Monday, November 19, 2007

SimCity Societies

Well, there's good news and there's bad news.

The bad news is that the game really sucks. It's basically Magic: the Gathering, but without an enemy. Some structures give you "mana" of a given kind - creativity, industry, research - and some structures require mana of a given kind.

Unfortunately, there's no game behind it. There's not even any implicit goals worth mentioning. While you can simply build and build and build, I don't find the algorithm to be very interesting. Basically, making "the perfect city" is too easy. There are NO tradeoffs.

In order to make an interesting city, you have to cripple yourself on purpose.

The easy example is power plants. While you can get cheap power plants that shoot smog into the air, it's only a little more expensive to get cleaner plants, to the point where there's almost no reason to ever get the nasty ones.

There's no sense of location in the city. Plunking down something that gives off creativity allows you to plunk down something that absorbs creativity anywhere else on the map. Once you start putting down subway stops (or bus stops, although they're a dominated strategy), your sims don't really care how far away anything is.

Also, as I mentioned, no trade offs. I can have a city that's got tons of all six elements. While there's not necessarily anything inherently exclusive about any of them, allowing me to have all six without struggle is just poor game design.

Look, I can understand a creative, religious, industrious community. I can understand a religious, industrious, controlled community. I can understand an industrious, controlled, scientific community. But a religious, industrious, creative, controlled, scientific community? Makes no sense.

Also, they don't let you drag a road to the edge of the map and connect to other cities. Which would have been way cooler in this game than in any of the games they actually let you.

That's the bad news.

The good news is that the game is heavily modable.

The bad news is that I don't think it's modable enough. I want to change the underlying game rules, but the modable files just control content. Some of the content can be modded to affect the way the game plays out - for example, I could make subways vastly less efficient to give a sense of place. But I want to make a system for conflicting mana types. Perhaps after the first three mana types, the last three cause unhappiness...

Looking at all this modability, it just breaks my heart that the core game mechanic is so uninspiring...


Patrick said...

I guess its good I didn't end up going to work for Tilted Mill.

This was only announced like six months ago, thats a pretty fast cycle for whats basically a "AAA" game. Maybe its not to late for them to add some kind of interesting underlying balance.

You would think creativity and control would be opposed, and so too science and religion. Industriousness could be opposed to "Greeness" or something like that, then you'd have a really interesting game.

Craig Perko said...

I don't really like having specific oppositions. There are religions which spurred scientific inquiry. Just... not recently. Similarly, government control is very strong in Seattle, but it's a center of creativity.

I like the idea of having it either develop a culture on the fly, or let you choose a specific culture.

zan said...

I was pretty sad about it, too, CP. The only redeeming quality was the self-challenge of using the stock stuff and iterating a (successful) "themed" city. Still; mostly non-plussed about it.