A thoughtful and personal exploration of games

Simming a City


I’ve been playing EA’s latest iteration of SimCity for a couple of weeks now and I’ve really been enjoying it.

I’m a veteran of the SimCity franchise. I own an original box copy of the first SimCity (red copy protection sheet and all) and I’ve played SimCity 2000, SimCity 3000, SimCity 4, The Sims, The Sims 2, and SimCity Societies. Oh, and I’ve played The Sims Carnival: Snap City, SimAnt, SimTower, and probably a couple of others I’ve forgotten in the intervening years. I’ve got a little bit of experience with these kinds of games. That said, I am by no means an expert or the best at playing them.

When I first installed the 2013 installment into the franchise (at the behest of a friend), I was initially concerned. When I was at PAX East 2013, SimCity was the joke of the convention. A traditionally single player game made into a multiplayer only game? The city zones were only 4km square? Why do I always have to be online? Thankfully, the year I waited to get the game allowed for the developers to address the concerns of the community (which were quite loudly proclaimed at PAX East) and the game has matured since its controversial launch.

I started playing a few weeks after the launch of the single player component (I think it doesn’t require an online connection for that part). Yes, the city plots are small, HOWEVER, you are but one city in a region of cities and you can develop each one to address issues in the region. Technically, you could have a single city be entirely residential, another be entirely commercial, and another be entirely industrial. That’s because they’re all basically right next door to each other and if you’re capable of juggling three cities with independent budgets all at once, more power to you. It’s an idea that’s been bouncing around in my head, but I’m not particularly keen on bouncing between cities too much.

There are some significant improvements over the predecessors and I’d like to touch on them:

– No more laying down pipes and power lines: they all follow your roads. That said, you can’t zone or place any buildings without roads already placed. If you bulldoze a road, you remove the buildings and zoning reliant on that road for their connection.

– Zoning Residential/Commercial/Industrial no longer costs money.

– Bulldozing no longer costs money.

– Buildings can be improved with additions, if you have the room for them. I especially like this part.

– You can now specialize your cities to focus on a particular thing such as tourism, mining, or they could just be providing services.

– Speaking of providing services, you can farm out your power, water, sewage, garbage collection, police, fire, medical, etc. services to the other cities in your region. If you want, you could probably develop a huge amount of services and make that your source of revenue.

These days I’ve just been focused on figuring out how best to go about getting a city that won’t implode under massive amounts of red budget. It turns out, thus far, the key is to going slow and staying at low/medium density as long as possible. Further, don’t kick up your industry to high density unless you have a fire department with a hazmat truck (which requires research at a university in the region). Pay attention to not only the purchase price for what you’re doing, but the maintenance cost per game hour because you could be able to afford that new school or water pumping station, but the fees might sink you shortly thereafter.

I’m definitely enjoying the game though. This version of SimCity has a bright color pallet, simple to understand tools, and a versatile array of maps that allow for many questions to be answered about your city with a few clicks of the mouse.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I’d like to get back to my current city. It’s running on tourism, kind of.

Until next time!

– Thomas

P.S. Check out my original SimCity street cred.

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