SimCity returns At Gamescom 2012

We sit down with SimCity producer Jason Haber in Cologne, Germany to chat about what PC gamers can expect from the next SimCity game.

For more than two decades, Will Wrights city-building simulator has sworn in millions of virtual mayors around the world. The SimCity franchise has sold over 30 million copies worldwide. With its return in 2013, SimCity will engage an entirely new generation of PC gamers as they take charge of their own customized cities and build a world that co-exists alongside friends. Jason Haber, producer on SimCity at Electronic Arts Maxis Emeryville, talks about whats in store for PC gamers in this exclusive Gamescom 2012 interview.

Game On: For someone who has a high-end PC, how much visual detail will be in this game?

Jason Haber: Weve actually shown a lot of the gameplay and the actual footage in our trailers. Its the detail that you can really zoom in and see those Sims walking around, or see things moving around. The tilt shift effect also makes the game look absolutely beautiful. Theres also the ability to see the activity during day and night. All of those are great things that you can see in the game.

What were your goals heading into this SimCity?

JH: Our goals in SimCity were to bring a SimCity like weve never had before by taking advantage of the new GlassBox simulation engine and the technology that allows us to run that and to bring the game to the online experience. Whether youre playing solo or with other people, youre playing in a bigger region and we wanted to bring that experience to players.

Can you talk a little bit about how the evolution of technology has opened things up for the team creatively?

JH: Ever since SimCity 4, weve wanted to create a SimCity like this. But because of computers back then werent quite powerful enough, we werent able to do it. Also, the advent of the online connected user has allowed us to create that connected experience weve been looking for.

How much depth is in this game from a micro management perspective?

JH: With GlassBox you can really go down to the street level and look at every Sim and every car thats going by and see what theyre doing. You can even look into their thoughts and see what theyre thinking about or see where theyre going. Youll be able to see that level of detail. Weve also taken all the data of GlassBox and allowed you to strip back the graphics and look at data layers that tell you whats going on in the game. It could be a map showing you where the water is located or it could be a bar graph showing you where the population lives. That allows you to analyze whats happening and plan your next actions.

How have you designed this game for the core player, but opened it up for the more mainstream player?

JH: The data layer really helps make that data more accessible so for those everyday players, theyll be able to look at that information and understand what is happening. But for the hardcore player, theyre going to really be able to learn how GlassBox is working and learn how to work with that best.

Can you give us a sense of how far things have come technology-wise from the last SimCity to this one?

JH: One of the big things is that now the game is in full 3D. You can go in and rotate the camera with this beautiful tilt shift effect, which has created this beautiful model-like world. Thats something that we couldnt do with SimCity 4, which was a fixed perspective. Theres no way SimCity 4 could have run that engine because its very powerful and takes a lot of processing power. Our specs are listed on Sim City.com so you can go see what kind of machine you need to run it and thats really brought it to a new level.

How big can you make your city in this game?

JH: Well, the city size is comparable to the medium-sized city in SimCity 4. Then youll just be able to build up from there. We allow players to play the whole region, so they can create a giant region of activity and interaction.

Can you explain what role pollution and the environment play in this game?

JH: As with any SimCity, you can be whatever type of mayor you want to be, so you dont necessarily be eco-friendly to win the game. Theres no wining state. You can play however you want. In fact, we even have leader boards for being the most polluted city because we know people like to play that way. There are resources in the game that you have to be aware of including like water and coal and other things like that that live under the ground. Those will get depleted over time and some of those will convert into other things like air pollution and ground pollution. You need to be aware of those when youre building your city, not just for your own city but for other cities within the region.

How have you guys seen the actual simulation genre expand since the last SimCity game?

JH: Thats a good question; Im not quite sure how to answer that. Its grown over the last 10 years, so there have been a lot of evolutions. We look at other simulation games and see what theyve been doing and theres learning from every game out there.

What are you most excited about when it comes to the release of the new SimCity?

JH: The online connected experience and seeing what it is like to have a city thats in the bigger picture of a region is going to really bring a new experience to SimCity. Its similar to the real world. Im from the Bay Area, where we have San Francisco and Oakland. Its interesting because the decisions they make affect each other. Bringing in that element to SimCity, weve really expanded that world of what its like to be a mayor and creating that city. It makes that city building simulation more robust.

This story, "SimCity returns At Gamescom 2012" was originally published by PCWorld.

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