AusGamers SimCity Developer Video Interview
Post by Steve Farrelly @ 04:03pm 30/08/12 | Comments
AusGamers caught up with Maxis Vice President, Brett Barry, to talk about the long-awaited official return of SimCity. Read on or watch for what he had to say...
Watch the full video interview embedded above, or click here for a direct link.
AusGamers: Ladies and gents, welcome back to AusGamers. You are here once again with Stephen Farrelly, coming to you from the GamesCom show floor, and I have Brett Barry, who is working on SimCity -- a game that you all are very excited about. The world’s talking about SimCity a lot at the moment, thanks to the recent Facebook rollout of SimSity [Social], and it’s a classic franchise; has been around for a long time; ten years since the last game.
Brett, let’s re-capture what we talked about a little earlier when we had some technical difficulties. What’s the vibe like for the team as you draw ever-closer to getting it out there?
Brett Barry: Well number one, I’ve got a fantastic team, and they’re so excited about it. We have a lot of veterans that actually worked -- even though it’s been ten years -- we have guys that have been there and worked on SimCity 4, for example. Actually, a couple of guys worked on SimCity 3000, so they go way back, and this is the game that they’ve always wanted to build.
I think some of the key things that we talked about a little bit earlier, was the online connective nature of the game, so that we can sort of represent how cities actually function in the real world. How they’re connected, and have to deal with crime, and pollution, and trading, and commerce. So we want to model all that stuff.
And the key thing is, it all started with the great simulation technology called Glass Box. Where basically, everything that you see on-screen is simulated. In previous SimCity games, there was great simulation going on, but sometimes they had to fake some stuff, just because either the CPUs couldn’t handle it, or they didn’t have the engine to actually do it.
AusGamers: Actually, that’s a really good tangent point to talk about that we didn’t discuss earlier: one of the cool things that I found when I played the demo just before, was the option to just hover over any one of the Sims in the game, and you would get an actual update on what it is that they were doing; whether it’s... so you can actually get some feedback from the little guys living in the world that you’re creating, but also just silly things like “they ran out of donuts; so I turned around and went back home”. That’s fantastic!
Is that dynamically generated? Is it just a random algorithm thing that you guys put together? How does that work?
Brett: So each Sim -- we call them agent s-- they actually do have... I don’t want to say they have a brain, but there is sort of logic in what happens. So if, for example, a building needs shoppers, and they don’t have any, they’ll send out notifications and say “hey, we’re open for business”. Or if there’s jobs available, they’ll basically send out a notice saying “hey”... it’s almost like a “we’re hiring” kind of thing, and then Sims -- if they need a job -- then they’ll go to that location. So it’s definitely modelled.
There is some randomness to it in sort of how it happens, but each house has a resident’s name, so when a Sim walks out of that house, they have the name of that residence -- so it’s the same last name -- and then it will say “coming from that house; going to work” or “I’m going shopping; I have some money”, or in the case where “I went looking for donuts and I can’t find any, so I’m going home”.
AusGamers: So who wrote basically all of those scenarios? Because that seems almost infinite.
Brett: Well, we have a group of scripters. We have several guys that are really talented and enjoying having fun putting this stuff together.
AusGamers: In terms of the simulation aspect, how deep does that actually go? Because I thought there were cool factors like: I had to turn power on in the city, because one of my buildings was turned off -- one of my power buildings -- but then, in doing that, I actually had to wait for the guys to get there at work, in the morning. That’s a classic simulation point. So how deep does it actually run?
Brett: It goes really deep, as you saw it. Buildings have different requirements; they have to have workers there. So a lot of buildings will stay closed, if you don’t have enough population, or if people don’t want to actually come to your city. So all of that’s sort of modelled and simulated. Sewer system, health system, crime, police coverage, education: all those things are actually modelled and have simulation, and they all have cool data layers.
I don’t know if you got a chance in the demo, to really click on stuff and dive deep into it, but there’s a lot of fun graphical detail in terms of what’s happening; the simulation is there. For example, you build a water tower in the demo. If you build your water tower right next to manufacturing facilities, we didn’t talk about it in the demo, but if you actually do that, over time the manufacturing companies will create ground pollution. So then the water tower will actually suck up that ground pollution, and then that would get pumped out, so you get kind of dirty water that gets pumped out to your sims, and that will make them sick eventually. So that’s kind of a real-world thing that happens, and that can actually happen in the game.
AusGamers: Did you guys feel at any point, that you had to kind of rein it back a little bit? Were you going too deep on the simulation aspect?
Brett: No I don’t think necessarily. There’s certain things that we couldn’t do, just because it wasn’t fun. So we still had to make sure that the things that we’re doing and modelling were fun and entertaining; parts of it. Because there’s certain kinds of things that wouldn’t be that much fun, potentially. But they have to balance the level of what they’re going to do, with the fun factor.
AusGamers: Can you guys foresee any application for the game in the real-world sense? Like... I don’t want to drag it into any sort of politics, but can you see that some cities might be able to look at SimCity and work out where some of their bigger problems are. Or do you see it being maybe a reflective thing that people use, and through social media just kind of going “yeah well, that’s actually why this particular place in the world isn’t doing so well”, you can see the simulation here?
Brett: I think it’s more reflective. Because we’re not an educational tool to educate city planners necessarily. Although our guys do study planning; our creative director is friends with a city planner. We have architects... that were former-architects that are artists. So we try to be authentic.
An interesting thing is -- talking about city planners is -- at E3, somebody came up to me and said “hey, I just wanted to let you know that I’m actually a city planner for...” I can’t remember what city it was, in Southern California, and he said “actually, I was inspired by SimCity to become a city planner”. So that was kind of cool.
So I think there’s that inspiration; I think we sort of model the realities of it, in terms of you know: if you pollute, it’s going to cause problems. So yeah, I think kids, and adults can learn the basic ideas from that. Are we going to give true details of how to solve a city’s individual problems? No, but I think to give the sense of that.
AusGamers: Are we going to be looking at... I know we talked about this before, but just to get it on camera again. In terms of the content that you’re going to be offering post-release, can you just run us through what the current plan is there?
Brett: Yeah. We’re definitely going to offer challenges and new things that will pop up, for free, online. Because we want to keep it live and fresh, and add new things. And that’s one of the great things about it being online, and being connected, is that we can sort of see what’s happening across the SimCity world. What kinds of things people like, and what they’re playing, and then develop new challenges based around that. Things that they can do cooperatively and competitively.
In terms of the other question that you’re asking, which is sort of DLC and that sort of stuff, we’re not yet talking about that, but it’s a great idea.
AusGamers: Another great idea that we mentioned was consoles, and you sort of said “we haven’t had that conversation yet”, and I was just thinking, because now you’ve got cross platform play between Mac and PC: is it something that an iPad could run? In terms of the graphical factor? Could you see it ever being on tablets as well? And then cross-platform play in that respect?
Brett: It’s definitely a possibility.
AusGamers: Ok Brett, well, we’ll leave it there. I think we finally actually got what we needed to. Thanks for your patience, and the game looks fantastic.
AusGamers: Thanks very much for that Brett.