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Nytehauq

The simplicity of large scale city simulation?

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A thought has just struck me. In a game like Simcity, there are very few of the traditionally complicated game programming devices to overcome. Things like colision detection don't apply, neither do physics systems or combat accuracy or networking. It's just an extension of your design tool with rules and limitations. Essentially, creating a Simcity clone would come down to the mechanics involved in cities. Hmmm. It's really closer to the design aspect of the game project than most projects are, since there's less technical stuff to worry about and alot more gameplay related stuff to code in. In a sense, it's more simple than something like an FPS. I personally would prefer to spend time developing simulation related algorithims instead of coding a BSP-tree system, or a portal engine. Naturally, some of these things might still apply, but quite a few would be cut out. Hmmm... I think this is going to be the first type of project I take on, since it'll really be an extension of the development tool I'm building. Any thoughts on city simulation in general?

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Hey, just an idea. Maybe you would like to create public transportation routes(I have no idea what are you able to do, so if it's too hard, ignore me) and license a system modelling the flow of in-town travellers.

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SimCity 1, 2, and 3 were all great games. However I often found myself getting bored after only a few hours. I rarely ever felt the need to save my city since I found that the 'funnest' aspect was building a city from scratch, rather than maintaining and expanding a city. The same goes with SimTower.

SimCopter was an excellent game. I could play that game all day, and if it were released for Mac (wtf Maxis?), I'd probably be playing it right now. Same goes for Streets of SimCity.

The Sims was pretty fun, but it suffered from the same problem as SimCity.

And now Will Wright will be bringing us 'Spore' soon. From my perspective, Spore is the culmination of all the past 'Sim*' games.

On that note, I think the best thing that can be done in any type of city simulation game is to actually give the user/player the sense that ANYTHING can happen:

"Predictability is the enemy of interesting."

I don't know where I read the above quote, but it pretty much sums up how I will approach game development in the future.

So that pretty much sums up my thoughts on city simulation: keep it interesting.

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SMART thought in my book. [smile]

But I don't think you can say that there's no difficult tech in SimCity. AFAIK, there's cellular automata and a bunch of pathing based on "trip linking" analysis, which is how people chain together errands when out driving. At a minimum, I'd expect to have to get into influence mapping to propagate the effect of a bad or good neighborhood to others.

The beauty about all the Sims games is that you're playing AGAINST the simulation, rather than AI. Another useful thing they have going for them is that they rarely occur in minutae and when they do (as with the Sims), it's in a tightly constrained environment.

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Aha! Yet another caveat. A simulation is infinitely more complex than an AI in an FPS. Quality over quantity - would you rather fight two hundred enemies on a small planet in very few ways, or one large enemy in an infinite number of mediums? The latter would be more interesting, methinks. Yet another bonus. But, to clarify, I never meant that a city simulation would be easier to create - just that more of the algorithims involved would have to do with gameplay related information, and less to do with implementing boring and mundane engine functions. Also - there's pretty much one game in that genre, and it's SimCity 4. Spore isn't going to be a city sim, though it will have some aspects. I'm thinking that the Maxis team is moving away from the SimCity route and more into some 'deeper' simulation territory.

Which gives me an idea. Simcity 4 was really just SC3K with more eye candy and the BAT system. Everything was still laid out on grids. What if you had a city sim that incorporated a few more of the features found in other games? In sim city 4, there are a vast number of limitations as far as doing things like placing roadways are concerned. Also, you can't have buildings built on slopes. Furthermore, you can choose eight different angles that you can build transportation lines along. If you added in more of the features of more detailed engines, you'd probably end up with a much more realistic and dynamic city sim. In any case, you'd still have time to spend perfecting the gameplay algorithims, since it wouldn't neccesarily be a full blown engine.

The more detailed the engine = the more stuff that can happen. Simple procedures are predictable. Complicated procedures are indistinguishable from reality.

But it's all still procedures.

However, I'd prefer to work on cellular automata procedures than reinvent the wheel while working on a rendering system any day :)

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Hmmm... Speaking of someone who's tried to create a Master of Orion-ish empire-game (and means to finish it one day, really!), I think the issue is just a matter of focus. A FPS game puts a whole lot of effort into coding the graphics algorithms, making models, level layout, and so on, because those are the things that the player interacts with. A strategy or sim game puts just as much effort into the rules, balance, world interaction and interface, 'cause those are what the player interacts with in those types of game. They're each equally complex, but in vastly different ways.

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