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April 7, 2013 7:40 PM   Subscribe

Megabumtopia (explanatory Reddit thread) is a virtual libertarian paradise which houses over a million happy Sims without worrying about things like 'power' or 'sewage treatment' or 'drinkable water'. SimCity's recent launch problems have been discussed previously on Metafilter.
posted by codacorolla (145 comments total) 17 users marked this as a favorite

 
Just don't raise those taxes to one percent or there will be chaos.
posted by Drinky Die at 7:45 PM on April 7, 2013 [6 favorites]


Quidnunc Kid will be all over this.
posted by arcticseal at 7:53 PM on April 7, 2013 [1 favorite]


Looks like Brooklyn.
posted by gjc at 7:54 PM on April 7, 2013 [1 favorite]


I stupidly bought this game, having been a huge fan of SC up until now.

The big problem with the game is that there's no depth or complexity to it at all. As I've said elsewhere, it's the anti-minecraft.

I just wish we could get Notch to start thinking about a city sim.
posted by unSane at 7:54 PM on April 7, 2013 [4 favorites]


Simulated society in game has no relation to reality but instead a Utopia for Assholes? EA really DOES know how to appeal to the average gamer.
posted by oneswellfoop at 7:58 PM on April 7, 2013 [8 favorites]


Not only is the game broken in the way the linked images show Megabumtopia is clearly broken (no utilities, 100% residential, 0% taxes), but it's broken in countless other ways. The launch was terrible and so they've had to launch more servers and are slowly turning back on various features (such as Cheetah Speed). But I'm still getting cities being rolled back and they become unable to play again. This is over a month after launch.

It's sad, really. Glad someone's been able to have fun with the bugs, but I still haven't as of yet. All the bugs I'm encountering involve my cities becoming unplayable.
posted by juliebug at 8:06 PM on April 7, 2013 [1 favorite]


Looks like Shibam.
posted by Pruitt-Igoe at 8:07 PM on April 7, 2013 [9 favorites]


So this is what happens when you let Randian objectivists design games...

It saddens me to see such a great franchise ruined like this. I'd like to say that I'll be encouraged to boycott EA altogether, but I will probably slip up in that at some point.
posted by LeRoienJaune at 8:10 PM on April 7, 2013


Astonishing but not surprising that a month after launch and various patches, this can still happen
posted by Bwithh at 8:12 PM on April 7, 2013


So this is what happens when you let Randian objectivists design games.

SC-Sims have been tea-partiers since way before it was cool, at least SC3k.
posted by Vetinari at 8:13 PM on April 7, 2013 [1 favorite]


n-thing the deep mourning this once amazing game has brought out in me since this launch. EA should be incontinent with shame over how they've handled this.
posted by Lipstick Thespian at 8:15 PM on April 7, 2013


Polygon's notorious rollercoaster-ride review rating of SimCity (which started out at launch with a 9.5/10 and a deliriously fawning review, then was cut to 8.0, and then to 4.5 as the public backlash mounted, was recently updated in early April to 6.5 (they're still sticking to their "it's really a brilliant game that is basically only ruined by server issues" cover story). Marvellous.
posted by Bwithh at 8:18 PM on April 7, 2013 [2 favorites]


It's sad, really.

No, juliebug, it's really not sad. Sad would imply that they were somehow victims of circumstance, or pitiably inept in some way.

Rather, they screwed this game up, and put you through all this misery, because they didn't want you to be able to pirate it. They CALL it an MMO, and they get red-faced when you call them on this lie, but it isn't. The code running on the simulator is incredibly lightweight, hardly there at all. They wanted to have the pirate-proofness of an MMO, and the cashflow of constant expansions that are forced on everyone or they can't play (just try to view or take over someone's city that has DLC you don't, for instance), but they didn't want to actually have to provide the huge, expensive server farms that it takes for a real MMO.

So they crippled their game, running a tiny, tiny fraction of the overall code on their servers, and called it an MMO. They deliberately broke the game; there is zero reason to architect it this way. You, the customer, get nothing out of this arrangement.

This isn't something to be sad about, this is something to be angry about. They are greedy liars, and they are deliberately making your life worse to try to force you to spend more money.
posted by Malor at 8:18 PM on April 7, 2013 [45 favorites]


Reading Polygon's report of the GDC talk by Dan Moskowitz, Senior Software Engineer at Maxis leads me to believe the wrong people were making this game.
posted by the_artificer at 8:23 PM on April 7, 2013 [2 favorites]


Megabumtopia should class it up with rows and rows and rows of free DLC Nissan Leaf charging stations (h/t Elementary Penguin in previous thread)
posted by Bwithh at 8:24 PM on April 7, 2013


Man, that Polygon report is just damning. I played Simcity Social, which was Simcity with all the complexity taken out. It was fucking terrible. I got it for free and I'm still angry about it. Complete waste of my time.
posted by restless_nomad at 8:27 PM on April 7, 2013 [4 favorites]


Even if it wasn't bugged out, damn is that a small plot of land. There's sandbox games and there's sandbox games.
posted by Sys Rq at 8:28 PM on April 7, 2013 [6 favorites]


I wanted a sim game where you're a media personality exploiting Tea Partiers' gullibility and fear, but this will do.
posted by Pope Guilty at 8:32 PM on April 7, 2013 [2 favorites]


Can someone breakdown why simulating individual pedestrians is a good idea? From the GDC talk link above it sounds like they're actually concerning themselves with what individual citizens do, which seems completely crazy for a city sim. Total overkill and a computational nightmare.
posted by wemayfreeze at 8:37 PM on April 7, 2013 [1 favorite]


Wow, so they made SimCity a rails shooter?

No matter what you do, the "simulation" tries to lead you down a fixed path... I wonder how many arbitrary triggers and events are in there.
posted by meowzilla at 8:39 PM on April 7, 2013


The tallest trees catch the most wind. At EA we remain proud and unbowed.

-- EA prebuttal ahead of possible win of The Consumerist's Worst Company in America title second time in a row

Also in the same piece:
Many continue to claim the Always-On function in SimCity is a DRM scheme. It’s not. People still want to argue about it. We can’t be any clearer – it’s not. Period.

and

In the past year, we have received thousands of emails and postcards protesting against EA for allowing players to create LGBT characters in our games. This week, we’re seeing posts on conservative web sites urging people to protest our LGBT policy by voting EA the Worst Company in America.
That last one is particularly telling. If that’s what makes us the worst company, bring it on. Because we're not caving on that.

posted by Bwithh at 8:40 PM on April 7, 2013


I would be OK with simulating individual sims, computational excess aside, if the sims behaved remotely like real people. But they don't have fixed abodes, and every day they try to find a new job. No wonder the emergent behaviour is frustrating.
posted by unSane at 8:40 PM on April 7, 2013 [4 favorites]


The game is terrible for reasons beyond just the server issues or the deliberate damage inflicted in the interest of pretending it's an MMO. The model of what a city means is simple, stupid, and wrong — like, it's at least 30 years out of date on urban planning theory and even beyond that it makes pointless mistakes left and right.

Yes, this stuff is important. The game's model doesn't necessarily have to display any real fidelity to actual urban planning (that would probably be a pretty frustrating game), but it has to at the very least be in some kind of dialogue with actual urban planning ideas to get me interested enough to find any fun in experimenting with the game. So, for example, the "you make a zone denser by building a wider road to it" bullshit was enough to destroy the game for me. It's something that only people who live and work on the peninsula would think of. Come on, EA, at least hire a couple of designers who are cool enough to live up in the city, right? But beyond that, well, it's 2013. Why not let us, say, do some non-euclidean zoning?

My favorite little "oh, geez, they had no idea what they were doing, did they?" aspect of the game is that, as far as I can tell, the bus system isn't even mass transit. Instead, it's something like a safety net dial-a-ride service, or maybe even like personal rapid transit. There aren't really "bus routes," per se — buses go to people when they're there and pick them up, rather than following a schedule or quasi-schedule. This is... problematic, because the problem of routing something like that is hard, in a "traveling salesman problem" sense. I am certain that the people in charge of making design decisions had not one conversation about what they were actually doing with the mass transit model, nor really any idea how or why to have a conversation about the mass transit model.
posted by You Can't Tip a Buick at 8:49 PM on April 7, 2013 [23 favorites]


Consumerist's rebuttal to EA's prebuttal.

"Many continue to claim the Always-On function in SimCity is a DRM scheme. It’s not. People still want to argue about it. We can’t be any clearer – it’s not. Period."

People still want to argue about it because EA also made it clear that "With the way that the game works, we offload a significant amount of the calculations to our servers so that the computations are off the local PCs and are moved into the cloud," until that was proven wrong. They lack credibility.
posted by the_artificer at 8:49 PM on April 7, 2013 [6 favorites]


I would be OK with simulating individual sims, computational excess aside, if the sims behaved remotely like real people. But they don't have fixed abodes, and every day they try to find a new job. No wonder the emergent behaviour is frustrating.

So, they all act like 20somethings wrestling with the godawful economy?
posted by Tomorrowful at 8:49 PM on April 7, 2013 [2 favorites]




I'd also like to echo everyone upthread who's talked about how pointless it is for them to try to model every sim. It's like trying to model the behavior of a gas by tracking every single molecule.
posted by You Can't Tip a Buick at 8:50 PM on April 7, 2013 [3 favorites]


I'd also like to echo everyone upthread who's talked about how pointless it is for them to try to model every sim. It's like trying to model the behavior of a gas by tracking every single molecule.

Only until a few more Moore's periods.
posted by Pope Guilty at 8:54 PM on April 7, 2013


You Can't Tip a Buick's comment has some insight on that. Maybe they're trying to model every Sim because they don't know anything about the principles of urban planning. (Or don't believe in them.) So they're going with emergent behavior, rather than simulating any real world "rules."
posted by Kevin Street at 9:00 PM on April 7, 2013 [3 favorites]


Which is infuriating, because SimCity 2000 came with a hundred-plus-page tome about urban planning principles and how they related to the game. It was a core part of the thinking behind the series, dammit, and throwing that out in favor of some nebulous metric-based "fun" meter ignores the core user and the appeal of the game.
posted by restless_nomad at 9:03 PM on April 7, 2013 [18 favorites]




Malor - I spent years playing World of Warcraft, so the always-online thing didn't bug me at first. That was "normal" to me and I didn't think too much of it until launch, when, predictably, people couldn't log on. I can actually even still deal with the always-online thing, because the servers tend to be up these days.

What I can't deal with, and am angry about, is the multitude of ways the game falls short, even aside from server-related issues/problems (including, but not limited to, my rollback problems). Traffic is a nightmare. That Megabumtopia can exist is just outright dumb (no level of taxation should allow people to overlook their need for things like power and water). That, as previously mentioned in this thread, the citizens don't have specific homes and jobs doesn't make sense. Why simulate them at all if they're going to be dumb and won't be linked to a specific home or job?

The strange population numbers that claim you have something like 80% more people than you actually have are equally ridiculous.

Then, server-side, you have problems like rollbacks, inability to send items/money to others in the region (last I tried, I lost 100k sending to my brother) and a variety of other issues. To me, the server-side stuff seems like it can be more easily fixed. They're bringing Cheetah speed back and the like, for instance. But the actual in-game stuff? That's what's really broken. The game has got a lot of faulty logic (or, perhaps, it's missing logic altogether...), leading to unemployment problems despite a large "population", electricity, water and traffic agents randomly deciding to turn down a corner (or not).

These are all much larger issues than the server concerns, in my opinion. The agent "logic" is a big part of the game and yet, it's deeply flawed.

So yeah, I'm angry about it.

But it's also sad how EA has ruined what was once a pretty darn good franchise. I spent hours playing the original. Now each time I try to spend hours on this version, I have to worry that my city will rollback or that I'll get massive gridlock or that my alloy trucks won't make it to the depot in time for me to not go broke (because of the gridlock). I was eagerly anticipating it because of all the fun I had with it as a kid and this? This is a pale imitation with flashier graphics.
posted by juliebug at 9:17 PM on April 7, 2013


I would've bought this in a heartbeat. The DRM stuff stopped me buying it at its release. Then the bad reviews have left me.... disheartened and reserved.

All I want from life is SimCity 2000 on my tablet. Is that too much to ask?
posted by meese at 9:22 PM on April 7, 2013 [5 favorites]


It's kind of amazing to me that EA has screwed this up so terribly because it's kind of their ideal franchise, since the underlying engine doesn't need to change all that much for them to release a new version. They could've basically taken the SC2k engine and put a modern skin on it and it probably would've been the game of the year and beloved by all of the critics.
posted by feloniousmonk at 9:25 PM on April 7, 2013 [4 favorites]


It's kind of amazing to me that EA has screwed this up so terribly because it's kind of their ideal franchise, since the underlying engine doesn't need to change all that much for them to release a new version.

It's EA. They've been shitting in the bed and still managing to laugh all the way to the bank since at least 1997.

Not to be all I-dont-even-have-a-TV, but I've been boycotting EA since 2001. They suck.
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 9:31 PM on April 7, 2013 [2 favorites]


I recall that in the months after the Sim City Societies launch, Sim City 4 (which was what, five years old at that point?) actually outsold it. I hope that happens here, too. I am, if nothing else, extremely amused by how well-seeded the sim city 4 torrents are on pirate bay.
posted by You Can't Tip a Buick at 9:34 PM on April 7, 2013 [1 favorite]


I'm not consciously boycotting EA, but when I left the company, I had a dozen or so "points" to spend at the company store - I had to use them or they'd just vanish, there was no converting them to cash - and there were literally no PC games I actually wanted. I ended up getting every Sims 2 expansion in the store, plus SimCity 4. There was nothing else.
posted by restless_nomad at 9:36 PM on April 7, 2013 [1 favorite]


All they have to do is the exact same thing they do with Madden and most of the other sports games, which is why I am surprised.
posted by feloniousmonk at 9:36 PM on April 7, 2013


Yeah... I'm really not much of a gamer, aside from being really into a few old god games, so it's not really much of a boycott for me to say "you know what, I don't trust EA to make anything worthwhile, so I'm not going to buy anything from them." Maybe if the people who are crazy enough to play games from them tell me really good things about an EA game, and keep telling me good things about it, I'll look into it a year or so after it launches.
posted by You Can't Tip a Buick at 9:39 PM on April 7, 2013


I don't know how well EA does financially (I suppose decently) but now that the dust has settled on this game - the people who run EA should be running no-compete businesses like private prisons or Department of Defense contracting instead. If you're going to try to dictate reality to your customers, offer nothing, and expect to help yourself to as much of your customers' wallets as you want, you should make sure your customers can't say no first.
posted by MillMan at 9:45 PM on April 7, 2013 [2 favorites]


EA's stock taaaaanked in late 2008, just as I was getting laid off (and just before my stock vested.) I mean from $50+/share to $15/share. It hasn't recovered, although it's doing better than last summer's $11/share. They're not doing all that well, although they're muddling along, I suppose. I kind of want them to succeed at something just so I can unload this damn piddling stock account.
posted by restless_nomad at 9:53 PM on April 7, 2013


It has been all downhill since SimCopter.
posted by TwelveTwo at 10:00 PM on April 7, 2013 [7 favorites]


wemayfreeze: "Can someone breakdown why simulating individual pedestrians is a good idea?"

My fantasy city sim is one that will allow me to build a Jane Jacobs city and a Le Corbusier city side by side and have them work roughly as they would in real life. The only way to achieve that is if the sim citizens behave approximately like their meatspace counterparts.

There are a lot of people who would argue that that would not make for a fun game, and that's okay - the fidelity vs fun argument is a well-trodden one. In this particular case, the initial press releases led me to believe that SC5 would fall closer to an ideal sim than previous SC games, but unfortunately the behaviour seems to have gone even further in the wrong direction. The linked city is a pretty good example of what this means in practice.

I assume that the major warts will eventually be mostly ironed out over the next few months/years of updates, but I suspect in the end it will tend further away from city sim towards city game.
posted by vanar sena at 10:04 PM on April 7, 2013 [2 favorites]


You Can't Tip a Buick: "So, for example, the "you make a zone denser by building a wider road to it" bullshit was enough to destroy the game for me. It's something that only people who live and work on the peninsula would think of."

I don't know anything, really, about urban planning, so I don't understand this, and I'm asking sincerely: Here (in Japan) at least, how tall a building can be is directly related to how wide the street in front of it is. Like, because of the width of the street in front of my house, no buildings can be more than 3 stories tall, while a nearby street, which is wider, can have buildings up to 6 stories tall. As a result, the wider street has condos, while my street has only houses and small apartment buildings, and, therefore, the wider street has a higher population density.

What am I missing that makes that idea bullshit that only people living south of San Francisco would think of?
posted by Bugbread at 10:16 PM on April 7, 2013 [3 favorites]


I'll never forgive EA for not releasing a sequel to Undying. Or gamers for not buying it.
posted by Pope Guilty at 10:16 PM on April 7, 2013 [1 favorite]


I don't know how well EA does financially (I suppose decently) but now that the dust has settled on this game - the people who run EA should be running no-compete businesses like private prisons or Department of Defense contracting instead. If you're going to try to dictate reality to your custom

Exclusive contracts are a part of their success. Madden is a pretty decent game actually but it's a big help for the franchise that nobody else can make a competing game.
posted by Drinky Die at 10:17 PM on April 7, 2013


The Megabumptopia "bug" isn't really a bug. It's just something someone figured out where Sims don't progress to their next "need" unless their current one is fulfilled. This is to present your entire population crying out for your blood the instant the first house goes up because they don't have electricity, water, rubbish collection, hospital coverage, schools, fire coverage, police coverage, jobs, shopping, parks, etc. It scales up progressively: as each need is met, more are unlocked. I imagine Maxis never thought someone would DENY their sims the first level need (electricity) forever and just play the game at that state.

Gosh. I dislike EA as much as the next guy, but Simcity is copping so much criticism it astounds even me. This comes from the perspective of a self professed competitive gamer (of the MMO and RTS variety) and who played the original 1989 Simcity (and all the others) and loved them to bits...

I actually really like the current Simcity.

Yes, the plot sizes are small. Here's a city I threw together in a few hours - and it's on one of the largest buildable plots of land available.

Ok, first, the Glassbox engine. It's not a true persistent agent simulation - that was tried in Simcity Societies, and it had severe performance issues. It was released in 2007, and it ran badly then. I still have Simcity Societies installed, and it still lags today. In contrast, Simcity 2013 runs like a dream.

What it looks like it's doing, is that it's modelling sims as flows - like a physics simulation. Buildings emit particles (agents) and they "flow" downhill towards various sinks which attract them. So houses emit workers, shoppers and students at the start of the day looking for their various sinks (workplaces, malls, schools). At the end of the day, factories and offices which were manned emit workers looking for their sink (home). It's crazy fast: in my largest cities, there would be about 40,000 "agents" milling around the city (out of a stated population of 250,000) and the game will run on max speed without any frame dropping.

The question is, do we need this? I think the answer is a resounding yes. It's the only way traffic modelling gets done halfway near realistic, and being able to simulate traffic light patterns and changes is an important tool for this. You get to simulate gridlock, if you position two traffic intersections too close to each other (one set of light turns green, but cars can't flow, because the traffic is still backed up from the light ahead). You get to simulate the effect of intersections (a 4 way cross intersection is bad, because it takes 4 changes of lights to clear). What's even worse is if you unintentionally design neighbourhoods where people have to do U-turns - a single lane doing a U-Turn at their intersection will block everyone. And if you ever have to do a U-Turn in a gridlock situation...

This is an example of the traffic flow at an intersection at maximum simulation speed. (I uploaded this video just to show people what it's like. Look at how many sims there are. It's gorgeous). The level of granularity the Glassbox Engine provides is amazing: you get to look at a congested area of the city, click on the sims one by one and figure out where they are going, think about how you can get them there faster or improve their route, do it, and then see the congestion magically disappear. It's a great puzzle solving game. It's a great application of that mathematician guy, I can't recall right now, who showed it was possible to reduce congestion by eliminating roads. Yes, a major cause of congestion is TOO MANY routes. I have a city at 250,000 people without congestion issues, and I see people have cities at 70,000 with massive gridlock. I see people blindly putting down the square grid pattern they used to back in all previous iterations of Simcity and then complain it doesn't work in the newest one so OBVIOUSLY the traffic simulator must be to blame... (sorry, I live in Melbourne, where the city consists of homogenous squares and the gridlock is pretty horrible. so that much is accurate)

The MMO aspect of it is great too. I love creating a region with all my friends and building cities next to each other. More so than any other game I've played, Simcity allows your personality to shine through to your creations. You look at someone's city and you just know - are they a risk taking or conservative person? Disorganized? OCD? Is theme and idea important to them? Or brutal efficiency? Do they want to maximize happiness, or population, or income, or technology, or education, or culture? It's a great game. Yes it has its flaws, but I am really loving the concept they got going.
posted by xdvesper at 10:17 PM on April 7, 2013 [9 favorites]


There's no correlation between street width and building height, it's between the traffic density and the building size in general, and the width of the street is really only a proxy for traffic density. Basically, the idea is, you can only have a big building if you can get a lot of traffic there.
posted by feloniousmonk at 10:19 PM on April 7, 2013


feloniousmonk: "There's no correlation between street width and building height, it's between the traffic density and the building size in general, and the width of the street is really only a proxy for traffic density. Basically, the idea is, you can only have a big building if you can get a lot of traffic there."

Are you talking about the game (saying "this is how the game is set up, and it's wrong"), or real life (saying "this is how real life is, but the game isn't set up this way")?
posted by Bugbread at 10:22 PM on April 7, 2013


xdvesper thanks for the video and the explanation. There is a definite WOW factor in the video that I can see greatly deepens the experience of building a city. And being able to work directly on congestion issues like that sounds pretty amazing and fun!
posted by wemayfreeze at 10:23 PM on April 7, 2013


Exclusive contracts are a part of their success. Madden is a pretty decent game actually but it's a big help for the franchise that nobody else can make a competing game.

I understand that and in the case of Sim City the brand recognition is the only reason it sold a single copy. But even in the case of EA's exclusive rights with the NFL potential customers can still say no if they think the game stinks as the game is just for entertainment purposes. EA is not running a monopoly on a required service or product.
posted by MillMan at 10:26 PM on April 7, 2013


I am talking about the game. I am sure there are all kinds of crazy rules about it in reality. Living in LA, I can only imagine.
posted by feloniousmonk at 10:28 PM on April 7, 2013


I see people blindly putting down the square grid pattern they used to back in all previous iterations of Simcity and then complain it doesn't work in the newest one so OBVIOUSLY the traffic simulator must be to blame...

Did you miss the videos where Sims will only ever take the shortest-distance route regardless of how congested it is? The problem that Maxis started to fix with one of the recent patches? Did you miss the videos of multiple fire trucks racing past a burning house until it collapsed, or of cars and pedestrians getting stuck in infinite loops?

I mean, sure, we can argue about whether the simulation of individual agents was a good idea or not. I would suggest that it probably wasn't, given how much you have to degrade the simulation to get it to work properly. But that's entirely independent of stuff like this, which shows actual bugs in the simulation itself. Given a congested route, people will find other routes. Given a fire, fire trucks will actually stop at the fire to put it out. Given a destination, people don't walk around the intersection constantly.
posted by chrominance at 10:32 PM on April 7, 2013 [9 favorites]


The traffic routing algorithm problems are unreal. I have actually been messing around with a city on the single-massive-spiral-road plan and it's my most successful one yet. If each individual Sim was a rationally modelled actor, it would've been brilliant, and that is precisely the sort of thing that would have benefitted from having a massive centralized server, so it's kind of telling that they didn't even take advantage of it there. You can imagine a central server that does nothing but generate daily "action plans" for each Sim in your city, etc.
posted by feloniousmonk at 10:36 PM on April 7, 2013


So, Sim City Blue is basically Final Fantasy XIV?
posted by Nomyte at 10:40 PM on April 7, 2013 [1 favorite]


As a result, the wider street has condos, while my street has only houses and small apartment buildings, and, therefore, the wider street has a higher population density.

What am I missing that makes that idea bullshit that only people living south of San Francisco would think of?


The concept of wider roads = higher density makes a certain amount of sense, but it only really works that way if the city was planned with an idea of where the density should go from the start. Most cities that I'm aware of don't work this way, and as a result, density goes where the traffic is, regardless of the width of the road. I live in Toronto, and there are three and four-lane streets that have much, much higher traffic volumes than six or eight-lane avenues in the suburbs. You certainly don't need wider streets to put up condos, and while it may not necessarily be ideal (the impact of high-density development on old infrastructure is hard to overstate), it's happening all over the place in North America.
posted by chrominance at 10:40 PM on April 7, 2013


Ah, ok...but I'm still left wondering how that is so divergent from reality. Where I live, from what I gather, the idea is 1) if you build a big condo that fronts onto a tiny one-lane road, there will be a perpetual traffic jam from residents leaving/arriving, and 2) if there is a fire, earthquake, etc., people will not be able to evacuate en masse, nor will emergency vehicles be able to help residents. Hence zoning laws that forbid big buildings on small streets.

So the game concept, that you can only have a big building if you can get a lot of traffic to/from there, seems to reflect real life, hence my puzzlement about You Can't Tip a Buick finding that not just unrealistic but crazy bullshit.

In case I'm coming off wrong, though: I'm not arguing that You Can't Tip a Buick is wrong. I'm figuring there's something quirky about Tokyo, or perhaps I'm not quite understanding the way the game implements the logic, or the like, and that his reaction makes sense and I'm somehow on the wrong page.
posted by Bugbread at 10:43 PM on April 7, 2013 [1 favorite]


Oh man those fail vids are amazing. The awesome graphics make them all the more surreal — it feels like the Truman Show!

Or:

If you want a vision of the future, imagine six firetrucks driving by a burning building — forever.
posted by wemayfreeze at 10:46 PM on April 7, 2013 [1 favorite]


I think the missing element is the fact that if you start small on your roads, like you might imagine in a small town where the one lane dirt road one day becomes Main Street of a bustling metropolis, you are going to hit points where you have to bulldoze the road to upgrade it to a bigger one, and doing so destroys every building that fronts it. If anything about this specific situation is crazy bullshit, that'd be my pick. You really can't grow a small town anymore in the game because of this zoning density rule.
posted by feloniousmonk at 10:48 PM on April 7, 2013 [1 favorite]


In the past year, we have received thousands of emails and postcards protesting against EA for allowing players to create LGBT characters in our games. This week, we’re seeing posts on conservative web sites urging people to protest our LGBT policy by voting EA the Worst Company in America.

That last one is particularly telling. If that’s what makes us the worst company, bring it on. Because we're not caving on that.


That's pretty distasteful of EA, to abuse our struggles for civil rights to peddle their DRM-laden crap. Just one more reason why I won't be buying Simcity.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 10:53 PM on April 7, 2013 [13 favorites]


I wanted a sim game where you're a media personality exploiting Tea Partiers' gullibility and fear, but this will do.

While not a sim, Ken Levine said that Bioshock Infinite went some way to achieving this with some of his TP relatives.
posted by urbanwhaleshark at 10:58 PM on April 7, 2013 [2 favorites]


chrominance: "I live in Toronto, and there are three and four-lane streets that have much, much higher traffic volumes than six or eight-lane avenues in the suburbs. You certainly don't need wider streets to put up condos, and while it may not necessarily be ideal (the impact of high-density development on old infrastructure is hard to overstate), it's happening all over the place in North America."

Ah, sorry, we just crossed each other there.

I think I see where I misunderstood things. I live in a place where roads are tiny (i.e. you're talking about condos on three and four lane streets in Toronto, I'm coming from a place where the condo near my house is on a wide, one-way, single-lane street). So I guess when the game says "You need a big road for a big building", it's saying "You need a six lane highway", whereas I was assuming it meant "You need a road at least 3m wide", and I thought, "Yeah, that sounds reasonable, just like real life". If it's saying "No, not 3m, you need six lanes to build this condo", then, yeah, that's silly.

Also,

feloniousmonk: "I think the missing element is the fact that if you start small on your roads, like you might imagine in a small town where the one lane dirt road one day becomes Main Street of a bustling metropolis, you are going to hit points where you have to bulldoze the road to upgrade it to a bigger one, and doing so destroys every building that fronts it."

That happens here quite a bit. Takes a really long time, since the government uses eminent domain for things like airports, and not regular street widenings.
posted by Bugbread at 11:02 PM on April 7, 2013


I kept building different cities but Kublai Khan complained that they were really all one and the same.
posted by basicchannel at 11:04 PM on April 7, 2013 [9 favorites]


Were they all invisible?
posted by Nomyte at 11:05 PM on April 7, 2013 [1 favorite]


Just to chime in about the roads, am I mistaken or can you not achieve high-density buildings by building a high-density road and not just the high-density avenues?

The roads don't get any wider (in terms of space on the map) but the avenues do. But I'm pretty sure you can achieve high-density buildings with high-densirty roads.

Of course, you may still get insane amounts of gridlock...

Oh, and the big issue here is that you cannot upgrade a road TO an avenue, nor downgrade an avenue TO a road. Roads also don't have streetcar capacity. Part of the... well, I hesitate to call it "fun", but part of the game is figuring out where to put roads vs. avenues.
posted by juliebug at 11:07 PM on April 7, 2013


Cities, like dreams, are made of desires and fears, even if the thread of their discourse is secret, their rules are absurd, their perspectives deceitful, and everything conceals something else.
posted by basicchannel at 11:07 PM on April 7, 2013 [4 favorites]


L'ordine degli dei è proprio quello che si rispecchia nella città dei mostri.
posted by Nomyte at 11:10 PM on April 7, 2013 [1 favorite]


The Megabumptopia "bug" isn't really a bug. It's just something someone figured out where Sims don't progress to their next "need" unless their current one is fulfilled. This is to present your entire population crying out for your blood the instant the first house goes up because they don't have electricity, water, rubbish collection, hospital coverage, schools, fire coverage, police coverage, jobs, shopping, parks, etc. It scales up progressively: as each need is met, more are unlocked. I imagine Maxis never thought someone would DENY their sims the first level need (electricity) forever and just play the game at that state.

Well if it isn't a bug, then it's an astoundingly badly designed simulation then...
posted by Bwithh at 11:11 PM on April 7, 2013 [7 favorites]


Yeah, you end up needing to upgrade from high density streets to avenues pretty quickly. I found that it's best to just go ahead and start with medium density avenues everywhere, otherwise you end up spending most of your money keeping up with traffic by upgrading the streets. I guess this is realism...
posted by feloniousmonk at 11:14 PM on April 7, 2013


Where I live, from what I gather, the idea is 1) if you build a big condo that fronts onto a tiny one-lane road, there will be a perpetual traffic jam from residents leaving/arriving, and 2) if there is a fire, earthquake, etc., people will not be able to evacuate en masse, nor will emergency vehicles be able to help residents. Hence zoning laws that forbid big buildings on small streets.

So adding lanes to roads is a miserable way of alleviating traffic, because of induced demand. But moreover, what?

Here's Redwood Shores, home of EA. Note the big big wide boulevard surrounded by very low density residential. On the other hand, here's a random street in Brooklyn. Not narrow and dense enough for you yet? Try on this street in Naples for size.

I don't know about you, but every time I'm out in the suburbs around a city, out in the super-low-density stuff, I'm always struck by how super wide (and pedestrian unfriendly) all the roads are.

Oh, emergency evacuations, you say? Fortunately we've never had to evacuate this place. There's no way we could do it! On the bright side, though, if there's ever a massive terrorist attack there, we can be sure that no firefighters will be killed after rushing to the scene, because how could they ever get their firetrucks through those narrow streets?

I suppose I'm using too many east coast examples? And, like, a European one? That's crazy! I'm stacking the deck! Okay... you got me. You're right. You'll never find narrow streets and density coexisting on the west coast.

And anyway, why would you want to build one of those nasty stinky old east coast (or European!) cities when you could build a nice shiny west coast suburb instead? Who would ever want a city sim to do something as crazy as that?

Yes, I am grouchy about this. I'm very glad Sim City 5 is so godawful bad in every way, because it means that it won't cause a generation of players to think that the only kind of city you can build is a small suburban town on the San Francisco Peninsula.
posted by You Can't Tip a Buick at 11:20 PM on April 7, 2013 [12 favorites]


The dev team now say this:
We’ve been heads down addressing the key issues we’re seeing reported from our community. This includes city rollbacks, lost progress, and the return of features like Cheetah Speed and Leaderboards. Like you, we want all of these resolved ASAP, which is why they are the top priorities in our studio. Matter of fact, we have all of these in a QA environment, giving them a thorough test before we release them back to you, the fans.

On top of this, we’re also working on a number of bug fixes and other overall improvements that we’re planning to include in future Updates. Just last week we released two Updates (1.7 and 1.8), which included traffic fixes and other general improvements. For the future, in Update 2.0, we’ll be addressing the Recycling Center bug, fixing the fire engine clumping, improving the efficiency of Street Cars, and increasing the radius of river water. We’re also fixing the tuning on Casinos and are making them more profitable. These are just a handful of the substantial changes coming in Update 2.0.
It's so hard to know if I should believe the people who say they dislike EA for selling alpha software at retail or Peter Moore's assertion they dislike EA because they are homophobes who secretly hate gay people.
posted by jaduncan at 11:21 PM on April 7, 2013 [1 favorite]


Pardon, missed a link: Here's Redwood Shores, for real.
posted by You Can't Tip a Buick at 11:25 PM on April 7, 2013


"Just last week we released two Updates (1.7 and 1.8), which included traffic fixes and other general improvements."

Try the Nissan Leaf! Uses no resources, produces no pollution and makes people happy!
posted by the_artificer at 11:31 PM on April 7, 2013 [2 favorites]


You Can't Tip a Buick:

I'm not quite sure why you're so angry with me. I just didn't understand what you were saying. Thanks to your, uh, excited response, I think I understand.

I was thinking of what you could build within the confines of zoning laws/trying to make things pleasant for residents. But what you wrote made me realize that, being Sim City, you make the zoning laws. So when the game says "you can't build a big building, because there isn't a big road", it's not saying "and therefore you'd have problems with emergency and ordinary access", it's saying "That's not even possible, even if you're totally cool with the problems it would create. It is a physical impossibility". That's not what a sim is supposed to do.

As for your photos: The European example was good. It made your point: "high density is physically possible with small streets". The NY ones, not so much (the streets in those pictures didn't look particularly small (especially the three lane one), though I'm sure there are plenty of tiny streets in NY). And the west coast example is ludicrous. That's a fucking huge street!! It's wider than Tokyo's main highway!!

But anyway, I get what you were initially saying, and I apologize for...whatever I did that got you so pissed off at me.
posted by Bugbread at 11:45 PM on April 7, 2013 [3 favorites]


On the one hand, gamers have been begging for advergaming that isn't just a banner or popup add, but fits within the context of the game and is meaningful. On the other, there really is no reason to ever have advergaming in a $60 game like SimCity, and especially not one that had big launch issues that remain unresolved.

And, here is a game that models the behavior of a gas by tracking every single molecule. (made by a fellow I know) It gets away with this by having only a few tens of thousands of molecules.
posted by breath at 11:45 PM on April 7, 2013 [2 favorites]


Sorry for ratcheting up the sarcasm. The deal is — and this is inadequate as an excuse — that anyone who cares about urban planning as an environmental issue (and, for that matter, as a social justice issue) ends up having this conversation over and over again. It's sad to see Sim City (sim city!) reinforcing this zombie meme. that's my childhood, man!

And yeah, the sick thing about looking for narrow streets in an American context is that it's hard to find anything really narrow, because there's so much on-street parking everywhere. I thought it would be easier than it actually was...
posted by You Can't Tip a Buick at 11:52 PM on April 7, 2013


Try the Nissan Leaf! Uses no resources, produces no pollution and makes people happy!

Another thing that a lot of people are parroting. Maxis is going to be sure to keep a close idea on the balance of the game, because there are going to be leaderboards, and players are going to get pretty competitive about it.

The Nissan Leaf charging station costs $40 per hour to run and has a typical capacity of 20-30 people per day. It doesn't increase land value, people can only get to it by car. It's basically a small, inefficient low wealth park. I'm pretty sure building several of the $10 per hour parks are more efficient, as you end up with greater total capacity. In any case, low wealth parks are rarely built, as you're much better off maxing sim happiness by getting them access to shopping (which also creates jobs and commercial profits). Sims only visit parks if they want entertainment and have no money, and if sims have no money it's an indication that you've screwed something up - not enough jobs, or your traffic infrastructure is failing to get them to their jobs in time before they get fired for being no shows.

The game mechanics are too obscure at the moment to call it definitively, but I'm pretty sure min maxers wouldn't touch the Nissan Leaf charging stations.

As to the other comments in the thread - yes there are bugs. But they don't impact my ability to play the game and enjoy it. Maybe in 1 in 50 fire situations, the fire engines bug out and fail to path correctly - that I've seen - and the building burns down. But so what? I just bulldoze the building (for free) and the residents move back in. Traffic is largely fine, I only bought the game after they optimized the pathfinding so I can't say I've had any issues. Yes, buses and street cars suck if you randomly place bus stops and avenues, because they have no logic (Glassbox, lol) so you either don't use them (my solution) or you place them in very specific routes - you can run 3 separate streetcar avenues in the city that aren't connected, for example.

Look, if it was easy designing this type of game, someone would have done so since Simcity 4. I say Simcity 2013 is a pretty fine effort.
posted by xdvesper at 12:05 AM on April 8, 2013


All I want from life is SimCity 2000 on my tablet. Is that too much to ask?

SimCity 2000 running through DOSBox on a Nexus 7.
posted by Apropos of Something at 12:11 AM on April 8, 2013 [3 favorites]


Look, if it was easy designing this type of game, someone would have done so since Simcity 4.

Isn't that what Cities XL is? I've heard it's got problems of its own, but it's an effort.
posted by breath at 12:21 AM on April 8, 2013


E.A... and Maxis are dead to me.

DEAD. TO. ME.
posted by PROD_TPSL at 12:35 AM on April 8, 2013 [2 favorites]


SimCity (classic) on the SNES was one of the first games I played that wasn't Mario on the NES. I loved it. I tried and failed at SimEarth which confused eight-year-old me to no end (even though the rental place had provided me with a photocopy of the game's obtuse manual!) but SimCity was fantastic.

SimCity 2000 felt like the future. I remember my dad somehow getting a copy to run on his laptop at the time: 1995 or thereabouts. It was a revelation: there was pitch! Elevation! Water! Hydroelectricity! It ran horribly on his computer, but I loved it.

SimCity 3000 was an enjoyable upgrade. Much better graphics, better modeling, trash, and a bunch of other huge improvements.

And then came SimCity 4. SC4 is still a rewarding game. I was playing it a couple of months ago. It's well-constructed, intelligently modeled, the graphics are nice, and at the very least, transit seems a good deal better than what I'm reading about SC5. The manual always explained that people will find a job within X "transit minutes" or some such from their house. They would move or change jobs if need be, but otherwise, that became part of the plan. They even had a route query tool so that you could visualize by which method people were arriving or departing buildings, both for morning and evening commute.

SC5's small city size is insane to me. I loved the sprawling regions and mega-cities you could create in SC4.

I think that the disappointing bit is, like others have mentioned, this SimCity takes a swing at focusing on fun and dumbs down the core premise instead of playing to its pedigree as a simulation game. It's definitely more SimCity Societies (which, blech), and far less... all the other SimCities.

For the record, I also played and loved SimTower and SimFarm. God, those were fun games.
posted by disillusioned at 1:01 AM on April 8, 2013 [4 favorites]


> I'd also like to echo everyone upthread who's talked about how pointless it is for them to try to model every sim. It's like trying to model the behavior of a gas by tracking every single molecule.

No, it's nothing at all like that.

How many sims are there? Millions? Tens of millions? How much state do they have? A hundred complex parts? 100K (seems very generous)? You could fit them all onto a 1TB disk.

This is 2013 - the machine I'm typing on can do tens of millions of (simple) things. A hundred machines like this one could do a huge amount of sim-ing.

Compare and contrast to one mole of gas which has 6x10^23 molecules - simply to represent the state of all these molecules would take far more RAM than in all computers in existence put together.

Sim-ing isn't rocket science. They simply screwed up.
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 1:34 AM on April 8, 2013 [1 favorite]


I'll give EA credit for this: the SimCity launch fiasco prompted me to buy Tropico 4.

It's fun.

It's difficult to sustain an island population above 600, but every citizen has a name, a home, a job, and a work history. They fulfill individual needs like faith and fun, and they get rebellious when their needs aren't met. You can buy them off, try to meet their needs, shoot 'em in the street like dogs, or toss 'em into labor camps.

I have a difficult time being a ruthless despot. I want happy and productive citizens. But don't turn criminal on my island: my secret police WILL make you disappear. With a quickness.

There are things I wish the game would allow me to do, like send specific citizens to specific jobs. I also wish playing in God mode unlocked all buildings at the start so I could build a socialist utopia without waiting for the bio-farms and ziggurats to unlock.

But it's still really fun.

So thanks, EA, for turning me on to Tropico 4.

Viva El Presidente!
posted by BitterOldPunk at 1:49 AM on April 8, 2013 [10 favorites]


The one thing I remember really not liking about Tropico was that you couldn't just murder your way out of elections (you can have your rival shot, but somebody else will just step up), nor could you choose to disregard their results and refuse to relinquish power. Does Tropico 4 fix that?

Oh, also I remember that you'd command a building to be built and the workers would just chill out at the construction HQ all day, but I figured that was part of Tropico's pathfinding/motivation issues.
posted by Pope Guilty at 1:52 AM on April 8, 2013 [1 favorite]


So I'm of the opinion that even Sim City 4 was crap; the city-sizes were small, they didn't have rail *and* underground *and* bus like SimCity 3000 had. It didn't have grandeur; I did not want to play Silicon Valley Simulator, I want to build the next Kinshasa or Jhumritalayya, but without the structural issues that put them down. Sim City 3000 was beautiful in that respect; sure, the train stations are all CalTrain station lookalikes, but you could build miles and miles of tracks at the largest city size. (That said, the highest I ever got to was 600,000 people, but it was expansive, with localities with character. Or so I like to imagine.)

All I want is an update to that 13-year old game; just some better graphics, better resolution and an SDK, and I'll be happy. I still play that game, usually when I'm on the road in some mysterious hotel where I can't be arsed to sign up for Internet.

Tropico comes very close to what I'm looking for, but it doesn't do public transportation (and no SDK, obviously) well. But it does have emergent behaviour, in that if you don't plan your island properly, you can end up with long traffic snarls. No specific points lost per se, but it is a bit of an eyesore if you're looking at building something aesthetically pleasing. Haven't made up my mind if it is a subtle drag on the economy though, because individual citizens do end up taking more time than they should while going to work.

Oh, also I remember that you'd command a building to be built and the workers would just chill out at the construction HQ all day, but I figured that was part of Tropico's pathfinding/motivation issues.

If your Presidenta/e is charismatic, deploying her/him to the the construction site speeds up construction.

Also, love the in-game DJ and radio, which I understand was removed from Tropico 4?
posted by the cydonian at 2:10 AM on April 8, 2013 [1 favorite]


I don't remember Tropico having cars, but it's been a long while.
posted by Pope Guilty at 2:17 AM on April 8, 2013


BitterOldPunk: But don't turn criminal on my island: my secret police WILL make you disappear.

And to think people say we become the things we hate.
posted by jaduncan at 2:32 AM on April 8, 2013


Many continue to claim the Always-On function in SimCity is a DRM scheme. It’s not. People still want to argue about it. We can’t be any clearer – it’s not. Period.

The next time some EA person says this, they need to be asked whether they'd use the DMCA anti-circumvention provisions against someone who makes an offline play mod. If the answer is anything other than a categorical "no", it's DRM.

(yeah, it's obviously DRM)
posted by A Thousand Baited Hooks at 2:35 AM on April 8, 2013 [1 favorite]


And to think people say we become the things we hate.

There are no criminals on Tropico, citizen. None. To suggest otherwise is an affront to El Presidente. Now go back to your job at the cigar factory. I installed SKYLIGHTS. You should be HAPPY.

(And no, Pope G, Tropico 4 doesn't let you murder your way out of elections. You can bribe all your opponent's supporters, though!)
posted by BitterOldPunk at 2:45 AM on April 8, 2013 [7 favorites]


A Thousand Baited Hooks: "The next time some EA person says this, they need to be asked whether they'd use the DMCA anti-circumvention provisions against someone who makes an offline play mod. If the answer is anything other than a categorical "no", it's DRM."

They'd respond with a categorical "No". They lie. Any question you ask to catch them in a lie has to be one of those logic puzzle, "If I were to ask you what he would answer..." questions, because if ask them straight up, they aren't going to suddenly start honesting.
posted by Bugbread at 2:49 AM on April 8, 2013


In other news, Super Mario Brothers on Wii U is exactly what you want: classic SMB from NES with different levels and better gameplay, but the same thing.
posted by gjc at 2:54 AM on April 8, 2013


I don't remember Tropico having cars, but it's been a long while.

So citizens don't own cars, but they are driven to their places of work at the rate of one car per commuter, if they are not at a walking distance. Lots of problems with this model; people have come up with elaborate models to minimize gridlock.
posted by the cydonian at 3:05 AM on April 8, 2013


Look, if it was easy designing this type of game, someone would have done so since Simcity 4.

That rings so hollow. Much like W's lamentation that being President was a hard job.
This new SimCity is case of a developer acquiring a highly popular and respected franchise and stripping out everything that made it popular and respected. And then they shoved in a shit-ton of au-currant gimmicks and tech. Social! Always-connected! Gorgeous cinema-like views! DLC!!! It's all slight-of-hand to distract you from the truth that this game isn't really SimCity. It's SimCity for people who never played SimCity.
posted by Thorzdad at 4:24 AM on April 8, 2013 [10 favorites]


So I'm of the opinion that even Sim City 4 was crap; the city-sizes were small, they didn't have rail *and* underground *and* bus like SimCity 3000 had. It didn't have grandeur;

SC4 most certainly does have rail and underground and bus. With the Rush Hour expansion (which everyone should have) it also had monorail, elevated rail, one-way roads and park-and-ride.

I don't know what you mean about the maps being small -- there are four sizes ranging from small to enormous.
posted by unSane at 4:46 AM on April 8, 2013 [4 favorites]


The first thing I thought, upon clicking the link, was Kowloon.
posted by Jimbob at 4:47 AM on April 8, 2013 [2 favorites]


One insight I had about SC5 was that there is a trade-off between eye-candy and simulation depth.

For example, in SC4 as I just pointed out above, you could have roads, rail, el, monorail, and subways. These all intersect visually in different ways. Once you start giving the player freeform roads, the difficulty of making them work visually in 3D rises exponentially. SC4 only had to model them to a certain resolution, and only from four angles. But SC5 demands photorealism down to street level, which I can imagine is bafflingly hard to achieve once you have a big variety of potential combinations, angles of interesection and so on.

Which is an argument for the simpler approach.

It would be interesting to think about going back to a top-down 2D approach that prioritizes the depth of the simulation over the eye-candy. I keep thinking about Minecraft as a model.
posted by unSane at 5:00 AM on April 8, 2013 [1 favorite]


I haven't played it yet, but Paradox has just released Cities In Motion 2, a city simulator focused on the mass transit side of the equation. (I've played the original plenty, and it's fun, assuming that you are a transit nerd.)

It's a game where the citizens are individually simulated with persistent homes and jobs (and in fact come in 3 classes of workers, plus students, pensioners and tourists). Where cities are large enough (say 8 km by 8 km; 16x the size of SimCity 5) to feel like actual cities. Where multiplayer exists in a meaningful way, if that's your thing (competitive and cooperative modes), but can also be played as a single player game, disconnected from the internet.

It's $20, and was designed by like a 10 person team in Helsinki. So that's an option. (It sounds like they are still working out some bugs, which is what happened with the original release.)
posted by Homeboy Trouble at 5:17 AM on April 8, 2013 [8 favorites]


I don't know anything, really, about urban planning, so I don't understand this, and I'm asking sincerely: Here (in Japan) at least, how tall a building can be is directly related to how wide the street in front of it is.

Zoning and urban planning is complicated, but one factor that most cities take into account when looking at the potential density of a given lot is the transportation to and from that lot. This is controlled in various ways -- building size limitations, setback rules, and yes, in some cities, the amount of transit to the building. You can bet that roads are one factor, but there are others. One reason the Sears Tower* in Chicago could be build was the double-deck Wacker Drive, with 10 effective lanes of traffic (6 on top, 4 below) right next door, and the close proximity of Union Station (for interurban trains) and the Quincy/Wells CTA stop. **

The amount of transport into a given lot is a definite factor that should be considered. It's no use having an office building that can hold 500,000 people if 500,000 people can't get to it during the day.

The idea of an arcology is that with residential, commercial and industry in the same megabuilding, transportation to/from the building is limited. Of course, this means transportation *within* the building becomes crucial, and if you think moving a bunch of people by cars or trains is hard, try moving them via elevators and escalators.


* Looking at Wikipedia, I see some people claim to accept a possible rename of Sears Tower, and that United Airlines is moving into the building.

** Note that since Sears Tower is west of Wells Street, it is not actually in The Loop, unless you accept bogus borders like Michigan, the River, and Congress. Locutus ex cathedra.
posted by eriko at 5:29 AM on April 8, 2013


The first time you get into a campaign in Cities in Motion 2, you realize just how small the cities in SimCity are. There's a sprawling metropolis across two full islands and the surrounding coast, and they don't even take up the full space of the map!

I've played an hour and a half so far, and it feels simultaneously more powerful than the original game (timetables! road-building! transit zones!) and much more finicky (UI window management! buildings getting in the way of you laying tram tracks! HOW DO METROS WORK?). But considering I played quite a bit of the first game upon release (when it was at its buggiest) and practically none since (when it apparently improved quite a lot), I'm finding the sequel to be better than I expected, given some of the initial negative feedback.
posted by chrominance at 5:46 AM on April 8, 2013


Simcity mod for minecraft. Now there's a thought.
posted by unSane at 5:56 AM on April 8, 2013 [1 favorite]


I don't think it is as dire as people are saying. The trick here is that he has services in other cities in the region and that he has to constantly bulldoze abandoned buildings. This isn't like a stable city or anything.

I've been watching all the LPs I can find, so I've watched dozens of people play the game.

I don't think increasing density from medium to high means it increases width, it just changes the zoning and adds streetlights on the intersections. This is what causes problems. People bump the streets up to high thinking it will increases throughput, what it really does is add bottlenecks.

People also try to fix traffic by adding dozens of busses at once, also adding traffic.

I think the root issue is the traffic simulation is too realistic while the sims themselves are not realistic enough. When faced with real life gridlock condition people would find another route, sims do not.
posted by Ad hominem at 6:25 AM on April 8, 2013 [2 favorites]


* Looking at Wikipedia, I see some people claim to accept a possible rename of Sears Tower, and that United Airlines is moving into the building.

** Note that since Sears Tower is west of Wells Street, it is not actually in The Loop, unless you accept bogus borders like Michigan, the River, and Congress. Locutus ex cathedra.


Already has been renamed. The deed is done. Comiskey Park too.

The pedant in me agrees with the classic Loop rules, but I do want to smack people who correct others about it. Within walking distance of the elevated loop is close enough.
posted by gjc at 6:32 AM on April 8, 2013


Interesting that for all the grumbling over SimCity 2013 I see in this thread there's very little discussion of the economic incentives at work here.

I too was horribly disappointed in SimCity (and actually have been driven back to SimCity 4, which when you add in all the custom content that has been created for the game over the last decade is really like playing a whole new game).

That said, I think if EA had released SimCity in its current form but with a smooth launch and no server issues or broken core features the criticism would be much more muted. Yes people would still be upset about the oversimplification of the simulation, but this is a minority of gamers (maybe a majority of SimCity fans, but a minority in the target market). EA is a corporation that exists to make money. The always on DRM and continual small sponsored add-ins is a way to make money. I paid $40 or $50 or whatever it was for Sim City 4 Deluxe 10 years ago. Since then I have gotten probably hundreds hours of play out of it. Yet EA didn't make any more money off of me because I don't buy that many games. I don't think the old way of making big AAA studio games is financially sustainable any more, given the larger teams needed for cutting edge graphics. Where is the incentive to lavish money on a game like SC4 that makes you a small profit once and then never again?

Even beloved companies like Valve are finding new ways to make money, they're just doing it in less clumsy ways than EA. (for example the hats in TF2 are a fun but totally optional add-on.) I suspect we're going to see a continued movement towards always-on DRM, sponsored content, and other alternative revenue streams for big game companies, or they will cease to exist. The traditional "pay for it once and it's yours forever" model will be left to the (rapidly growing) indie game market.
posted by Wretch729 at 6:43 AM on April 8, 2013 [1 favorite]


Seconding the above mention of SC4 + Rush Hour. SC4 is also extremely moddable, too, and if you play it without downloading NAM (Network Addon Mod) you're really missing out on some amazing extensions. NAM + RHW + HWM and you can have crazy highways and giant roundabouts light rail in your medians and all manner of crazy fun stuff.
posted by introp at 6:44 AM on April 8, 2013 [1 favorite]


(And to clarify for those unfamiliar with the game- the SC4 custom content I mention above is all user-created and free.)
posted by Wretch729 at 6:54 AM on April 8, 2013


Sims only visit parks if they want entertainment and have no money,

So I guess that urban dog ownership isn't in the sim either? Is there any part of this simulation that does resemble reality?
posted by waterunderground at 6:57 AM on April 8, 2013


For the record, I also played and loved SimTower and SimFarm. God, those were fun games.

I think SimTower is the high point of the franchise, which is kind of weird since it was developed outside of Maxis. From this report, it seems like they originally wanted the new SimCity to make buildings modular like simplified SimTowers.

I bought an old Performa for $14 on Craig's List a while ago and I was pleasantly surprised to see it had SimTower installed. But even though this was one of the fastest pre-PPC Macs, the GUI is frustratingly slow, even though the game moves too fast to control when you put it into high speed mode.

I actually have a store-bought box of this software somewhere in storage, I saved it for sentimental reasons. I have a couple of Macs capable of running it, a G3 Yosemite and a G4 Mirrored Drive Doors, but I'm currently working on getting it to run on my Mac mini 2012. It won't run under MacOS X 10.8, which has no Classic and no Rosetta. I managed to get MacOS X 10.6 running in a virtual machine under Parallels, so I have Rosetta but no Classic. I have seen Classic on Intel projects like SheepShaver but I haven't been able to get them to run yet. It appears it will only run in 32-bit mode, so I might have to run a Virtual Machine then put the emulator inside that. These new Intel machines are sufficiently fast that I suppose I could blow all that speed on multiple levels of emulation. Let's call it SimMac.
posted by charlie don't surf at 7:46 AM on April 8, 2013


Is there some compelling reason why no one has made a SimOffice game yet? The simulation genre is only getting bigger and on Monday mornings I think some people could relieve (or is that re-live) the stress of being stuck in a cubicle-filled hellscape by creating a cubicle-filled hellscape WITH A BREAK ROOM. You could lower the price on vending machines and fatten your employees up for the slaughter, or lower the cube walls to increase inter-cube communication. Create giant corner offices for the entitled fatcats upstairs and watch them go through secretaries like Pez! Create a bike-to-work incentive program but give them nowhere to park their bikes, forcing employees to carry them into their cubes!

DOES THIS EXIST
posted by antonymous at 7:57 AM on April 8, 2013 [8 favorites]


Various incarnations of The Sims let you build workplaces for your sims to visit/work in. Not sure how deep the simulation goes there though. More Days of Our Lives than The Office I think...
posted by Wretch729 at 8:04 AM on April 8, 2013


The traditional "pay for it once and it's yours forever" model will be left to the (rapidly growing) indie game market.

I do wonder what affect this has on the legacy of the current era of gaming. We love to wax nostalgic about the great games from the 80s and 90s- look at the recent lucasarts thread, or even various comments in this thread here. It's amazing to me that companies seem determined to squander that kind of good will, but the fact seems to be that they don't understand it and they don't want it, because it doesn't have a clear monetization strategy. If it doesn't result in dollars, now, then the big companies aren't interested in your feelings.

That said, the indie game market *is* capitalizing on accumulated good will by getting the same developers who made the games back when and using kickstarter to fund new games in old genres, which are sold along traditional lines.

20 years from now, what are the odds that you're going to be able to play SimCity? I think that matters more than people give it credit for. It might not impact the current financial standing of the game, but it has an effect on the longer term. Being able to pick up and play a game from back when is important - it's a form of cultural legacy. The big companies don't care what their legacy is, not anymore. It'll be interesting to watch how that plays out.
posted by vibratory manner of working at 8:33 AM on April 8, 2013 [3 favorites]


It'll be interesting to watch how that plays out.

Hacked versions on abandonware and ROM sites, I would imagine. It's usually pirates that bother preserving old games.
posted by jaduncan at 8:36 AM on April 8, 2013 [2 favorites]


trying to model the behavior of a gas by tracking every single molecule.

Liquid War!
posted by vibratory manner of working at 8:36 AM on April 8, 2013 [1 favorite]


I keep thinking about Minecraft as a model.

I'd like to see a Dwarf Fortress style urban planning game. (Though I guess, arguably, DF is an urban planning game.) Model each Sim individually and burn CPU cycles there rather than on the UI layer. Once you get the emergent behavior down so that it's a not-totally-crap facsimile of reality, then you can skin it. And by the time you do that, because tweaking that model would probably take years, computers will probably have sped up sufficiently to tolerate both the computational requirements of the backend engine and the UI.

The very first discussions of SC5 made it sound like it was going to be something like that. I was pretty stoked, to be honest; the ability to drill down to an individual level within a huge simulation — and not have it be faked on-demand, but to actually have that level of simulation running all the time really appealed to me. But, of course, EA fucked it up. Probably because they are the place that interesting concepts go to die.
posted by Kadin2048 at 9:30 AM on April 8, 2013 [1 favorite]


Interesting that for all the grumbling over SimCity 2013 I see in this thread there's very little discussion of the economic incentives at work here.

Well, the thing is, players don't give a rat's ass about the economic incentives. This is what companies like EA always seem to be surprised by - they provide a product designed to get them money, and they don't seem to understand why it doesn't work, because what the player wants is a product that does what they expect it to. And meeting the player's expectations is the first step towards extracting money from them.

What's much more interesting is looking at cases of successful games using interesting business models. Turbine's conversion of Lord of the Rings Online from subscription to micropayment is a good one (and the model behind the rash of subsequent conversions.) The game didn't change in the least, but the payment model did, and their revenue went up astronomically. It's a perfect example of a good game - and LOTRO is a good game - finding the best possible business model, rather than a business model - always-on with DLC - looking for a game to sell it.
posted by restless_nomad at 9:34 AM on April 8, 2013 [2 favorites]


r_n you're right that gamers want fun and don't care about the economics of it, but my point is right now I don't see how the kind of fun I want (a real SimCity that delivers on its promises that I can buy once and play forever without needing to purchase DLC) makes any kind of financial sense for a studio to make. Sure there are studios that are better at customer relations than EA, but the economic logic still holds for them.

At least, for a publicly traded company. There's a reason Valve, for example, is private. If you look at any of Gabe Newell's recent interviews it sounds like Valve is looking at all kinds of interesting ways innovate in the industry but I'm not sure that any of them involve catering to my particular niche market. An indie developer as a labor of love, maybe. Minecraft is awesome, but its success was unpredictable. How does a AAA studio CEO go to shareholders and say "we just want to make people love us" without getting crucified?

I suppose maybe with a well-implemented micropayment system (pay for extra buildings but you get the whole base game with purchase?) my ideal SimCity could be made, but if so why hasn't anyone done it? I hypothesize that it's because the risks and expense don't outweigh the potential profit, rather than a failure of imagination on the developers' part.
posted by Wretch729 at 10:07 AM on April 8, 2013


Model each Sim individually and burn CPU cycles there rather than on the UI layer.

That's not going to be reasonably possible for a long, long time. It may never happen. The problems with individual agent simulation are legion, but the single biggest one that it burns CPU like freaking crazy. Dwarf Fortress, which is quite small, bogs down badly past about 120 agents, largely due to pathfinding. Even if you managed to come up with a perfect multithreaded algorithm, current CPUs are going to be able to handle no more than 500 agents, tops, where big cities have millions of people. With the throughput returns from Moore's Law slowing down so much, we may never be able to deploy desktop computers that can handle that kind of computational load.

The only reasonable way to handle this problem is through modeling of large groups of people. You could potentially do a job/shopping/home route calculation for every sim, and update it only when something changes, but actually running that sim live, and then having, say, emergent traffic, rather than calculating traffic on road sections by using aggregate figures? Absolutely not feasible.

This is why the SimCity agents suck so much; they have to be absolutely brain-dead, because there isn't enough CPU to make them smarter. It was a broken approach from the very start. It was never going to work, and anyone who took the time to really research the problem before starting the project would have known that. Instead, it looks like a bunch of young and enthusiastic programmers suggested that they model individual sims, and their management wasn't seasoned or smart enough to realize that this was folly.

This is the new EA: not just jerks, but stupid jerks.
posted by Malor at 10:09 AM on April 8, 2013 [5 favorites]


you're right that gamers want fun and don't care about the economics of it, but my point is right now I don't see how the kind of fun I want (a real SimCity that delivers on its promises that I can buy once and play forever without needing to purchase DLC) makes any kind of financial sense for a studio to make.

Tomb Raider has moved about 3.5 million copies. Dishonored seems to have done just about as well, although hard figures aren't available for that. Building good games and just selling them can be an extremely profitable enterprise.

The big companies have gotten top-heavy; they want to lug along a ton of deadweight. Square is complaining about weak sales on Tomb Raider, after selling that many copies on an unproven franchise reboot, by a new studio. That studio, and all the Eidos properties in general, have been anywhere from highly profitable to extremely profitable, way way more than justifying their own existence. But then the parent companies whinge because their other projects are imploding, and these very profitable studios aren't spitting out enough cash to keep their other horrible ideas alive.... most of which involve DLC and microtransactions.

There's no real need for either. What we need is better game company management.
posted by Malor at 10:16 AM on April 8, 2013 [2 favorites]


Malor: for reals. Even before the release, the noise about modeling individual sims made me very, very suspicious, and I wasn't the slightest bit surprised that it's gone so badly.

It is just stunning the depths of the ignorance the people in charge of this game have displayed. Not only are they incurious about cities, they don't really know much about computers, math, geometry, networks of semi-autonomous agents, or gamers. They've missed the point of the thing they're trying to model, the tools they use to model it, and the people they're producing the model for.

I can't not think of this as a case of "history repeats itself, first as tragedy, then as farce." From the 1950s through the 1980s, we broke our actual cities by applying bad urban planning theory about widening roads and separating uses and hyper-privileging the automobile. Today, EA shows us how bad urban planning theory breaks imaginary cities, too.
posted by You Can't Tip a Buick at 10:43 AM on April 8, 2013 [5 favorites]


Instead, it looks like a bunch of young and enthusiastic programmers suggested that they model individual sims, and their management wasn't seasoned or smart enough to realize that this was folly.

Totally. This comes right back to r_n's Game Rant #47, Why an Industry with an Average Tenure of Five Years Will Continue to Suck.
posted by restless_nomad at 10:44 AM on April 8, 2013 [6 favorites]




r_n I assume you're more knowledgable than I about the average tenure issue you point out, but how does it explain the case at hand: Sim City? (I'm not 100% sure what job titles mean what. software engineer vs designer vs producer?)

If we can believe LinkedIn we know the following:

Guillaume Pierre – Lead Gameplay Scripter on SC2013 has worked at Maxis since 2003, and has been a scripter since 2009.

Kip Katsarelis - Senior Producer on SC2013 has worked at Maxis since 2003, EA since 2002.

Brian Bartram - Gameplay Designer on SC2013 designer since 2007 but only at Maxis since 2012.

Dan Kline – Gameplay Designer on SC2013 software engineer since 2001, Maxis since 2012.

I could look up more but have to run to a meeting. This gives us an avg industry experience of 9+ years for some of the project leaders. What's their excuse? Sunk cost into GlassBox?
posted by Wretch729 at 11:20 AM on April 8, 2013 [1 favorite]


antonymous:
Is there some compelling reason why no one has made a SimOffice game yet? The simulation genre is only getting bigger and on Monday mornings I think some people could relieve (or is that re-live) the stress of being stuck in a cubicle-filled hellscape by creating a cubicle-filled hellscape WITH A BREAK ROOM.

Let me intruduce you Sips. He is the guy. Let Sips introduce you to Smooth Operators - Call Center Chaos.
posted by Free word order! at 11:22 AM on April 8, 2013


...I don't see how the kind of fun I want (a real SimCity that delivers on its promises that I can buy once and play forever without needing to purchase DLC) makes any kind of financial sense for a studio to make.

And, yet, that's exactly how EA used to make money. And, truth be told, they could still make money that way. Probably boatloads. However, modern economics dictate that you follow the business model that makes you as much money as possible, regardless. It's not a case that without the "always-on, DLC" model, EA would lose money. It's more that the wouldn't make as much money without it.
posted by Thorzdad at 11:25 AM on April 8, 2013


r_n I assume you're more knowledgable than I about the average tenure issue you point out, but how does it explain the case at hand: Sim City?

Does anyone have access to the credits? How many people were on the project?

There are always a few old hands around - an average is only an average - but who they are and where they fall in the org structure, which varies studio to studio (even within EA) makes a huge difference.

In the list you've posted, the Lead Gameplay Scripter may or may not have significant input into the sort of technical choices we're talking about - "scripter" is usually a title that implies the person is not an engineer but has some minimal technical facility. None of the rest of the people would have input into that side of things, except maybe the producer, and depending on how big the project is he might not. (It's totally possible to be a Senior Producer and be in charge of something like art or audio that isn't design- or programming-related at all.)

"Gameplay designer" could be anything from "the guy in charge of writing the flavor text for the building UI" to "the guy who works on how taxes interface with the rest of the systems." "Designer" is a super vague title.
posted by restless_nomad at 11:45 AM on April 8, 2013


Is there some compelling reason why no one has made a SimOffice game yet? The simulation genre is only getting bigger and on Monday mornings I think some people could relieve (or is that re-live) the stress of being stuck in a cubicle-filled hellscape by creating a cubicle-filled hellscape

There's a reason that The Sims never had you follow your Sims to work (at least not in the original version).
posted by asnider at 12:24 PM on April 8, 2013




It's not a case that without the "always-on, DLC" model, EA would lose money. It's more that the wouldn't make as much money without it.

We don't even know that. And aren't they're losing money anyway, under the abuse-customers model? Maybe a little less abuse would be a good idea.
posted by Malor at 12:50 PM on April 8, 2013


Well MonteCristo went bankrupt in part due to poor sales of Cities XL. Not a perfect analogy because XL had its own flaws and lacked the pedigree of Sim City but not a good sign for other city sim games being made. Another company has the rights now and is I guess making money off of them, but not sure how sustainably.
posted by Wretch729 at 1:01 PM on April 8, 2013


To back up restless_nomad - people with more than 5 years in the game industry are few and far between on the grand scheme of things. The overall effect is a loss of talent and skill that has a general cascading effect on the industry.

But I don't think it is a major problem with SimCity. People with lots of experience tend to gain critical mass at more established studios, and this is one of them. (I work at a big studio that's been around for ages, and I think the average tenure, if you exclude QA, is around 7-10 years, with plenty of guys with 15-20 years of experience.) This is totally untrue of smaller companies I know, where lots of people enter and leave rapidly, where someone with 3 years might be promoted to lead because that's the most experience anyone there has. SimCity is a bit of a vanity project - it is very attractive to a lot of developers for various reasons. A massive credits list with lots of junior employees may trend the average down, but people with decision-making power are likely to skew pretty high in experience.

But just because there's experienced people on a project doesn't mean they are really good at what they do, that they always make the right decisions, that they are experienced with this particular genre, or that they can cut through management/corporate bullshit to get the right thing done. Really talented people thrown together on a project with great potential can still crash and burn. Repeating the same mistakes and needing to solve the same problems every project happens all the time, even without major brain-drain. I could compile a list as long as my arm on things that probably had a much bigger impact on SimCity's problems than the amount of experience the developers had. The main ones are usually a soup of running out of time, running out of money, late-stage changes, technology problems (like developing with Origin), insufficient support (like lack of QA), and overreactions/wrong-solutions based on usability or focus-testing results. Probably add more business/financial pressures than the average game, since SimCity was obviously designed with advertisers, DLC/microtransactions, and DRM/anti-piracy in mind. But you won't know the exact makeup until someone does a postmortem in, oh, twenty years from now.
posted by subject_verb_remainder at 1:13 PM on April 8, 2013 [2 favorites]


Just a side note: SimTower is available for iPad under the original name, Yoot Tower. Some minor differences, but still the same game I played 15-20 years ago.
posted by daninnj at 4:36 PM on April 8, 2013 [5 favorites]


But just because there's experienced people on a project doesn't mean they are really good at what they do, that they always make the right decisions, that they are experienced with this particular genre, or that they can cut through management/corporate bullshit to get the right thing done.

Yes, exactly. Forgive me for shorthanding my gripe - I've made it a few times and I hate to be the broken record - but one of my major complaints about the short lifecycle of a dev is that while it's not entirely counter-meritocratic, there's no guarantee that the people who stay in the industry are the best people. In fact, it seems like they're just the most risk-tolerant, which has nothing at all to do with their competence.

This may not apply as much at the few companies that seem to have relatively low turnover - Valve is one of them, Maxis may well be another, and Blizzard also seems to keep people a damned long time, although none of them ever emerge from their Sacred Halls and mingle with us peons so it's hard to tell.

(And now I totally want to know where you work, s_v_r, because we probably have friends in common.)
posted by restless_nomad at 5:04 PM on April 8, 2013 [1 favorite]


SC4 most certainly does have rail and underground and bus. With the Rush Hour expansion (which everyone should have) it also had monorail, elevated rail, one-way roads and park-and-ride.

I don't know what you mean about the maps being small -- there are four sizes ranging from small to enormous.


I probably should find my old copy of Sim City 4 then. I just distinctly remember being frustrated that I couldn't build cities as big as I could in Sim City 3000, and that I couldn't build vast underground subway networks.
posted by the cydonian at 8:04 PM on April 8, 2013


Something Awful has a pretty good thread on getting Simcity 4 up and running as well as information on mods for the game.
posted by the_artificer at 8:31 PM on April 8, 2013 [6 favorites]


I just distinctly remember being frustrated that I couldn't build cities as big as I could in Sim City 3000, and that I couldn't build vast underground subway networks.

The default region generator will give you a mix of large and small tiles to build on. You can download new region maps, which are basically just an image file and a set of coordinates for where the regions should be. I downloaded and used, for instance, the Eaton map. From the naming, I think it was done by Jhipolito.

Note that the import process for a new region takes an extremely long time. Start it running, and then go do something else. Even on my tricked-out wünderPC, it took about 15 minutes of the game just sitting there, apparently not doing anything. What it's actually doing is generating full-size maps for the whole region; in the case of Eaton, it's generating 64 of them, and that takes a good long while.

What you'll end up with, at least with Eaton, is a huge region with all huge city zones, some of which are on the coast, and some of which are inland. I think you can even connect between cities with the subway, but I haven't actually tried. If it works, you could build an absolutely immense, subwayed metropolis, one huge chunk at a time.

Eaton is on Simtropolis; if you can't find it, drop a MeMail, and I can get it to you. It's tiny, especially considering the amount of work it takes to process.
posted by Malor at 9:11 AM on April 9, 2013 [2 favorites]




Spare a thought for Lynn Esperanza.

... who was only Lynn Esperanza when he clicked on that agent, and "she" turned into someone else as soon as she went into a house. He claimed to see her again later, but that was freshly randomly generated.

The wizards at Electronic Arts seem to understand cities as market-driven algorithms.

*snicker* Wizards? Wizards?

There is no subway, no bike paths, no separated bus lanes.

There will be. Oh, there will be. Probably one at a time, for a "low, low" price.
posted by Malor at 2:05 PM on April 9, 2013 [1 favorite]




And it was all because they allowed gay relationships.

They really are the worst company in gaming, and while beating out BofA is maybe a little silly, it's a well-deserved award within their market space. EA is mendacious, nasty, and incompetent.
posted by Malor at 12:54 AM on April 10, 2013


Congrats to EA! They must be quite proud.
posted by Justinian at 9:39 AM on April 10, 2013


Just a side note: SimTower is available for iPad under the original name, Yoot Tower. Some minor differences, but still the same game I played 15-20 years ago.

Yoots?
posted by Drinky Die at 11:30 AM on April 10, 2013


Note that the import process for a new region takes an extremely long time. Start it running, and then go do something else. Even on my tricked-out wünderPC, it took about 15 minutes of the game just sitting there, apparently not doing anything. What it's actually doing is generating full-size maps for the whole region; in the case of Eaton, it's generating 64 of them, and that takes a good long while.

If you use SC4 Mapper (a standalone fan-made app) it renders these new regions in literally seconds! When you load the game, the region view will look strangely low-res and bitmappy, but that's because each city thumbnail isn't generated until you load the city tile then go back to the region.

It seemed to good to be true when I first used it, but it works like a charm.
posted by General Tonic at 9:08 AM on April 11, 2013 [1 favorite]




Wow, what an asshole. And also, if that's true about the Xbox being always-on, welp, guess I won't be buying one.
posted by Sys Rq at 1:33 PM on April 11, 2013




Well patch 2.0 came out today, traffic is still broken and people are still getting locked out of and/or getting forced rollbacks in their cities along with some new problems, but you can get five trourist attractions for your city when you buy Crest and Oral-B products!

From RPS, The Power Of Silence: Why The SimCity Story Went Away
posted by the_artificer at 8:29 PM on April 22, 2013 [2 favorites]


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