E3 Impressions: SimCity

Nearby geographic cities interact in ways which include crime, tourism, pollution, health, and collaborative building projects. For instance, if you don’t invest in enough police stations, you’ll start seeing graffiti popping up on your buildings, and of course you’ll see more bank robberies and the like as well. But the effects don’t stop at your city; your friends can easily find themselves affected by these matters as well. This means that your city’s issues can easily spill over into their territory, producing a sort of make-believe political pressure that might force your hand.

Take a look at the detail.

Likewise, you can spark tourism by building a worthwhile city or making transportation in and out of the region simple. The latter can be accomplished by, for instance, constructing an international airport, which is something that was shown during the demo as an example. In this case, three cities had joined together to fund and help build the project, one of which was greatly in debt and in need of the increased traffic and tourism that such an addition was likely to create.

You can easily view the surrounding cities that your friends are commanding by summoning Region View, which is, well, a quick overview of the region. From here, you can zoom into your buddies’ cities and see what’s going on abroad. The interface is quick, smooth, and seemingly hassle-free.

Other really nice aspects of the interface worth mentioning include extremely useful and logical graphical indications of which areas of a city need what during construction efforts. For example, while building police stations, you can easily view which areas of the city are most affected by crime, and thus, which are most in need of a nearby police station. The same goes for other resources as well, such as power plants.

Your city's health affects the conditions of neighboring cities as well.
Your city’s health affects the conditions of neighboring cities as well.

Polish is already evident even in this unfinished state of development. Building power lines doesn’t just happen in a boring, instantaneous fashion—they actually ripple and sway as you drag the next tower to its final location, which is an incredibly neat touch. After zoning an area for residential building, workers literally drove up in their vehicles, got out, and visibly performed work constructing the frames of the structures. Residents of the cities apparently have jobs and distinct behaviors, traffic patterns are logical and intricate, and motorists can even pull U-turns and break the law. It’s a stunning level of detail which gives the city a more organic and authentic feel than ever before.

Cities have clear economic centers, often governed much by luck and fortune, as in reality. For instance, one of the cities shown in the demo was overtaken by smog, but was also rich, thriving, and relatively healthy. Well… sort of healthy. See, it happened to be resting on a huge cache of coal, and as such, its mayor had decided—likely wisely in this case—to exploit that fortune to the economic benefit of the society as a whole. However, as pointed out by the developer giving the demo, this was at the expense of the health of the citizens. Talk about attention to detail!

At nighttime, the buildings light up with activity and character.
At nighttime, the buildings light up with activity and character.

There’s surely plenty more I’m forgetting that we witnessed, but the bottom line is that this SimCity lives up to the name and truly looks to provide the most authentic, deep, and complex simulation of a society to date. The engine is remarkable, the visuals are pretty, and the gameplay looks fun—including the intriguing social aspect of the entire design. I’m looking forward to this one.