Building your own metropolis with SimCity

Classic city management sim gets a modern makeover on PC.

EA's SimCity comes on the tenth anniversary of 2003’s SimCity 4. The biggest change is the graphics, which have received a massive boost thanks to today's PC hardware. This eye to detail extends to not only vehicles on roads, but also to individually rendered pedestrians. The grid-based layout used in past games has also been replaced with a more versatile field that allows the player to shape roads and bridges in any way they see fit.

Maxis producer, Jason Haber, spoke to us about what makes this the biggest SimCity yet.

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.

Why is PC is the best platform 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.

How do you decide 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.

Have you seen anything unusual during testing 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 that had to be cut?

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.

Any plans for connectivity with the Sims 3?

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

Who do people unleash natural disasters on their cities?

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 Good Gear Guide's complete interview archive.

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