SimCity sucks right now. The problems with the service surrounding the game are so great that they overwhelm anything the game itself has to offer. It’s hard to enjoy a game you can’t even boot up. To add insult to injury, Origin thinks you’re playing the game just because you’re staring at the loader. But this will pass, and we’ll be left with the new SimCity.
More than a game, SimCity is a service. Updates and downloadable content are more important for games like this than they are even for games like Call of Duty. Maxis and Electronic Arts have a lot of work ahead of them to make sure that this decision is justified (even if it never will be in many gamers’ minds). They have to give gamers reasons for it to be a service instead of a standalone game, and they have to give gamers reasons to spend money that are so good they can hardly resist.
Some things need to just be patches and updates. Aside from game performance improvements, little things can go a long way toward keeping the game fun and toward repairing the seriously injured good will players are harboring toward Electronic Arts. They’ve shown willingness to do this with games like Burnout Paradise, so it should be doable with a huge seller like SimCity.
Bigger maps will be a huge—pun completely intended—step forward. The game’s smaller maps give players lots of interesting chances to make decisions, but some players just want to spread out and make a city they think looks cool. Bigger maps would let players be more self-sufficient and give them room to grow. PC Gamer talked to SimCity‘s creative director Ocean Quigley, who told them that bigger maps are coming, though he didn’t have any information about when. This is also the very last thing that Electronic Arts should be charging for.
Even with so many choices and the smaller maps, there’s only so much players can do with their cities before they’re going to run out of new ideas to try. Big changes will have to come later to keep the game fresh, and they’ll need to be big enough to justify the price tag that will be inevitably attached to them.
Other updates could be things like the ability to name buildings and Sims or to create your own logos for city services. I’m tired of my processor company being called “TECH.” Small changes like this can show players Maxis and Electronic Arts are still invested and interested in their product.
We spend a lot of time staring at our cities, and something new to look at would be nice. Adding seasons, for example, could give the whole game a fresh coat of paint and open up new specializations and new ways to play. Snow in a mountainous region could give players the chance to recreate Aspen, while summer on the coast could attract a wealthy population with their yachts to a coastal tourist town. As a Minnesotan, I can’t help but imagine the logistics and costs behind a fleet of snow plows being incorporated into this. Regions with climates other than “green” could be incorporated into the game, with new challenges like keeping your city watered in the desert.
Specializations are a great way to add content without having to warp what’s there. A friend I’m sharing a region with was talking about putting a financial district in his city. There are tons of scientific routes to go down as well; a city with a medical specialization could have advanced clinics and research centers that contribute to a region’s overall health. This could be part of a SimEpidemic update that adds disease simulation to the region.
A transit pack could add subways, customizable bus routes and taxi service to make the miserable traffic simulation more entertaining and tolerable.
This is exactly what’s so cool about SimCity. The possibilities are endless for new things to simulate. Frequent updates will keep players coming back for a long time. If Maxis and EA work hard, they could repair a lot of the damage the past few days have done and make their new experiment a lasting game with a long shelf life.