Build and destroy: Detailing Disasters

Via Simcity Blog

Hi everyone! I’m Alex Peck, a development director on SimCity. The first time I saw the original SimCity at a friend’s house, I was so intrigued by it that I snuck away from his dinner party to get some more time on his computer. Ten years later, I was privileged to work on SimCity 4 and SimCity 4 Rush Hour, and now ten years after that I’m here at Maxis working on a new take on the series.

SimCity is a game that really satisfies our creative urges. But it’s always had a darker side in the form of disasters. Random disasters are good at shaking up a city and keeping things from becoming too static. And user-controlled disasters are for the player who likes to kick over his own sandcastles; you know who you are.

Our first prototype disaster in the new SimCity was the meteor shower. It started out as just a single meteor smacking into a residential suburb, but upon seeing it in action, we immediately decided to dial it up to see what would happen. We added some tension by having most of the meteors burn up before they hit the ground—we call these “fizzlers”—but an unpredictable amount of larger, damaging meteors may appear during the sequence.

While we were creating this, out of sheer curiosity I checked to see how often meteors actually cause damage, and it seems rather rare. Wikipedia only notes a few human injuries, a dog in Egypt, and one extremely unfortunate cow. Guess the solar system thatSimCity is located in must have far more debris than our own!

UFOs in particular resulted in a fun brainstorming session. Rather than simply wantonly raining destruction from above, we thought UFOs should have a bit of a mysterious flavor to them. They will enter your city with various agendas to carry out, perhaps simply leaving if they can’t find what they are looking for. What are the aliens going to do with that poor Sim they abducted? I leave it to your imagination.

For this incarnation of the game we also decided to add some physics to the mix, resulting in buildings that shatter into pieces and fall to the ground. This paid off when someone said “Can the UFO cut a building in half?” and our physics programmer Robert Perry said, “Sure!” Robert will be going over physics next week on our blog, so look out for it!

Whether it’s an earthquake, a meteor shower, a tornado, or even the simple demolition tool, we have provided a number of tools to cater to your darker side.