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Lookin’ Back #22 – SimCity

Build a city and choke it with smog.  Good times.

Maxis have been around for a fair old while.  They are best known these days for Spore and The Sims.  But Maxis first made their entrance to the video game world in 1989 with a game called SimCity.  The game was developed by Will Wright and was, as you might guess from the title, a city building simulator.  You are the mayor of a village, and you have to try and build it up into a bustling metropolis, complete with emergency services, power grid and transport network.

The game was a rarity at the time in that you couldn’t really win or lose the game.  There were no set objectives, you just had to build a city using the money at your disposal.  The main city zones you put down were divided into 3 types – residential, commercial and industrial, which do pretty much what you’d expect.  These were laid down as 3×3 blocks, which over the course of time would develop into a set of small buildings, and eventually into skyscrapers if the conditions and population in your city were good enough.

In addition to this, there were natural disasters which could occur during the game to wreak havoc on your city.  These included fire, tornadoes, earthquakes and even attacks by giant monsters.  In a lot of versions of the game, you could choose whether or not there would be disasters in your cities.  In other versions (such as the SNES version), you also had the ability to trigger the disaster of your choice at will.  Once a disaster had occured, you had to try and clear up the aftermath.  This usually involved, for example, clearing land around fires to prevent them from spreading until the fire brigade could put the fires out.


The SNES version of SimCity was an interesting beast.  It was actually developed by Nintendo themselves, and contained a few extra bits that weren’t in other versions of the game.  Apart from the ability to trigger disasters, there were also bonus buildings you earned once your city progressed to certain sizes.  In addition, you had an advisor known as Dr Wright, who was designed to look a little bit like Will Wright, and the monster who attacked your city was Bowser.

SimCity became a franchise and spawned several sequels.  The second game in the series was SimCity 2000.  This game introduced some new features to the game.  The top down perspective was replaced with an isometric viewpoint, with the terrain having different heights, instead of being completely flat.  Also, there were new building types you could build, such as prisons, libraries and hospitals.  There was a bigger variety in the transportation systems, allowing the building of airports and seaports, and original zone types could now be built in a grid of any size, rather than the standard 3×3 squares.  These zones also came in two levels of density, which would influence what sort of buildings actually appeared on them.


SimCity 3000, the 3rd game in the series, added even more new building types and things to tweak.  The graphics once again stepped up a gear, and the neighbour mechanic that was introduced in 2000 was greatly expanded upon, including the ability to make deals involving selling or buying excess power and water.  You also had business details, where big casinos and mega malls would be built in your city, giving you a cash injection but having negative effects on the city.

For people who actually wanted aims and goals to achieve, the SimCity series also had a series of scenarios which could be played.  Some were based on actual events, whereas some where just a pre-built city with the task to earn a certain amount of money or achieve a certain population level.

SimCity is arguably one of the best simulation games of all time.  Maxis were pumping out a huge amount of Sim games at the time, but none of them became as well known as SimCity.

About Mike Jones

Mike Jones
Mike is Brutal Gamer's Indie Editor. He has been playing video games since the early 90s and is fond of racing games, puzzlers and MMOs. Typing /played while in WoW makes him cry, but not enough to stop him playing some more.

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