One of the more interesting announcements to come out of E3 (and goodness there have been precious few my friends – there aren’t enough Pikmin in the world to bear the load of our disappointment) is that EA Games has teamed up with Maxis and Playfish for a social network edition of its classic urban planning title, SimCity.
In a world of shoot ‘em ups, fighting games and driving simulators, Will Wright’s idea for a game about city planning seemed not only out of place, but completely untenable on launch for PC in 1989.
The idea for the game came to Wright following the release of his first development, the Commodore 64’s Raid on Bungling Bay. The young designer found that he more fun playing with the in-built level editor than he did with the main game and, as a result, began to cultivate an interest in the intricacies of urban planning.
The concept of how he might turn a level editor into a standalone game was crystalized when Wright read The Seventh Sally, a short story by Stanislaw Lem in which an engineer creates a miniature city with artificial citizens for a deposed tyrant to oppress.
Fast forward to 2012 and the announcement trailer (see below) makes EA’s intention crystal clear, as half of rival Zynga’s CityVille logo swings and falls from the wall in its opening moments, as if that social grind experiment cannot even bear to be on the internet in its presence.
And make no mistake, from what we’ve seen this is Will Wright’s classic, a revamped edition of the original Sim City with updated graphics and, of course, asynchronous online multiplayer support, which Facebook was built for.
“I think the translation from SimCity to the social platform really is about reinterpreting the game, and yet making sure we capture the essence of what SimCity is all about, and that’s that it is a living city, it is something that you created,” said Maxis senior vice president Lucy Bradshaw.
“What we’ve done is really similar to what we did with Sims Social which is we’ve really captured the essence of SimCity; we’ve brought in all of these quirky unexpected events that are kinda a hallmark of the franchise and reinterpreted it as something that is really delightful, surprising, fun and expressive.”
While Hookshot Inc. isn’t expecting the kind of depth and complexity that we’ve seen in the new ‘full fat’ SimCity, currently in development for PC, it seems clear that Maxis is eager to make the social network version of the game more than a somewhat cynical Trojan Horse for microtransactions, an accusation frequently leveled against Zynga’s -ville titles. That said, if we need to pay 100 Facebook credits to hire a fireman to put out city blazes, we’ll be out of there quicker than you can say IAP-off.
The game’s in closed Beta at the moment, with a public launch expected later this month. If you can bring yourself to do it, pop along to facebook.com/simcitysocial and ‘like’ EA to secure some in-game items at launch. Till then, trailer up: