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Wednesday, June 27, 2012

The Honourable Mayor Of Sim City

When I first started this blog over a year ago, I initially had a different set of theme days. Initially, I had a feature that I used to do every Thursday known as “Thursday Night At The Arcade”. It has since been replaced by the Thursday Confessional, mainly because I was running out of topics to cover for the video game feature. 

But just for today, I'm going to bring back the video game least for this week, anyway. After all, I decided that Wednesdays are a day where we would talk about books, toys, and games. And as far as I'm concerned, video games certainly fit in with the theme.

But alas, I am rambling. I'll shut up now.

For today's blog entry, we're going to take a look at a simulation game that has been ported to several consoles and personal computers over the last few years. It's a video game that has captivated millions of people all over the world, and the game allows the player to assume the role of mayor.

I'm sure that all of us at some point have fantasized about what it would be like to run an entire city. I imagine that for some, it would be too much power and responsibility to handle, but for others, it would be a dream position.

Think about it for a second.  A mayor of a city often has to make some difficult decisions.  You have to decide whether or not a community needs an industrial park or more schools.  You have to decide if you want to build a mass transit station or fix the roads that you have.  If a natural disaster occurs, you want to make sure that you have the best emergency plan possible so that your whole city doesn't burn to the ground.  And to add to that, you also have to maintain a budget, balance taxes, and make sure that everyone in the city has electricity.

Do you still want to be mayor of a city now?

If the answer is yes, then you might just be in luck.  There is a video game available that can serve as a test.  It's a game that puts you in charge of an entire city.  You can assume the role of mayor in an assigned city, or build one directly from scratch.  Your actions will determine how happy your citizens are.  Just remember though, the happier the people are, the better chance you have of staying on as mayor.  If not, well, it's GAME OVER.

Of course, the game that is on the discussion table for today is SimCity, which was created by Will Wright.  It was first released on October 3, 1989 for the PC, and over the past 23 years, several versions have been released of the classic game.  The one I played the most was when it was ported to the Super Nintendo console in 1991.

The history of the creation of the game is this.  Will Wright had created another computer game for the Commodore 64 called "Raid On Bungling Bay".  The game was a basic war-based shoot 'em up game, and one of the features that Wright worked on was designing the various maps that the levels took place on.  However, Wright soon discovered that he enjoyed creating the levels more than playing the actual game itself.

This was how the idea that would become SimCity was born.

Wright developed the first draft of the game in 1985, and the original title was supposed to be "Micropolis".  In fact, the game itself was a bit unusual in comparison to other computer games in the market, as initially it was designed as a game that couldn't be won or lost.  And game manufacturers were wary or distributing the game at first because of this.  Even Broderbund (which was responsible for putting out the Carmen Sandiego games) turned Wright down.  Wright. however, refused to give up.

And it's a good thing he didn't because three years after creating the game that would become SimCity, he met with Jeff Braun, the founder of a little company known as Maxis.  In 1988, he agreed to release SimCity through Maxis.  Later that year, both Wright and Braun returned to Broderbund to clear the rights to the game when it was nearly completed.  But when a couple of Broderbund executives saw the game in action and saw how fun and infectious it was, they immediately signed Maxis to a distribution deal.  The following year, the game was released on both the Amiga and Macintosh platforms, as well as the Commodore 64 and IBM platforms shortly after.

So here's how the game is played.  You are responsible for creating your own city and serving as mayor of said city.  There are three kinds of zones that players can build.  There are residential zones, which include cottages, houses, apartment buildings and condos.  There are commercial zones, which include small shops, office buildings, and shopping plazas.  And industrial zones contain your factories and manufacturing plants.  In addition, you can build police stations, fire stations, power plants, and airports.  Now, depending on how one places these zones, the zones can develop at different rates.  Now, if you were to place a residential area right in the middle of an industrial zone, you'd be fairly hard-pressed to get people to move in.  But if you have a residential zone near a commercial zone, you might get both zones to grow.  After all, people like to be able to shop close to where they live, right?

In the Super Nintendo version, the game also provides bonus buildings to place within your city if you do well with growing it.  For instance, if you reach certain levels in population, you can build amusement parks, casinos, statues, and city parks.  Each reward has its perks (for instance, casinos can add money to the yearly budget), and it's been my experience that if you place these rewards in the center of either a residential or commercial block, they will be guaranteed to grow huge.  I once put a park in the middle of a residential block, and immediately got a hospital, a school, and six condos!  It's the power of rewards.

You also have control of spending money to pave roads, fund police and fire stations, and ensure that your citizens have transportation options.  But of course, you need money to be able to grow your city.  And, sometimes you may have to raise taxes to pay for the cost.  Not a nice feeling to do, but sometimes you may have no choice.

Well, unless you enter a CHEAT code that gives you unlimited money.  If you're good, I may reveal the code at the end of this blog.  :)

Now, each new game begins in the year 1900, and you have to do a budget every January.  This part of the game always threw me, which is why I tended to use the cheat feature.  However, the largest city I've built was one that had 300,000 people, so I consider that a success.

Oh, and did I mention that at random occasions, you might have to save your citizens from random disasters that may occur?  The basic game of SimCity had half a dozen possible disasters that could happen, and if you weren't careful, these disasters could spell doomsday for your poor city.  I'd say the two most common disasters are fires and plane crashes.  In my experience, I've seen those two more than any other ones.

TRIVIA:  In the Super Nintendo version, if you do not build an airport, you will never see a plane crash.

But there are so many other disasters out there.  And as if SimCity isn't complicated enough, the game has six scenarios that will put you to the ultimate test.  And, each scenario is actually based on real-life cities, and even real-life situations.  The six scenarios are...

San Francisco Earthquake of 1906

Tokyo Monster Attack of 1961 (based on the Godzilla movies)
Bern Traffic Crisis of 1965
Detroit Crime Crisis of 1972
Boston Nuclear Meltdown of 2010 (thankfully not real)
Rio de Janeiro Flooding of 2047 (I guess we'll find out in about 35 years if this is real or not, eh?)

Each scenario lasts between 5-10 years of game time, and some scenarios are harder than others.  In my experience, I've beaten exactly half.  I can complete the Bern, Detroit, and Boston scenarios without much hassle.  The hardest one in my opinion is Rio de Janeiro.  But, if one can beat all of these scenarios on the Super Nintendo version, two more scenarios will open up.  One takes place in 1991, where you have a land mass with no rivers or lakes whatsoever, and the other takes place in 2096 where you have to stop an alien invasion in Las Vegas.

However, these scenarios just add a lot more fun to an already fun and challenging game.  A game that really helped people decide whether or not they could handle running a city.

As for me...I'd make a terrible mayor.  But, hey, I'm honest about it.

And, now, as promised.  Here's how you can score almost unlimited funds on SimCity's Super Nintendo version, courtesy of GameFAQS.


At any time while playing a city, spend all of your money on buildings that require funding (such as police stations, fire stations etc). When the tax screen apears at the end of December hold down L. Select ''Go With Figures'' and then go back to the tax screen. Turn all of the dues to 100% and exit still holding L. When you release L your money will be at $999,999.

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