SimCity announced at EA Gamechangers event

Wednesday, 7 March 2012 02:05 GMT By Brenna Hillier

As heavily rumoured, Maxis announced a new, unnumbered SimCity at EA’s Gamechangers GDC event today. First official screens and trailer within.

“The rumours are true; Sim City is back,” Maxis senior vice president Lucy Bradshaw said. “We’re taking Sim City back to Maxis, and we’re bringing it to you on the PC in 2013.”

Origin has opened pre-orders for the simulation; no mention was made of a console release, and a new website has launched.

“We are adding curvy roads,” she noted as a humorous to for fans of the series, before launching into a more detailed explanation.

The new game will have “tactility” – roads are “carved” into landscapes, and a cloud of dust arises when buildings are plunked down. Maxis wants to make building a city “the most fun” experience.

“The buck stops at simulation,” Bradshaw said of Maxis, mentioning major updates to the simulation engine including economic details for individual Sims.

“Resources are finite,” she said, explaining that players will face questions which challenge people today, with individual Sims able to lose jobs and buy property, for example.

As well as increased simulation features, Maxis has built a new physics engine – perfect for natural disasters like blizzards.

There will be social features too; polluters will find themselves unpopular with friends when their emissions drift to connected towns. Global leaderboards will track resource use, cleanliness, pollution, and wealth, among other factors. All possible scenarios are “viable” Bradshaw noted; the game won’t insist players take an environmental or socially-minded route to succeed.

“We’re not trying to make the most complex SimCity. Our goal is to make the most playful SimCity yet,” Bradshaw said. As such, information regarding the city will not be buried in menus, but visible direcftly in the game’s graphics.

Bradshaw mentioned the “huge advances in the PC space” since Sim City 4 shipped ten years ago, with smartphones now boasting the computational power required to run the last core release in the series.

A trailer was shown, but it wasn’t clear if the graphics were in-engine or a cinematic; a city was shown lighting up as a power plant was slotted into place, which was super cool.

EA strongly messaged its collaboration with organisations working for global change, introducing filmmaker Davis Guggenheim, director of documentary global warming documentary An Inconvenient Truth. The director said one of the biggest problems in effecting change against global warming is a massive psychological barrier that facts, reports and documentaries can’t always penetrate. Guggenheim described SimCity as “artistry”, enthusing over its graphics.

The filmmaker said a game “gets under your skin”, is something people want to do, and as such, has significant potential to change minds, adding that he stands “in awe” of game markers, and told a cute anecdote about a PlayStation product announce around ten years ago near a film set, in which a request to turn the volume down while filming was happening was met with a negative response. “This is Sony, and they make a lot more money than you do. You can wait till our party is finished,” he remembered.

Twitter co-founder Biz Stone also made an appearance to discuss the creation of technology solutions which effect social change; he was followed by charity:water CEO and founder Scott Harrison with a similar message about crowdsourcing change.

“We’d like to thank the millions of fans who have helped make SimCity synonymous with the city-building genre. This is a franchise that means the world to us at Maxis and we’re happy to be bringing it back home where we are reimagining it for an entirely new generation of players,” Bradshaw said in a press release issued after the announce.

“Using our proprietary GlassBox Engine, SimCity for PC will equip players with the tools to play the most sophisticated simulation of its kind. We are dedicated to making sure the experience – no matter the platform – has the fun, flavor and playability that has been intrinsic to the franchise since its birth.”