Originally Posted by RPS
Pity the simulated citizens who will live in SimCity, the reboot of the franchise of the same name, due from the god-game guys at Maxis sometime in 2013. No easy life for them, no appearing as if by magic on the streets of your town and scurrying back and forth between the busy districts of the day. No – instead, life will be a precarious crap-shoot of existential uncertainty, in which no satisfaction, however small, may be taken for granted, and no need may ever be filled in more than momentary fashion. And, as if it need be said, in the game.
“It’s not like each Sim has a specific job that’s his, and a specific house that’s his,” says lead designer Stone Librande, like this knowledge might mitigate the situation. Instead, each Sim that will inhabit your thriving metropolis (or crime-ridden housing project, as the case may be) will wake up each morning and start the day by looking for a new job – if they’re not sick, that is, in which case they’ll look for a hospital. And every evening, that same Sim will leave work and take a moment to look for a new place to live. Filling out employment applications and being interviewed by already-unbearable roommates every single day. Oh, the humanity!
But it’s in that tale of quotidian ennui – repeated thousands, or tens or hundreds of thousands of times per simulated day, once for every Sim in your city – that the real difference between this game and previous iterations of SimCity lies. For, when you finally become mayor of your own little cleverly named town at some point next year that can’t come soon enough, each of the Sims that moves into it will be its own discrete software agent, running its own little simulation of its own little life. Each car will be its own little simulated car, with a specific origin and destination. Each coal-burning power plant will have its own little simulated coal hopper, which you’ll see fill up as a delivery truck arrives (running its own little simulation of itself), and then slowly empty out as the plant burns coal. And each traffic jam will be not a simulated traffic jam, but a real traffic jam, the result not of a subroutine somewhere that decided it was time for a traffic jam, but of too many individually simulated Sims driving too many individually simulated cars along too narrow a stretch of simulated road.
“What you see is what we sim,” says the cleverly named Ocean Quigley, the team’s creative director. Rather than a top-down simulation in which the system itself might call for a traffic jam animation on a stretch of road between a high-density residential area and a high-density commercial area, the new SimCity is “built from the simulation up,” Quigley says. “All the simulation behavior is embedded in the individual buildings and objects.” The result (it’s hoped) is a world that is finally more than the sum of its sim parts.