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Sneaking a peek at the new SimCity

MIT alumnus and lead designer of the digital game visits campus
The new version of SimCity introduces a whole new level of complexity to the game.
The new version of SimCity introduces a whole new level of complexity to the game.
Image courtesy of Electronic Arts

In March of this year a new version of the enormously popular city-building simulation, SimCity, was introduced with a considerable amount of fanfare in the digital gaming world — an event of particular interest to the MIT School of Architecture + Planning for a number of reasons.

For starters, of course, SimCity is a simulation of urban design and management processes, a core concern of almost everything we do here. It is also a hugely successful example of digital game design, the focus of an important research program in the school. And finally, the lead designer of the new game is SA+P alum Stone Librande (SM ’92, Architecture; SM ’92 Media Arts & Science), creative director at EA/Maxis, a division of Electronic Arts that publishes many blockbuster digital game franchises.

This spring, Librande came to MIT to give students a sneak preview of the new game and to talk with them about the process of game design in general.

First released in 1989, SimCity is an award-winning simulation that invites players to create their own cities, introducing them to the trade-offs among a seemingly endless array of variables in the design and management of an urban environment. The game was updated in 1994, 1999 and 2003, growing ever more complex, and even though the more recent version is a decade old it still attracts an actively involved community of players.

The new version of the game, released in March, introduces a whole new level of complexity — including, importantly, the option for several players to play at once, allowing their cities to specialize in a particular area such as education, gambling or big business while their neighboring cities cover other bases, creating opportunities for intercity cooperation.

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