SimCity Redefines Multiplayer

When I first heard that SimCity was adding multiplayer I didn’t care. For some reason every game these days thinks that multiplayer is a required function. For many games, especially simulation ones, multiplayer is usually less fun than playing the single player option. But after the SimCity panel at E3 I’m excited about this game’s multiplayer.

When I was playing Port Royale 3 last week (a Caribbean based trading simulation game) there was the option for multiplayer. I hopped on to check out what it was like, and I didn’t enjoy it. It’s because people just did their own thing and didn’t want to interact with other players. And in a game that spans across the oceans I didn’t even come in contact with them for the majority of the game.

But SimCity is redefining the way multiplayer works in a simulation game. In SimCity, where the point is to build up a successful city from town to metropolis, it didn’t make sense to have cities live in bubbles. It’s unrealistic for the towns surrounding your city to not have an impact on the daily lives of your citizens. So Maxis studios decided to create zones called regions. Each region will house your city along with other real player’s cities. Citizens within the region can travel between the cities freely.

These regions are an awesome feature. In the original SimCity games players had to focus on making jobs, commercial areas, entertainment, housing, power, and every other need for their citizens. But in the new SimCity your citizens can travel. You might make an industrial city where there are lots of jobs. Then people from surrounding cities can commute to your town for work. Vice versa, you can build suburbs and have your citizens go out of town for work.

But it doesn’t just stop with jobs. If citizens don’t like what you’re doing they can just move away. You can create cities based on tourism with attractions that keep other cities’ citizens coming out for entertainment and vacations. You can trade with other towns to get resources or dispose of waste. And these aren’t NPC cities, these are other players creations.

This kind of multiplayer is going to be extremely dynamic. Because SimCity is a sandbox based simulation game, there isn’t any initial competition between cities. There aren’t winners or losers, but there will still be competition. Maybe the neighboring city is stealing all of your residents because they offer more entertainment, and it takes a toll on your taxes. Now you are hostile to the neighboring city, even though they didn’t try to do anything wrong. It will really mix competition and co-operation together in an interesting balance.

It’s a multiplayer feature like this that could prove to be a groundbreaking change in the simulation genre. With the release of the Sims, simulation games have been growing in popularity with both traditional gamers as well as new gamers. As a big fan of simulation games, I hope this dynamic multiplayer will attract even more people to SimCity. Either way, there is no denying that Maxis’ new region based multiplayer is redefining the way simulation games are played.