Ruining A Beautiful and Complicated World: Simcity Societies and How It Will Take a Dump on a Perfectly Good Franchise

When I was twelve, my life changed. I was a chubby little kid who was obsessed with the Super Nintendo and for my birthday party my parents let me rent a few games to keep all of my little friends occupied and from ruining their house. One of the games I picked that day was something of a strange choice. Instead of running around killing things, you built a city and watched it grow. That’s it.

No mass multiplying mushrooms to eat, no princess to save, no Triforce to assemble. You simply sat down, plopped some buildings in, some roads to connect them, and then watched the whole thing grow. The game never really ended and you could devote hours to one city. When you got sick of the city, you brought down the wrath of God on it and many Sims died in a fiery…or watery death. Life was very, very good.

Over the years, the fine worker bees at Maxis churned out several revisions of the game that improved on the graphics and mechanics of game play. I bought them all. To this day I own and wear a Simcity 3000 shirt that I received as a pre-sale present; I just don’t wear it in public. Simcity 4 was to be the pinnacle of the city simulation world. Albeit, that was a pretty small world seeing that only Maxis was making that genre of games at this point.

It’s impossible to destroy a city with molten lava and not smile.

When Simcity 4 was released, it allowed for user created content and whole regions of cities to be made. It had many more variables to think about when designing your luscious burg and quite a few new challenges that the previous versions of the game had not offered. Basically, it was a hard fucking game. The learning curve for newbies has been likened to climbing a wall of the Grand Canyon. Even some veteran players said that the game was a tad too difficult.

I say all of those people are pussies. I love Simcity 4, though when it was originally released it was buggy. Much to my chagrin, Maxis did very little to improve some of the math that was supposed to make the game run smoothly and it was not until several player created patches that the game was even playable at the higher levels of city building. Aside from some other minor gripes, SC4 made me happy and I still play it to this day.

After a while and one expansion pack, it was to be expected that a new Simcity would be released at some point. Maxis waffled on this quite a bit. First, they said that Simcity 4 would most likely be the final installment in the series. Even the God-man, Will Wright had mentioned that they had made the game too difficult and that it was alienating newer players who were not accustomed to being the mayor of their own little world. He went on to say that if a new Simcity were to be made, it would most likely be dumbed down for today’s younger and semi-retarded, ADHD gaming audience. Okay, Will Wright didn’t mention the younger and learning impaired part but I know he was thinking it on the inside.

And then it happened. In the early part of June, a new Simcity was announced. In the sentence immediately following that announcement, the powers that be then took a whiz in my Cherrios. This new Simcity would be nothing like previous games and city building would not even be the primary goal of the game. WTF!? I went from happy to wanting to punch babies in record time.

I hope that church enriches my peoples’ spiritual lives.

In this new spin on Simcity you still take the helm of a growing metropolis but instead of worrying too much about traffic and urban sprawl, you take on other issues such as the form of government and the lifestyles of the Sims that inhabit your city. The game has been turned into the tree-hugging, dirt worshipping, hippy cousin to this once proud family of software titles.

I suspect that Maxis understood what it would mean to disenfranchise their base of fanatical mayoral wannabes and that is part of the reason that they handed the reigns over to a new developer, Tilted Mill Entertainment. There is also the fact that Maxis is busy cranking the money machine that is The Sims 2 and they are now working on The Sims 3 because the company needs another core game to add expansion packs to. Will Wright is also preoccupied these days working on Spore or at least figuring out reasons to delay it.

In Maxis’ defense, there was not a lot else that could have been done with Simcity 4. Standing water like lakes and waterfalls would have been a pleasant edition without a lot of user created patches, as would have varying weather conditions. Overall, the Simcity community has created astounding add-ons for the game; I just wish it didn’t feel like Maxis was leaving it for dead.

I would not be upset with Simcity Societies if all of the detail and micromanaging of Simcity 4 had been left intact and then they built in the societal functions on top. I just don’t agree with the game being made easier and more watered down. I don’t need to worry about whether my Sims are creative or spiritual or that they live in an artistic city or a police state…though mine would live in a police state in constant fear of my wrath and secret torture centers.

First person view: Failing to meet an inhabitant’s emotion needs leads them to commit suicide by diving off a tall building.

The sheer fact that the Sims can now live in gingerbread houses makes me want to head-butt your grandmother in the teeth. I don’t want a Simcity that appeals to ten year olds, I want a Simcity that makes me want to throw things in frustration when the water pipes won’t lay down the way I want them to. I want a Simcity where I am constantly getting complaints about my nuclear power plants and the brownouts that affect the town. I love dealing with power outages but I do not need to be bothered by “societal energies”.

If you want to deal with society’s problems, go give a couple bucks to a homeless guy and plant a tree but keep away from my Simcity games.

5 thoughts on “Ruining A Beautiful and Complicated World: Simcity Societies and How It Will Take a Dump on a Perfectly Good Franchise”

  1. Nice article. I liked certain aspects of Sim City 4, but the minigames of driving around pissed me off. Also, once your region was up and running, the game was fun, but constantly swapping between them during the setup phase was frustrating (at least for me).

  2. I agree with you 100% on the driving games, I found them to almost be a cheat as far as offering you money to do very simple missions. The only thing about the regions that irked me was the inability to sometimes sync up where a freeway might stop and start in conjunction with a neighboring city. I had to redo many a freeway to get the borders of the regions to line up correctly.

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