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GDC 2012: EA and Maxis Unveil A New Generation of SimCity

Posted on March 7, 2012 AT 12:35am

Throughout my life, I have primarily been a console gamer. As a child, every computer I owned was something that had been produced and released by Apple—meaning that every computer I owned was not exactly a bastion of computer-based gaming.

However, there was one PC game that I played and utterly loved: SimCity. In contrast to all of the games that centered around violence and competition, Maxis’ city-building simulator was all about building and creating. Especially, you know, when I put in the infinite funds code, so that I could focus all of my time and attention simply on building the most interesting and well-placed metropolis that I could.

At EA’s Game Changers event tonight, the company lifted the lid on a whole new version—and generation—of SimCity. Watching the quick presentation, I realized something: Just how much I’d missed the series, and how excited I was for this new chapter I still know little about.

Lucy Bradshaw, Senior VP of Maxis, took to the stage to give us a few details about the game. It’s been 10 years since the last Maxis-developed SimCity chapter, but a long list of series veterans are hard at work on this new project.

“We’ve set ourselves some pretty lofty goals with this version of SimCity. I mean, ten years is a long time, and we have so much to take advantage of in terms of how PCs have advanced,” Bradshaw noted. “This is like an entirely new playground to build our sandbox in—and we’re going to take advantage of that.”

So what’s the very first of these lofty goals that the team is working to accomplish? Curvy roads. Sure, that may sound like a silly statement at first—but for those who are longtime fans of the series, you’ll understand why that one little change will be such a big deal.

Of course, other elements to this new SimCity will be a little more exciting than just new ways to wind thoroughfares through buildings: The game will be the first SimCity that’s fully 3D rendered; building creation and placement will be much more tactile and physical; and the entire game will be build upon a new simulation engine that will suddenly offer up some interesting possibilities.

By far the most exciting potential mentioned by Bradshaw, however, is the social and environmental simulation components. For example, resources are finite—so what you use, how you use it, and how much of it you use will all be important factors. As well, your city will no longer exist in its own little isolated ecosphere. That city will now sit side-by-side with the cities of your friends, and how good—or bad—of a neighbor you are will directly affect their cities (and vise versa). Due to this inter-relationship between player cities, ideas like cause & effect, and repercussions of decisions and actions, will play a very important role in the game.

However, in all of the highly technical and deeply social/environmental factors this new iteration of SimCity will bring with it, Bradshaw wants us to have no questions about what the game’s ultimate goal is.

“And, by the way, it is a game,” Bradshaw said with a laugh. “It is a game first and foremost. Expect the unexpected from us. You really never know when a giant lizard might come around the corner and kick some buildings down—and with our new physics engine, I think we’re going to have that kind of blow your minds as well.”

SimCity will be coming to PC in 2013.

Eric L. Patterson, Executive Editor
Eric L. Patterson got started via self-publishing game-related fanzines in junior high, and now has one goal in life: making sure EGM has as much coverage of niche Japanese games as can realistically be crammed in. Eric’s also active in the gaming community on a personal level, being an outspoken voice on topics such as equality in gaming and consumer rights. Stalk Eric on Twitter: @Eric_EGM. Meet the rest of the crew.

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