SimCity 4 More on SimCity 4

SimCity 4 was on display at EA's Summer Camp this year, and we were able to get a closer look at some aspects of the game, as well as learn about some of its new features. 

ScreenshotsThe first thing we saw was just how much feedback you will receive about your city when playing the game - without ever having to resort to looking up charts or graphs.  As an example, let's look at what happens when you place a school in a neighborhood.  As soon as you select the school and begin looking for a spot to place it, you'll notice that the area covered by the school will be shown while you are selecting its location - you'll immediately be able to find the optimal spot for the school.  Once placed, you will see that the school is doing its job by the children playing in the schoolyard and by all the minivans that will drive up to the school twice a day.  The school will also reflect the effects of its funding level: under fund the school and you will see teachers begin to hit the picket lines in front of the school, bringing classes (and the school's benefits to the neighborhood) to a halt.  This level of immediate and visual feedback is central to SimCity 4, and it extends beyond your buildings to your city's services as well.  Slash the funding of your police and fire departments and they will resemble the keystone kops more than your city's finest as they respond to emergencies.

Players of The Sims will appreciate another of SimCity 4's interesting features: the ability to import your sim into your SimCity 4 city.  Your sim will move into the city and find a place to live, and then will find a job.  You'll be able to instantly locate your sim at any time, and can get some valuable feedback on the quality of life in your city from him or her.  In addition to the direct feedback from your sim, the quality of your sim's life will directly reflect your city's health.  As goes your city, so goes your sim.

Those of you who enjoyed unleashing disasters on your cities in prior versions of the game will be happy to hear that a lot of your favorite calamities will be back in SimCity 4.  There will also be new disasters introduced in SimCity 4, including lightning strikes, volcanoes, and meteorite impacts.  When asked about other new disasters at the show, a Maxis representative just smiled and said that there will be other 'surprises' as well.  One can only imagine what other disasters have been dreamed up by the crew that unleashed giant monsters and aliens on cities in prior versions of the game.

As in prior versions of SimCity, you'll be able to begin building your city at different points in time.  If you begin your city in the late 1800's, your city will have a brick-heavy, old-style Chicago look to it.  As your city moves forward in time, or should you decide to found it in a later era, it will begin to take on the steel and concrete look of New York in the 1940s.  When it progresses into the modern era, your city will have the steel and glass look of the cities of today.

What about multiplayer?  Will SimCity 4 be the first to bring an element of human competition to the series?  The answer is 'maybe', but definitely not at release.  Maxis is toying with the idea of adding multiplayer support in a future update to the game, but has not even decided on the form multiplayer games will take.  A couple of ideas under consideration include building the best version of a real city, such as the best simulation of San Francisco, and developing the best rated city in the region.  While you shouldn't count on a multiplayer version of the game, it is certainly something interesting to think about.

As more is revealed about SimCity 4, it becomes more and more apparent that it will be the most evolutionary, if not revolutionary, version of the game in the series to date.  You'll get far more than a graphical update of the game; it looks like SimCity 4 will be both the most realistic and the most enjoyable game in the series to date.  You'll get a chance to see this for yourself when the game is released this fall.