SimCity interview: Maxis producer, Jason Haber

PC World talks to Maxis producer, Jason Haber, about the return of the city management sim

The 2013 release of EA's SimCity will mean that a decade has passed since the publisher revisited the franchise with 2003’s SimCity 4. Today’s PC technology is leaps and bounds to what it was back then, and this is immediately reflected in the presentation and scope of the new instalment. For one, the graphics have received a massive boost with detailed depictions of buildings and landmarks. This eye to detail extends to not only vehicles on roads but also to pedestrians. Additionally, the grid based layout used in past games has been replaced with a more versatile canvas that allows the player to shape roads and bridges in any way they see fit.

Following a hands-on demonstration of the latest build of SimCity, Maxis producer, Jason Haber, spoke to PC World about the game's design.

Why the name SimCity and not SimCity 5?

Maxis producer, Jason Haber (JH): It’s not a direct sequel to SimCity 4 but rather a re-imaging of the entire SimCity franchise. Part of that is due to the Glassbox simulation engine and it is now what we refer to as a “bottom up simulation.” So we can now simulate all the tiny elements in the game, such as cars driving and people walking around. Even the power and water pipes are shown. So all of that is put together to build a bigger city simulation.

In an age of consoles, SimCity is being exclusively developed for PC and Mac. What do you feel the PC is the natural home for SimCity?

JH: PC and Mac has always been the home for SimCity. It always started out as a PC experience, and Maxis has always brought titles to PC and Mac. We felt that was where we needed to start with this game.

SimCity has an amazing level of detail and functionality. Where do you draw the line of what should be included in the game?

JH: It’s always a challenge to figure out the balance of what goes into the game. Our goal is to put in as much as possible, but also keeping in mind that we want everything to be tuned and as fun as possible. It’s hard to be specific, but I think we are happy with what we’ve got in the title and what’s going to be in the game.

With all of the functionality already present in the current build of the game, have you seen testers do anything unusual during gameplay that surprised you?

JH: What’s interesting is that every person has a different way to play their game. It’s always fun to watch other people play the game, as you get to see them engage in a different type of city they build. In particular, it's enjoyable watching really hardcore SimCity 2000 or SimCity 4 players playing compared to someone who hasn’t experienced the franchise before. But everyone seems to be happy with the fact that it still feels like SimCity, it’s the game they know and love, and our current efforts in tuning, fixing and polishing the game are part of walking that line to ensure it is the best experience it can be.

Was there any feature you personally wanted to include in the game that will likely not meet the shipping date?

JH: Everybody has a feature that they love that can’t make it in, but with what we’ve got in there is already a lot. I’m constantly surprised by the depth of the game and the things I continue to find and discover. So we’re pretty happy with what we’ve got in the shipping product.

SimCity 4 was able be used in conjunction with The Sims. Are there plans for anything similar with the Sims 3?

JH: There are no plans for integrating the Sims 3 into SimCity.

The SimCity games have always features natural disasters that players can inflict on their city which they may have spend days if not weeks building. Why do you think players are attracted to this function?

JH: It’s different things for different people. For some people, they like to use it as a test of how their infrastructure is built and how successful in their mind they are with their city. For other people, there is the fun of watching the destruction and chaos happen. I have a three year old son at home, and he loves watching the disasters. I think he finds them hilarious. So different people have different motivations.

Want to read other video game interviews with key figures from Sony, Microsoft and more? Then check out PC World's complete interview archive.

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Patrick Budmar

Patrick Budmar

PC World

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