Simcity Blog: Maxis Studio Gifts

Via Simcity Blog

Happy holidays, Mayors! The year is winding down to a close, and all of us here at the Maxis studio are reflecting upon all the hard work we’ve been putting into the game. Like everyone else today, SimCity has received its fair share of presents from the development team. Some big, some small, but all appreciated. Yes, even the coal (hey, at least you can mine it!).

To show how much we care, we rounded up a jolly group Maxis team members to open up about the gifts they’ve given to the game. Let’s find out just how generous they’ve been.

Gifts from Graphics Engineer Xin Liu: Volumetric lights. Easiest to explain with a picture:

Volumetric lights were actually seen in the Gameplay Strategy Video #2, but seeing as how no one noticed, it would appear that our implementation is a convincing approximation of reality.

Gifts from Gameplay Designer Brian Bartram: Man, this is tough. I’ve had input into many of the designs inSimCity, though none of them are exclusively “mine.” Some that definitely come to mind are:

1. The Mayor Rating Panel – this was my solution to giving players a way to “drill down” to problems from the top level. Mayor Rating is the sum of the happiness in your city… but how do you find out what’s making Sims unhappy? The Mayor Rating Panel will let you break down happiness by Residential, Commercial, and Industrial and then again by wealth class within each category. It will list the issues affecting this specific group and will provide a hyperlink to any data layer or other UI which can help triage the problem.

2. Blue I’s help system – we have an integrated help system in our game in many of the panels and UI denoted by a blue circle with an “i” in the middle. When you see this, mouse over it to get details about the specific gameplay knowledge that you need to play that aspect of the game effectively.

3. Mini Tutorials – We needed a way to teach players during gameplay, outside the tutorial. So I designed the Mini Tutorial system to address this need.

Gifts from Producer Meghan McDowell: I worked on the isometric map selection with my team and I think it’s fun to use. We called it the “cake” map when it went in because the city terrain magnifies on click like a big slice of cake.

Gifts from Tuning Designer Chris Schmidt: A min/maxer approach to gameplay – SimCity has always been a challenging and complex game, and while we are making the game more approachable, I wanted to make sure that we keep an eye towards the challenge that made SimCity such an enduring legacy. To name some of these contributions:

1. Balance – I have taken my experiences playing SimCity though the years and applied it wherever possible to make a game I can be proud of. I continue to work hard on getting the balance right to provide players with challenge and engagement at all skill levels, so that both experienced players and new players can enjoy this worthy successor to the SimCity legacy.

2. Road guides – I have worked with our Road Engineer, Our Lead Designer, our Creative Director, and the Managing Producer to help craft a system that will help players get the most out of their city whether using curvy roads or a grid.

3. Building sizes – I have helped guide the art team into trying to make our buildings fit nicely into the structure of a gridded city as best we can, pushing for sizes that fit within our road guide parameters so that players will feel like they can make the most of their space.

Gifts from Lead Gameplay Scripter Guillaume Pierre: That’s a tough question to answer after working on a game for such a long time… I guess I gave the game a lot of simulation!

Gifts from Gameplay Engineer Richard Shemaka: Contoured maps

This was the first feature I did after joining SimCity full-time. So much of the game is expressed through maps: simulation data that’s spread over the terrain. Getting this info surfaced to the player is the cornerstone of lots of our data views. The original idea mockups came from our User Experience Director, Christian Stratton.

Gifts from Game Designer Dan Kline: Working on the UI. There’s so many pieces of information that we need to communicate clearly. I’ve worked really hard to not just present the information, but make sure the important things are what get noticed and communicated. The UI players see has gone so many overhauls, and when I compare it to past SimCity games, I think it’s moved light years.