SimCity E3 impressions
Tue, 19 Jun 2012 11:03a.m.
By Daniel Rutledge
Of all the surprises at this year’s E3, SimCity was the biggest for me.
This is a reboot that I was not very enthused about, even after the impressive trailer played at EA’s media briefing. But following the behind-closed-doors presentation I enjoyed at the E3 expo itself, I am most definitely a believer.
The level of detail in the new game is amazing, thanks I’m sure to its new GlassBox engine. SimCity general manager Bret Berry told me that both the graphics and gameplay weren’t finished, but that didn’t stop it from looking stunning with regards to both.
“We’ve developed SimCity to be a model-like, constructible world, with graphics inspired by tilt-shift photography,” Berry said at the E3 presentation.
As the gameplay presentation began, houses were built, moving vans drove up and people populated the new homes. They then leave them every day to go to work, although on some days they’ll go and chill out in a park instead. To get places they will drive in a car and negotiate traffic, which, depending on how well the player has managed their city, can take a very long time.
Weirdly, the ability to build curved roads is one of the most popular requests of SimCity developers. Obligingly they’ve included the ability for players to make their roads as curvy as they want in this new game. This also means players can create zones that are not in grids.
Early in the presentation, the player I was watching didn’t have enough electricity to supply his town as it expanded quickly. He had to look at power options to get the electricity back on – should he build a coal factory or some wind turbines, for example. A message popped up on-screen from one of the other players offering him cheap power, which led into the main focus of the presentation - how SimCity works as a multiplayer game.
Zooming out from the highly detailed city revealed a ‘region view’ with two other players' cities as well as the one I had just seen up close. The cities were connected by freeways and there was a large space for a 'Great Work' in middle, which in this game happened to be an international airport.
Each city in the game had a different focus. The first one I saw was residential, the one that offered it power was built near large coal reserves and industrial, while the third one focused on tourism. In return for building power lines to the residential city to give it electricity, an extra freeway was also built to allow an easy flow of residents to the industrial city to work in the factories.
All three cities needed the international airport they were all contributing to. The residential city needed it so that more people could move there, the industrial city needed it to be able to export raw materials more efficiently, and the tourism city needed it to allow more tourists into its economy.
Each city also had 'Own Goals' they were working towards individually in addition to the 'Great Work' they were working towards collectively, such as a sport stadium in the tourism city and an advanced coal factory in industrial city.
Pollution and crime can extend from one city to another, which brought about the highly entertaining end to the presentation. Graffiti in an area indicates it has a crime problem, something that can only be sorted out with additional police stations. The industrial city had let its crime get so bad that criminals were travelling by freeway into the residential city, so the player there went to stifle it by introducing more police.
I laughed as this resulted in a cute little animation of police actually chasing down some armed robbers and shooting them. This animation was shown with the camera zoomed in close enough to see it pretty clearly, hammering home how detailed the city is considering how far out you can zoom to the region view.
The new SimCity looks very special indeed. I have a lot of questions about how the game will play that I can’t wait to answer by getting my own hands on it, but I’m hopeful that it will be as incredible as it looked at E3.
SimCity is set for a February 2013 release exclusively on the PC.
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