SimCity Societies

Will Wright’s SimCity is one of the most lasting and memorable franchises in video game history. Up until now, the focus of these games has been upon civics, budgeting, and and lawmaking. Players built and upgraded roads and power plants, zoned buildings, and enacted statutes to help develop a functioning city. This game throws that all out.

It isn’t the first time SimCity has gone to the reigns of someone other than Will Wright and Maxis. With he and Maxis working on Spore, SimCity DS was passed on to EA Japan. Previously, Nintendo developed SimCity for the SNES. This is the first time, however, that the SimCity formula has been so radically altered.

The Evolution of RCI

In previous versions of the game, the player weighted the iconic “RCI” scale against itself. There had to be Residential zones for “Sims” to live in, Commercial zones for them to shop in, and Industrial zones for them to work in. This dynamic coupled with variables like crime, traffic, power, water, pollution, and density to create a complex system which determined how successful a city was and how “happy” the Sims residing there would be. In Societies, RCI is traded in for dwellings where Sims live, workplaces, and venues where Sims play, shop or relax. (Additionally there are also power plants and decorations, but these things existed in previous versions as well.) In this way, a police station is no longer a separate edifice. Instead, it is a workplace as well– as are schools and churches.

The dynamic further diverts from the original as crime and pollution dissolve into the same layer of the game as weather. What becomes more important variables are the societal motives behind the buildings. A building can either produce or consume any of these motives, which ultimately determine what kind of city it will be. They include prosperity, productivity, authority, spirituality, creativity, and knowledge. A university would inspire creativity and knowledge, while a bank would inspire prosperity and authority. Conversely, a bookstore would consume knowledge, in that knowledge is required for the edifice to function within a city.

The impact of these motives change the look and feel of a city. When a motive has reached a critical mass of a certain motive, it can alter the music, lighting, streets, and Sims seen within the game. These changes can take on an industrial feel with dark colors and big factories, or a light hearted feel with gold brick roads and gingerbread houses.

Every society has its own drawbacks. If you have a tight authoritarian city, you may have rabble-rousers leading riots against you. If there is too little authority, crime might spike and inhibit the productivity of the city. In this way, the game takes the classic systems dynamics approach of SimCity and turns it on its head by refocusing it on society and culture. This is a starkly different and imaginative way to create what is essentially the same game. Players have different things to worry about and matters of social responsibility and higher philosophy are no longer baggage on the budget window.

Reticulating Splines

Compared to other SimCity games, this one lacks the depth of civic complexity seen especially in SimCity 4. You have next to no control over the landmass. You can’t vary your buildings or roads as much as before, and a lot of the other municipal duties are completely lacking. This, however, is a list of accoutrements native to old school simulators focused on a specific dynamic. This game focuses on a different dynamic. in Societies, the motives make for stark contrast and can be easier to identify. This makes the game more accessible without necessarily making it a free for all, unless that’s what you choose. The game’s unlimited modes allow players to build without restriction– something which removes all challenge other than the aesthetic pleasure of crafting a beautiful city.

This is the first SimCity game in full 3d, and even though the graphics aren’t up to par with other modern games, they are more than adequate at telling a compelling story from the perspective of the armchair mayor. Players can choose the destiny of their cities and their Sims in ways they were not able to before either in SimCity or The Sims franchises.

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