Review: Sim City

Sim City

ST Format Review

My Review

For this review I’m running Steem with a 1MB STE, running TOS 1.62. I’ve gone with Medway Boys 72 which features a cool graphic, the usual text bouncing and scrolling and some chip music which for some reason makes me think of Lady Gaga.

Sim City isn’t exactly a hidden gem, it doesn’t need me to review it, but I want to play it. I happen to think it’s the best Sim City, because it kept things at just the right level of complexity without irritations like Sim City 2000’s slopes preventing building in certain places etc. Sim City is of course one of the greats of the 16-bit era, alongside Populous and Lemmings, and like Populous (to which it owes some debt) it spawned a whole genre.

Sim City uses GEM to drive its windows, which means that you start from the ST’s desktop. Still, at least the Medway Boys were kind enough to customise things a little.

Well bugger. Bombs. I’ll try an STFM instead. I’ll also swap release as I don’t want the trainer.

Well that’s a nice dragon. Decent chiptune too.

So this is the screen that started it all. Quiet and unassuming, but the start of something great.

It would be rude of me to not pick a sweary name.

A brief wait for the terraforming, while the mouse pointer changes to the busy bee – the equivalent of the Windows hourglass.

So who can remember the copy protection? It was awful. Dark red paper with black text to prevent photocopying. Even as a kid I struggled with it, god knows what you’d do if you were in any way visually impaired.

And here I am, with virgin land ready to build my city. I’ve opened a map (Windows -> Maps) to get a bigger view as the editing view is quite close up and scrolling is slow. It looks like we’ll end up with 3 separate districts – we’ll start with the North of the river and position power and industry against the North edge. I’ll need to provide rail links to the further reaches once I expand more, so I’ll need to account for that in my layout planning. Nearer the river I’ll have residential and commercial long term, though in the early days I’ll have to bunch them up near the dirty stuff to avoid roads and power lines eating my entire budget.

So here’s the beginning of my city. I’ve gone with nuclear power, and left room for expansion to the south with additional plants. Obviously I’m aware of the risks but it’s just a better deal than coal. Commercial demand is low while industrial is high, as is typical of the early game, but commercial will ramp up later. In the meantime I have enough space for commercial enterprises to provide a bit of pollution cover to the housing. I’ll likely expand southwards over time and those roads will be replaced with a railway.

I sensibly knock the tax rate down a bit to attract people and businesses to my neighbourhood.

Just demonstrating how pressing Q while the mouse is over something gives you some useful information. As you can see businesses are starting to move in, as are residents.

As you can see here the commercial district is still empty, but you can also see traffic starting to build up around the industrial zone. Longer term I’ll need to put some railways in there.

And now I have a town! As you can see I’ve decided to do some early work on the traffic problem, hopefully I won’t regret the expense.

It’s starting to build up now. Now the graphics came in for some criticism at the time and to be fair, technically they’re not great. The green areas are ugly, while the scrubland with its brown background and 3 pink dots in each tile isn’t exactly great. However, the roads and rail are functional, the train (animated at 2 frames per second) looks ok, the traffic represented as dots on the road tells you what you need to know and even with the limited pixel count the junctions look like junctions. The houses, a mere 8×8 pixels each in a 24×24 square, or 24×24 towerblocks, look strangely recognisable, and the commercial buildings look great. The industrial areas are recognisable and the power station looks brilliant too. There’s a clear art style away from the awful landscape and it works. What’s most important however is that it’s readable. It’s something that people underestimate the importance of, something Nintendo have mastered (which is why they’ve retained the simpler graphical style). It’s immediately obvious looking at the screen what’s going on.

We’re losing a little money but that’s ok. I can lower the percentage spend on transport if need be, but at a cost of roads falling into disrepair. Similarly, once fire and police are a thing I can choose to defund the police if I want to save money and have more crime.

It looks like it’s time to get a police station with crime beginning to spike.

We now have a police station – hopefully that’ll do some good.

I’ve built a little too fast and had to raise taxes as the money is starting to run low, but as you can see population is increasing steadily, and people are generally satisfied. Pollution will be a little less of an issue once I build more property away from the industrial zone. Housing costs are one of those things you just have to live with in this game, as areas with low cost just cause crime and don’t raise much tax while costing a fortune in police coverage.

As you can see, the city is building up more, with the residential zones becoming high rise, and the commercial zones are getting bigger, and you can see how demand is spiking.

Woohoo, we’re now a city! The budget comes up shortly after and looks dire so I cut transport and police spending and up the tax rate to 8%. Meanwhile the citizens demand a fire station. They can go whistle. As I patch up roads the population continues growing and demand is high so I push 12% tax – I need the revenue. Industrial demand drops heavily but commerce and residential are still growing.

My popularity is beginning to take some hits, with population growth slowing and taxes and crime being big issues. I am now at least funding police so the crime will improve, though I’ll need to keep taxes high for a bit so I can build reserves to fund expansion.

With some slightly crap chip gunshot sound effects I’m told that crime is a big problem. The problem however is that my police stations have a tiny area of influence, so I’d need to have one ever 4 blocks, which would be prohibitively expensive.

And here we see the beginning of the downward spiral of shit. In truth, it’ll be hard to get back from this as my ongoing costs require a certain size of population which I can’t maintain due to the crime that goes with it and the need for intolderable tax rates.

I have failed as mayor, but I will have another go tonight, because I fucking love this game. Failing is fun. This time I’ll build a much smaller industrial complex at the edge of the city, joined only by rail to a residential area, keeping them very separated to keep crime down. This time it’ll work, I’m sure it will.

Resources
Manual: https://www.starehry.eu/download/strategy/docs/SimCity-Manual.pdf

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