Hi Everybody. My name is Ocean Quigley and I’m the Creative Director on SimCity. Over the next few weeks we’ll be giving you an inside look at GlassBox, our new simulation engine. By the end of this series, you’ll understand how this powerful simulation engine works, how it will affect your gameplay experience and what it means when we say, “What You See Is What We Sim.” Here we go!
Why Bring SimCity Back Now?
Ten years ago when we made SimCity 4, computers weren't powerful enough for us to simulate a city at the level of fidelity we wanted. We were able to give you a broad approximation of what was going on and we did our best to make it look plausible, but there wasn’t a tight connection between your actions and the simulation’s behavior.
Now, with GlassBox, we can really represent everything that happens in your city. The buildings, the Sims, the vehicles, the trees, the roads—they’re are all really there, they are all living simulation objects.
Your actions will result in a visible changes to the way that your city behaves. You will see direct consequences from the choice you make. The simulation responds to you. The overall life of your city is built out of the interactions of the things you create.
Here's a video showing some of the simulation components that we've created. These are the basic building blocks of GlassBox, and we combine them to make the systems that constitute a city.
Resources: What Are They Good For? Absolutely everything.
Let's start with resources. You can think of resources as information. Put another way, information flows through your city in the form of resources. For example, the many Sims that populate your city are resources that walk or drive from building to building, carrying "population," money, happiness or germs. Inside a building, you might have resources for power, water, coal, or education. There are lots of different resources, and they're used to control what the simulation does.
Resources can be held in different places. They can be in a building, they can be carried about by Sims or vehicles (agents), or they can be inside maps of various sorts. The natural environment is a collection of resources to be consumed, added to, or transformed by the city.
When a building has the right sorts of resources, it will come to life and start running simulation rules. The rules can do a number of different things:transform resources, pack resources into agents and send them on their way, change a building’s state, interact with maps, or create and destroy things.
Why Rules Run the World.
The rules define the behavior of buildings. They define what the building actually does. They are the simulation logic inside a building that brings it to life.
It is not enough for rules to be running invisibly inside buildings. The buildings need to show you what's going on. When a rule is doing something, we represent it visually or audibly. You’ll hear it with sound effects or see it with an animation, an effect or some other visual representation. For example, when an industrial building is producing goods; you can see gears moving within it and watch as individual resources are being made and processed.
And because each building has its own rules and resources, you can combine building components together to extend what they do. Adding another component adds additional simulation behavior.
Zoning, Roads And Pipes…Oh My!
The roads and pipes are the circulatory system that agents use to move resources within a city. The buildings hook onto networks and absorb or create agents. Zones also hook onto networks and run simulation rules that determine what buildings should actually appear in a given area. Remember those industrial buildings we discussed earlier? You can see trucks delivering resources from them to commercial buildings to be sold. Sims carrying money will travel to those commercial buildings and exchange one resource (money) for another (goods).
Those are the major components of GlassBox—the toolkit that our designers are using to create a living, dynamic SimCity.
Check back in soon when our Lead Gameplay Engineer, Dan Moskowitz, explains the Economic Loop and how GlassBox powers SimCity, the ultimate city simulation! Want to see more now? Watch the first part of our GlassBox Engine demo.