Simcity Traffic Simulation to Get a Patch

I must admit it’s very overwhelming to keep track of every bit of news come out of from Simcity and its detractors. But we can’t ignore the situation that has transpired from launch until now. Yes they — the detractors — have every right to be upset, and their discoveries have led the Simcity community to a deeper understanding of how the game works in its current state. Now there’s a race between both the development team and mod community to see who can restore Simcity back to its rightful state. To section the modders off seems down right unfair, and I believe that articles on Simcitizens should focus on both sides of the story.


Traffic Woes

In previous Simcity games, traffic was merely simulated through a combination of road types, intersections, and building density. To deal with traffic issues, we placed bus stops and public transportation options to alleviate the problem. As we head 10 years into the future, Simcity’s GlassBox engine is tasked with simulating traffic in real time. Whereas cars would disappear in Simcity 4, the GlassBox engine has to keep track and simulate every car from origin to destination. This changed a fundamental gameplay mechanic, since, the way we placed our zones, and the way we placed our public transportation options impacts the simulation in real time.

We initially discovered the GlassBox engine had routing issues since it prefers the shortest path to a destination. As this video demonstrates, cars would take the cramped dirt road instead of the expansive empty 6 lane avenue just because the dirt path was shorter.

In response to this, Guillaume Pierre (Lead Gameplay Scripter) is working on a patch that plans to make the traffic routing smarter. Cars will finally take the least congested route, even if it takes a longer time to reach there.

This is based off of a system where each road is graded at 25%, 50%, and 75% capacity. As the road reaches full capacity, it will become the less desirable road to travel.

Another important issue is the way emergency response vehicles handle traffic. Since they are currently unable to re-route traffic, they are often times blocked from entering the road. To fix this problem, Lead Designer Stone Librande mentions that emergency vehicles , “will move into empty lanes to get around traffic jams.” In addition, instead of two trucks, we’ll have one fire truck responding to an emergency prevent each truck from clogging the road.

Simcity Bus Conga Line

Now some have asked if any of the Dev beta participants actually noticed any of these problems. We certainly did. I personally requested that emergency service vehicles should be able to divert traffic and make immediate U-Turns if another vehicle is responding to an emergency. I even recall reporting how municipal buses from all over the region will swarm a single bus stop like flies. I suggested that the amount of municipal buses that spawn should be based on city population. I guesstimated 1 bus per 200 people — I felt that was the right amount at the time.

[picture by Lyleshnub]

Simcity Developers Q.A Session 2: Recap

Simcity Industry

This weekend, Maxis developers answered a large swath of questions from angry long-time Simcity fans.  The main issues focused around the game requiring a constant Internet connection, as well as requiring Origin to play. On this post we will mainly focus on the features planned for this game’s release, but we will discuss the “DRM” and “Online” aspects in another post.

Weather and Seasons:

  • Weather changes throughout the year.
  • In the summer months, the heat evaporates the water table.
  • In winter, the leaves fall off the tree and it’s generally cloudy and rainy.
  • The rain replenishes the water table.
  • Snow is not planned for release.


Simcity Region View UI

Regions and Multiplayer

  • You can set up private regions to play by yourself or with friends.
  • Smaller regions can hold 2-3 cities, while bigger regions hold up to 16 cities.
  • Regions are designed by Maxis. Each region invokes different gameplay challenges players can choose to overcome. For example, there could be a river that splits your city in half and you can choose to build a bridge across it or build your city separately.
  • You will automatically share power and water resources , but you only get paid when another city uses it.
  • You can choose who you want to share city your city services with. (Police, Fire, Ambulance, School.)
  • You can send money to other cities. If you go bankrupt, you can ask for loans from up to three banks.
  • While you are bankrupt, you will go into “Budget Crisis” mode which gives you the option of requesting a loan or request help from other cities nearby. It will also help you identify which city services you should shut down.
  • Buying and selling to the Global Market influences the prices of resources.
  • Regions are around 16 kilometers.
  • You can claim cities other players have abandoned.
  • You can send resources to other cities in the region or sell them to the global market where the price fluctuates.
  • Resources you can share among cities include: Workers, Jobs, Shoppers, Freight, Shops, Fire Coverage, Police Coverage, Jail, Garbage and Garbage Capacity, Recycling Services, Ambulance, Sick Sims, Air Pollution, Power, Water, Coal, Oil, Alloys, and Public Transportation.
  • Great Works require multiple cities to share resources in order to build them.

Infrastructure and Transportation

  • Various transportation options include; trains, planes, ferries, buses, light rail, streetcars, and park and rides.
  • Subways are not planned for initial release.
  • Cruise ships can bring medium and high wealth tourists to the city.
  • GlassBox Engine’s pathfinding system will automatically reroute cars to avoid traffic. Commuters will generally try to use the main roads to get through the city and avoid smaller roads.
  • Bridges are automatically created when you drag roads over water.
  • Bridges can span over valleys too.
  • You can make curvy bridges and build roads underneath them provided there’s enough space.
  • You can place roads in any angle you want. Intersections range from 30 to 90 degrees.
  • You can create roundabouts.
  • Sims can travel to other cities for College/University.

Simcity City Hall

Buildings and Landmarks

  • Each city set in the Deluxe Edition gives you landmarks, and new residential, commercial, and ploppable buildings that match that style.
  • Placing a Mining Headquarters changes the signs on factories.
  • Placing a landmark, casino, or stadium will make hotels rise.
  • You can see inside of buildings.
  • Buildings were created from scratch, unlike previous Simcity games, it’s not a simple texture that you wrap around the building. Buildings are animated and rigged.
  • The game’s ordinances are handled a bit differently, instead of ticking checkboxes, you can add specific modules to buildings.
  • The Town Hall enables you to customize taxes universally around RCI and wealth classes.
  • The City Hall enables you to customize RCI taxes separately.
  • Educated Sims will install solar panels on their roofs. Education leads to high-tech industry.
  • Homeless Sims seek out garbage, abandoned buildings, and parks.

Emergency Services

  • When parts of your city is overrun with crime, you will see criminals roaming about, and graffiti will appear on buildings.
  • Sims will also complain about crime.
  • Arsonists will set buildings on fire.
  • Robbers can cause alarms to go off.
  • Robbers obey red stop lights (a simulation limitation)
  • Police coverage isn’t radial, police cars will now go around the city to suppress crime and catch criminals in the act. If you need more police coverage, just add more cars to the police station.
  • The Community Outreach Van and Detective Wing are modules you can add onto the Police Precinct.

Simcity Fire Data Layer

Data Layers and Graphs

  • Crime, Health, Sickness, Coal, Ore, Oil, Loans, Student Grades and Colleges are covered in Data Layers.
  • They keep track of different Sim types including homeless, shopper, criminal, and tourist Sims.

Interesting Questions:

Q. Why do cities have large spaces between them?

A.  Partially it was graphical limitation – we can’t render the adjacent cities in full resolution. Also simulation fidelity. We can’t afford to fully simulate the adjacent cities. Seemed like pushing them a little further away was the best tradeoff.

Simcity: Traffic System, Public Transportation and International Airports

When a Sim needs to travel to work, the AI chooses from a list of destinations to go based on priority. At each intersection it decides what’s the best path to go based on distance and worker demand. If it can’t arrive at the destination, the Sim will return home. Once the destination is available, the Sim may decide to head there again.

You’ll want to carefully plan your road layout in order to avoid traffic congestion. Since cars will drive realistically on the road, several factors will contribute to traffic jams:

  • Cars heading towards a destination may use the same lanes to turn.
  • Cars at avenues will wait less time at the traffic light than those at a four-way intersection.
  • Emergency vehicles may change traffic light signals to cause further traffic problems.

One way to mitigate traffic congestion is by placing some forms of public transportation. To start, you can place a bus depot and bus stops along the way for Sims to get on and off. You can also try placing a bus terminal for larger municipal buses and park and rides for Sims to commute.

This installment of Simcity will also add street cars and trams that ride along the center of the avenue.  Trains will also travel through your city, they’ll not only bring in tourists, but also bring Sims from neighboring cities.  Sims will only walk a certain distance to use public transportation. You can view this information in the data layer, but if they have to travel too far, they will use cars instead.

Great Works are special facilities where players cooperatively build to add further dimension to their region. Great Works require a lot of resources to build. As with the case of the international airport, you have to acquire metal, alloy, and wood. You will either need to mine these materials or trade with other cities that have access to the Global Market. Building the international airport requires lots and lots of workers who will use the collected materials to build the foundation, terminals, and control towers.

International Airports provide your city with two benefits:

  • Tourists
  • Shipping Services

Tourists will arrive through Jumbo Jets, and will naturally bring more people to your city provided you have enough attractions like parks and landmarks. Cargo airplanes will ship industrial freight, and makes a big impact in keeping the Industrial sector happy.

[via simcityblog + insiderblog]

Simcity: 7 New Screenshots and Gamescom Information

Early this morning, Producer Jason Haber stopped by to chat about the game in the Simcity Live Chat. We’ve also acquired several new screenshots that were released yesterday  that show off some of the new things revealed at Gamescom.

If you purchase the Digital Deluxe version you get access to 3 city sets that can visually transform your city with unique things. For example if you have the British City Set, you can have Double Decker buses driving around your city.

The Germany City Set has high speed rail.

The France City Set includes custom French cars.

Simcity includes other forms of transportation too, in the center lane you can see a glimpse of the light rail system. Switching to a transportation focused data layer will strip back the graphics to allow you to see a visual representation of how far your Sims will have to travel to reach their destination.

You can even have streets, curvy roads, and avenues. In the interview the producer was asked if they were going to implement roundabouts but they were unsure whether they were going to add it or not.

Curvy roads are a new feature to Simcity, and since they know people will want to optimize space, they will have guidelines to help you with road placement. The development team had a bit of fun with this feature creating road patterns in the shape of robots, a guitar, and even creative director Ocean Quigley’s face.


Dr. Vu comes included in the Limited Edition package.

Throughout the game players can participate in challenges not only against each other, but from region to region, and even the global world. One such challenge could be asking the entire world who will be first in creating the most jobs. Another challenge could pit region against region seeing who can create 1 million Sims.

Players can influence the global market and take advantage of price changes as they see fit. For example, when you select a region, certain locations can have  more of a type of resource than others. If your city needs coal, but doesn’t have any natural resources within its limits, you can either try to obtain it from your neighbors or purchase it from the global market.

Ploppable buildings include extra modules that expand the functionality of the building. These modules were inspired by Spore in that you can place them down and attach them to your main building in whatever way you like. For example, the modules for the Casino lets you build additional rooms. You can increase the number of students living in dorms just by plopping down additional dorm rooms. Some modules can have negative effects like increasing the rate of pollution.

One interesting question brought up in the Gamescom interview was whether the lights in the building reflected each Sim living there. The producer states that the lights represent the capacity the building currently has. So the more lights, the more people living in or making use of that building.


Simcity’s Dynamic Music and Audio

Dynamic music is one of my favorite little gem in videogames. The fact that the music can change seamlessly based on what’s going on screen keeps me amped-up! There’s mainly two major forms of dynamic music in videogames, adding layers to the track, or seamlessly changing from one track to the other. It seems Simcity will be using the former. Kent Jolly, audio director for Simcity shared some details on how the Glass Box engine will control the sounds you hear and the music that plays.

As you may already know, the Glass Box engine keeps track of every individual Sim in your city. This means that each Sim you see is actually going somewhere or actually doing something. The traffic simulation is advanced to the point where a traffic jam occurs in real time all because there’s a large amount of Sims heading into a particular direction.

A debug screenshot showing how sounds appear on each object.

The sound simulation works the same way, keeping track of every single car while playing sounds in real time.  When a car starts to accelerate from a complete stop, you’ll hear a sound effect of it moving off right at that moment. When you hear a car whiz pass the screen, you’ll hear it in real time. The sounds will even match up when you change the game’s speed, (similarly to what The Sims currently does.)

Something new to the Simcity franchise is dynamic music! This time the composer is Chris Tilton, who is best known for his works on Fringe and Alcatraz. He’ll be particularly useful in using those creepy strained violin sounds, but I digress… After listening to an audio sample, the music for Simcity sounds eerily similar to The Sims 3.

Simcity will still have a list of different songs to play, however, each piece of music will be dynamically attuned based on what’s currently on the screen. For example, when zoomed out of your city, you’ll hear the entire music score. As you zoom in, parts of the track will be stripped away.  When you enter edit mode or data view mode, you’ll hear an alteration of the track that reflects that mode.

The simulation picks from a list of tracks to play on the fly, and you will unlock more tracks as your city grows in population.

Simcity E3 2012 Recap Information

Enjoyed the E3 Festivities? Well after scouring several news and videos we decided to make a quick E3 recap of some of the information presented in interviews and videos. From this point on we’ll focus on new information as it’s released next week.

Always Online

  • Simcity will require constant internet connection whether or not you play solo.
  • This constant internet connection is required for “asynchronous multiplayer experience.”
  • You will be allowed to play offline briefly for an unspecified amount of time.


  • You can play in open or closed regions.
  • These regions contain multiple cities you can control by yourself or with other players.
  • You can invite friends into your region or join a region with random players.


  • Managed by the GlassBox Engine.
  • Everything you see in Simcity is what’s actually going on in the simulation.
  • Every sim and every car is going somewhere.
  • You can follow a Sim driving a car from home to work.
  • Traffic occurs in real time. For example, when a new road is connected to a vacant city, unemployed Sims will flock to it searching for jobs. This surge of Sims will cause a traffic jam.
  • You can see your coal piles dwindle as trucks deliver them to coal power plants.

Buildings and Zoning

  • Zoning for Residential, Commercial, and Industrial is back.
  • There’s only one type of zoning for RCI, so density will be based on road type and traffic.
  • You can upgrade ploppable buildings through snap-on pieces that you can place along the building.
  • These pieces will upgrade the services available for that building.
  • These snappable pieces were inspired by the Spore Editor.

Data Layers

  • Data layers allow you to see the underlying components that drive your city in real time.
  • The power layer will show power traveling to different buildings.
  • The water layer lets you see the water table being sucked up by water towers and pumped to various buildings.
  • In depth data layers are known as “Heavy Data Layers”

Disasters and Crimes

  • Fires, Dinosaurs, and Crimes can appear in your city.
  • Protestors can show up outside of factors because there isn’t any power.
  • When there’s a bank robbery, police may fail to catch the criminal.
  • An arsonist may go around burning buildings.

Multiplayer and Networking

  • In multiplayer, other players’ cities can affect your city.
  • Players in a region can work together to build Great Works!
  • Great Works include an international airport, space shuttles, solar farms, arcologies, and more.
  • For example: an industrial city could provide metallic alloys needed to build the airport, while another city could provide workers to construct the terminals.
  • Criminals from other cities can travel to your city and cause havoc.
  • Pollution from other cities can affect your city.

 [IGN, ars technica, gamespy, g4tv, tekgoblin]

Simcity Livestream Recap: Great Works, Attractions, and Traffic Simulation

Here’s a recap of the Livestream chat, there’s some stuff we missed but we included most of the major details.

Ploppable buildings can also come with extra modules and “unlockables” to help further customize that building. You can add more police cars, or fire engines and other features.

Power options that are available include coal, wind, solar, nuclear energy, etc… GlassBox can also generate a real time wind map that controls the wind currents. This is something you should keep in mind when placing the wind turbines.

So far the only disasters revealed are tornadoes and a dinosaur attack.

Residential, Commercial, and Industrial zoning is back, but to make it simpler, only one type of zoning is available. Zone density will be based on the types of roads and traffic surrounding that area.

For multiplayer, each player will control their own city. In fact, you can control multiple cities in the same region. You can collaborate with other players to create “Great Works.” One such example was in the E3 Demo where 3 players would cooperate to create an international airport. Other “Great Works” include a space shuttle, arcologies, and a solar farm. More “great works” are to be revealed later.

You can keep track of your friends through a leaderboard-like function called the “City Log.” This sound’s like Simcity’s answer to Need For Speed’s Autolog.

Several types of roads are available, some of them include the standard roads, avenues, and avenues with light rail. However, the most interesting feature is the inclusion of curved roads, now Simcity is finally off the grid!

Traffic simulation can get very complex, but thankfully, the Glass Box engine covers it all. Each Sim you see will have somewhere to go and something to do. They will add to the traffic simulation by using various modes of transportation. Even at pedestrian crossings, the Sims will wait for the light signal to change before crossing the street. To add further to the detail on what Glass Box is capable of, break lights will light up as cars slow down at intersections. Simultaneously you may see school children walking home from school or Sims leaving their houses as they head off to work.

The level of detail in Simcity even goes down through the supply chain. Commercial businesses can go out of business if they no longer receive shipment from Industrial zones. Factories not only ship to commercial buildings, but can also deliver goods to ploppable buildings as well. However your city doesn’t have to include all three zones, you can rely on your friend’s cities to provide workers for factories in your city.

Expect to see various attractions around the city such as large parks and casinos. At the E3 demo, a specialized tourist city can have another type of attraction like a stadium. So far there are two types of stadiums available, a large “pro” stadium, and a small “convention center.” Landmarks are also returning, but this time they will provide jobs and can attract Sims to your city.

Simcity 2013: Data Layers More Visual and Animated

Taking a look back at data layers in the past Simcity series, they were generally colored tiles that indicated whether a tile was powered, watered, polluted, etc. These data layers were pretty boring to look at, but, the new Simcity plans to change all this by rethinking how the data layer is represented.

Taking some inspiration from infographics, Simcity aims to mix data visualization with modern design. The intent is to create animated data visualization so the player can see it flow in real time.

In this screenshot above, the water table is visible underneath all buildings. The more bluer areas contain more water. When the water tower is placed and pipes are laid down to different buildings, the player will see the water (agents) flow to different buildings.

Christian Stratton, User Experience Director for Simcity, gave an example of how you’ll see power travel down power lines. When you place a power plant down, the player will see power flow away from the plant to nearby buildings. If there’s any breaks among those lines, the player would immediately see and recognize it. If the power plant isn’t capable of providing power to a far location, you will see the power get “eaten-up” before it reaches there.

The data layers are also integrated into the game itself. As you place down a fire station, you’ll see a basic data layer that will give you a general idea of where you should place the fire station. There’s also the option to see a more in-depth data layer if the player requests it.

Simcity 2013: How Water Simulation Affects the Economy

Today, Simcity released a new video describing how the water simulator affects the economy. Like the previous videos, each step has a cause and effect, and you’ll see these things in real time.

In the water table map you can see which areas on the map have water. The bluer areas naturally have more water.

This makes the terrain green and lush, but the drier areas are brown and barren.

Place the water pump in an area with more water. As it pumps it subtracts water from the water table map.  Once the water is pumped, it is sent down the pipes as an agent to provide water to buildings. Periodically, the buildings will request more water, which will be replenished once the water agent reaches the buildings again.

But as the water agent reaches industrial zones, it will come in contact with ground pollution. In previous games, this ground pollution would reduce the amount of water dispersed. However in this game, ground pollution will now affect the water supply.


As the ground pollution spreads to the water tower, it will pump this dirty water to residential zones. When water is polluted it carries germs, and as Sims drink this water, they become sick.  Sick sims will leave work and head home, thus less income is generated. You can cure them by placing hospitals nearby.

As you can see, Simcity’s Glassbox Engine is a live simulator that is intricately integrated with different functions and services. One feature can detrimentally affect the other.

Simcity: The Economic Interaction Between Zones

Today Maxis released another video of their Glassbox Engine which is the fundamental layer powering the Simcity simulation. Today’s video focuses on the economic loop of the game’s engine. The simulation sends out “agents”, these agents can do various tasks, like for example, they can send out “help wanted agents” that request workers to either drive to work or walk to work.  Agents can carry resources and travel to different zones. Some of these agents aren’t shown on the screen while you are playing but they will travel along the roads and paths  you created.


In the video, the factories in the industrial zone opens at 6AM. However, these factories currently have no workers.  They will send out invisible “help wanted” agents that travel down the road and search for residential zones. They will figuratively “knock on their doors” to inform that zone that there is a job opening. Residential zones will then send out cars that will search for the first available job.

As enough people show up to work, the factory turns on and starts manufacturing products. Air pollution is triggered as a result of the manufacturing. In addition, freight trucks will spawn and send goods from the industrial zones to the commercial zones.

This is just one example of how Residential, Industrial, and Commercial zones interact to one another.  The point being that each thing you see in Simcity is something actually happening.

As this screenshot is illustrating, as factories are manufacturing goods, they will write to the air pollution map. This in turn triggers the smoke animation and sound effects at the same time.

[via simcity]