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It's a shame SimCity is stuck in the 1950s

Tiktaalik

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Aug 6, 2004
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There's been so much discussion about the poor online uptime of SimCity that one major topic of discussion that's been overlooked is how good of a city simulator it actually is. Unfortunately in many ways it's a pretty lousy one.

You simply can't build a modern city in SimCity.

While many cities around the world are focused on building walkable, sustainable, transit oriented neighbourhoods that feature a range of housing and job types, SimCity has stuck with 1950s era, car oriented planning ideas that were even out of date when the original game launched in 1989. An updated game could be a valuable learning tool, and that's why it's such a shame that the developers haven't updated the game design to reflect modern city planning approaches.

For example, as it stands it's impossible for SimCity to emulate many neighbourhoods of my hometown of Vancouver. Let's find out why:

SimCity lacks multi-use zoning, and so we can't have the simple and common building type of having commercial on the ground floor and residential on the top. The "Cambie Crossroads" area with mixed big box stores and rental apartments is not possible in SimCity.



There is a direct connection between road capacity and zoning density in SimCity, and so the only way to build high density buildings is to have high capacity roads. The problem is that this connection doesn't exist in real life. Vancouver has been steadily reducing the demand for cars and car parking by refusing to increase road capacity. Having high density buildings with limited street surface works just fine. In SimCity you wouldn't be able to build a neighbourhood like the Olympic Village, where you have high density mid rise residential buildings surrounded by one lane roads.



Separated bike lanes and bike sharing systems are present in Vancouver, along with major cities around the world such as London, New York and Montreal and they're growing in popularity, and yet it's not an option at all in SimCity.



Another feature that goes against what is common in many cities is that in SimCity the only way to get street cars is to build a massive six lane road. Why? In Prague they even have roads that are for street cars only.



Curved streets is a nice new feature, but one that has been implemented in a very limiting way. Due to the bizarre connection between high density zoning and high capacity streets, and the lack of landform modification, recreating the curving inner canals and streets of densely packed Amsterdam is impossible. In SimCity curved roads are only really useful for building a nightmarish, low density, suburban hellscape.




Some missing features may arrive in upcoming DLC, such as subways and other forms of mass transit, but there are lots of fundamentally wrong approaches that I don't expect to ever be fixed. It's a huge missed opportunity here that the designers didn't look around them to how cities are actually constructed in the real world.
 

Sulla1980

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Jan 18, 2009
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You just gave me nostalgia for living in Van City. Loved that Canadian Tire.

But on topic, you are spot on.
 

aurahack

Neo Member
Mar 19, 2008
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Funny. I feel like including all those features and social changes would increase the complexity of that game exponentially, yet you could probably argue that the game right now is kind of dying for a little complexity in it. :|
 

Striek

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Jan 24, 2005
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I assume it would be too complicated for most players, too niche a request, and too expensive an undertaking.

Pretty much anything can and does happen in real life city planning, but I'm not sure the game suffers for lack of these options.
 

Guevara

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Jul 27, 2009
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This is a really interesting point actually. Cities of the future have gone away from the one resident/one car model and that's a great thing. It would be fun to play a simulator that actually allowed for what you put in your post. As it stands now, SimCity is more of a resource planning game with rigid rules.
 

Grief.exe

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Some missing features may arrive in upcoming DLC, such as subways and other forms of mass transit, but there are lots of fundamentally wrong approaches that I don't expect to ever be fixed. It's a huge missed opportunity here that the designers didn't look around them to how cities are actually constructed in the real world.

You've stumbled upon EA's master plan.

Want larger cities? $4.99
Underground subway? $2.50
Play offline? $99.99
 

timetokill

Banned
Oct 19, 2004
32,837
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I guarantee you they are working on "non-driving" roads that act like normal roads but for pedestrians/bikes only, etc.

The tech itself will work just fine for the kind of system you're asking for. I'd love to build a city like that too. I think it's like they said: this is the first version in the "new" SimCity line. I expect these will be new features either in DLC or the sequel, 2Sim2City.

Sucks, but I think that besides the atrocity that is their server setup, the actual game is pretty fun and a good elegant simplification of city building.
 
Feb 27, 2008
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I was curious about that "road size = zone density" relationship when I first heard about it. Who lives off of a six-lane freeway at all, much less a *concentration* of residential buildings?
 

LumpOfCole

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Apr 11, 2009
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Bike paths and the modernization you're talking about sound like prime ideas for expansions that EA can come up with.

Personally, I'm hoping that EA comes out with a 'Wild West' Simcity expansion so I can create 1800s Wild West towns. The limited city size would probably work well for it.
 

Archer

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Jun 27, 2006
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eh. fuck mayor gregor for putting in bike lanes downtown. there's so much money in this town, ppl don't want to ride bikes like the students and plebeians. while going green is great, the work he did to narrow hornby and dunsmuir really set downtown back. the mayor is scum.
 

EmCeeGramr

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Jun 25, 2005
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This has always been a restriction of SimCity that has become enthroned by tradition. The only city you can build is a 1950s California city.
 

KtSlime

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Feb 28, 2009
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Bike paths and the modernization you're talking about sound like prime ideas for expansions that EA can come up with.

Personally, I'm hoping that EA comes out with a 'Wild West' Simcity expansion so I can create 1800s Wild West towns. The limited city size would probably work well for it.

The game isn't out on Mac yet so I haven't gotten to play it, but people keep saying that the city size is small. How small are we talking, Sacramento? Or even smaller?
 

sant

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Jul 18, 2012
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The anti car policy for downtown is idiotic. It's difficult for people from the suburbs to get out there.
 

spandexmonkey

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Dec 17, 2009
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I dunno, most US cities are stuck in the 50s, so at least here it seems accurate. Anytime I see a movie in a foreign city now I realize just how old most our infrastructure is.
 

Pociask

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Nov 30, 2009
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You're just bragging about living in Vancouver.

and I'm jealous

Sounds like Vancouver's got a lot going on. I'd argue that Sim City does a pretty poor job of simulating any city, from any era. The idea that you can go into a wilderness and just grow a megalopolis anywhere in the space of a few decades has no connection to how cities develop, and in fact runs contrary to the huge diversity of urban/suburban/rural history.

In the end, SimCity is a game, and so it has to be fun. Somewhere along the line, they decided that a real sim (like you see with train or plane games) are not actually fun. Instead, fun is growing from small to big - watching your numbers, go up - more of an rpg, really. And having disasters.
 

Arksy

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Aug 5, 2011
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Sounds like Vancouver's got a lot going on. I'd argue that Sim City does a pretty poor job of simulating any city, from any era. The idea that you can go into a wilderness and just grow a megalopolis anywhere in the space of a few decades has no connection to how cities develop, and in fact runs contrary to the huge diversity of urban/suburban/rural history.

In the end, SimCity is a game, and so it has to be fun. Somewhere along the line, they decided that a real sim (like you see with train or plane games) are not actually fun. Instead, fun is growing from small to big - watching your numbers, go up - more of an rpg, really. And having disasters.

Except that Flight Simulator and Trainz and their elk are actually successful games.
 

lefantome

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Mar 8, 2007
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Great thread!

You are right, i noticed another interesting thing: in the new sim city we are creating small cities but you can't really manage neighrhood on a lower level, the traffic management should be importand but it's semplified, we can't do nothing about density and planning and placing specific buildings have effects too generic.

The results it's a crappy 50s north american city or hong kong. The same happened with sim city 4 but now that they re engineered the simulation it's really disappointing.

Montecristo, take not.
 

NZNova

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Feb 23, 2007
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The game isn't out on Mac yet so I haven't gotten to play it, but people keep saying that the city size is small. How small are we talking, Sacramento? Or even smaller?

I have no idea how big Sacramento is, but: smaller than that.
 

Rodney McKay

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Jun 13, 2009
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That's kinda funny, but I was actually thinking the same thing about watching videos about the new SimCity.

I really wanted to make a tight, natural looking city less focused on vehicles, but you're forced to stick to these little square grids that seems to punish the production of your city if you don't build a perfect grid city. :\
 

Tiktaalik

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Aug 6, 2004
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But ... I don't want Canada in my game :(

I dunno, most US cities are stuck in the 50s, so at least here it seems accurate. Anytime I see a movie in a foreign city now I realize just how old most our infrastructure is.

I just picked Vancouver because (since I live there) I know the city well. Plenty of American cities are implementing the city planning ideas I mentioned already or are at least moving in this direction. Portland and New York for example are two of the most bike friendly cities in NA at the moment and they both also are very good at creating high density walkable neighbourhoods. Mixed use zoning is certainly very common everywhere.
 

AstroLad

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Jul 23, 2004
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Haha, I was actually thinking about this yesterday. The planning ideas pushed by the series are quite gross, though they would certainly win you some awards in Florida urban-planning publications circa 1985.
 

Wormdundee

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Apr 10, 2009
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eh. fuck mayor gregor for putting in bike lanes downtown. there's so much money in this town, ppl don't want to ride bikes like the students and plebeians. while going green is great, the work he did to narrow hornby and dunsmuir really set downtown back. the mayor is scum.

I'm not actually sure if you're joking or not. The bike lanes are great. I dream of a day when cars aren't allowed in the majority of downtown. Before you jump to conclusions I don't bike and I do own a car.
 
Aug 11, 2010
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But here you can build a great recreation of everyone's favorite city: Atlanta. Skyscrapers next to subdivisions next to... ...nothing- your little piece of Atlanta could have it all!
 

Dominic_Shade

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Jul 31, 2012
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Yeesh, I was just at that Canadian Tire on Tuesday. Gave me a real shock just now, haha. "Hmm, a SimCity thread...whoa, I know that place!" ^5, fellow Vancouverite.

Cool post, though. I haven't really kept up with the SimCity series since SimTown way way back before 2000, but I do agree that it's a shame the developers haven't taken the time to look at city development in this day and age.