Hey everyone! My name is Chris Schmidt and I am a Tuning Designer here at Maxis. I work closely with the Scripting and QA teams to refine and improve SimCity by tweaking the gameplay and smoothing out the rough edges as we implement new systems. Additionally, I adjust the game balance in response to feedback, observation, and telemetry to try and maintain a good pace and feel to the experience as it comes to life.
Today I am here to talk about roads, zones, and density. In the past, SimCitySimCity, we have ditched the grid in favor of our new agent-based system powered by the GlassBox Engine that allows us to take a more “ground up,” road-centric approach.
To better get acquainted with how this works, let me first explain how roads affect density. With the new road-centric approach, players can get the same functionality they used to get by zoning by density, but instead of using different zone densities, we limit density by road type. Zones and player-placed buildings can only be created on this existing infrastructure, since our new agent system uses the roads to bring power, water, sewage, and the agents themselves to and from your buildings.
As for the roads themselves, we have two size categories of road, each of which has their own upgrade path. We have the small roads (which can start out as dirt roads and move on up through four-lane roads with traffic lights), and we have the large roads (which start out with boulevards and can be upgraded up to avenues with streetcar tracks like you’d see in real cities like San Francisco). The dirt roads and two-lane roads are limited to the lowest density buildings, and each upgrade thereafter gets you to the next density type, whereas the large roads start out able to support up to mid density buildings, and can be upgraded to support the large high density buildings in one step.
In addition to allowing higher density buildings to be built, upgrading your roads will also improve your intersections, as higher tier roads will create stoplight intersections, and lower tier roads will generally have stop signs to regulate traffic. Upgrading your infrastructure can be expensive, but it’s important to keep your traffic flowing so your services can get where they’re needed.
Since we no longer have a grid to work from, it was important to us to make sure that traditional SimCity player still had the tools they needed to make the most efficient use of their space, whether it be using a grid or taking advantage of the new curvy road tool to work around some of the more challenging terrain features. As a result we have a new road guide that appears once you have placed your first road to show you the optimal distance from an existing road for you to build without wasting any of the space between. The road guides make it easy to build out a grid or to draw parallel curves, and its distance is calculated based on the depth away from the road that the buildings can grow. Since larger buildings have larger depths, and the roads themselves are two different sizes the large road tool and the small road tool operate at different scales. But to make the grids work out as nicely as possible, we have made it so that four small roads made with the guides will line up nicely with three large roads. This means that your main street might have a little extra space behind it at first, but don’t worry, like those sweaters you’d get as a kid, your city will grow into it.
I hope this gives you a better sense of how much control you have over roads and density in SimCity. We’re working hard to make this system as friendly and intuitive as possible to both new players and city-building veterans. From making an optimized grid, concentric circles, to even guitar cities and M. C. Escher-esque configurations, we’ve had a blast coming up with new ways to lay out our cities, and I can’t wait to see what you guys come up with.