When it comes to city-planning and city-building simulations on the PC, there is only one game that completely dominates the genre. Why shouldn’t it? SimCity has been around for 23 years, and it has completely innovated and put the genre on the map. It pioneered city-building games for over two decades that is why it is not surprising that SimCity 5 looks poised to blow a lot of people’s minds in terms of innovation, attention to detail and game play.
While city-building is an acquired taste for many people, SimCity 5 might make new converts. Simply put, city-building does not trigger the same impulses as other gaming genres like first-person shooters or role-playing games. Its pace is different. Its interactivity is different as well that’s why city-building games attract a distinct breed of gamers. You really cannot say that a SimCity is exactly the same as a typical player of a first-person shooter or an open world adventure game like Grand Theft Auto.
Given its specific pace, its different sets of priorities, city-building genre attracts people that are interested in details and high level of realistic system interaction. City-building is all about systems. The electrical grid of a city interacts with its water system. Its commercial base interacts with its industrial base. The transportation system is affected by its lighting system and the way its industries are laid out on the map. In other words, city-building forces the player to look at the world in terms of systems on a grand scale. Every piece of the puzzle must fit in nicely with other pieces of the puzzle. Gross inefficiencies would result in a lower standard of living for everyone involved.
This is the grand vision and grand strategy behind city-building that SimCity 5 looks like it has a clear view of. Just judging from the E3 showing of SimCity 5, it looks like its developer Maxis, is set to take the city-building genre to a whole new other level. And why shouldn’t it? It’s been nine years since SimCity 4 was released and city-builder fans the world over are looking forward to the next level of this genre’s evolution. At first glance, SimCity 5 offers better graphics. This is to be expected because there has been a lot of graphics innovation since 2003. The technology has changed and most importantly, users’ graphics expectations have changed. You don’t want to look like you’re behind the curve on something as basic as graphics. Indeed, a lot of the screenshots of SimCity 5 look like they are pictures of actual city scenes. The graphics is that good. The other key element of city-building that SimCity 5 builds on is system-interactivity. This has already been integrated in previous iterations of the SimCity franchise but Maxis steps it up a notch with SimCity 5. And, this is precisely what it should be doing because the core of city management and city-planning is how overlapping systems interact with each other and inefficiencies are eliminated.
The real innovation that SimCity 5 brings to the table is not so much on the micro level of system interaction. It has already done that in the past. A more granular approach really doesn’t bring as much excitement to the table. What really makes SimCity 5’s spin on system interaction is how this impacts multiplayer. Players can chip in to build an international airport. They can also participate in sending and contributing materials to build common structures. This is a very exciting territory because it takes SimCity 5 solidly into the multiplayer world and its innovations that were not as developed back in 2003. In total, SimCity 5 is shaping up to pack a lot of pleasant surprises for fans of city-building games the world over. We’ll definitely keep an eye out on this upcoming title.