SimCity First Hands-On
SimCity First Hands-On
Just as I always played the Sims to trap people in windowless, doorless, toilet-less rooms of death, I always played SimCity to build up a city of hopeful little people solely so I could destroy them in a blaze of giant, lizardy glory.
Call me crazy but back in my teenaged (and younger) years the idea of city management crumbled before the appeal of destroying a whole city. And who cares if I have to sit there creating the city first - it's the video game equivalent of kicking over your sandcastle. It was less about running a city and more about ruining one.
These days though, I sit at traffic lights thinking "Far out, a small child could design a better traffic system than this." Public transport systems don't anger me - their logical inconsistencies simply confuse me. And Sydney's weird water makes the Queenslander in me drink only filtered stuff. I genuinely believe I could do better.
Don't get me wrong - in SimCity a player can still watch their city burn, and I'm sure I'll indulge myself with a little mayhem from time to time. But the next iteration will be about rewarding the player for making their population happy, not dead.
When I first get hands-on with the game, it kicks off immediately into a tutorial of sorts. The first thing we need to do is build a road to the highway - the road connecting us to the other cities in our region. This is necessary to allow people to commute to work (either in our city or elsewhere) - and of course so that people can move into my new city without having to go off-roading.
As soon as I make the connection and create some residential zones, the world kicks into action. Main street is a flurry of activity as construction begins on houses, removalists move families in and my new citizens go off to work.
All these new homes require too much power though - so across I jump to the power station the previous mayor had turned off (apparently losing the election to a games journalist did bad things to his sanity). A quick click of a button and it starts pumping that juice to my people.
I can see how much power each part of my city is getting, and it seems like - in terms of sheer output - my coal run power station is more than up for the job. Underneath all my roads runs a line to demonstrate effective power output - red means failing, yellow means ok and green means powered.
At the GDC reveal of SimCity in March, I definitely got the idea that the game was going to push an eco-friendly agenda - it was a vibe I got from the many celebrities they had involved with the game. To test this theory - and because it doesn't cost anything (in this build everything was free, though I'm certain when the game comes out this won't be the case) - I ditch the coal power for a solar power station.
Solar power takes up about four times as much room and appears to generate about a tenth of the power output. Wind power, which I try in an attempt to boost the power in my town, robs me of even more room - and without allocating many square kilometers more to windmills I appear to end up generating about "**** all (SI)" power. My 'green' solution is to install a 'clean' coal tower, which costs a bit more for up-keep and is still a bit 'pollutey' (it's a word now), but at least keeps the air-conditioning on.
Suddenly I'm alerted to a problem - my predecessor had some sort of issue with sewerage systems and so never installed one. It goes without saying then that my city is full of **** - and it's up to me to do something about it.
I quickly build a sewer pipe station - just a pump, a building to house said pump and a pipe out the back spraying **** everywhere - and I hope that it's enough. I marvel as the sewer system - represented on my screen in a similar way to power, but with little brown poops instead of a red/yellow/green system - begins shifting the crap towards the station. Then a pop-up jumps up and warns me that I haven't enough poop pumping power and I'm forced to build a second.
The pipe system, which just dumps sewerage wherever it ends, causes pollution. This means that if I place it near my water basin I risk poisoning my city's water (apparently the concept of Circle of Life doesn't apply to drinking water contaminated with the collected **** of you and all your neighbours). Pollution to your water supply can also occur from Industrial zones, garbage dumps and through other methods I'm not familiar with yet.
This doesn't compare to regular pollution though - a by-product of your Industrial Zones and represented by a thick brown haze over the relevant parts of your city. One of the things I learned while placing the ineffectual Wind Farms was that the wind in my area blows quite quickly - and this can mean that with the right conditions that brown haze can be pushed over the rest of my city.
While I'm dealing with my poop problem a crime takes place. The former mayor zoned quite a few residential, commercial and industrial areas but never gave us the basic emergency services. Probably because he was an idiot. Unfortunately my police station won't be available in time to actually catch the crooks - instead I just follow their little car back to their home and I place a cop shop next door. A nearby citizen immediately comments "There go all the doughnuts!"
Once again though, it's simple to see the area of effect for my Police, Fire and Ambulance services - the information is always laid over my road network. If I took anything from my time with SimCity it's surprise at how well the game displays information.
You can quickly access any number of statistics on how your city is going - or how your mayorship has gone through the life of your time in the game - and any immediate information you might need is displayed via the road overlay. To see how any system is going - power, garbage, water, whatever - you click on the appropriate section and it appears instantly, along with any relevant warnings.
My city continues to grow as time ticks over - we add new parks, a new stadium and a whole load of commercial zones - but it all proves to be for nought when a meteor shower unloads on us. I'm actually a little bit sad to see the buildings crumble and fires spring up - but a grin also spread across my face as it happened.
I'm not excited to play SimCity to destroy worlds any more - I'm excited to rebuild them.
The full game drops in February 2013 - but you can sign-up for the closed beta if you want to play it earlier!
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