5 things SimCity needs

SimCity column university city

I’ve been sinking time into SimCity (2013) since it launched on Friday, and infuriating server connection issues aside, I’ve been enjoying the game. However, as a fan of the series, it’s impossible to dwell on this game in isolation.

I understand that SimCity 2013 offers its own gameplay paradigm of which online interaction with other players is core, and along with that comes a number of mechanical restrictions.

Still, I can’t help but feel the game is lacking a few core features from previous versions that would have served it well.

SimCity 2013 screenshot

SimCity 2013 provides some stunning views

Save games

Since you are playing online with a bunch of randoms from all over the world, or even your friends, the ability to save your city’s progress at whatever stage you wish and then reload it doesn’t exist.

Cities are linked in many ways across regions, sharing workers, students, resources, and many other elements – so each city has an impact on the regional economy. Saving and loading cities at different stages of development would obviously have an affect on neighbours, and this is probably why the feature isn’t present.

However, I miss the ability to make a save, plan out an expensive build, learn from the mistakes, load my save, and get things right.

I also miss wreaking havoc across my carefully-crafted metropolis with the array of natural disasters on offer. Sometimes, when the complaining citizens are getting too much, it’s nice to blow off steam by reigning down divine wrath, and then simply reloading a save and continue being Mr Nice-mayor.

SimCity Meteor Strike

SimCity 2013 Meteor Strike

Subway system

The transport systems have been vastly improved in SimCity, but there is one core component missing – subways. I can’t think of a good reason why this wasn’t included, but I have already encountered situations where it would be very useful.

In SimCity, you get two types of road: streets and avenues. All roads dictate zone density, and once you have a high density street, it cannot be upgraded to a wider avenue which can funnel greater volumes of traffic. Destroying roads also destroys buildings attached to them, making one loathe to destroy entire neighbourhoods when there are congestion problems.

The problem with avenues is that they are very expensive, and unless you plan far ahead to cater to future demands, you will be using a lot of streets. Streets inevitably become congested even in the best of layouts. Adding more buses doesn’t help as they simply add to the congestion.

A subway system would be ideal in this situation.

SimCity traffic Jam

SimCity 2013 traffic Jam

Larger cities

The areas in which to build have been standardised across regions, and the space can sometimes feel restrictive, especially when trying to cram in specialisation buildings once a city has developed to a medium size.

One might presume this is once again some sort of balancing issue for the social elements of the game. Maxis might argue that the processing power required on their side (all simulation processing takes place on Maxis servers) would be too demanding and detriment the overall game.

Still, I would love to see larger or smaller city zones in which to build.

SimCity looks great when your city has evolved to an advanced stage, but it also starts to look very cramped. Having the room to spread out would enable whole new build styles, such as dense commercial zones, with outlying industrial and residential districts. These large established cities would also have a lot to offer their burgeoning neighbours in terms of services and resources.

Similarly, a smaller city zone would enable the ability to build compact yet functional towns. For example, one could build a suburban residential area with a low power consumption footprint (making small wind and solar farms plausible) whose citizens commute to work at larger neighbouring cities.


SimCity 2013 screenshot

SimCity 2013 region view


One of the great features of SimCity 4 was its terraforming tools, which were a vast improvement from previous versions. Terraforming has been chucked out in SimCity 2013.

Your regions are pre-designed, and the city zones cannot be altered. I can see why this might be necessary, once again for social gameplay elements, and to draw leaderboard from the scoring systems – you need a constant base for that.

However, surely we could have been given a set of tools to create our own regional and then city zone layouts. Sharing these regions with the SimCity community and building outlandish and inspired cities sounds like a lot of fun, and not having those regions part of the global scoring system wouldn’t be a bother to me personally.

Maxis may once again argue that since simulation processing takes place on their servers, this feature would put too much pressure on their systems.

SimCity 4 Terraforming Rage Face

We can no longer craft such masterpieces ;_;

Offline mode

Three of the four features on my wishlist above could be achieved by including an offline mode for SimCity 2013.

I understand and even side with the argument that Maxis and EA made it clear from the announce that this game was going to be online-only, and it has been designed as such. Therefore, if that doesn’t appeal to you, then don’t buy the game.

However, even with all the social stuff going on, the gameplay experience is ostensibly single-player. The SimCity series was founded on single-player gameplay and many fans pleaded with Maxis to go the extra mile and incorporate an offline gameplay mode.

The problems with the always online system were apparent during the disastrous launch of SimCity. Your hours of vested gameplay are at the mercy of EA and Maxis and their server uptime and availability, as well as your own Internet connection stability.

Maxis general manager Lucy Bradshaw

Maxis general manager Lucy Bradshaw

However, Maxis doesn’t seem willing to budge on this issue, with Maxis general manager Lucy Bradshaw recently saying that “We have no intention of offlining SimCity any time soon but we’ll look into that as part of our ‘earning back your trust’ efforts.”

Have you played SimCity yet? What are your thought on the game? Let us know in the comments below and on the MyGaming forum.

More SimCity news

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SimCity intro trailer reveals space-aged surprise

SimCity “multi-city” features detailed

SimCity 5′s always-on internet requirement is “totally worth it”, promises Maxis

Forum discussion

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  • Draco Lusus

    I’ve been itching to give this a go (shitty server/internet connections aside), from what you have laid out here. It doesn’t seem like I’d enjoy it that much :(

  • Ebrahim Ally

    Sim City Subway expansion (R350)
    Sim City Terraforming expansion (R350)
    Sim City Savegame expansion (R350)…

    this could be quite profitable for Maxis

  • http://profiles.google.com/andrew.craucamp Andrew Craucamp

    Such a shame, the GlassBox engine is a marvel of technology.

  • Fidget

    haha, YIP, you nailed it…

  • Wyzak

    Yep on all of them. If the game had all of those features it would have been a sure buy for me. With offline mode and maybe one or two of the other ones (larger cities would be nr 1) it would have been a difficult decision, but I would probably have bought it.

  • Wyzak

    Nothing they can’t fix in several paid DLCs 😀

  • Wyzak

    It certainly has a lot of potential, but I was a little bit disappointed with the busses and cars just making u-turns randomly instead of continuing straight or turning into a valid street.

  • http://mygaming.co.za/news James Etherington-Smith

    I’m still enjoying the game so far, but in this column I’m lamenting features I miss from SimCity 4; features that have been in previous SimCity games as well.

    This is a new direction for SimCity, and it’s still enjoyable, but I want to let people know it’s missing a few core things from the previous titles so they aren’t shocked or disappointed if they pick up this reboot.

  • http://www.facebook.com/leon.cornelius Leon Cornelius

    I’ve been playing it (on and off) over the weekend, and aside from the occasional (server is unavailable) message – and soon learning – DON’T QUIT! and having to wait to get back in after an annoying 1 hour timer (with no alternative), I have enjoyed it thoroughly. The mechanics behind some of the city building items (like getting the right parks in for your right neighbourhoods, balancing happiness and the books, and making sure nothing breaks too much is quite a challenge, and a lot of trial and error.

    Ultimately its a very “playable” / “player friendly” game – where things are done not in isolation, as you can see the stuff impact your city quite quickly. The one thing I do miss, is a “state save” where I could save the state of the city on the servers (not a save game) and if it completely borks out (like what is happening to my overspending megalopolis at the moment) – I can go back to a “server state” and try to balance the expansion and expense better… but such is life :)

    Oh yes, my flat mate had his nuclear reactor blow up – with lots of consequences across the region lol!

  • General Michael Skywalker

    I was really looking forward to this but now I’m just sad :(

  • Draco Lusus

    I rate I’ll wait for the bargain bin or GOTY edition, though, neither seems likely.

  • Wyzak

    Yeah ditto. But without offline I doubt I’d even go for that.

  • Vorastra

    One thing SimCity needs.
    To be like SImCity 4 but with the GlassBox Engine.

    Moving forward is adding to the experience not detracting from it.

  • Vorastra

    I wanted a CITY building game. Not a neighbourhood manager.

    SimCity 2013, a neighbourhood manager.

  • Vorastra

    Exactly, what happens in a few years time when EA don’t want to support the SimCIty servers. Goodbye to your game that you paid for ? Pretty much.

    I can see it now. In 5 years time EA announces closure of the SImCity servers and then rolls out an offline patch for SImCity.
    Uhm, EA why you no give offline at start ? O_O

    You read it here first guys.

  • Wyzak

    Hah, that’s wishful thinking that EA will roll out an offline patch then. I would rather expect them to shut down the SC 5 servers when they launch SC 6.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1484350260 Jaid Orfali

    Yeah and in SC4 Exp you could control cars and stuff 😀 😀

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1484350260 Jaid Orfali

    meh, try simcity 2000 or 3000 😀

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1484350260 Jaid Orfali

    yup agreed 😀

  • Vorastra

    As I type this I have just had a very worrisome thought. What if EA forced this upon Maxis so as to be the guinea pig for future games.

    If EA does this, nail in coffin.

  • Vorastra

    Indeed it is, after watching all the tech demo’s the only thing I thought was,”Jesus and this is going to be on the scale of SimCity 4. This will be the best game so far, hands down.”

    As usual, if it’s too good to be true then it probably is. As has been seen with release (how now brown cow rhyming :O).

    MASSIVELY disappointed.

  • Wyzak

    Well… Maxis have said that they started with online-only and that EA did not force it onto them. Not sure how believable that is…

    Yes I am also very concerned about the future of gaming. I see myself buying more and more indie and small studio games and less and less or even zero big studio games.

  • Vorastra

    Ye, I can definitely relate. I find myself buying less and less big titles which is why GoG.com has pretty much been my go-to site. What can I say I like my games DRM-free and thus Steam-free.

    PS: I too don’t believe for a second that EA didn’t force anything on Maxis.

  • http://www.facebook.com/leon.cornelius Leon Cornelius

    This is true, but you can select a region, make it “private” – not the sandbox one, and then just build all your cities in there. No friends required. I’m not 100% sure if you make a region private, if the stats / achievements goes into the ladders or not…

  • Wyzak

    I’ve been playing CitiesXL Platinum the last few days, and that’s truly a city building game! The streets can sometimes be a little tricky to place, but the city is so large that I don’t mind having an extra corner here and there. There is a memory leak in the game though, so after about 4 hours or so on my PC it starts to slow down. Then I just quit and reload my save game and it’s fine again. No big deal.

  • The Rich

    Interesting – I suddenly wish I had bought it during the Steam Winter sale, especially since I looked at it almost every day wondering whether to buy it! Bring on the Steam Summer sale I guess 😀

  • Wyzak

    I think I bought Cities XL 2012 during that sale and I then subsequently bought the upgrade to Platinum for $4.50 (you can upgrade 2011 and 2012 for this price). I was really concerned by the reviews and people complaining but so far it has treated me really well and I’ve been able to get my moneys worth out of it. I also found a way to make multi-player trading work in it 😛

  • Wyzak

    Please don’t be blasphemous :(

  • Gezzer50

    I’m playing it. How long I’ll keep playing it I’m not sure. I’ve only played it with a private region (single player) so far and I’m leery of trying a multi-player region. But I can see that with out the on-line content this game will get stale pretty fast. I guess if they had included all the mentioned additional features this wouldn’t be the case. In fact that might be why they’re not included. That or the inevitable Sims type DLC we’ll be seeing every month or two for the next 3 years will eventually include it.

    Either way I think, unless the multi-player wows me, I might have moved on to something else by the time the first DLC drops.