SimCity multiplayer – Preview

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We take a closer look at the asynchronous multiplayer of Maxis' SimCity.

I’ve already covered SimCity in broad strokes, but have since been able to take a much more in-depth look at the games multiplayer which is shaping up very interestingly indeed.

Another game to apply so-called "asynchronous multiplayer" as its foundation, SimCity invites players to work together on a particular task within their region – say the building of an airport, or, for the more audacious, a space program – as players donate resources and, eventually, reap the rewards.

Dubbed “Regional Works” these undertakings aren’t to be taken lightly, usually involving many hours of gameplay. Cleverly however what different mayors pay towards their construction can be tailored, so that if you have a surplus of any given resource – raw materials, power, sims, etc – you can pour more of that specifically into the project, thereby ensuring construction bottlenecks are kept to a minimum.

Once the work is completed, if for example you’ve built an international airport, then the potential for selling your surplus resources increases with increased trade through freight. Or, if you’ve gone down the route of creating an Orlando-type tourism city you’ll be the beneficiary of an increase of visitors.

The opportunity for supply-and-demand-based trade between neighbouring cities doesn’t end there either, with close-by cities being able to create agreements for the sale of electricity between them for example. While sims who live in your neighbour’s city can still come to work in your own, as the virtual residents make up their own mind’s when it comes to work, rest and play.

Pollution and crime can also impact across given regions, if your neighbour has a crime problem reminiscent of 80s Miami say, don’t be surprised to see the criminals riding their luck in your own town as they look to take advantage of their wider catchment area. The same is true of industrial towns which burn fossil fuels in the race for advancement, their pollution liable to blow over your own town – virtual Kyoto agreement anyone?

The complexity of what Maxis could achieve with such a socio-economic relationship between players and their cities is clearly impressive, just how far they’re willing to push it is the only unknown – the developer as yet unwilling to reveal too much of game not due for release until early next year.

Worth the wait? SimCity is shaping up very nicely indeed from the behind closed doors demonstrations we’ve been privy too thus far. Just how the game will shape-up in the end is the only question – how will players decide who lives near them? Will the construction of an airport lead the player from a local region to a world region (with all the extra political questions that would bring)? How far can users go to call another city into account (can they use a veto for example)?

Get this one right and EA and Maxis could be looking at a sure thing come release day; just one thing though: can we have a console version too please?

For: PC, Mac
Developer: Maxis
Publisher: EA
When? February 2013

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