Submitted by cyberfyter on Mar 20, 2012
United States

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.

Ocean Quigley
Tuesday, March 20, 2012 - 00:00
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Hey Ocean, a loyal SimCity fan here.

I just wanted to throw my two cents into the ring here. I am a firm believer in the 'gritty' aspects of running a city. That is; charts, data maps, budget balancing, advisors (each with their own agenda), lobbying, etc etc. A Sim City game without these aspects isn't true to the series, in my opinion. In SC4 you had a board of advisors, each with their own view on the city. The environmentalist hated you for putting the water pump next to the factories, and the utilities man praised you for it, or the city planner mentions the lack of humble streets in suburbs, while the transit specialist gave you props for updating the infrastructure. Making all of them happy was tough, but very possible once you get the hang of how the engine works. Aside from advisors I want to see all the boring spreadsheets and data views return. Sure, the system of transparency sounds great, but I want hard data that makes me feel like a real mayor.

I've heard a lot of rumors of it being an ecologically themed game. I think this would be a major killer for me, in truth. In reality I'm a landscaper and love nature and the environment above all, but in a SC game I want to do what's more logical for the city's funding and it's citizens no matter what it takes. I want to create a clean pollution free urban utopia and then start a new city and make it like Hoboken on a bad day. In other words, I have no interest in playing An Inconvenient Truth: The Game. My city will naturally be effected by pollution, I don't need a slap on the wrist from the game itself.

Finally, the most precious aspect of SC4 to me was the infrastructure. Building a freeway system to connect three cities (and the commuters) together, carrying thousands of cars back and forth each day, from the suburbs past the projects and the industry into the city center with all the skyscrapers. Sitting back and looking at those green arrows made me feel like my city was alive. I've seen what you have to offer so far and I'm liking it very much, but please above all else don't let it enter Societies or CitiesXL territory, please? Those games are fun for a couple hours but they don't hold a flame to Sim City.

Hopefully I haven't spilled my guts too much here,
A fan.

Three important tips:

FLOOD is a disaster that I want in SimCity. They exist worldwide.

And if the city is growing and there is no planning, there must be SLUMS.

Be able to build in various locations around the WORLD, each with its own challenge (Regardless of country and politics, only natural resources and cultures).

by Pablo from Brazil.

The GlassBox should govern the rules of nature, for example, seasons, animals, rain, tides etc...

And SimCity need bike paths, trails and pedestrian pathways.

Hi there,
I think the new SimCity should have a little bit of warfare, and maybe rival cities? Like you could design your city and then build naval ships to attack other SimNations? I know it takes away from the point of SimCity but maybe that option/game-mode would be good.

Street trolleys would also be a good addition.

Oh this is gonna be good!

"Here's a video showing some of the simulation components that we've created. "
The video is missing.

i want to see power lines in the new simcity like telephone poles what see in the sweet today!!

my apologies copy paste did something weird lets try it like this

ok guys the second one is good

How about adding churches and civic buildings that are similar to New York's Public Library, the MET, St. Patt's Cathedral, trinity church, etc?

I agree with the notion that connectedness between cities and being able to create large, expansive urban areas that share resources and move them seamlessly between them is one of the things you should keep up front when making this game.

Also,try to give us something new like realistic european urbanism/architecture! It'd be definately welcome.

How about adding churches and civic buildings that are similar to New York's Public Library, the MET, St. Patt's Cathedral, trinity church, etc?

I agree with the notion that connectedness between cities and being able to create large, expansive urban areas that share resources and move them seamlessly between them is one of the things you should keep up front when making this game.

Also,try to give us something new like realistic european urbanism/architecture! It'd be definately welcome.

First of all, so happy SimCity is back. This message will be huge! :-)

Well, I played this game for the last two decades and SimCity 4 was incredible. But we need a true SimCity game. Societies and CitiesXL never got closer, but they brought interesting concepts to the table. For the good but also for the bad.

One thing of CitiesXL I would hate to see in the new SimCity is that token trade stuff. Sometimes balancing the offer and demand of the tokens was so hard that would kill the game. One million inhabitants and you couldn't get forward because it was too complicated or because you need, after two weeks in the game, create another city just to find tokens you miss on your original city, so boring. I love the resources stuff but it must be more intelligent and interesting than the one from CitiesXL.

Other thing: I want real traffic problems, and real tools to solve it. This was great in Rush Hour, but we still have lots of options to add and Glassbox should be able to create complex problems that require complex projects. If the player is a newbie, the traffic advisor could sugest traffic solutions that are better than just change a road for an avenue. Bikes, trains, subways, small roads, roads, avenues, highways, bus-only roads, pedestrian elevated paths, water canal, elevators, magnetic trains, tunnels, lowered roads, avenues and anything else. Also, we could use each of this traffic tools together to create greater solutions with better impacts (or greater disasters that not only could worsen the problem, but also cost the mayor a lot). For an example, if I don't want to create an avenue or a highway, but prefer to put two roads next to each other with grass, trees and parks around it, it would be understood by the game AI as a system and this would change the impact it has.

The city economic loop could include economic booms and economic crisis, if the city grows unplanned, slums should appear. If this is a rich city that attracts lots of immigrants, how are we gonna handle this problem? And from which city are those sims comming from?

Neighborhood and micromanagement: it would be cool to design neighborhoods and their position and function would design the whole city. How to develop a city developing first each of its parts? And each neighborhood has a unique kind of sim, like in major cities like New York, London, Paris, Shangai or São Paulo.

Parks: one thing that would be awesome is if the game would come with an integrated park creation tool, where you have trees, playgrounds and lots of stuff that you could add and create an unique park. Or even create terrain shape free gardens and parks to complement the traffic projects, or integrate parks and traffic tools to create traffic solutions that not only would have an impact on traffic but also on the environment and the population mood. Also, depending on the items and the money you spend on your park, it would also impact on the health, safety, education, rather than only on the environment. But of course that this alone shouldn't be an easy way to solve environmental problems...

Holidays and World Events: where the routine of the city would change for a moment. City could have holidays and the sims would focus on the parks, theme parks and shops, or travel to another city near with touristc attractions. We could also have World Events, like the Olympics, events that your city would host if it had the needed infrastructure. The events would fit in the city’s profile. It can be an economic forum, for an example.

Greater projects: multiple players are needed to create complex projects. Ok, this is cool. In CitiesXL you need multiple cities in order to get lots of tokens needed to build a complex building like the Empire State. Multiple cities and players to achieve projects like sending a shuttle to space is cool and more logic than to build an important building, this is the good part. But it would take at least 5 hours when plenty of tokens are available in CitiesXL (sometimes it would take two weeks) for the building to be ready. This was also a mood killer. How to bring this cool concept of collaboration and region integration without being boring and also without making multiple players a necessity to achieve complex projects is a challenge (there are days when you don't want multiplayer, you want just to play on your little universe) but if solved, could be one of the top highlights of the game.

Landmarks: they should have function, not only real state improvement and touristic growth. They also should have more impact on the city in related matters. Like the Bank of China would impact the economy and the Cristo Redentor would impact the mood.

Developing world concepts added: it is cool to run a city in a US and European environment, architecture and society standards. But it would be cool to build a Chinese city, a Brazilian city, an Indian city. Also landmarks from other countries would be nice. Civilization (the game) brings something interesting here with the Civilopedia showing everything in the game, explaining its historic context and how to use it.

SimCity Exchange: I believe it would be very nice to have an in-game tool to exchange props, buildings, mods in general. It would happen everything inside the game: you could browse and install. It would always work, it would be perfect. No more downloading and installing and managing a thousand new buildings with crazy names in the middle of any menu the author saw fit. Also, if we can download and install props, mods and everything else, why not add to the game the possibility of the player to create menus and positionate the most recent downloaded prop in a separated place other than in the menus the game already have? People should also be able to comment and rate the files, and follow their favorite creator.

Health and education: more complex systems and more detailed information on when is a good time and place to build a library or a high school instead of elementary school. The old system seems to be kind of random. It may not be the intention, but after a while it seems it doesn’t matter the building anymore, since you put it there, it is ok.
Disasters back: now they actually can happen, like the old times, and rebuild should be more than an act of deleting stuff and putting new stuff. It would consider the population, the needs of the city, sometimes the reinvention of the city. How to simulate that? Also, preventing tools: a city not ready for an earthquake would suffer a lot more and would bring problems to the region. An earthquake could lead to a tsunami and a nuclear disaster. Since now they can actually happen, you need sometime to focus on installing prevention tools. Also, you could choose in the map where to put your city and some places are more subject to disasters than others.

Well, I could write a lot more, and of course most of this is just brainstorming. Nine years thinking about it, actually...

Thank you and looking forward to the game.
Sorry for any mistake, not a native english speaker!

Ps.: please, keep the zonning. It is what this game is about. We don’t want to choose every house the city has. We want the buildings to show us what kind of city are we building and how the city evolves. Also, maps, charts, data is always cool as hell! :-)

Hey Ocean!

First of all, I appreciate your way of communicating with the fan community. I hope all this communication will help you making SimCity the game we've been waiting for so long.

I would like to make some suggestions as to the game's details, apart from more modern technologies. Here they go:

1. R/C mixed zones

Those are definitely needed and long wished for, and leaving them out would make something very important missing. It is one of the few things the modding community wasn't able to achieve with SC4.

2. Bicycle traffic and proper cycle facilities

Cyclists are difficult to simulate because, as a group of road users, they depend on many objective and subjective factors other road users seem to be comparably immune to. But they are needed. :-)

3. Pedestrian zones and walkways

4. Traffic micromanagement -- Proper bus routes, traffic light control, lane control (turning lanes etc.), streetside parking

5. The catchment area of an educational or healthcare facility should depend on the available traffic connections and should not be a simple radius. Such a system would be good use for the agent technology in GlassBox after all.

6. Recreational facilities, like stadiums, concert halls etc., and also airports, should create realistic amounts of traffic.

7. In general, there should be some kind of preceding planning before destination points of any kind are set up, e. g. a factory or a stadium, something that creates considerable amounts of traffic. Before a factory for 5,000 workers is build, the factory management should request some widening of the adjacent road of railway line. Such requests should be handled to the mayor by a transit advisor; that would be at least one good use for advisors.

8. There should be some kind of proper treatment of unemployment.

In reality, people won't automatically leave town just because they lost their job. In countries with sophisticated social welfare systems they will most likely look out for something that matches their qualifications, and otherwise not work at all; or they will get some more menial job, but be dissatisfied, of course, and that should express in mayor rating.

9. Constant negative mayor rating, and not just a hole in the budget, should lead to resignment.

I hope you guys consider these suggestions. They are mostly what the community has been longing for and would strongly add to the game becoming ever more interesting.

Thanks and cheers!

First, let me say that i love sim city and it is my favorite game series of all here we go...

Some things that i would like to see in the game are:


being able to upgrade specific streets and avenues (like changing an avenue to 3 lanes one way and 1 the other, like the road upgrade system in cities xl)

possible pedestrian traffic landes or bike lanes

railcars (trollys) that can be put into the middle of avenues...or better yet, avenues that have train tracks built into them.

planning out the routes of busses like in cities xl

i know that i have mentioned a lot about cities xl, im not suggesting that we copy the game style, just look at the way transportation systems are laid out in that game, which is its strong point. So far everything looks amazing though :) lets keep these videos comming.

i would also be nice to see farms actully play a role, your sims do need to eat :)

More transport modes please. NAM mod for SC4 was superb.

The only problem was scale. Even "big" SC4 cities had just so many squares to build on. That was fine for zoning, but absolutely out of scale for transport.

In reality even the simplest train platform is much larger than two bus stations as was the case in SC4. And if you try to do things to real scale the railway (and airport and seaport) infrastructure occupies just insane amount of "squares" that were such a premium in SC4.

So - please - can we have more squares? Like at least 100 times more for a biggest city? If that really creates the a potential problem with computing power then quotas might be the answer. For example if automata can only handle 100 squares at once then I would certainly prefer 10000 square city limited to just 100 squares of zoning over a city of maximum 100 square size "without any limitations". The "empty" spaces can be used for forests, long stretches of roads or railways, mountains, water or other eye candy that do not consume so much computing power.

By the way - simulation of millions of sims is an ideal task for GPU procesing cores...

The same wish for region. Region is supposed to be multiple interconnected cities, not one city with suburbs as was mostly always the case in SC4 - for the extreme lack of "squares" no less. Again it is much better to limit number of neighbor connections than limit the region size for fear that there "just might" be too many intercity traffic combination that might bring the automata down.

Just my two cents here...

so far i like what I see, although I havnt seen much about this game's transportation network...

Hi Ocean,

A big fan of Simcity, Started playing when I was in elementary school with SC2. The features of the glass box will add to what is already a masterpiece that Maxis has brought. One of the biggest suggestions that I would recommend for you guys to consider would be districts within the city. Examples are of districts in cities today are chinatowns, financial districts, entertainment districts, advertising districts like times square, and ghettos.

Having a city with more unique buildings instead of just having one type of structure built multiple times is another suggestion that I have for the Simcity. Glassbox would be definitely a good addition to the new Simcity but as I look at the fan sites, its the gamer's creativity of constantly updating new buildings is what brings Simcity users back to the game.

So far, Simcity has be brought the best out of city building games, except for Societies. But with all games, I seem to be disappointed when it came down to building major urban cities with lack of unique districts and more building designs. Not only resources are a considerable aspect in city building, but major urban cities is what people also look for when creating their cities and design.

PS, if there are going to be resources brought into Simcity, please have the option of unlimited resources with all resources available in one map. I do like having a city map with all types of city aspects like heavy industry, high tech, commercial, and high and low residential parts in one map. Thank you.

Hey Ocean!

I've been a SimCity fan since I was 6. SimCity was FOR SURE a reason why I'm in my second year of engineering studies now!

I live in Toronto and for the past 2 years we've been dealing with a horrible mayor who wants to build a subway in a part of the city where it will completely be used under capacity for decades. This got me thinking, will SimCity [5] bring modes of transit into heavier significance? I remember making massive cities in sim city 3000 and 4, and some cities could run with horrible public transit systems just fine.

What I'm trying to say is, I hope you guys are making public transportation systems a critical part of the game, as large cities simply cannot function without them. I'm also hoping that heavy transit systems such as subways will cost the player a lot of money, in order to force them to heavily consider placement. If you want this game to focus on environmental issues, this is an area you can't miss or push into darker light.

If I would have one suggestion, it would be to make highly green modes of public transit avaiable in SimCity, such as: LRT systems, Bio Fuel buses (and incentives), HE Subways (an option to purchase subway cars would be awesome! Toronto just got 6 new Bombardier subway trains and they rock!), etc.

No matter what I'm getting this game though. I just can't wait, as a loyal fan and as an engineering student! Please keep it up and keep inspiring the younger generation like you helped inspire me!

Will food also be a resource? I grew up in a rural town where the primary resource was farmland and our primary product was wheat. Now, I'm not suggesting that the multi-player game requires 75% of the players to have farm towns in order to sustain bigger populations in other towns, nor am I suggesting that 75% of the multiplayer map needs to be farmland.

I am, however, suggesting the following features:

-A good food supply chain is required for population maintenance and growth. Even if the food is generated by the AI and just needs to be moved around.
-Players have the option of making small farm towns where food can be produced and shipped around by train, barge, truck, etc. This food production could augment the AI created food supply.
-The game acknowledges that almost all of a city's food supply comes from a farm.

Extra requests (just ideas, might be too much):
-Bio-diesel processors that turn food units into fuel units.
-The ability to put new multiplayer cities in locations with your friends so you can team up and work together.
-Many many more ordinances and political options. I want to be able to customize the laws in my city. Legalizing gambling and other activities in my city always made me happy.

The always connected to internet option doesn't work for me. I like to take the game away with me and I don't always have internet.

Hello. I have a question I'd like to see addressed in the developer blog, as well as a few requests.

The question is: how will the game handle the "retina" resolutions that are being implemented by Apple (1880p) and Windows vendors? As the Windows 8 developer blog says, "retina" type displays will be pretty common and coexist with the current crop of 1366x768px notebooks. Will you be able to run the game at both retina and non-retina resolutions? What about visual quality?

In the same way, how does the game scale with computing power? What you describe sounds very resource hungry. What kind of system are you targeting?

The requests/suggestions are:
- You really need to offer an offline only gameplay option.
- I'd be great to see bike paths and bike parking lots as in Amsterdam, and, in general, to see non-US props, building styles, etc.
- SimCity Exchange has grown an integral part of the game, and it should be ablo to allow some kind of modding

I'm concerned about this game graphically. I mean, EA has quite a history of poor customer service and poor technical amnesty. Let's face it: The Sims 3 is a wreck. I'm a loyal fan and I'm so sad that on my 2 year old computer with an up to date graphics card that the game is unplayable. SC4 runs smoothly, but that doesn't have curving roads, a glassbox engine or tilt-shift photography. I'm just expressing my concern for this early, because I don't want it to bite me in the arse later on. I'm going to spend 60-80$ on this game and I would expect it to run well on my computer.

Please let it be mod'able and make sure there are "cheat-codes" to allow various forms of play.

Play sim City 4, keep everything that was on that game, just update the graphics and add few extras. Done, new game

What I always wanted in SC4 was two modes, building and planing.
In planing mode everything was available and free with no simulation.
Building mode was the normal game.
In either mode you could transparently overlay the other mode to see what you are planing or already have.
In building mode you could select something in the planing overlay and have it built as if you selected it from a menu.

my apologies copy paste did something weird lets try it like this houston lincoln limo

Thanks for such a knowledgeable post.
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