E3 2012: SimCity
If there’s a word to describe SimCity, it’s ‘charming’. In the last demo of E3, the developers eschewed their straight up commentary and went for a comedic, theatrical presentation which perfectly reflected the game’s own style.
As we were shown the first city, we were introduced to GlassBox, SimCity‘s new game engine. Previously, activity such as traffic was shown at a high level by animations based on underlying data, but individual cars never drove from one specific location to another; you’d never see someone leave their house and drive to work. GlassBox changes this, simulating the city through individual people and vehicles that go about their everyday business.
The result is a living, breathing city where you can see individual lives, but also spot higher level patterns. Managing your metropolis is also assisted by the new visualisation layer, which turns your city into an infographic, allowing you to spot power shortages, travel distances and other deficiencies to address.
The most intriguing element of the demo was online multiplayer, a feature which hasn’t been in a SimCity game since SimCity 2000 Network Edition. Three players were shown occupying a region, each with their own city. One was a middle-class tourist town, another a dirty industrial centre.
The genius of the multiplayer comes from the way these cities can work together and affect one another. During the demo, a car from the industrial city where crime was high drove to the tourist town, then proceeded to rob a bank. In another example, power from one city was used to satisfy demand in another.
In the centre of the region, the three cities were combining their efforts to build an international airport, a mutually beneficial development. Alloys came from one town to help the construction, while workers from another were supplied.
These region effects were the highlight of a demo that was the most entertaining of any at this year’s E3. It’s been a while since I played a SimCity game, but the presentation at EA’s booth reminded me of what I’ve been missing and showed off what was yet to come.