Pierre gave us details. Small details, sure, but the sheer number of my questions he answered would lead most reasonable people to believe I’d taken to stalking him.

I won’t bog you down with every revelation, but you can see my list of facts here. Suffice to say this gentlemen clearly cares about the quality of the game. And no, you won’t have to worry about 90 degree rail turns.

I wish I could say that fixing rail junctions alleviated all of my concerns, but between the broadcast and subsequent forum interview fans are left with a veritable shopping list of features not included. You might not care about farms, or subways, or directly controlling your city’s density, but odds are that list will include SOMETHING you DO care about. Fortunately, content can still easily be added in the remaining months before release, so there’s no need to freak out about the details.

Save your freaking out for the big stuff.

Since announcement, the happy SimCity world has been plagued by two big critiques: online restrictions and map restrictions.

The internet requirement prevents people on the road from playing, casts doubt on the longevity of the game as EA will inevitably takes down the servers, and prevents me from playing SimCity from the comfort of my own bunker after the zombie apocalypse. If you think there’s more important things to do during a zombie apocalypse than play SimCity, YOU ARE OBJECTIVELY WRONG.

SimCity (2013) RegionObjectivity is harder to come by talking about SimCity’s maps. These maps are small. 2 kilometers on a side, exasperated by the fact that building lots are bigger this time. Maxis has stated that the smaller size results from the power of the simulation. Debates about system requirements aside, this mostly comes to micro versus macro management. And unlike the online requirement where the community has universally taken up arms, fans here are legitimately divided. My friends and I tend to favor simulation integrity over sheer scale, but there’s no reason one side is right or wrong. So why can’t we play nice with each other?

Because we lack market options. Unlike those lucky FPS gamers who can make their choices based on how high you want to jump or how accurate crosshairs should be, the city genre market is extremely small. The last simcity game flopped like a grounded fish and the only real competitor to enter the market was abruptly BANKRUPTED BY DOING SO. The developers are left making one game that has to appeal to everyone. Tough? Yes. Impossible? Not quite.

While the game definitely appeals more to the micromanagement camp, most of the metropolis junkies I’ve heard from would be content with the city size if one could easily mesh cities together. Right now the game expects players to give birth to babies city linked by a proverbial umbilical cord and it looks _ like _ crap. I’ll be the first to admit that Sim City 4’s regional model led to some very awkward borders, and multiplayer could … exaggerate this.

Faced with the choice of whether to border my quiet suburb with abrupt grass voids or Ted’s Terrible Tower Town, I’d usually pick the former. Except, right now, I’m ALWAYS going to be fighting the grass void. An adjacent-city regional model would at least give power to the players. And if in doubt, compromise and do both! Put space between some cities and not others.

That imperative is a direct appeal to Maxis. Please, maxis, do this. You’ll win over so many fans. You can even keep the pre-placed regional transit. I kind of like that. Just let us build over and around the highways won’t even ask for terraforming. That way you don’t have to deal with the PR of Fred and his Phallic Mountain Map screenshots.

I won’t ask for offline mode either, just because I’m a cynical loser and I’m pretty convinced we’re stuck with the online thing.

Some of you will, though, and that’s all good. Ask. Request. Demand, as necessary. But I implore anyone and everyone reading: do so constructively. I’ve seen a painful number of comments encouraging this game to fail, as if it’ll teach the big bad EA some sort of lesson. It will, just the wrong one. It will teach them that City Builders don’t work, and we’ll never see one again. Instead, I encourage the FPS model. Just show so much interest in the genre that publishers can’t help but release dozens of different titles to appease each and every niche preference.

I know people are frustrated. I just about kicked my bedroom door through whilst sitting through the stream of self aggrandizing comments that Maxis filtered through during their broadcast. But the people who actually get their hands dirty with the code didn’t study programming so they could be soulless PR directors; they want to make good games. Let’s make a good game, folks.

I’m more optimistic this time than during my last video, in large part because that Pierre fellow I keep mentioning has been oddly receptive to my constant pestering. The officials from Simtropolis were impressed too, and we should be getting their report soon. But Maxis doesn’t appear to be budging on the Big 2 Sauron & Solomon World-ending-doom-problems yet, so I still feel the need to make an appeal for change before I commit my heart and soul to this game. Allow me to summarize.

For Maxis: 2 by 2 city tiles are fine, but give us some adjacent city tiles so we can simulate sprawl. Keep regional transit, but run the highways through the cities and let us build overpasses instead of using the umbilical cord model. Put space between some of the cities, but only where it makes sense – where there are rivers, mountains, or other obstacles that naturally impede construction.

For The Community: We need to appeal to Maxis, not storm EA. Everything I’ve experienced talking to the developers so far is that we’ll get furthest if we’re firm but fair and polite. Do some research before making critiques and don’t just rattle off “Why no X? I hate you EA!”

Instead, make the CASE for X.

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