Maxis: SimCity's "lonely experience" influenced always-online play


We've already heard Maxis' reasons for SimCity's much-debated always-online requirement . The system hooks up your cities with everyone else's through leaderboards, a crazily granular stat tracking system, and enables co-op play with resource sharing for collaborative constructions. Speaking to Polygon , Creative Director Ocean Quigley added justifications, saying the decision was spurred by the way real-life cities interact and the "lonely experience" of previous SimCity games.

"If you look back at previous SimCities, they were almost all self-contained," Quigley said. "Every city wound up doing pretty much everything. That drove all the cities to a certain level of homogeneity, and all the cities sort of converged onto the same sort of thing over the arc of play. That struck me as being a little sad. If you look at real cities, they all clearly do distinct things and have identities based around those things. I wanted to let cities differentiate themselves and let them find some way that wouldn't automatically make them converge and allow them take on unique identities."

Cities with personality? Obviously, Quigley doesn't realize the dangerously short hop between that sentiment and a fully sentient metropolis . Either that, or he's visited Portland one too many times.

"SimCity is always kind of a lonely experience; you're planning your cities all by yourself," continued Quigley. "One of the ways that things you do take on significance is how they affect other people. The things that you do for other people give meaning to your own life and your own existence. I wanted to make cities more resonant and meaningful, and thought they would have more presence if they were doing things for other cities as well. The cities matter to the people around you, not just to you."

I'm worried that I may not even want my cities to matter to the people around me. The important decisions in previous SimCity games only affected my personal urban achievements, but responsibility to others isn't what I associate with the series. The idea of working together to build SimCity's "Great Works" does look attractive, so long as these cooperative projects don't diminish the personal feeling of accomplishment from handcrafting a thriving burg by myself. Older SimCity games pulled that off quite well—yes, while I was all alone—and I'm not sure if I'd much enjoy seeing "MaYoR420BLAZE" of Yolotown on the leaderboards picking apart my stats. But Quigley could be right: it'll all come into clearer focus when SimCity releases on March 5.

Omri Petitte

Omri Petitte is a former PC Gamer associate editor and long-time freelance writer covering news and reviews. If you spot his name, it probably means you're reading about some kind of first-person shooter. Why yes, he would like to talk to you about Battlefield. Do you have a few days?