The Micro User1st February 1991
Published in The Micro User 8.12
A major triumph...?
BBC Micro users who remember the original Welcome Pack software may have fond memories of a game called Kingdom. As ruler of the Kingdom you made decisions regarding how much rice to plant and how much to store, and whether or not to have a population of farmers or fighters.
The results of your decisions affected both your own population and the temperament of the neighbouring tribes. Sim City takes this relatively simple concept and enhances it beyond all recognition.
Last year the 16-bit versions of Sim City were scooping international awards for Best Game and Best Simulation. Now, courtesy of Superior Software, this mega game has found its way to the BBC Micro and Electron.
The objective of Sim City is to construct, manage and maintain a city of your own. To do this you must unravel and master the complex inter-relationships between human, economic, survival and political factors.
Believe me, after you've played this for a while you will never apply for a job in local goverment.
The Sim City screen is divided into two areas: The map display, around which you can scroll with the arrow keys, and the bank of icons at the foot of the screen. These are the tools with which you must work.
With a budget of £20,000 at your disposal you begin the construction of a new city. All such have humble beginnings, and yours is no different. A cluster of houses, an industrial plant or two, and a commercial zone in which to sell the goods - so far, so good.
As the village expands, the plain squares that you positioned on the map begin to develop: Houses, factories and shops appear as your policies encourage growth and development.
By striking the correct balance between residential, industrial and commercial zones, unemployment is kept low and the factories are not starved of labour.
Using these relatively simple tactics, your city will survive for a while. As the population expands so does the criminal element, and you will have to establish and fund a police force. Similarly with fire prevention, people are discontented when they are not protected from the possible threat of fire.
Not only must you deal with the social aspects of human life, there are the economic factors to deal with.
Factories need raw materials if they are to develop, so their proximity to a port is advantageous. Ditto with power supplies, but should your power station be coal or nuclear powered? How does the population get to work? Roads are cheap, but are easily congested, railways can cope with big populations, but are relatively expensive to run.
If you build the residential zones near to the factories the inhabitants are not happy and the price of the property remains low. Nice residential areas with parks and no factories have a higher value than those in the industrial heartland, and this is reflected in the tax revenue collected.
The city's finances are monitored via the Budget sceren, which displays such information as the current running costs for fire, police and transport services. Your total annual expenditure is shown at the bottom of the screen and the annual income from tax collection is displayed at the top. If expenditure exceeds income you must take corrective action quickly if you are to avoid the downward spiral into oblivion. As in the real world, taxes are an emotive subject and merely increasing the tax rate in an effort to boost your revenue is unlikely to prove a viable solution. Industries tighten their belts, unemployment rises, people begin to move away from the city and the net effect will probably be a lower tax income that you attained before you put up the rate.
A tactic more likely to succeed is to try and make more people want to come and live in your city. Putting parks in and around your residential areas is a cheap way of boosting property values and making people happier.
If you have a little more cash to play with, you could build a sports stadium, as these encourage residential growth and also pull in a fair amount of revenue.
The only problem is the volume of traffic they attract, forcing extra expenditure to keep traffic flowing.
If the Budget screen provides information regarding your financial wellbeing, it is the Evaluation screen that highlights any problems that may be on the horizon.
This display contains an opinion poll on your popularity with the masses and also shows what aspects of city life are currently giving your residents cause for concern - ignore this display at your peril.
Sim City is a totally engrossing game that you will be playing for many months to come. Teachers should also note that this package would lend itself superbly to an educational environment.