One of the odd quirks of this blog is that by far the most popular post since I restarted is a qualified defense of SimCity Social. It got posted on reddit, and from there to the Simtropolis forums which in turn drove a lot of traffic here.
It should be noted that I eventually stopped playing the “Social” game. The first straw was a “mission” which required players to spam their facebook wall. It was specifically written so you couldn’t ask a “friend” who you knew also played the game; you had to make a post that would show in everyone’s feed. The second straw was a series of server issues that prevented players from logging in and caused progress on time-sensitive tasks to be lost. I swore off the game and picked up a copy of Tropico 4 for Xbox to satisfy my city-building urges.
Now SimCity 5 has been out for a couple of weeks. I didn’t pick it up, because I was wary of the requirement of a constant internet connection, or always-on DRM. This has turned out to be a wise choice. If you pay attention to tech news at all, you’ve read about SimCity’s massive server failures. It’s been in Forbes, it’s been in Wired and TechCrunch and everywhere else. But even assuming they get all the servers running smoothly, as it turns out, the game itself is shit. For instance, drivers are incapable of weighing alternate routes.
Imagine if everyone who was driving to Galveston jumped off 45 at Monroe and took SH-3 the rest of the way. It is 0.2 miles shorter. Or imagine if everyone from Fort Bend County jumped off 59 at Bissonnet, leading to massive tailbacks at every light while the freeway through Sharpstown was empty. That’s the traffic world SimCity posits.
But it’s not just cars that are screwed up. Zones don’t interface at all, so it’s possible to have a city of say, entirely residential:
I’ve long lamented that the Sim games didn’t provide an option for “anything” zone, i.e. something that approximates our Unrestricted Reserve. But at least the previous games forced players to adopt a zoning regime which balanced availability with market demand. Try to zone a city entirely commercial/industrial and you’ll get a whole lot of vacant or abandoned commercial/industrial. Try to make things entirely residential and you’d likewise fail.
With SimCity 4′s region setup, it was possible to make bedroom communities, provided you set up sufficiently high-capacity railway or freeway links to adjacent employment centers. But even that has disappeared. In the new SimCity you just plop some R’s down in the middle of nowhere, and an instant metropolis arises. Traffic may or may not show up from other cities, but it’s liable to be a huge mass of buses or taxis that refuse to leave. And since traffic doesn’t respond to bypasses or reliever routes, and since development doesn’t respond to traffic, well, space maximization suggests not building a street grid at all, but rather a single snaking roadway. Some have done exactly this.
The thing is, if you want a “Sim” game in which traffic doesn’t matter and zoning doesn’t matter, in which there’s no point beyond plopping down whatever you’d like to see – well, they already have that. It’s called SimCity Social. And it’s free. I am, as mentioned earlier, not a huge fan of that game either. But if you want something to play, that’s the one to go for. Don’t shell out any of your hard-earned money on an online-only game that was delivered broken from the start.