Are SimCity's cities too small?

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Maxis' SimCity reboot limits cities to "about the size of SC4′s medium sized cities." We've heard why the restriction is in place (opens in new tab) , and though it could be patched in the future, it's staying that way for now. That just leaves the question: is it bad?

Building a new Port Foozle

As I mentioned in my preview (opens in new tab) , the size restriction means a high-population city must be dense, but you don't have to strive for a high-population city. Instead of population growth, you could focus on attracting tourism from high-population cities elsewhere in your region, for example. For the purpose of examining scale, however, I started a new city in the closed beta and focused on increasing density as fast as I could. Note that high density roads and many buildings are off limits in the beta.

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Scale includes detail

My first observation is that scale has more than one definition. There's a finite number of buildings that can fit into a perfectly gridded city, and that's one definition of city size, but detail should be considered too. When I zoom in, my city feels much bigger than it did from News Chopper One.

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Imagine two photos: the first is a 5 megapixel photo of a large city, and the second is a 10 megapixel photo of a smaller city. Which is bigger depends on the question—are you talking about the city or the photo? SimCity's detail far surpasses SimCity 4's, so it could be argued that it's actually bigger, even though there are fewer square miles of virtual land to work with.

Limitation forces specialization

My second observation is that the size restriction forces specialization. If my city were three times bigger, it could eventually become a coal mining college town with a great tourism and gambling industry. Having an omnicity may not be especially fun. It would lack focus, and because cities interact with others in a region, we won't need every city to be everything.

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What I really want is asymmetry

My final observation is that I still want more space to build, but even more than that, I want an asymmetrical plot, like the one I've sketched out below.

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SimCity's cities look so small from the the air partially because they're confined to a perfect square. It's unnatural, and if the borders adapted to fit the terrain and were just a bit bigger, I think that feeling of confinement would be mitigated. Right now they look like they were stamped down, which ruins any illusion that these are cities which could exist.

My proposed border (and I don't pretend to know what kind of programming wizardry would be needed to create such a thing) would make the city fit more naturally into its surroundings and create the opportunity to design more interesting-looking roads and districts. So more than just bigger, I'd like to see SimCity's borders go amoeba. What do you think?

Tyler Wilde
Executive Editor

Tyler grew up in Silicon Valley alongside Apple and Microsoft, playing games like Zork and Arkanoid on the early personal computers his parents brought home. He was later captivated by Myst, SimCity, Civilization, Command & Conquer, Bushido Blade (yeah, he had Bleem!), and all the shooters they call "boomer shooters" now. In 2006, Tyler wrote his first professional review of a videogame: Super Dragon Ball Z for the PS2. He thought it was OK. In 2011, he joined PC Gamer, and today he's focused on the site's news coverage. After work, he practices boxing and adds to his 1,200 hours in Rocket League.