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SimCity to return after 10-year holiday

2013 version adds 'robust multiplayer mode'

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Electronic Arts has announced it will bring out the first new version of its iconic game SimCity in a decade, with the new build due out in 2013.

The new version, SimCity for PC, will include 3D graphics, the ability to build bendy roads and, most importantly, add a multiplayer and social twist to the game. Friends will be able to set up cities next to each other and interact to develop regions and undertake challenges together, and specialize in certain industries. There's even talk of players being able to be bad neighbors and spoil other people's cities.

"We'd like to thank the millions of fans who have helped make SimCity synonymous with the city-building genre," said Lucy Bradshaw, Senior Vice President of EA's Maxis Label in a statement. "This is a franchise that means the world to us at Maxis and we're happy to be bringing it back home where we are reimagining it for an entirely new generation of players.

The new version will be powered by the Maxis GlassBox Engine, and will include "the tools to play the most sophisticated simulation of its kind," Bradshaw said, promising "the fun, flavor and playability that has been intrinsic to the franchise since its birth."

First released in 1989, SimCity is one of the best-selling computer game franchises of all time, but it has largely lain fallow since the release of SimCity 4 in 2003. There have been ported versions of the game, notably for the iPad and Android last year, and a third-party build of SimCity Societies which got little traction. Maxis has also released the source code for the original game under the GPL, using the original name for the game: Micropolis.

Part of the problem for Maxis, now part of EA, is that there was nowhere to take the franchise and very little that could be added to the game. Apart from tarting up the graphics and adding new features, the core game remained largely the same had no ending. By the time SimCity 4 came out, players were already complaining that the game was overcomplicated.

Well, some players may have become tired of city building, but Vincent Ocasla will be thrilled at the news. Ocasla's name is still spoken with awe (and a little concern) among SimCity enthusiasts after he spent over three years designing and building the ultimate virtual city, dubbed Magnasanti, which had a record six million digital inhabitants. In a video explaining how it was done Ocasla showed the pages of notes and mathematical calculations needed to wring the most out of the game.

Not that Magnasanti would be a very edifying place to live. The city had no roads, being served instead by an extensive subway system, and zones were calculated so that the inhabitants would have to move as little as possible to get to and from work. With no open spaces, pollution was high and the average age of death for inhabitants was around 50.

"Suffocating air pollution, high unemployment, no fire stations, schools, or hospitals, a regimented lifestyle – this is the price that these sims pay for living in the city with the highest population," he said in an interview in Vice magazine.

"It's a sick and twisted goal to strive towards. The ironic thing about it is the sims in Magnasanti tolerate it. No one considers challenging the system by physical means, since a hyper-efficient police state keeps them in line. They have all been successfully dumbed down, sickened with poor health, enslaved and mind-controlled just enough to keep this system going for thousands of years."

We shudder to think of what Ocasla might create with next year's SimCity for 2013. ®

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