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SimCity preview: preparing for the future
"Previous Sim Cities weren't resource and transactionally based games, so they could be completely self-contained. In the new SimCity, a bunch of the region stuff, and of course the global market, are being simulated here on the servers at Maxis," Quigley says. In turn, the decision to simulate the flow of goods and services nudged SimCity toward a more cooperative experience. Friends can take control of another spot in a region and develop it, cut a deal to send some ambulances across the way for a few extra Simoleons, and provide a commercial district for Sims who are willing to commute. From there, something resembling a bona fide economy can begin to take shape, even if it's only being painted in broad strokes. Among fans though, the decision to focus more on multiplayer hasn't been an especially popular one. They fear that they will lose the kind of control that they had grown used to having in previous SimCitys. Among other things, modding won't be available at launch, though Quigley has said in separate interviews that the team will be looking into it ("We're very cognizant of that--we're not idiots," he said last year). For those worried that the single-player experience will be thrown out with the bathwater, Quigley responds: "I think [single-player] is a legitimate and probably fairly popular play style. But one of the cool things about this SimCity is that you can experiment with playing with friends if you want, and in a way that's not terribly threatening. You're inviting friends into your region, or you're inviting other people into your region. It's not as if you're being thrown into the shark pool of the Internet. This is a private but social play space." BOOM video 14475 He adds: "You want to avail yourself of the technology of your time. We don't want to be historical re-enactors of what 1998 was like; we want to make a game of our era, and a big chunk of our era is connectivity, doing things with other people, and relating to what other people are doing." What will be interesting is how online-integration affects SimCity going forward. In a way, the reboot is really just a skeleton. Quigley describes the parts they've put in place as "composable." Instead of being "a giant, monolithic object that's impossible to change, we built it out of components you can accumulate, change, and grow." From the sound of it, Maxis wants to establish SimCity as a platform that they can build and develop for many years to come, not unlike The Sims 3. One difference though is that SimCity won't be awash with virtual goods, at least not at first. Asked whether some sort of additional monetization might be making an appearance, Quigley laughed, "What would we sell? More coal?" Having spent a day with SimCity, it's easy to leave some of the cynicism about the project at the door. The general impression is that the online-only integration stems in part from Maxis' desire to have as many tools at their disposal as possible, whether as a content delivery system or as a means for delivering on Quigley's vision of a global marketplace. Inevitably, it will rub some long-time fans the wrong way. But one leaves with the sense that we're only scratching the surface with what Maxis can do with SimCity over the next several years, and that online integration is a big part of that.