Simcity Blog: Specializing SimCity

Via Simcity Blog

Hello again! This is Stone Librande, the Lead Designer of SimCity. One of the great things about working on this game is seeing the incredible progress the team is making. Every day I’m treated to another exciting new addition to the game: a new glass and steel skyscraper, a group of skateboarding Sims in a park, or the sight of the moon reflecting on the water as the sun goes down. It is truly inspiring to be working here with the talented team at Maxis.

One feature of the game that I have been concentrating on is the area of city specialization. SimCity allows a single-player—or a group of players if you choose to play with other aspiring city-builders— to connect up multiple cities in a larger region and share services and resources. This means that you don’t need to put a power plant (or a water treatment facility, or a fire station, or a school…) in every city in the region. Instead, you can focus on the types of buildings that make your city special and then have other cities supply the additional things you need. For example, you could make a completely suburban city with only houses and parks. Support it with a neighboring industrial city and your Sims will commute down the highway each morning on their way to work and then return back again at night.

You can also start up a “Big Business” (or two, or more) in your city. Big businesses are new to SimCity and offer a unique way to play. In essence, they let you take on the role of a business mogul in addition to your typical role as the Mayor. There are five big businesses in the game: Metals, Petroleum, Electronics, Trade, and Gambling. Each big business has a corresponding leaderboard which makes it easy to see how you compare to other players operating that same business. Your rank is determined by the total amount of profit you have made during the last 12 game months. This encourages smart play since you need to optimize your profits each month over the year; simply grinding away for long periods of time isn’t an effective strategy to get to the top.

Three of these big business types revolve around manufacturing. The first two, Metals and Petroleum, rely on extracting resources from the ground and processing them into more valuable resources. If you want to get involved in these specialties, make sure to inspect the region to find where the coal, ore, and oil deposits are before you claim your city. As you advance your Metals business, you can dig up larger quantities of coal and ore. You can make even more money if you start a smelting plant to convert your minerals into metals and alloy. If you opt for a Petroleum specialization then you can drill for oil and then use a refinery to convert it into fuel and plastics. The third type of manufacturing, Electronics, doesn’t need to dig up its resources; it converts shipments of metal, alloys, and plastic into microprocessors, TVs, and computers. These high-tech resources have the highest profit margins, but you will need a substantial investment in education and transportation infrastructure if you want to keep your factories humming.

The Trade specialization is all about buying low and selling high. It typically means your city will have many trucks, freight trains, and cargo ships moving goods into and out of your city. The key to a successful city is to import when the Global Market price is low and export when the price is high (for more info about the Global Market, read my blog here). Around the office, a lot of us tend to specialize our cities around one form of manufacturing plus a little bit of Trade. This helps us get our Metals, Petroleum, or Electronics resources to the market more efficiently.

Finally, there is the Gambling big business. This one is my personal favorite. It is a great choice for players that want to focus on tourists instead of markets. Your goal with a Gambling city is to attract as many tourists as possible, which requires building airports, docks for cruise ships, train stations, and buses. But getting tourists into your city is only half the battle. You need to keep them there by building hotels and other entertainment options. Watching a bustling neon-filled casino city come to life at night is mesmerizing.

No matter how you choose to specialize your city, it is important to remember that it is your choice. Feel free to mix and match traditional SimCity buildings (schools, parks, police stations, etc.) with big businesses. Decide your proportion of residential, commercial, and industrial by zoning. Make a simple town with trailer parks or maximize your density with skyscrapers. Supply the region with power and water or buy it from someone else. There is no right way or wrong to play. Discovering the benefits and drawbacks of the multitude of combinations is one of the hallmarks of SimCity!